HINRICHS: Voters must contemplate true reasons for aftermath of 2016
Opinions Column: Unveiling the Truth
When the candied myths sour, we will be forced to reckon with our poisoned misdirection. We are not the land of the select few, but rather we are the land of the united many, E pluribus unum. A nation of nations. A nation of immigrants. An imperfect nation that must confront the racism and hate that divides us. When we realize that we have been hollowed as a populace, that there has been a theft of our patriotism and perversion of our democratic values, then we will understand the deception.
As we are pulled from our progressing democratic stream by a current of regressive hate, we confirm Thomas Jefferson’s warning that, “The boisterous sea of liberty is never without a wave.” The tsunami of unapologetic racial resentment threatens to drown our democratic values.
But as Martin Luther King Jr. prescribed, “We must build dikes of courage to hold back the flood of fear.”
With only weeks before the nation returns to the voting booth, we have yet to truly wrestle with the waves that threaten liberty. The full array of underlying and defining issues that feigned invisibility and were smothered by the people in 2016 have yet to breathe in broad public discourse. The narrative that economic anxieties and pocketbook voters paved President Donald J. Trump’s electoral college victory is convenient and plausible, and anemic and insufficient.
Researchers have had two years to determine the cause of our regression toward autocratic leadership and ethno-nationalism. They have concluded that beyond the common influencer of party affiliation, fear of cultural displacement and racial resentment were the driving forces that propped Trump’s white voter base up, not economic insecurity or hardship.
According to large study after the election, 65 percent of white working-class Americans believe American culture and way of life has deteriorated since the 1950s and nearly half of white working-class Americans stated that, “things have changed so much that I often feel like a stranger in my own country.” Nearly 7 in 10 white working-class Americans believe the American way of life needs to be protected from foreign influence and that the U.S. is in danger of losing its culture and identity. More than half of white working-class Americans believe discrimination against whites has become as big a problem as discrimination against blacks and other minorities.
Researchers conducted a study and discovered that shortly before the election, if people who strongly identified as white were told that nonwhite groups will outnumber white people in 2042, they became more likely to support Trump.
Approximately 84 percent of millennial Trump voters were white. According to a study, 41 percent of the white millennials who voted for Trump were motivated by the sense of white vulnerability.
“We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark, the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light," Plato said. The real tragedy of America is when we allow our fears to dictate our direction as a nation.
The mask of economic conservatism was donned in avoidance of white insecurity and racism. A study found that Trump supporters were much more likely to alter their views on housing policy based on race. Respondents in the study were randomly assigned, “a subtle image of either a black or a white man” and questioned on their views on housing policy. The researchers found that Trump supporters were far more likely to be impacted by the image of a black man. After the exposure, not only were they less supportive of housing assistance programs, they also expressed higher levels of anger that some people receive government assistance and were more likely to say that individuals who receive assistance are to blame for their situation. The white robes and pointed hats of fiscal conservatism are worn as a disguise for unapologetic us-versus-them policies.
Eight months prior to the election, a survey found that high authoritarians were strongly in favor of Trump — to predict correctly that routine election surveys were sharply underestimating Trump’s support. During the presidential primaries in February 2016, a significantly positive relationship between authoritarianism and favorable evaluations of Trump among Republicans was found.
The dignity of our nation is under threat not by foreign invaders, but rather by domestic manipulators. We need not be pitted against one another, fighting for the scraps left for the majority by those benefiting from a society of concentrated wealth and power. America will continue to regress and drown among the waves that threaten democratic values until we address the motivators of voters in 2016. The American culture is not being undermined by infiltrators, but rather it is collapsing from within at the hands of manufactured hate. At our highly polarized cross-roads, we must empathetically engage in the uncomfortable conversations. There is much work to be done and outreach to be had before 2020.
Luke Hinrichs is a School of Arts and Sciences second-year majoring in political science and economics. His column, “Unveiling the Truth,“ runs on alternate Wednesdays.
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