I realize I am very much going off topic here, but this is something that’s been on my mind for a good while.
Before I get into the meat of this post, here’s a quick history lesson.
The late 1960s were a turbulent time. American was on the tail end of the Civil Rights Movement. The Republican National Convention took place in the city of Miami, and protests were happening. Some took place near the convention itself and became riots. These riots were sociopolitical & racial in nature.
Using this unrest as a backdrop, the Republican party began its strategy of dividing the country up racially with language like “law and order”. Then-nominee Richard Nixon trumpeted this vision, as a cornerstone of both his speech and his campaign. That message, and the political strategy behind it, eventually helped him win the presidency. The 1968 presidential election gave birth to what we know today as identity politics.
Now, let’s fast forward to today. Now-nominee Donald Trump is using the same strategy to help him win the 2016 presidency.
Trump points out that “our convention occurs at a time of crisis for our nation. Attacks on police…threaten our very way of life.” However, the numbers seem to tell a different story, Officers killed in the line of duty, either by gunfire or assault, are trending down from 51 in 2014, to 42 in 2015, to 33 in 2016 (so far). [citation: https://www.odmp.org/search/year]. Trump also promised that “soon, crime and violence, that today afflicts our nation, will soon (and I mean very soon) will come to an end.” How can anyone make such a promise? Humans, as a species, are violent by nature. This is little more than a platitude, designed to inspire fear of immigrants. (It’s worth mentioning that, statistically speaking, police officers are killed more by white men than other minorities).
Furthermore, his statement that 180,000 illegal immigrants with criminal records are “roaming the streets to threaten peaceful citizens” is laughably unsubstantiated, as there is no way to discern how many of those (as a percentage) were charged with a violent crime. To paint each one as a violent criminal is egregious.
None of this matters, however. I can fact-check here all day and it wouldn’t make a difference or change a mind. Trump isn’t interested in trafficking in facts.
The man is very media savvy. He understands that we live in a world where we are barraged with an endless stream of information. Our daily lives are consumed with things like the internet, smart phones, TV, movies, music, etc. It takes a LOT to break through the white noise. It’s hard to say whether he truly believes the things he says. That said, he understands that the more outrageous he is, he more media coverage he’ll get. The CEO of CBS even admitted while “it may not be good for America, Trump is good for ratings.” This fact is something Hillary Clinton, whatever her political qualifications may be, doesn’t seem to have an effective answer to.
I believe it’s this confluence of for-profit mass media exploitation & fear-mongering of poor, white, uneducated Americans (feeling alienated by a world changing faster than they can keep up with) that has led us to where we are now.
I believe history is repeating itself.
Fear is our most visceral, knee-jerk & exploitable emotion. That instinct fuels “fight or flight”. It’s something Trump & GOP strategists understand, and they’re doubling down on that. Right now, I believe it’s working and it will win Trump the presidency. As a transgender woman (and more importantly, as someone who isn’t a white, working class Christian male), that idea is terrifying to me.
The big question is this: where we do we go from here? That for a later post…