It’s been over a week since this astonishing contrast of maps made the rounds on social media. It shows more than any other illustration that the political divide in our country is primarily a racial one. Throughout this election season, I’ve been in disbelief that the majority of white people in this country are supporting a man who has made openly fascist postures. But whenever people try to compare the US today to 1930’s Germany, I instinctively roll my eyes and say that can’t happen here. And I’m realizing more and more that the reason why is because there are too many people of color.
I’m sorry but our supposedly incorruptible, genius system of government is really at the mercy of the willingness of politicians to compromise and work together with their opponents for the common good. Over the past three decades, absolute obstructionism has become acceptable politics. When there are no electoral consequences for utterly refusing to govern, it doesn’t matter how clever the checks and balances are; the whole thing is broken. I can’t imagine trying to teach a ninth grade civics class today. What a complete farce!
Republicans are now boasting that they will block every Supreme Court nomination Hillary Clinton makes and hold investigative hearings against her for the entire duration of her presidency. Trump’s candidacy is not a bizarre anomaly, but a natural byproduct of a scorched earth approach to politics which will continue after Trump is defeated until enough people of color reach voting age to make it impossible for obstructionists to be elected.
But even if Trump did win the presidency and wanted to engage in bizarre fascist behaviors, he would have a problem. There are too many people of color in our military and our police forces. If we had a racially homogenous national identity, a demagogue could mobilize the masses, pay off the wealthy, and cow the middle-class into minding their own business like Hitler did. But the US doesn’t have a cohesive national identity. We are a fragmented, multicultural reality.
What typically passes for “patriotism” in our country is really white nationalism, which is why a white man with a confederate flag license plate is more “patriotic” than a black football player who kneels during the National Anthem. But there is a large minority of people in our country who simply don’t live in the same reality as white “patriotism.” Which creates a roadblock against the mob mentality that could take over a more homogeneous society of people. Compare this to France, where the situation is quite worrisome. A much smaller immigrant Muslim population could turn out to be the perfect scapegoat that catapults fascist Marine Le Pen to the presidency. Because when she talks about French identity, there is a very clear ethnic picture of what that looks like.
The fragmented multiculturalism of the US is a very recent phenomenon. For most of our history, we have been a white Protestant country that officially tolerated the presence of other faiths and races when we weren’t massacring native Americans, enslaving Africans, stealing land from Mexicans, or putting the Japanese into concentration camps. When the religious right says the US was always a “Christian nation,” they’re exactly right, as long as we interpret “Christian” as a white nationalist ethnic marker rather than a spiritual one. Donald Trump’s candidacy is the most direct referendum our nation has ever held on its transition from a predominantly white Protestant identity to a fragmented multiculturalism.
The best news about our country’s future is that white people are losing our power. As people of color take over, many things will change about our political discourse. All the propaganda about big government creating a culture of dependency only makes sense in the very specific cultural context of “self-reliant” white middle-class people defining themselves moralistically against “lazy” working class people of color. Who knows? When white people lose enough power, we might even be able to have a sane health care system where big government is no longer a reliable bogeyman. What will “morality” mean when North Carolina NAACP president William Barber gets to define it instead of religious right culture warrior James Dobson? Things are going to be so different!
I don’t know how many white people will need to die off before we can have a functioning democracy again. But we’re on a good trajectory as long as people of color keep having babies and refusing to accept our injustice. Yes, I realize that I’m going with a very shallow analysis here, and no, I’m not at all happy with the Democrats. The only hope I have for the most spineless political party in our nation’s history is that people of color will hold its feet to the fire. If Martin Luther King, Jr, hadn’t pushed Lyndon Johnson around, then the white segregationists would have stayed Democrat. Our political process has never moved toward justice as the result of enlightened benevolence from the people at the top; it’s always come out of the dogged struggle of grassroots social movements, and many of these movements have been led by people of color.