Allow me a moment of personal indulgence: When I began writing a column many years ago, it quickly dawned on me that although I had strong and firm views on some things, there were many others about which my opinions weren’t fully formed. I believe that many of us have areas in our lives where our opinions are fungible. It was only through my experience in this job that my own opinions became so clear to me. Doing the job honed me, revealed me, exposed me.
I believe that something similar, but on a much grander and much more consequential scale, happens with presidents. As Michelle Obama said: “Being president doesn’t change who you are. No, it reveals who you are.” That is what is happening with Donald Trump.
He has in the course of his life been on all sides of many issues, although he was always a liar, bully, misogynist, opportunist and economic isolationist. But his racial hostility and white supremacy seem to have blossomed with his entry into politics and his Russia-aided election. After spending a life catering to the appetites of the greedy and gauche, he realized that there was an exponentially larger market of white nationalists and neo-Nazis. To the aspirational he could be landlord, but to the racists he could be overlord.
Trump’s outrageous decision this week to end DACA, the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, which allowed many young people brought to this country as children to stay and work here, is just the latest expression of Trump’s growing intolerance and his growing adoption and internalizing of white nationalist ideology.
Not only did Trump wimp out and send the anti-immigration zealot Jeff Sessions out to make the announcement, he also made the sadistic and emotionally manipulative act of professing his “love” for the Dreamers last week, while moving to bring them pain this week.
This didn’t need to be done. This was done out of spite and hostility. This was done to prove a point and consolidate support.
Donald Trump continues to say in every way possible that power and privilege in America is primarily the provenance of people who are white, male, Christian and straight, and that all others should be targeted for denial, oppression or removal.
He has sought to ban Muslims.
He has defamed Black Lives Matter and encouraged the police to physically assault suspects under arrest.
His Justice Department wants to bring back the disastrous war on drugs, has signaled a second-guessing of, and possible rollback to, existing consent decrees and has reversed an Obama-era directive that had stopped the use of private prisons for federal inmates. And this absolute outrage is underway, according to The New York Times:
“The Trump administration is preparing to redirect resources of the Justice Department’s civil rights division toward investigating and suing universities over affirmative action admissions policies deemed to discriminate against white applicants.”
Trump has called Mexicans criminals and rapists, wants to build a wall along the Mexican border, has attacked a federal judge of Mexican descent, has pardoned the racist Joe Arpaio, and now he has rescinded DACA.
He has declared a ban on transgender men and women in the armed services, and according to the Kaiser Family Foundation, the Trump administration is reconsidering Obamacare protections for transgender people.
As NBC News wrote in April, Trump quietly “revoked the 2014 Fair Pay and Safe Workplaces order then-President Barack Obama put in place to ensure that companies with federal contracts comply with 14 labor and civil rights laws.” NBC continued, “In an attempt to keep the worst violators from receiving taxpayer dollars, the Fair Pay order included two rules that impacted women workers: paycheck transparency and a ban on forced arbitration clauses for sexual harassment, sexual assault or discrimination claims.”
The assaults on common decency in general, but on traditionally marginalized populations in particular, have come like an unending barrage of bullets.
Trump’s base may be relatively small, but he keeps reinforcing its power and reminding us of the magnitude of that power, because the spirit of the base commands the presidency.
We are witnessing the boot come swiftly down on the necks of women and minorities. We are seeing a program of minority removal — from the free population, from the work force, from the dole (as they see it), from the country itself. We are seeing an uplifting of whiteness to the detriment of non-whiteness. We are seeing the end of unity and the rise of factions and fascism.
In Trump’s America, white racism is ascendant; it is reclaiming a space many had hoped was shrinking. That is a plain and obvious truth. Efforts to describe it in other terms are an exercise in rhetorical contortionism.
Sometimes you simply have to call a thing a thing, and the thing here is that Trump’s inner racist is being revealed, and America’s not-so-silent racists are rising in applause.
<CHARLES M. BLOW