As Americans were watching their fortunes dwindle, their jobs disappear, their pension agreements getting rescinded, and their homes lose value or get taken back by the same corrupt banks that granted the mortgages – there were voices speaking in their ears, in their cars, in their man caves and media room blaming “others”. These voices said that these beleaguered Americans were giving people who refused to work money through “entitlements” like welfare, food stamps, Medicaid and that they were actually wasting their money. The whispers and vein-popped shouts from right-wing media claimed that giving poor people money actually keeps them down, turns them into dependents. Those who hammered away at middle class Americans in shock at their losses had no proof for their theory. Paul Ryan, a Congressman, cited a fiction book, The Fountainhead, by Ayn Rand as proof that these takers are slackers, rather than needy people whose children will suffer if taxpayers harden their hearts.
If you want some other evidence, also from fiction, and far more believable, read Charles Dickens. You don’t have to have unselfish impulses to disavow social Darwinism. You can be quite selfish about it because if the poor live in squalor, that squalor affects us all, especially our health and our mood. People used to walk through London holding a scented handkerchief to their noses, stepping in offal, and even having chamber pots emptied over their heads.
Some people got sold on this short-sighted approach to social concerns. They started to think that small government was a good idea. After all the government kept intruding into their lives, especially in schools. No prayer in school was touted as the root of all moral evil. Teaching Creationism was shouted down by those who felt that science belongs in public schools, religion, not so much. Christians felt they should have the right to teach Creationism. Pundits started to suggest that Republicans would help the middle class get rid of social programs and turn schools into private entities vouchered to the states who could allow state residents to decide on curricula.
Those disembodied voices, avidly attended to over the air waves, eventually made their listeners aware and incensed that minorities would be the new recipients of the American Dream. White folks said “hell no”. Keep America white. Keep America Christian. Americans speak English, they said. Eventually the Republican Party, not in so many words perhaps, but in code, promised that they could make it so. Even as those radio pundits graduated to TV – lo and behold, a Black man, possibly a Muslim, possibly a henchman for someone named Saul Alinsky, got elected to be the President of the United States of America!
It turns out the GOP lied. It lied to the middle class about everything. As long as Obama remained the U. S. President they could not deliver any of their promises. The social programs were cut but not eliminated. In fact Obama, in stealth, in the dead of night, pushed through the Affordable Care Act with no Republican votes, making social health and welfare programs bigger than ever. The government did not pass a huge school voucher program or close the Education Department thus giving states more autonomy in schools. The government doubled down on national standards and the Common Core curricula. The Obama government did not take to Republican obstruction real well and the GOP was now in thrall to the “Tea Party” that coalesced because of the radio “whisperers”.
These folks believe that America will be white again and that white America will be able to eat as much white bread as it wants. America will once again have secure factory jobs for life with pensions that are solid and generous. They believe America will stop this nonsense about fossil fuels and the environment because Big Business doesn’t like it. We will build a wall so no more people can come here from Mexico without documentation and so we will not have to learn Spanish. Life will be like the 50’s – we will freeze forever at a mid-century modern lifestyle – before the pill, before women’s lib, before gay people, before hippies, before Civil Rights, way before 9/11. That’s what the GOP was supposed to produce for their “base”, and that is what the election is about, a Renaissance for white America. These are Donald Trump’s people. Disappointed by America and then disappointed again by the Republicans. Donald Trump comes as close to the hope that the middle class can set things straight as anyone has and they don’t really care how he does it. He seems like someone who truly could turn America into a mid-fifties theme park from sea to shining sea.
But the problem is that white America is tired, old or addicted to bad substances. White America is not the dynamic demographic it once was. We are not reproducing fast enough to prevent our numbers and prospects from dwindling. Even many of those very Republicans riding herd over Obama are ancient artifacts of distant eras (such as the 1950’s). Without the energy and the thirst for freedom and success of our young immigrant groups we will very likely just turn into a fusty, dying social experiment with a Dream that was cancelled for lack of interest. A vote for Trump, or any Republican, is a vote for national stagnation and decay.
By Nancy Brisson