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Commentary :: Politics : Race
An Anarchist Take on the Trump Campaign
10 May 2016
As of this writing, there is no obvious path to the White House for Donald Trump. As Harry Enten recently pointed out, Trump's strong unfavorability rating (not his unfavorability rating, his strong unfavorability rating) stands at 53%, a full 16 points ahead of Hillary Clinton's heroic-in-its-own-right 37%. While some combination of electoral fraud and liberal third party candidate could conceivably send Trump to the Oval Office, if the election were to be held today he would lose. Trump has proven to the world that with enough hard work and dedication there is such a thing as bad publicity. What a lot of people don't seem to realize though, is that the election isn't the whole fight, it's only the first round.
What Trump has done that won't be undone any time soon, is to unite and bring out of the woodwork racist whites. Previous Republican strategy involved wooing their votes while pretending not to, using coded dog whistle language to tell racists what they wanted to hear while still maintaining deniability. These are the folks Nixon dubbed the "silent majority", and they were for years essential to the success of the Republicans' so-called southern strategy. They weren't a majority, although they made up a crucial voting bloc, and they weren't really silent either. However their presence was obscured by both liberals and conservatives, neither of whom had any interest in seeing their reactionary attitudes get too much attention.

For the Republicans this was a no brainer. Had they pandered too openly to the racist vote they would have found themselves in Trump's predicament long ago. And both sides had a shared interest in preserving the credibility of capitalist democracy, which open racism tends to erode. But the contribution of the liberals hasn't been explored much, so let's focus on that for a moment.

We can start with the classic liberal attitude toward conflict. Basically, liberals believe that there are no enemies, that everyone is part of the 99%, that the other side just hasn't been subjected to enough indignant speeches/giant puppets/candlelight vigils/petitions on change.org to see the error of their ways. Thus when confronting the issue of racism, liberals tend to focus on the systemic and structural varieties, while pretending that actual racists haven't really existed since the sixties. This attitude played into the hands of the Republicans and the southern strategy. While institutional racism is certainly a major problem, it doesn't maintain itself, but must be nurtured through constant intervention by individual racists. And Trump has demonstrated beyond any doubt that individual racists are alive, well, and becoming an organized political force. They will need to be opposed long after this election is over, whether Trump wins or loses.

As usual, we probably won't get much help from the liberals. Most of them will declare victory and go home the day after President Hillary's inauguration. But for the rest of us, it's worth thinking about what the future of Trumpism might look like. One factor that has yet to emerge is the unofficial army of thugs that historically has been an integral part of fascist and reactionary uprisings. We have not yet seen any equivalent to the Ku Klux Klan of the post-Reconstruction years or Mussolini's Blackshirts. The so-called Lions Guard has not materialized on the ground, and a recent attempt on Reddit by a Pittsburgh-based Trumpist to mobilize an armed group to attack anti-Trump protesters went nowhere. No one who has seen a Trump rally up close can be too reassured by this however. The racist invective spewed by Trump's supporters when gathered in large numbers (or on the internet) leave little doubt that many of them are prepared use violence.

Of course Trump has another problem in this regard. While he has run further to the right than any major candidate since George Wallace, there is still an unbridgeable gulf between his campaign and avowed white supremacists. Trump can get away with rejecting David Duke only half heartedly, but he can't adopt Duke's positions. This makes it harder to recruit a personal army from the ranks of the modern KKK and their ilk. For this we can credit the civil rights campaigns of the fifties, sixties, and since, which whatever their failings, have helped make overt white supremacy so socially taboo that not even a Donald Trump can embrace it.

Yet while the Trump campaign must maintain a distance from its most obviously racist supporters (and may well be discouraging efforts like the Lions Guard behind the scenes), we shouldn't expect any campaign to be able to exert full control over all its fans, especially this one. A modern version of the Blackshirts may yet emerge, particularly if it becomes obvious that Trump can't win the presidency. We should also keep a close eye on the upcoming Republican National Convention in Cleveland. Unlike whistle stop rallies that last only a few hours, the RNC is a four-day affair that is expected to attract many thousands of Trump supporters. They will have plenty of time to organize among themselves, especially as they no longer have to worry about a contested convention stealing the nomination from their candidate. As anarchists we know how powerful spontaneous horizontal organizing can be, and there's no point pretending it only works for us. We also know that fascists aren't unbeatable, that when we oppose them vigorously in the streets they tend to crumble. So let's do that...

This work is in the public domain.
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