In other words, Trump's success is predicated on finishing a project that was 90% complete when he got here: racializing American politics. It's a terrible idea, but one that has a high probability of success. It's already the case in other American democracies such as Brazil's, where parties allegedly have principles but are really mostly about tribal identities. The Democrats have succeeded in convincing large swathes of America that 'our kind of people' just don't vote for Republicans. It was only to be expected that someone would eventually come along and make the same sort of appeal to whites -- especially as whites are actually the majority, and could dominate in such a racialized environment.
So into this comes NPR's Gene Demby, who writes that "whiteness" is shaping the election.
It's telling that Chait finds it easier to imagine that huge swaths of Republican primary voters are childlike and naive, rather than folks who quite rationally dig Trump's direct appeals to their interests — their racial interests. Among Trump's most notorious policy proposals is a moratorium on Muslims entering the country. He has called Mexican immigrants "rapists." Maybe we should concede that these declarations are not incidental to his appeal among his supporters, but central to them. Calling them "idiots" posits that they've been duped, when perhaps Trump is saying precisely what they want to hear.What is missing is a criticism of racialized bloc voting in general. What Trump is doing is bad for America. At the same time, he's just completing the work that the Democrats began a long time ago. What we need is not a criticism of white people for giving in to a racialized appeal. What we need is a criticism of politicians who make racialized appeals. We need to break up all of these racial voting blocs, somehow, if we're going to get to a politics that is principled instead of tribal.
Now, I don't have any idea how you do that. Part of the reason this mode is so successful is that is a kind of software that works well with the hardware: human beings readily break out into identity groups. It's hard to break up those groups once people identify with them. And it's hard to get them to prefer rational principles to group interests.
But let's at least be clear about what the problem is. It's not "whiteness." It's racial politics per se.