If you think Racism won Donald Trump the election, you missed the point again

This is a small extract from Michael Brull's excellent article in newmatilda.com, Nov 9, 2016 'If You Think Racism Won Donald Trump The Election, You’ve Missed The Point… Again'. 


44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. NCLR President Janet Murguía dubbed Obama the “deporter-in-chief”

44th President of the United States of America, Barack Obama. NCLR President Janet Murguía dubbed Obama the “deporter-in-chief”

Crude racism is bad, institutional racism is complicated

Many media elites eventually reacted with horror and disgust to Trump. He has said many awful things about minority groups, particularly Mexicans and Muslims. Traditionally, Republicans are supposed to dog whistle. They’re not supposed to make crudely racist comments. Yet as Matt Taibbi showed, that was all it took for him to win the Republican primaries, as the public saw that they were getting the real deal, who wouldn’t be cowed by political correctness.

Trump also benefited immensely from the free media coverage he got from each new outrageous comment he made, blandly reported on across US media.

Trump didn’t make coded appeals. He gave voice to the cruder, more extreme racists of America, like David Duke and the KKK. He also offered a kind of validation to those with less extreme concerns and anxieties about Mexicans and Muslims, who felt they lived under a stifling political correctness.

This kind of racism is the kind that respectable, educated types know is never okay and should be condemned. The respectable type, however, has been firmly established as bipartisan wisdom.

Take Trump’s rhetoric about Mexicans, building that wall, and the need to deport illegal immigrants. Such rhetoric was ugly, and hurtful.

Now consider the actual record of the constitutional law professor President, Obama. In February 2014, the Economist reported that:

America is expelling illegal immigrants at nine times the rate of 20 years ago (see article); nearly 2 million so far under Barack Obama, easily outpacing any previous president. Border patrol agents no longer just patrol the border; they scour the country for illegals to eject. The deportation machine costs more than all other areas of federal criminal law-enforcement combined. It tears families apart and impoverishes America.

The Economist pondered why Obama would oversee such an “illiberal, cruel and pointless” policy. The “Machiavellian explanation is that it motivates Latinos, who associate such barbarism with Republicans, to keep voting for the Democrats”. Obama apologists claim that:

“He is merely following laws written by nativist Republicans. This is a cop-out. As president he sets priorities for the executive branch, which cannot catch and prosecute everyone who breaks any of the gazillions of federal rules. He can find ways to slow the deportation of harmless immigrants and concentrate on those who have committed serious crimes. He has already delayed action against those who arrived as children.”

In March 2014, the largest Latino advocacy organisation in the US finally broke with Obama. It was the last major Latino organisation to defend Obama’s record. NCLR President Janet Murguía dubbed Obama the “deporter-in-chief”. She complained that “He can stop tearing families apart. He can stop throwing communities and businesses into chaos. He can stop turning a blind eye to the harm being done. He does have the power to stop this. Failure to act will be a shameful legacy for his presidency.”

In late 2014, under pressure from activists, Obama issued an executive action to reform deportation policy, and protected up to 5 million undocumented people in America from deportation. Then in 2016, he stepped up deportations again, ordering the deportation of thousands of children without any court hearing. Lisa Mascaro reported that weekend raids, targeting parents and children, “threatens to blur what had been a stark contrast between the party’s position and that espoused by leading Republican presidential candidates, most notably Donald Trump, who proposed tough ways to keep migrants out”.


Trump’s comments about Mexicans and undocumented people have been reprehensible. But the actions of the deporter-in-chief have already had a horrendous effect on millions of human beings.

The result was that fewer Latinos were willing to back the Democratic nominee this time. In 2012, Obama won 71 per cent of Latino voters, whilst Romney got 27 per cent. This election, Clinton got 65 per cent of the Latino vote, to Trump’s 29. Trump did better among Hispanic voters than Romney did. Trump also did better among black voters than Romney, and Clinton did worse than Obama.

Was the diminished Latino enthusiasm for the Democrats a product of privilege? Had they internalised more racism in the last four years? Or have they simply become disillusioned? They had voted for a President who promised hope and change, and he turned out utterly vicious.

Whilst media types were comfortable denouncing the racist rhetoric of Trump, Obama’s deportations proved more controversial. As many lives as he destroyed, that was merely a policy dispute.

To win an election, you need enthusiastic supporters. Trump had enthusiastic racists on his side. The Democrats would have found it harder to get enthusiastic anti-racists on their side, because of their lousy record.

Take Trump’s infamous call to build a wall. Jorge Ramos noted that Clinton voted for building a fence on the border with Mexico in 2006.

“What’s the difference between your idea and Donald Trump’s idea on building a wall with Mexico?” Ramos asked. Clinton denied wanting to build a wall.

“Well, I voted for border security and some of it was a fence… I don’t think we ever called it a wall. Maybe in some places it was a wall.”

This kind of distinction between Trump and Clinton may have contributed to Latinos responding to Trump in a comparable way to how they responded to Romney.

Source: newmatilda.com, Nov 10, 2016