By Chauncey DeVargas
Bad ideas have a life all their own. Speaking last Saturday at a rally in Washington Township, Michigan, Donald Trump was in rare form. He worked his audience into a fever pitch with threats to shut down the government and punish the Democrats and his other enemies. He spread more irrational fear about a “caravan” of “illegal immigrants” who will somehow “invade” America. He grossly exaggerated his policy successes, which is nothing new, and in ominous tones targeted “Hispanics” in one of his tirades, to which his almost uniformly white audience responded with a mix of boos and disdainful silence.
In the post-Obama era, what many whites fear is successful minorities in powerful social and political positions. Because status is a relative concept, it is difficult for people to imagine that others’ group status has improved without hurting the status of their own group. Status, like international trade, tends to be perceived as zero-sum.
Despite the news media’s obsession with the “white working class” and its purported “economic anxiety,” that did not seem to be the prime motivating factor for Trump’s supporters at this rally. The median household income in Washington Township is almost $80,000 a year; average household income there is more than $100,000. Both amounts are higher than the respective national averages. Like most Trump voters, those attending his rally were motivated by other factors, which hardly need to be spelled out.
The evidence that racism, sexism and nativism motivated Trump’s voters is overwhelming. Political scientists, pollsters and other researchers have repeatedly demonstrated how he won white voters across all income groups, all educational levels, and both men and women.
Voters who were more more concerned about the economy actually supported Hillary Clinton, while white voters who demonstrated more bias and hostility to nonwhites overwhelmingly supported Trump. First and foremost, it was white identity politics — centered on a deep fear of losing social status and political power in a changing America — that propelled Trump into the White House.