The White Right
In the aftermath of the KKK/Nazi assault on Charlottesville, Trump's enabling response ("...good people on both sides," etc.), and the puny, empty "condemnation" by congressional Republicans, I've had a troubling insight, which I hope is incorrect. It provides an explanation I've been missing for Trump's legions of loyal, often fervent, fans-- even now, after they've seen his behavior as president. The fellow travelers, Republicans just voting their party or mere Hillary-haters have fallen away by now. But a steady 35% of Americans continue to support him; 25% of Republican voters say they can't think of anything that Trump could do to shake their loyalty. I call that hard core!
Why? How can so many of my fellow citizens support a man like this, so utterly lacking in all the qualities that make for a good person as well as those of a competent, appropriate leader of our country. I've thought hard and tried to be charitable, but I can't think of one redeeming virtue. What do they see in him? He's rich and famous and leads a glamorous life, and these are aphrodisiacs to some people, yes. And they see him as a successful businessman with a beautiful family, I guess, and maybe they loved his "reality" TV program, his demeanor, his decisive way of firing people. And some no doubt enjoy his brazen willingness to poke anyone in the eye who crosses him, regardless of consequences and heedless of "political correctness." But I just can't see how all this adds up to anything like the widespread loyalty he now enjoys.
"Alt right" is just an invented umbrella name for a loosely-organized set of groups and interests which, like "alt music," seems to be becoming mainstream. Not that the KKK and the Nazi's in full regalia and sporting their favorite assault weapons will be respectable or welcome in your town anytime soon. They are only the visible point of the spear, and their role in the movement is quite specific: Get the angry juices flowing and provoke confrontation. A Nazi or Klan rally without confrontation is just another tiki torchlight parade. (Unfortunately, a small band of Antifa, whoever they are, will likely show up in their ninga black and accomodate them wherever they march-- more violence, more vitriol.) The Cville rally was billed as "Unite the Right!" But their job was just to unite the militant wing, to sharpen the spear point and test its strength.
Fighting to protect statues of Civil War heros like Robert E. Lee is a natural, billed as outrage at the assault on Southern culture, the expunging of "our" heritage and history. Robert E. Lee is about as pure a political symbol of the heroic Southern cause as you can get aside from the Confederate battle flag. The Cville rally accomplished its mission-- and Trump's response buoyed the whole movement. So expect more of the same as long as state and local governments try to remove their monuments.
But it is the less visible and invisible layers of the movement that give the spear point its heft-- the white guys dressed in suits with friendly smiles on their faces who meet in gatherings at nice hotels and give angry speeches intended to inspire the like-minded and consolidate the broader movement. And then the deeper layer, the monkey wrenchers and alt fact creators, the spin doctors of Fox News and their ilk, and the cyberwarriors spreading the toxins in the blogisphere..
But what I've come reluctantly to recognize since the rally, what has troubled my sleep and my serenity, is that
The one explanation that adequately accounts for Trump's continuing attraction is white grievance and resentment. Trump is the Great White Hope for tens of millions of my fellow Americans.
[continued in part 2.]