America is yet an icon, still held by providence above the strained reach of its mob. In this odd season we find the republic slowly recovering from long harrowing moments when its premise of universal freedom was faltering; its constitutional protections appeared less enduring; and the belief that the United States served the highest civilized standard was waning; all undercut by a political horde that empowered an unhinged billionaire to dismember its own party in a tempestuous campaign to seize the American presidency.
As the nation slowly sobers from the anti-establishment delirium wrought by Donald Trump and his shotgun conservatives, some of his so-called silent majority are realizing they prematurely iconified the 70-year-old functional narcissist and are now contending with an electorate increasingly disturbed by his noxious ideology. The general aversion expected long ago is just now settling around the GOP nominee and his movement, signaling that the country’s furlough from decency is expiring and allowing now, finally, acknowledgment that an inherent flaw must exist in this nation to have allowed it to be brought to this dismal terrain.
In fairness, Trump deserves little blame for his political ascension. He was abruptly drafted from what he certainly intended to be a showman’s tour — a braggadocios public relations campaign rather than a political one — to promote the Trump brand with the free media associated with national politics. Bestowed upon him were the gifts of a conservative base raging with discontent, and a spectacularly cringe-worthy batch of GOP candidates who, aside from the competent Jeb Bush, exposed the rot of the modern Republican Party.
Much of the blame for the rise of Trump can also be assigned to the political elite of both parties, who in fairer times gladly charged themselves with protecting America’s low-maintenance national political machines. This insulated group reacted lethargically to Trump’s overt demagoguery, and at the onset of his campaign stared helplessly at their faltering mechanisms of control, in an apparent mental fog from having been roused from slumber while Trump gained the nomination entirely unhindered in a political scorched-earth campaign.
Trump’s relative innocence in his rapid ascension does not entitle him to the traditional laurels for his position as the Republican nominee. The only credit due him is his ability to shed any patriotic conscience and avail himself instead to the portion of the American population that would rather burn the country than share its bounty. The people of this recalcitrant demographic — America’s champions of swaggering White entitlement — found in Trump the only nationally reputable name foolhardy enough to accept their onerous endorsement. So long as he legitimizes their sectarian grievances, this dwindling group will seat him atop their battering ram, forcing him eventually, they still may imagine, through the crumbling doors of the White House to embark on the only goal that for generations has held their steadfast interest: rescinding the advances of the Civil Rights’ movement.
It is from that despicable pool alone that the Alt-right draws its excitement for Trump. White euphoria around him has nothing to do with an economic plan, as Trump has offered nothing substantive in that regard, nor are his throngs genuinely inspired by his flip-flopping immigration plans, or his ideas for repairing the “dysfunctional politics in Washington,” or any of the other tweet-packaged idiocy he’s been trying to pass for serious policy. None of Trump’s initiatives sustain even the lightest tread of legitimate inspection because they are, in fact, hastily scripted catch phrases intended to decorate the inconsequential perimeters of his only effective campaign strategy: Presenting himself as the portrait of an angry White man, taxed to exhaustion by racial equality initiatives, longing for the freedom to heave away the tortuous yoke of enlightenment and bare, if he so chooses, an unabashed racist, sexist, and bigoted nature. This portrait — independent of his policy stance illusion — is what earned Trump perpetual endearment from America’s sneering White nationalist sympathizers who identify strongly with the imagined oppression of Anglos in America.
This subculture, attracted to the glittery hate of Trump’s brand of nationalism, feigns legitimacy by projecting itself as a messianic campaign that will save a victimized White America — oddly, the wealthiest, most politically empowered demographic in the world — from an apparent persecution inflicted by minorities and immigrants. Oppressed minority and immigrant populations, presumably, have leveraged their considerable arsenal of poverty, woeful education, discrimination and political neglect to transcend the prowess of White America and eclipse its 240-year dominance of national affairs. Assuming this soaring minority ascension to be unlikely, it is obvious that targeting the disenfranchised, overwhelmingly law-abiding population of immigrants and minorities is absurd, and demands of this country a deeper examination into why such a contemptuous clarion call against the already disadvantaged gained national momentum.
To understand Trump’s motivation for attacking minorities and immigrants, one theory must be discredited forthright. His serial derision of these populations is not a reflection of an undisciplined politician falling off script, which is how observers have glossed over his hate speech. Trump’s attacks are the strategy precisely. His credibility as a presidential candidate is lacking, but his skill as an agent provocateur is a substitution that engages his base, so he executes that persona at every opportunity. His tweets, postings, and podium antics are crafted as Molotov cocktails — messy, inflammatory and imprecise — to be thrown into the agitated mass of minorities and immigrants with the goal of inciting them from a state of static ire to an offensive position of fury. In this combustible dynamic, Trump adds spark to the tinder by simultaneously romancing the Anglo demographic with invitations back to their bygone era of unrivaled racial prosperity — when America was “great” — and juxtaposes that picturesque narrative with the existence of riotous minorities and immigrants whose current or impending constitutional protections deny that White utopia. The stubborn veil of protections this country places around minority populations are viewed by the Alt-right as complex, indecipherable impediments to America’s progress. They instead favor Trump’s shoutable solutions, which they’ve embraced as the dramatic philosophical conviction needed to remedy Washington’s indecipherable bureaucratic minutia.
Recognizing that Trump’s policy stances thus far are parodies, his supporters instead celebrate his motivation for running for president — which, as the David Dukes of our society immediately observed — is an indisputable Anglican-oriented motivation. The enthusiasm for this “America First” campaign is muted among the astute because they are aware that such campaigns throughout history have unfailingly sought to position Whites as the dominant race intent on subjugating minority communities and hoarding their labor and resources. Equally troubling is the evidence that conscientious institutions that interfere with this oppressive pursuit are considered by White nationalists to be betrayers of White destiny, then becoming legitimate targets of their rage. History has chronicled this phenomenon well, and has added to its archive the recent tragedy of the Republican establishment that, in its feeble attempt to obfuscate Trump’s racist vitriol, instead fell under its enraged Alt-right mob, forcing an appalled nation to witness the slow disembowelment of the once-revered political party.
Trump’s campaign is the camp for frustrated White Americans whose advancements in this country have been hindered by the Civil Rights’ assault on institutionalized racism. Convinced that the modern political system undermined their competitiveness by granting minorities improved opportunities and protections, racist Whites are turning to Trump to jam the gears of this nation’s Civil Rights’ progress so the American institutional complex will again tilt its bounty toward Anglican interests. They zealously seek a return to the country’s original premise of perpetual White prosperity. Aside from inflaming America’s race-conscious social dynamic, this Anglo-centric pursuit is flagrantly unconstitutional and would uproot the volumes of legal precedents establishing the body of American equality. The inspiration of the Alt-right is nonetheless derived from their fervent belief that this country’s forefathers intended sole Anglo heirship of American privileges. This conviction, however furtive, is hallowed among them and has been the most enduring pillar of conservative White consciousness.
It is also the most egregious falsehood ever conjured upon our nation.
Trump’s vision for America is not, as his supporters believe, a return to a previous era when White men lived supremely confident that their Anglican kinship with the country’s founders ensured their interests would be satisfied before all others within the nation’s bounds and longevity. That concept of America is a fantasy that has existed only in the mythical lore of deluded racists. America never intended itself to be a bastion of perpetual White privilege, and any who hold such notions are ill equipped to grasp the true premise of America. It is true that the inception of the United States was Anglican, as were the multiple generations of its political germination. But the country’s maturation into the free land demanded by its constitution was possible only if this nation shed its mono-racial tenor. The abundant existence of other intelligent races, the vast expanse of its territory, the draw of its prosperity, and the equalizing nature of its founding document all destined America to become the globe’s civil rights institution. However ignorant of that truth racists throughout history have been — Trump’s clan included — America determined that its Anglican indulgences would be transient the moment it declared that on its soil “all men are created equal.” The greatness of the White American epoch was not that its prosperity would be clutched perpetually within its singular reach, but rather that its increasing bounty of freedom was destined to be shared with all humanity in its sovereign.
Such is the true American spirit, even at its genesis.
A majority of Americans traditionally have voted faithful to that spirit. Under their stewardship, America has followed a trajectory of ascending minority rights, which is a clear endorsement of the concept that expanding protection is the proper evolution of the country’s pursuit of a more perfect union. Trump’s campaign seeks the opposite — a shrinking of protections and an erosion of rights — which is a reversal of the national arch, as Dr. King observed, that bends toward justice. However determined Trump and his supporters may be to raise this submerged American Atlantis of infinite White entitlement, the majority of the nation’s citizens prefer to exalt this country’s roots by invoking the fact that its founders established a political system based on nourishing, not depriving, the diverse flora of all seeking freedom. It is because of this system precisely that modern America is now closer to achieving the goals of its constitution than it has been at any other point in history. An eloquent African American president and the rising political sophistication of oppressed populations have in this generation allowed us a glimpse of Reagan’s shining city upon a hill opening its storied avenues to the flock of King and benefactors of Lincoln. That genie can never be gerrymandered back into its bottle by Trump, or any other future demagogue.
America’s refusal to rescind the rights of its citizens — and those seeking to become citizens — is the crux of the nation’s dilemma with the twisted branch of the Republican Party that has entangled itself into the 2016 presidential election. This wayward sect is entangled in American history, first embodying itself in the atrocities committed against the indigenous of the Americas, again in its Manifest Destiny expansion over Mexico, and in the unyielding belief of Civil War Southerners that African Americans were fit only for enslavement. That the South’s Civil War nearly caused the death of this nation and yet its racist doctrines remain unvanquished — inspiring the political sect of Trump’s base — is of major importance to comprehending the factors that have driven their rise.
Today’s angry Republican rhetoric is best interpreted as the relighting of smoldering crosses from the Civil Rights’ era. When Americans realized during the 1960s that the South’s action against African American protests were actually efforts to disregard the African American rights achieved by the Civil War, the national citizenry rebuked the South by passing the Civil Rights Bill of 1964. This affront to racist Americans was of major consequence to their psyche. Not since the Civil War had the interests of prejudiced White Americans been so openly challenged by their own federal government’s policies, which in that 1960s decade forced White Americans to share the country’s attention and resources with minorities. That challenge to the racist White American ideology began the exodus of bigoted Whites away from mainstream politics. Outraged at their government’s acquiescence to civil rights’ activists, the unyielding racists of both parties molted from the mainstream and retreated to seethe in the perimeters of America’s political landscape. Coalescing in the unlit fringes of radical conservatism, the extremists of this political diaspora exercised their rage by bludgeoning the party of Lincoln and replaced his creed with the relics of White supremacy, the insignia that best expressed their betrayal at being forced to pay homage to the races they once oppressed.
When this disfigured face of the Republican Party emerged in 2008 with its warped nationalist doctrine, most influential Republicans, concerned that the mutation could eliminate the GOP from national contention, blocked entry of the racist faction pushing at the gates of the GOP establishment. A desperate Republican nominee John McCain opened the gates for the new feral strain of Republicans, unleashing them onto what he knew to be their object of maximum contempt: An African American seeking to become president of the United States. It was at that moment of American politics that the party of Lincoln was buried, and the ghoul to become the party of Trump emerged. So began the campaign of that swath of White Americans who have been tumescent in anticipation of a cultural shift that would establish them once again as the dominant race, heedless of the damage that their divisive policies inflict upon minorities and immigrants, and unmoved by the paralysis their ideology would set upon the nation’s evolution.
Trump’s campaign has been a political burlesque show scripted for this audience of bigots, sexists and racists, enthralling them with the fantasy that his America would again be tolerant of their effort to monetize the oppression of minority populations. The convergence of these interests within the Trump campaign has emboldened both overt and closet bigots, building a hostile coalition, and alarming every astute observer who rightly anticipates unrest among the races and a dramatic national backslide under a Trump administration.
Trump may very well be cognizant of the potential for national mayhem that his campaign embodies. When a major political candidate calls for harm and imprisonment of his opposition leaders, encourages violence against protesters, challenges the validity of the established government as a “rigged system,” invites into this country the espionage of foreign dictators, incites hate among millions of people of different races, and conveys malice toward all assemblages of the current political order, it is not done in the benign interest of reform. It is the language and manner of revolution.
The disfigured Alt-right sect of the new Republican Party will relent only when carte blanche powers are granted to a White tyrant sympathetic to their fringe patriot mantra. Trump’s theatrical preening as precisely that White tyrant has split the political atom and swept him atop the GOP in unprecedented haste. This aging functional narcissist — vacuous from a lifetime of fast money, stunted intellectually by his burdensome ego, and deranged by his narrowing proximity to the globe’s most powerful elected position — now stands at the cusp of the American presidency. His certain undermining of America’s political system is obstructed only by the Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton, a capable but unpopular vestige of America’s discredited system of political cronyism.
Polls indicate that Clinton may have an insurmountable lead over Trump. The GOP nominee, in a series of hollow public overtures, has attempted inroads to the minority communities whose integrity he previously attacked. But both he and his base are keenly aware that this country’s 46 White-majority states can deliver 433 electoral votes — he only needs 270 to win the presidency — so his initial racist messaging to dissatisfied White Americans is not necessarily a formula to lose. Frustrated White voters can transition quickly to become racist White voters. This unfortunate reality is not lost on Trump, whose public aversion for the minority and immigrant population was an irreversible signal to White Americans that, under his administration, this nation’s benefits, including constitutional protections, would be partitioned within the same Anglo-centric matrix that for generations favored Anglican interests in the financial and professional realms. If Trump successfully harasses Americans into voting for the protection and advancement of their own race, minorities’ cumulative votes would fall vastly behind the more numerous White demographic. A strictly race-driven election would propel Trump into the presidency, and this land could again slide into the dysfunctional strata of a segregated America ruled unfairly by an unsympathetic Anglo majority.
At this crossroad of American history, it is neither minorities nor immigrants who threaten the stability of the United States. It is Trump, who has fomented minority unrest with the intent of quelling their backlash with a political apparatus that diminishes their freedom and access to this country’s resources. In this way, Trump and his Alt-right supporters intend to combat their true enemy: Equality for the minority and immigrant population, or, as they derisively refer to such concepts, “political correctness.” The tragic irony is that Trump and his supporters are charging a fictitious enemy, flailing arrows instead into peaceful populations who by great majority seek no confrontation and are desirous only of contributing to the prosperity of this nation. Trump’s campaign is woefully inept at understanding the uplifting essence of America, choosing instead to set flame to the aspirations of millions in the country who seek haven in its abundance. Surrounded by bigots and insulated from reality, Trump is truly a political mad scientist feeding discredited xenophobic theories to a crowd of outcasts who made alarming strides toward attaining mainstream status in American politics.
Only by the undeterred mob can Trump hope to become president. As he labors to assemble that mob into a electoral weight massive enough to crack the foundation of constitutional rights from where this country’s enlightened trajectory originates, Trump has laid bare his intention to unhinge the political axis by which the United States has increasingly steadied itself since its 1776 inception. There should be no illusions about his motivations. He seeks to empower a fringe racist faction to serve as GOP stormtroopers, identifying and isolating minorities, hoarding their resources, and bullying the electorate into supporting his overtly oppressive regime.
If John F. Kennedy’s legacy is the aspirations of Camelot, the legacy of Donald J. Trump would be deranged Saxon hordes scaling Camelot’s walls.
Reyes Mata III is a Chicano writer based in El Paso, Texas. His writing and research focuses on the Aztec lineage of Mexican-Americans and how their emerging concept of Aztlan will affect modern American politics. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.