Page: Trump taps rich vein of white ‘victimhood’
Donald Trump has achieved an important milestone. Winning big in Republican primaries has given him “big mo,” as President George H.W. Bush used to call big momentum.
At this rate, Trump could well be the Grand Old Party’s next presidential nominee unless he does something devastatingly offensive to his supporters, such as, for example, saying something nice about President Barack Obama.
Barring that, Bruce Bartlett may well get his wish for a Trump nomination, whether he really wants to or not.
Bartlett, 64, is an author, historian, economist and veteran of the Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations who describes himself as an endangered species: a “moderate Republican.”
So why does he want Trump to win the nomination? Because Bartlett wants to see the billionaire developer and TV star face the presumptive Democratic nominee, frontrunner Hillary Clinton — and lose.
As Bartlett spelled out in an essay titled “The Moderate Republican’s Case for Donald Trump” in the July Politico magazine, a Trump nomination should be welcomed by moderate Republicans because, “It is only after a landslide loss by Trump that the GOP can win the White House again.”
Such a loss, Bartlett hopes, would enable the GOP establishment and its donor elites to say “We told you so” to the far-right and move the party back toward the sensible political center.
I’d like to see that happen, if only to wipe Trump’s forever-smug, self-satisfied grin off his face. Yet as I told Bartlett after his Politico piece, be careful what you wish for. I remember how many liberals were convinced in early 1980 that Ronald Reagan, a seemingly “washed-up actor,” would set back the conservative cause by losing. He didn’t. He won. Twice.
Now I watch Trump’s supporters stampede ahead, turning out in record numbers with an air of excitement that I have not seen since, well, Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign.
But the very real possibility that Trump could pull off a White House win is enough reason, says Bartlett, to take a closer, more serious look at who is turning out to vote for him.
His quest has resulted in a new paper titled “Donald Trump and ‘Reverse Racism,’” which you can read and download in a 17-page PDF from this site of the Social Science Research Network.
Put simply, “reverse racism” describes discrimination against white people. “Recent research suggests that many more whites believe they suffer from reverse racism than one might imagine,” says Bartlett.
I don’t have to imagine it. I hear it quite regularly from some of my conservative readers.
The view is echoed in studies Bartlett cites. One of them, a 2011 study by Michael I. Norton of Harvard Business School and Samuel R. Sommers at Tufts University, found agreement between white and black Americans that bias against blacks was prevalent in the 1950s and 1960s. But in the decades since, the study says, blacks are more likely to see such racism as a continuing problem while whites tend to see it as a problem that has been more or less “solved,” except when it is bias against whites.
In fact, Norton wrote in a later New York Times essay, many whites now believe anti-white bias is even more prevalent than anti-black bias — a sentiment not shared by blacks — and “are now using their sense of marginalization as a rallying cry toward action.”
The result, writes Norton, has been a “jockeying for stigma” among various identity groups, a competition for victimhood into which Trump has tapped.
From my African-American perspective — and that of Bartlett, who happens to be white — it is preposterous to see whites as marginalized and powerless in America after centuries of advantages. Yet many whites now use their sense of marginalization as a rallying cry toward political action.
It is neither wise nor fair to dismiss Trump’s voters as racists. Many see themselves as victims of a system that deliberately has overlooked their concerns about immigration, trade, education costs and other issues that have buffeted their lives.
They could choose a better standard bearer than Trump who is not above further fracturing our fragile racial and ethnic relations to get his way. But for those who feel they have not found better leadership elsewhere, he’ll do.
Clarence Page writes for the Chicago Tribune.