Most in the US attribute Trump’s 2016 election to one of two reasons: economic anxiety or racism. Either analysis however is incomplete. It would seem that conservatives and liberals alike, both so entrenched in their own right-wing worldviews, retreat into the comfortable shade of ideology before any meaningful conclusion can be arrived at. Thinkers on all sides of the mainstream political spectrum have touched upon the truth of the matter but, having reached the absolute limits of their ideology, immediately pull back, writhing in agony like a man having touched a sore wound.
Two Forms of One Ideology
The conservatives which seeks to erase the obvious racism of Trump, his administration, and his supporters are the most shameless, brazen, and arrogant of ideologues. The bad faith which has come to so characterize the conservative faction is never more displayed than when the Bill O’Reilly’s and Ben Shapiro’s come out to defend white supremacy. Adept dog-whistlers, they babble on endlessly about criminality and welfare queendom, making careful efforts to avoid using the n-word (usually by substituting it with “thug” or something similar). More often than not their “debates” consist of logical and rhetorical fallacies shouted over an increasingly frustrated opponent who somehow never gets a word in. Of course, this is intentional. Few of their claims stand up to the facts, even fewer to history.
That being said, they are damn good at what they do. No finer ideologues have ever existed than those conservative pundits under Obama and Trump. Their dedication to ideology is matched only perhaps by their liberal counterparts.
Whereas the conservative ideologue is essentially a snake oil salesman, deep down aware of their absurdity or at least their dishonesty, the liberal ideologue has a childlike naivety that could actually be endearing in another time. The liberal ideologue attempts to make sense of a fluid world with “woke” pseudoscience and an unwavering righteousness that fails to recognize its own ideological constraints. Nothing can be understood through the liberal lens precisely because it is so riddled with ideology. The ABC thinkers–that is Anything But Class as the Marxist Michael Parenti calls them–fail to note even the most obvious economic relations inherent to racism. They relegate the realities of racism to moral failings in much the same way early human tribes described the sun as a god. Having no science available to them, they created comforting narratives to explain the things that scare them. The difference is that the tribes were afraid of being eaten and did eventually figure out the sun was a star. Liberals, on the other hand, are afraid of being called out on their privilege and have not yet developed even the rudiments of a scientific world outlook.
What they end up with is highfalutin and admittedly very well written opinion pieces that contain nothing in the way of substance. They grasp at eclectic theories and pseudoscience, unable to create anything coherent. But that’s exactly what makes a liberal a liberal. Liberalism can be characterized precisely by its lack of science, its idealism. Ignoring the material realities of class, it latches onto the most superficial elements of a given issue. This is especially the case with racism.
Liberalism, of course, is the ideology of both conservatives and liberals. It’s so intricately woven into the fabric of mainstream political discourse that it’s effectively invisible. Class becomes a nonissue as the focus is shifted onto liberal identity politics uprooted from any material base in substance but maintaining the existing economic relations in practice. The conclusions may differ ever so slightly but the exact same methods were employed to get there and the result is the same: class is ignored and whites continue to benefit from the exploitation of black people.
In the middle of all this is the precariously situated centrist, the social liberal, fiscal conservative. All this means is they’re a liberal when times are good and a conservative when they aren’t. When push comes to shove, the centrist moves further right. They don’t like divisiveness though, it’s uncomfortable, and so they too entertain the idea of “post-racial America.” Centrists are often the most vocal on this.
Obama, Trump, and Post-Racial America
It is only once one has become so thoroughly diluted as to consider their ideology common sense, as nonideological that the question of “post-racial America” can be asked. Is the US post-racial? Of course not! The question isn’t even worth asking, the answer is so obvious.
Yet liberals, that is liberals, conservatives, and centrists, all saw evidence of this in the election of Barack Obama. A black man in the highest office in the country obviously changes none of the actual economic relations which keep black people impoverished and disenfranchised, which necessitate racism. Did Obama stop the plundering of Latin America, Asia, and Africa? No. Did Obama not detain and deport millions of innocent people? No. Did Obama not support Blue Lives Matter over Black Lives Matter? No. Did Obama even attempt to create a healthcare system which put people over profit? No. He moved to phase out federal private prisons, yes, and he blocked the Keystone XL pipeline, yes, but only in the final half of 2016. It took him a full seven and a half years to do this? Really?
Both moves, by the way, he so clearly knew would either be reversed by Trump immediately upon entering office (which they were) or would sweep the issues under the rug, giving Clinton room to reverse them without provoking much backlash. Is that a speculative claim? Sure. But nothing else in his presidency was in line with either of these. Obama had never disempowering corporations, he worked with them. Just look at his support for fracking, for example. Indeed, his and Trump’s policies are more aligned than they are opposed.
So why are liberals so horrified by Trump? In a purely logical world, they’d support him about as much as they supported Obama. But liberals, and again I mean both liberals and conservatives and even centrists, do not exist in a logical world. Obama was black and that in of itself was supposed to change things. For liberals, it was the end of racism. For conservatives, it was the intensification of racism against whites. For both, it was an opportunity to advance the cause of white supremacy, either by covering it up completely or justifying its active advance.
So why’d Trump win?
It is correct to say that people voted for Trump due to economic anxiety; but one must first recognize the racial lines these economic issues fall upon. Conservatives and centrists were vindicated by Trump. Here was their man, the staunch defender of white interests. McCain was their white man, Romney too, but neither were as vocal about it. Neither made it their cornerstone. None could sweep on this alone like Trump did. The issue was economic. The economic relations have long been racialized. So, economic anxiety caused by racism which is the result of the exploitation of black people for the benefit of whites is what caused people to vote for Trump.
It was both racism and economic anxiety. The two are linked. One cannot exist without the other.
Conservatives and centrists want to deny the racial element and liberals want to deny the economic element, either by ignoring the class struggle completely or putting the obviously secondary identity struggles on par with it. By doing so, all obfuscate the issue so much that they can continue to benefit from class and race exploitation in peace, dealing only with what are effectively nonissues.
Worse than that, all opposition to the bourgeoisie, to capitalism, is cast aside. Conservatives throw themselves to the feet of the bourgeoisie, begging, “Please, slash my wages, bust my union, divide my class, I’ll do anything to stay white!” Liberals, a bit less afraid of change, approach the bourgeoisie and demand, “Let the exploiters be as diverse as the exploited!” As for the centrists? They all pick a side eventually. Thus, the class interests of the bourgeoisie and the racial interests of all whites find protection, insulated by the inescapability of liberal ideology.