As the 2016 presidential election fast approaches, there are a plethora of individuals vying for the top office in the United States of America. One of the top Republican Party candidates, billionaire real estate magnate Donald Trump has undoubtedly shocked millions of American’s with his success in the polls, despite his obvious lack of political experience or expertise. Many friends of mine and other individuals I have spoken to were taken aback at the fact that a legitimate presidential candidate would feature a campaign platform and other policies that are embedded in sentiments of uninhibited, unapologetic racial bigotry and xenophobia. I have consistently rebutted that Trump’s campaign strategy is not only unsurprising but actually anticipated. Put simply,the billionaire is merely utilizing the white elite’s oldest tool at it’s disposal; disseminating propaganda that plays to the racist sensibilities and sentiments of poor, uneducated, and vulnerable white American’s as a mechanism to keep them under their control to ensure the elite’s economic and political interests are not endangered .
Before the outset of American chattel slavery in Virginia, African slaves, indentured servants and poor white settlers all toiled on the plantation fields together. African slaves undeniably held the lowest position on the social hierarchy, although the living conditions that were experienced by indentured whites was not markedly better. In fact the majority of the whites where extremely financially indigent. In the British colonies, the planters who owned vast swaths of land held a superior position to field workers of all colors.
In 1676, Virginia settler Nathaniel Bacon and his constituents formulated a plan to seize land from Native American’s as a means to obtain more property for himself and other colonists and to eradicate the threat of Native American attacks. Bacon requested armed assistance from the governor of Virginia, William Berkeley. When Berkeley, who enacted favorable policies towards the Native American’s, declined, Bacon promptly organized and united a thousand of Virginians-regardless of race and position on the social hierarchy to revolt. Bacon’s followers subsequently assaulted the Native Americans, attacked the property of the planter elite, burned Jamestown the ground and forced Governor Berkeley to flee the area.
After the rebellion was quelled, the ruling class realized that a coalition of poor whites and black slaves posed a serious threat to their economic interests and they found it was imperative that they find a mechanism to divide poor whites and African American’s to ensure there would be no rebellion. The planter class consequently allowed poor white settlers to become plantation overseers and participate in slave patrols, granted them access to Native American lands, among other things. By extending those freedoms and perceived privileges to poor Caucasian settlers, they now had a vested interest in keeping the racially based system of slavery alive. Despite their new privileges, the economic plight of white settlers remained perilous, to be kind, however they were content being financially indigent due to the fact that they were not African American or slaves.
Nearly 3 centuries later, following the Great Depression and the sea of poverty that engulfed nearly all American’s, an alliance between blacks, poor whites, and ethnic minorities formed. The group formed and began to support the Democratic Party led by president Franklin D. Roosevelt in response to New Deal programs that were enacted of which the poorest American’s were the greatest beneficiaries. As a result of this newly shaped partnership, the Democrats held a decided stranglehold on electoral politics in the subsequent 3 decades.
Eager to find some advantage that would end the Democrat’s dominance at the polls, the Republicans and their tacticians decided to employ what would later be termed as the Southern Strategy. The approach was designed explicitly to as Richard Nixon’s adviser John Ehrlichman articulated “to go after the racists”. Nixon and other preeminent politicians of the time such as congressman Barry Goldwater,George Wallace, and later Ronald Reagan began to used their campaign as a platform to denigrate and cast negative aspersions on the African American community as a tool to gain the support of poor white voters. Although the lawmakers never explicitly articulated that they were referring to the Black Americans ,it was no secret who the supposed welfare cheats and criminals were. As a result of these tactics poor white voters foolishly began to vote in favor of Republican sponsored initiatives that would reduce welfare,despite the that the majority of individuals receiving government assistance are poor white women.
In the end, Donald Trump’s use of bigoted rhetoric and proposed public policy as a campaign strategy is expected. In this instance the tactic is not being utilized to malign the African american community as it has been historically. However,attacking Muslims,Hispanics and other groups with discriminatory language has still achieved the desired reaction and support from poor,uneducated whites. I believe this practice is synonymous to executing the same exact concept or play in a football game albeit from an entirely different formation. This strategy should all make us question if billionaire mogul’s beliefs actually align with the despicable sentiments he has expressed on the campaign trail, or is he merely espousing this rhetoric for political and economic gain.