President-elect Donald J. Trump is what happens when a nation lies to itself about the depth of its character.
And as the hand-wringing “How did this happen” hysteria reaches full force, that has never been more apparent than in this moment. Since August of last year, it has been clear that a Trump presidency was possible. He is neither an anomaly nor some freak of nature, but an embodiment of everything that the United States tries to pretend it is not.
But what we have seen in the hours since Trump’s victory is white America—particularly the underwhelming number of white women who showed up for Hillary Clinton—refusing to admit how deeply embedded white supremacy is in the fabric of this country and how deeply racist some of their sister suffragettes are.
Instead, too many of them are trying to blame anyone and anything for Hillary Clinton’s Electoral College loss—third parties, nonvoters, the FBI, Russia, WikiLeaks—anything except whiteness.
These things may have factored into the outcome—as did voter suppression across the country in the wake of the 2013 Supreme Court decision to gut the Voting Rights Act—but they didn’t determine the outcome. White America is supremely uncomfortable facing itself.
After the “Black voters will be a problem for Clinton” narrative was proved false, mainstream media quickly pivoted to describing working-class white voters as the victims of this election. MSNBC’s Chris Matthews has been one the most ardent voices insisting that white voters in the Rust Belt felt “abandoned” and that that’s the reason Trump was able to upset the Clinton establishment.
We, of course, can talk about these “salt-of-the-earth” white men whom Matthews and others have romanticized. We can talk about Clinton not fitting into the anti-war, anti-corporate progressive movement that is happening among white Bernie Sanders voters who have discovered revolution. But to focus solely on these two groups is a deflection from what exit polls show and what many of us already knew. Despite the prevailing liberal elitist argument that illiterate, backwoods crackers elected Trump, the lie-detector test determined that that is a lie—or, at the very least, not completely true.
This nation can be under no illusions here: Trump appealed to overt white supremacy, patriarchy and hypercapitalism and turned almost the entire map red.
He won because wealthy white men wanted to solidify their power. He won because the most educated white people wanted to ensure their dominance. He won because, overwhelmingly, white women secretly hate powerful white women when they do not have that power in their own lives or in their own homes.
Hillary Clinton represented who and what all the men in their lives told them they could never be, and they despised her for it.
It is past time that these undercover, “nice” racists—the two-faced electorate that claims blue but turns red when the lights go off—are called out. More importantly, it is past time that we reckon with the reality that W.E.B. Du Bois warned us about in 1956: “Democracy has so far disappeared in the United States that no ‘two evils’ exist. There is but one evil party with two names, and it will be elected despite all I can do or say.”
Clinton has already told her supporters to respect democracy and the “peaceful transfer of power.” During her concession speech, she implored liberals and progressives to approach the next four years with an open mind and give Trump the “chance to lead”—despite the expectation that he will sentence justice to the death penalty and women’s rights to the trash bin.
And in his response to Trump’s win, President Barack Obama said, “We have to remember that we’re all on one team. This is an intramural scrimmage. We’re not Democrats first. We’re not Republicans first. We are Americans first. We’re patriots first.”
See, our so-called democracy may demand negative peace and complicity masquerading as collective advancement in order to survive, but somebody lied. We are not “all on one team,” and we never have been. This is why this farce of a two-party system must be dismantled—so Democrats and Republicans can stop scrimmaging while people’s lives are at stake.
The middle ground of centrism has always included covert concessions to white supremacy, which is what makes it so dangerous for the most-targeted and vulnerable communities of color in this country. Over the course of the election cycle, the Democratic Party did all it could to ridicule and suppress progressive voices, while seeking to “understand” and create space for the “basket of deplorables” that have been let off their leashes across the country.
Black activists were asking for too much; immigration activists were asking for too much; indigenous tribes were asking for too much; working-class people were asking for too much. And #NeverTrump provided a shield. White liberals didn’t have to be anti-racist, they just had to be “with her,” and there were many of them who became angry and condescending and as openly antagonistic as Trump supporters when they were told that just being “with her” wasn’t enough.
Contrary to popular opinion, I do not believe that Trump is a far-right-wing ideologue, and have consistently said that Mike Pence, and even Ted Cruz, were dangerous in more insidious ways. No, Trump is a morally bankrupt entertainer for sale who trafficked in racism, wallowed in corruption and incited white nationalist violence across the country to gain power.