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Why and How Trump Could Win

We should focus on racism as the problem the nation needs to tackle, because working on that problem is the key to working on all others. We are justified in taking this approach by the millions that are now building a movement in the streets.

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George Wallace, Ronald Reagan, Richard Nixon , AP/Salon

The Republican convention finished this week with a rally that tells anyone who watched it everything you want to know about what that party's campaign platform will be going into the Fall campaign. The GOP has two platform items in this campaign. Republicans stand for defending white racism and opposing socialism. These two platform items, the only ones that came from this convention, are welded together like a ball and chain, wrapped around the throat of our democracy, and ready to strangle our Republic should Trump win a second term. I talk exclusively about the GOP's racism below, because this is the key to President Donald Trump's election campaign. However, we must always keep in the front of our minds the fact that Trump's anti-socialism enables his racism, just as his racism enables his anti-socialism.

The convention's racism was anything but subtle. Mark McCloskey and Patricia McCloskey, the white St. Louis lawyers that aimed, but thankfully did not fire, an AR-15 rifle at protesters marching in front of their home, were the most high-profile spokespeople for white supremacy to appear at a U.S. political party convention in well over half a century. 

"They want to abolish the suburbs altogether by ending single-family home zoning." Patricia McCloskey said. The protesters and Democratic voters "would bring crime, lawlessness and low-quality apartments into thriving suburban neighborhoods," she said in her best "an echo, not a choice," manner.

"These are the policies that are coming to a neighborhood near you,." McCloskey added, "Your family will not be safe in the radical Democrats' America."

Trump reiterated this sentiment in his acceptance speech, which was filled with calls to be afraid, be very afraid, of Americans that were exercising their first Amendment rights on our streets.

Were all this simply the deranged rantings of a habitual liar and his loopy-minded friends, there'd be little to worry about; but Trump and the McCloskeys have a constituency, and that constituency is most of the white people that vote in Presidential elections in this country. Racism is the mainstream ideology of white America, the very foundation of its existence. It is also Trump's main campaign weapon in his reelection bid, and to the extent that he and his supporters are able to promulgate racism without having to defend themselves or Trump against charges of being in any way aberrant, strange or devilish, the better that tool will work for the CREEP and its acolytes.

The Republican Party has, since 1968, been the party of racism in United States politics. Racism has been that party's main and most important election tool in every single presidential election without exception ever since Richard Nixon rolled out the first version of that party's perennial "law and order," "defend the police," "moral majority," and "Southern strategy," package, thereby winning the presidency. He would have had a far easier time of it except that the professional racist, George Wallace, was running a strong 3rd Party challenge. Nixon and Wallace split 62% of the white vote between them that year. Had Wallace not been on the ballot, it's likely that Nixon would have won the 1968 contest by a landslide.

Let me repeat this: The majority of white voters have voted for the party of racism in every presidential election held during the last 52 years without exception. Over the last dozen presidential elections, an average of 55.8% of whites have voted for the political party that has been the most publicly identified with racist philosophy, policies, and values, and the political party that has been the least friendly to the interests of black and brown people. Four years ago, 57% of white voters voted racist in the presidential election.

So what we're seeing this year is not new. The other thing we're seeing that's old hat is the concerned counsel of white liberals of all stripes, including professional liberals and liberal social democrats, as well as some self-identified pro-socialist leftists that are actually moderates on the issue of the fight against racism. These people are all telling Joe Biden how he should Handle Our Black Problem, with calls that he should either adopt the most radical of the movement's demands as his own, or that he should tame those rowdy multiracial Black Lives Matter masses that believe the Constitution applies to them and their efforts. Both of these calls are two sides of the same coin; that is to say that, for these people, it is "Biden and his Blacks" that are the problem that has to be solved in this election campaign.

This argument comes in several versions. The most prominent version comes from some traditional liberals and liberal social democrats of the Washington progressive think tank and Founding DSA Generation schools, who think that Biden should imitate Lyndon Baines Johnson who, in a famous speech in July, 1967, denounced the urban uprising in Detroit as he sent soldiers the 101st Airborne, fresh from Vietnam, to protect the police as they were killing people on the streets of that city. The calls that Biden should simplistically denounce whatever property damage or destruction is accompanying these protests is, in essence, a call for Biden to denounce the protests themselves. 

Biden would do well to avoid that trap, though it is doubtful that he would take my advice on this matter. Nevertheless, he should avoid it, because the Trump campaign has set the parameters of the debate with regard to the identity of protests and violence as being twin expressions of the same phenomenon. Biden has denounced violence, but the conditional responses he's given so far (reminding people about the First Amendment and the right and duty of the people to petition the government for redress of grievances, for instance), are not enough for these liberals. They want a full-throated condemnation of The Devil and All His Works, which, in this case, means that Biden will end up — what's the term of art? — "distancing himself" — from those that are demanding justice for Jacob Blake, whose would-be executioner, agent of the state Rusten Sheskey, remains at large. 

As for the idea that Biden should become a radical and start championing demands like "defund the police," perhaps the less said, the better. Let us just point out that the "defund" slogan, as rich, complex, and ingenious as it is, is nevertheless ripe for co-optation. We should be in no hurry to dilute that slogan's heft. It is a powerful call in the movement's hands. In the hands of the Biden-Harris team, it would be an albatross. 

But the trouble with both sets of demands these liberals seek to impose on the Biden-Harris team is that their impact will be to aid and abet Team Trump in the president's reelection bid. These demands avoid addressing the central tool Trump has in this campaign. They are also not so helpful with the central problem the Biden-Harris team faces, a problem that they alone cannot fix. Such liberal demands pretend to be, by turns, of the "responsible" genre, or, on the other hand, of the "let's out-radical the radical" type, but neither item in this basket of deplorable demands does anything whatsoever to assist those anti-racist white people that are engaged in the fight against white racism (or anyone else in the multiracial anti-racist Democratic Coalition, for that matter), and such assistance is one of the central tasks required of all liberals, liberal social democrats, progressives, and pro-socialist left wingers during this campaign. Defeating Trump in this election will be done by fighting white racism, or Trump will not be defeated.

We need to hammer home the point that a vote for Trump is a vote for white racism, pure and simple. The point is not to simple-mindedly denounce people as racist. The point is to get GOP voters to defend or abandon their racist choices. It's about separating those that think white racism, though perhaps distasteful, is not a bridge too far in choosing a president, from the McCloskeys and the other hardcore white supremacists in Trump's orbit. Can this be done? This type of thing been done before in our history, and it's a shame it wasn't more vigorously  pursued four years ago. Despite everything that suggests the contrary, it's remarkable how few white people today in this country will publicly, forthrightly, and vigorously defend their own or anyone else's white racism. But voting Trump is voting white racist. When faced with that reality, there are some people that can be won over to the side of the multiracial Democratic Coalition, and that should be the focus of our efforts. 

We should denounce as specious and fundamentally untrue all other "reasons" pro-Trump voters are now giving for their support for the most racist president in modern times. (Let us not forget that the "white working class vote" for Trump, for instance, is, by definition, an anti-working class vote.) We should focus like a laser on racism as the problem the nation needs to tackle, because working on that problem is the key to working on all others. We are justified in taking this approach by the millions that are now building a movement in the streets, calling the nation to account, and thereby calling on us to make this the central issue of the campaign. We can go a long way toward neutralizing the effectiveness in this campaign of Trump's use of racism — again, the main vehicle he's using to chart his narrow path to electoral victory — by denying that racism the cloak of plausible deniability and any hint of legitimacy.

Geoffrey Jacques, a Portside moderator, is a poet, critic, and teacher who writes about literature, the visual arts, and culture. His research interests include modernist poetry and poetics, African American literature and culture, and the postmodern city.  Jacques has worked as a trade union organizer, as an editor and writer for the trade union press, and as an editor of a scholarly journal devoted to labor issues. He is a former associate editor of 1199 News and was the founding managing editor of New Labor Forum.