Yes, Donald Trump is a racist. His attacks on four Democratic Congresswomen of color are only the most recent illustration of this. Trump, of course, is also an opportunist. A conniver. An exploiter. Unless it backfires, he’ll keep using racism. It fires up his “base” and distracts from the looting his family and administration are actively engaged in.
Trump intuitively grasped a painful reality that Norman Mailer wrote about in 1968. Inspired by Richard Nixon’s campaign, Mailer wrote that “political power of the most frightening sort was obviously waiting for the first demagogue who would smash the obsession and free the white man of his guilt [of slavery and racism and their legacies]. Torrents of energy would be loosed, yes, those same torrents which Hitler had freed in the Germans when he exploded their ten-year obsession with whether they had lost the war [World War I] through betrayal or through material weakness. Through betrayal, Hitler had told them: Germans were actually strong and good. The consequences would never be counted.”
Immediately after writing this, Mailer said:
“Now if suburban America was not waiting for Georgie Wallace, it might still be waiting for Super-Wallace.”
Enter Candidate Trump on his escalator, railing against Mexicans as rapists and killers. Stoking fear and bigotry against people of color. He did it, guiltlessly, because it worked. And it proved a balm to so many in his base, who could now vent their racism because a rich White man like Trump had given them cover, permission, even a mandate.
Recall Mailer’s words: “The consequences [of unleashing guilt-free racism in America] would never be counted.” We’ve been experiencing these consequences since Trump rode that escalator down and unleashed his own brand of American carnage. We will continue to experience them even when Trump is finally out of office and long dead. Because Trump isn’t guilty alone. He needs followers willing to embrace his lies, his vitriol, his hateful speech.
Isn’t it time we rejected Trump, and all his words and works, and all his empty promises?