The same disaffected white people who listen to Rush Liumbaugh and rail against “political correctness” are flocking to Donald Trump and his promise to “Make America Great Again.” Problem is, America has always been great … for them:
Which America is he promising to us? If you ask his supporters, they say life has gotten worse for people like them over the last 50 years. It seems safe to assume that, in the eyes of Mr. Trump’s overwhelmingly white male fans, America was greater a half-century ago. Indeed, it was pretty great — for them.
It’s not just that factory jobs were more plentiful or that women and minorities were largely kept from positions of power. Large national programs that radically changed the country kept America great specifically for white men. New Deal-era systems like Social Security and unemployment insurance; rules that demarcated minimum wages and maximum work hours and protected unionization; and the G.I. Bill at the end of World War II substantially transformed the country and created a booming middle class. But they all purposefully left out most women and minorities.
It’s a little-remembered fact that the social safety net, that product of the Great Depression, initially was available primarily to white working-class men. Social Security excluded domestic and agricultural workers until the 1950s — jobs held largely by people of color and women. Ditto unemployment insurance and the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. Gays and lesbians, excluded from the right to marry until last year, of course were denied all of the legal benefits of such contracts: inheritance, property settlement in divorce, insurance benefits, Social Security spousal benefits, etc.
So yes, America has always been great for white men. Particularly straight white men. And these are the folks whining that America isn’t great anymore because they have to share their piece of the pie after 240 years? Get the fuck outta here.
I know this isn’t any groundbreaking news to liberals. I’m just really happy to see the paper of record acknowledge what’s really going on with this “Make America Great Again” nonsense. I’ve heard far too much about “wage stagnation” and “income inequality” as if it’s really economics driving the rise of Trumpism. I don’t think that’s it at all. I think it’s the same old shit that it’s always been: loss of white privilege. The news media seems awfully loathe to call out the racism in our electorate, as if it’s impolite to call things what they are. But there you have it.
Here’s something else I learned: watching one of the weekend MSNBC shows, I learned the last Democratic president to receive the majority of the white vote was Lyndon B. Johnson in 1964. Gee, now what happened in 1964? Thinking … thinking …
From a presidential perspective, that doesn’t seem to matter: we’ve had several Democratic presidents who managed to get elected without white peoples’ votes. Here’s a nice little run-down. We even managed to have majorities in the House of Representatives and Senate during that time period. So I’m really not too worried about my party losing white voters. If all they want to do is whine about how they have to share their toys, well, let the Republicans have them.
At some point this is all going to change, though. The generation that remembers when they owned the playground is going to die off and a new generation will take over. These will be people who grew up at a time when everyone played together; they weren’t alive at a time when others suddenly got the same rights and privileges they’d been enjoying for decades. That all happened long before they were born. It will be interesting to see what America is like when that happens.