When Donald Trump first burst into the political arena in 2010 with his claims that President Obama was not born in this country, many people did not take him seriously. One comedian at the White House Correspondents Dinner in 2011 stated, "I heard Donald Trump is running for President as a Republican. That's funny, I thought he was running as a joke." For many Americans, that was the prevailing view of Trump, that he was a joke and never going to be a serious candidate for president. But Trump knew that the rhetoric he was spewing resonated with a large segment of the American public, and unfortunately, with a majority of Republican primary voters.
For Trump and many White Americans, President Obama's election shattered what it means to be an American. A biracial Black man won the Presidency by an overwhelming margin, a position that was up until that point, reserved for White men over the age of 35. But Obama's election did not usher in a post-racial or egalitarian society that many of us have spent our lives trying to achieve. On the contrary, the visual of a Black family moving into the White House elevated the racial anxiety of many White Americans. No longer could a majority of White people solely determine the outcomes of national elections. Obama's reelection in 2012 confirmed the verdict. That year, research showed both implicit and explicit anti-Black sentiments had increased since 2008.
Donald Trump capitalized on increasing racial anxiety for four years by portraying Obama as an un-American Black invader that stole the presidency and was out to destroy the country. He also painted a picture of the U.S. being under economic assault by China. Woven together, you get a picture of a scary Black man that has taken over the country and is out to destroy it from within, and over 1 billion angry brown people out to destroy us externally. This narrative resonated with millions of Americans, which gave Trump an opening to make a serious run for president.
Unlike most politicians who try to soften their tone to appeal to a broader base, Trump doubled-down on what made him appealing to voters. He continued stoking racial anxiety and fears of the "other" by launching his campaign with a promise to build a wall to keep the drug dealing, raping and murdering Mexicans out of our country. A few months later, he called for a ban on the more than 1 billion Muslims in the world from entering the U.S. and proposed violating human rights laws by saying we should bomb and torture the families of known and suspected terrorist. He has also demonized Black Lives Matter as the instigator of the murders of police officers.
Poll after poll shows, whether it's around the President's birth, building a wall, or banning Muslims, that a significant number of Americans, and a majority of Republicans agree with Trump's statements. A poll taken in June showed that 50% of all Americans supported Trump's ban on Muslims entering the United States. Nearly 40% of Americans are also supportive of his wall along the U.S.-Mexico border.
With such a large base of support for his most radical ideas, Trump could pull together a large enough coalition to win the presidency, especially since there are a growing number of White voters that have felt abandoned by both parties, and who will come out in force to support him. When combined with other factors like the gutting of the Voting Rights Act by the Supreme Court, passage of voter ID laws meant prevent young people and people of color from voting, and other dirty tricks designed to suppress the vote, Trump could win big.
This racialized anxiety and fear felt by a large swath of the American public and reinforced by the Trump campaign has to be addressed if we're going to move forward as a united country. Trump's brand of politics will only divide us even further.
Both Trump and Bernie Sanders have railed against a rigged system, Today powerful elites in government and the private sector have rigged the system, capturing government and the marketplace. In their greed and thirst for power, they have eroded the middle class by savagely attacking workers, and stifling economic prosperity and upward mobility for many in society. These elites, of which Donald Trump is most certainly one, exploit this country's history of anti-Black racism, misogyny and nativist sentiments, and encourage us to obsess about supposed threats from vulnerable and marginalized communities while ignoring increasing concentrations of wealth and power, to the detriment of all.
The solutions to this country's problems are not to demonize entire groups of people and label them as the other. It is imperative that we chart a new path forward. A path where we recognize and cherish everyone's basic humanity. A path where all the societal institutions serve us and not the other way around. A path that builds bridges and not walls. And a path where EVERYONE has the opportunity to reach his or her full human potential.