Guest blog: Herbie Agyemang-Duah

From Herbie, St Albans:

 Donald Trump is getting angry white men very excited. Unfortunately, they won’t decide the election.

In 2016, race trumps class in America.

The most important American political act of this year by some degree was Beyoncé’s performance at the Super bowl.  

Her homage to the 1960’s Black Panthers and her Black Power salute brought the Black Lives Matter -– the protests about the disproportionate number of African American men who die at police hands – campaign to the mainstream. And she foregrounded the fact that the Presidential primaries are – in reality – about whether race matters more than class.

In all of the agonised analysis of what Donald Trump means for the Republican Party,  apart from the fact that the GOP grandees have lost control, one fact is repeated again and again – this has been a long time coming. The Trump Supremacy is not an aberration in Republican history, it is the culmination of a strategy that started with Richard Nixon’s Southern Strategy; his 1968 law and order { rein in the black trouble-makers platform } which won the  white working-class Southern voters back from the Democrats with a strong populist appeal rooted in values. And again repeated in 1972  his “Acid, Abortion, and Amnesty” assault on George McGovern saying that Democrats were hippies, un-Christian and pacifists who wanted Vietnam deserters pardoned to Reagan’s “Morning in America” optimistic patriotism (plus Guns, God and Abortion) that populism won over working class white voters. Again race was not off the menu: His “welfare queen” rhetoric referred to single-parent black mothers on social security.

Newt Gingrich even labelled Black President  Barack Obama the “food stamp president” during the 2012 presidential election.

Trump taps into that same strand of patriotic populism – “let’s make America great again” – but he roots his appeal in the anger of white working-class voters dislocated economically by jobs sent overseas. Free trade, off-shoring, immigration – all aspects and impacts of globalisation – have left them bewildered by change and often worse off too. Their rage against the elites is the fuel that has supercharged Trump’s campaign. But as I said the “values” politics has always had a racial inflection. Mainly a dog-whistle, though in Republican strategist Lee Atwater’s infamous Willie Horton attack ad on Michael Dukakis – highlighting a Massachusetts furlough policy that released a black murderer to escape and rape a white woman – it was more like a bugle call. Trump’s wall between the US and Mexico (paid for by the Mexican government) and the ban on Muslims coming to the country are firmly in an ignoble Republican tradition.

The problem for Republicans is that America is changing and is becoming a country where ethnic minorites are the majority. Already the four most populous states that sways elections – California, Florida, New York, and Texas – have Spanish as their de facto second language. That makes being an anti-Hispanic politician – as the Bush family know – setting your face against the future, and therefore electability. The performance of Jeb Bush and Marco Rubio in the primaries shows that the activist base of their party doesn’t care. Come the presidential election they will reap the whirlwind.

In the Democrat primaries a similar battle between class and race is being fought out. Sanders seeks to harness the same economic rage against globalisation – and he has had some success. Michigan,washinton state and close call in rust-belt Ohio shows that he can bring together a coalition of blue collar and middle-class voters who support his demands for economic reform. The problem, as votes who cast their votes in Missouri and and the South show,  that majority of African-Americans have a completely different take on what matters. For them race trumps class and it has to be addressed directly.

Clay Shirky, in a fascinating Twitter “essay” notes  that Sanders’ early response on Black Lives Matter was:

“Black lives matter, White lives matter, Hispanic lives matter”

The equalization of those lives in that statement eradicates race as a factor. African American voters listening get the message – Sanders doesn’t get it.

Contrast that with Hillary in Harlem:

“We still need to face the painful reality that African-Americans are nearly three times as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage.

“Something’s wrong when the median wealth for black families is just a tiny fraction of the median wealth of white families.

“Something is wrong when African-American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men convicted of the same offenses.

“Black kids get arrested for petty crimes, but white CEOs get away with fleecing our entire country — there is something wrong.

“Just imagine with me for a minute if white kids were 500 percent more likely to die from asthma than black kids — 500 percent. Imagine if a white baby in South Carolina were twice as likely to die before her first birthday as an African-American baby. Imagine the outcry. Imagine the resources that would flood in.

“Now, these inequities are wrong, but they’re also immoral. And it’ll be the mission of my presidency to bring them to an end. We have to begin by facing up to the reality of systemic racism.”

That, in a nutshell, is why Hillary is beating Sanders in the black and Latino sections of town, especially in the southern united states  and why probably because of race, she will beat Donald Trump in a presidential election. In America in 2016 race trumps class.


1 thought on “Guest blog: Herbie Agyemang-Duah

  1. billwringe

    Outside of the South, Clinton’s advantage among non-whites seems less clear-cut. Michigan is the most obvious example of that; but it’s also worth remembering that Hawaii and Alaska, where Sanders won by big margins, are two of the least white states in the Union.

    Liked by 1 person


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