A note from last month:
Last week, presidential candidate Donald Trump caused a minor stir by retweeting someone with the Twitter handle @whitegenocideTM, which some saw as making explicit the connection between Trump and American white supremacists. But that’s just one data point, right? A one-off thing that could have been an intern’s mistake? Unfortunately, no: the data shows that 62 percent of the accounts Trump has retweeted recently have white-supremacist connections.
Marshall Kirkpatrick, of social-media analytics company Little Bird, took a look at the 21 people the Donald has blessed with his fantastic, luxurious retweets this week, and discovered that six of them follow major white-nationalist accounts, and 13 of them follow multiple accounts that have used the #whitegenocide hashtag.
Conclusion? “It turns out that Donald Trump mostly retweets white supremacists saying nice things about him.”
This is not surprising.
Unfortunately, that point comes with something of a sickening explanation.
A note from this week:
Possibly more surprising are the attitudes of Mr. Trump’s supporters on things that he has not talked very much about on the campaign trail. He has said nothing about a ban on gays in the United States, the outcome of the Civil War or white supremacy. Yet on all of these topics, Mr. Trump’s supporters appear to stand out from the rest of Republican primary voters.
Data from Public Policy Polling show that a third of Mr. Trump’s backers in South Carolina support barring gays and lesbians from entering the country. This is nearly twice the support for this idea (17 percent) among Ted Cruz’s and Marco Rubio’s voters and nearly five times the support of John Kasich’s and Ben Carson’s supporters (7 percent).
Similarly, YouGov data reveal that a third of Mr. Trump’s (and Mr. Cruz’s) backers believe that Japanese internment during World War II was a good idea, while roughly 10 percent of Mr. Rubio’s and Mr. Kasich’s supporters do. Mr. Trump’s coalition is also more likely to disagree with the desegregation of the military (which was ordered in 1948 by Harry Truman) than other candidates’ supporters are.
The P.P.P. poll asked voters if they thought whites were a superior race. Most Republican primary voters in South Carolina — 78 percent — disagreed with this idea (10 percent agreed and 11 percent weren’t sure). But among Mr. Trump’s supporters, only 69 percent disagreed. Mr. Carson’s voters were the most opposed to the notion (99 percent), followed by Mr. Kasich and Mr. Cruz’s supporters at 92 and 89 percent. Mr. Rubio’s backers were close to the average level of disagreement (76 percent).
According to P.P.P., 70 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters in South Carolina wish the Confederate battle flag were still flying on their statehouse grounds. (It was removed last summer less than a month after a mass shooting at a black church in Charleston.) The polling firm says that 38 percent of them wish the South had won the Civil War. Only a quarter of Mr. Rubio’s supporters share that wish, and even fewer of Mr. Kasich’s and Mr. Carson’s do.
Nationally, further analyses of the YouGov data show a similar trend: Nearly 20 percent of Mr. Trump’s voters disagreed with Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation, which freed slaves in the Southern states during the Civil War. Only 5 percent of Mr. Rubio’s voters share this view.
Let me be clear: This is not supposed to be happening.
Our current obsession with millennials is a market trend; once upon a time, Generation X―remember us?―was all the news, and now that we’re in power, well, we’re just not in demand.
Still, we should not be ignored. A large portion of Generation X was brought up on ideas about American society that mean what we’re seeing in the Trump phenomenon is not supposed to be happening.
And, yes, it is always our American dark side.
That is to say, bigotry in general is supposed to be largely a relic of our former barbarity. We hear from people today, even, trying to tell us that intolerance is a matter of a few bad apples.
Take a look at Sen. Rubio’s supporters in the above paragraphs. Five percent? A few bad apples should be a few bad apples, not five percent of the produce in the marketplace. So what are we supposed to think about the Trumptacular twenty percent? No, seriously, are you joking?
This is not supposed to be happening.
And, you know, we could hear it from the outset, the same sort of bland, I-know-it’s-wrong-but-still excuses. People explained, “I like that Trump isn’t afraid to say what he’s thinking.” Were they really saying they like that Trump isn’t afraid to say what they want to hear?
Because we hear these excuses all the time. It’s not that you’re homophobic, but, you know, it’s too fast, and we need to slow down, and not be so insensitive to others, because, you know, civil rights and equal protection under the law can wait. Or, you know, you’re not misogynist, but what about the men? It’s not racism, but, you know, he’s not afraid to be “politically incorrect”.
Look, we’ve known. Or, at least, suspected. No, seriously, perpetual immersion does make for a persuasive argument, but the illusion simply cannot hold.
This is not supposed to be happening. Our parents taught us, promised us, punished us for our lack of faith. And the whole time? Really? Yes, really. What’s that? We shouldn’t be so down on America? We should love our country a little more for all the good stuff it does? (Funny how government suddenly stops not working when we need to push back for bigotry, eh?)
Maybe it’s time we love our country, full stop. All are created equal? This is not supposed to be happening. The shining city on the hill? This is not supposed to be happening. A more perfect union? Establish justice? Insure domestic tranquility? Promote the general welfare? Secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity? This is not supposed to be happening.
Except it is happening.
To the one, it doesn’t appear to be a majority. To the other, hey, given how much my generation’s parents invested in convincing us these attitudes are just little deviations here and there―stuff happens, you know? we’re human, not perfect―the idea that white supremacism still bears such influence in our society is more than a little disappointing.
To the beeblebrox, don’t even try to tell me these numbers are in line with that old teaching.
This is not supposed to be happening.
When Donald Trump wins the nomination, just how many Americans will turn their backs on all that? After all, it’s just talk, this isn’t really happening, any chance to stick it to “the system”, and, you know, just as long as it isn’t that woman over there. Will it be enough to raise President Trump?
Even still, it is too much for the old indoctrination. It’s not merely a few bad apples.
The whole world is watching, you know.
This is not supposed to be happening.
Except it is, and it was inevitable.
That is to say, the only reason we should think this isn’t supposed to be happening is that we are expected to believe such nonsense. Watching conservatives respond to President Obama’s election, the proposition that this is not supposed to be happening seems nearly absurd.
Our Boomer parents probably wanted to believe all that good stuff about America; they probably weren’t actually lying.
But that doesn’t help erase the feeling: This is not supposed to be happening.
Nor does it mitigate the reality that yes, it really is happening.
We do not get to comfort ourselves after Election Day simply because Donald Trump isn’t going to be president. This widespread eruption of hatred, and its apathetic sidekick that just likes someone who isn’t afraid to be “politically incorrect” is not some aberration. This is not a few bad apples in a large orchard. This is America.
Make America great, again? What is this bit about “again”? Because while the standard, patriotic line is to remind that America is still great, we do need, now and again, to consider the context of that greatness, because it is apparently something we have yet to achieve the first time.
Donald Trump is what he is.
These United States of America, however, are a different question.
This sickness has been with us the whole time. For whatever reasons―ego defense will suffice―we have insisted on believing otherwise.
So take your choice. Either this isn’t supposed to be happening, or it is. In either case, the question remains the same: What are we going to do about it?
Image note: Donald Trump speaks at the John Wayne Museum, in Winterset, Iowa, 19 January 2016. (Detail of undated photo by Tannen Maury/epa/Corbis.)
Bukszpan, Daniel. “Here’s What World Leaders Say About Donald Trump”. Fortune. 24 February 2016.
CNN. “From nervous laughter to Trump-supporting Kremlin: How world sees U.S. vote”. CNN.com. 29 January 2016.
Hathaway, Jay. “More Than Half of Trump’s Retweets Are White Supremacists Praising Him”. New York. 27 January 2016.
Vavreck, Lynn. “Measuring Donald Trump’s Supporters for Intolerance”. The New York Times. 23 February 2016.
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