By KAY MATTHEWS
The U.S. Electoral College chose a president in 2016 who, in the inimitable words of John Podhoretz, conservative Commentary pundit, is the “Special Great Villain” of the “proletarian media” (Alex Jones and his ilk). I’d be more generic: special great villain of humanity. No matter how long he stays he’s not going to learn what Phil Conners did in Groundhog Day. His main motivation in running for president was opportunism and greed. His insecurities manifest in bullying and power plays. He treats women like sexual objects. He thinks the police aren’t violent enough. He and his father discriminated against people of color in their real estate deals. He hired Steve Bannon and Stephen Miller to craft his white supremacist agenda. He is homophobic. He is stunningly ignorant and inarticulate. He doesn’t know what the word empathy means.
That almost 62 million people voted for this pathetic person can’t be ignored. That many of them still support him seven months into office can’t be ignored. As I talked about in a previous post, “Snooping Around the Conservative Mindset,” bashing liberals who were “ruining our country” under Democratic rule and bashing liberals who are trying to dethrone Trump is still alive and well over the Internet for Trump to endlessly exploit. . In a recent post I saw the bashers were thrashing New Mexico Senator Martin Heinrich for issuing a statement calling former sheriff Joe Arpaio a racist and criminal (and once again claiming Hilary was worse).
Who exactly these liberal (their use of liberal usually just means Democrats) bashers are has been scrutinized, analyzed, and dissected by journalists, pundits, academics, liberals, and radicals until there aren’t many fingers left to point. If the white fundamentalist Christians “can literally believe in the Bible they can easily believe in Trump.” Rich and upper middle class Republicans have every reason to vote for someone who represents the interests of the 1% and the 20%. Many rustbelt former Democrats were voting against Hilary. In the 1998 words of Richard Rorty (from his book Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth Century America):
“[M]embers of labor unions, and unorganized unskilled workers, will sooner or later realize that their government is not even trying to prevent wages from sinking or to prevent jobs from being exported. Around the same time, they will realize that suburban white-collar workers — themselves desperately afraid of being downsized — are not going to let themselves be taxed to provide social benefits for anyone else. At that point, something will crack. The nonsuburban electorate will decide that the system has failed and start looking around for a strongman to vote for — someone willing to assure them that, once he is elected, the smug bureaucrats, tricky lawyers, overpaid bond salesmen, and postmodernist professors will no longer be calling the shots. …”
Then there are the folks from rural America. This demographic obviously spills over into the Christian and the job-loss categories, but has consistently been a conservative stronghold in American politics, a bulwark against the elitist urbanites and coastal liberals who they perceive as the “other.” Already members of the Republican Party, who else would they vote for? But the niggling question keeps getting asked, why do they continue to vote against their own self-interest?
I’ve lived in a rural area my entire adult life, but the distinguishing factor in my rural experience is color: the Hispano and Native American cultures of northern New Mexico and the Southwest are a very distinct demographic from the white, rural residents of the Midwest or the south. They may no less safeguard a land-based livelihood, a culture based on traditional family ties, and a certain insularity than the folks in the white, rural U.S., but because they are brown they are also the “other”—to white America in general. They have lived with discrimination, marginalization, and exploitation as colonial subjects since the Europeans arrived.
Trump presented himself as the swamp cleaner and the man of the people who would make America great again. The brown people of northern New Mexico knew he meant “better for white people.” They’ve lived with broken promises and lies since the Spanish Conquest and the U.S. invasion. Unfortunately, they’ve also seen it in their own leaders and politicians, who established patrón systems, the legacy of colonialism. But in the community organizing with which I’ve been involved, their anger and activism is turned toward the exploiters. La Raza Unida came together to fight police brutality and government corruption; activists in the ‘90s fought the Forest Service and absolutist environmentalists over community resources and autonomy; pueblo and Navajo activists engaged in battles with the mining conglomerates over uranium development and fracking.
The struggles continue today. On Friday, September 8, Native people protested on the Santa Fe Plaza against the “Entrada,” or annual reenactment of Don Diego de Vargas’s retaking of Santa Fe from the Pueblos that opens up the Fiesta de Santa Fe. A massive assignment of police consigned protestors to a “free speech zone” at one corner of the plaza to keep them separate from the Entrada participants. Twelve protestors were arrested and eight charged with criminal trespassing, but protest organizer Jennifer Marley of San Ildefonso Pueblo was also charged with a felony for allegedly hitting police officers with her protest sign. She was just released from jail on Sunday.
In a recent NMPolitics article Dr. Aimee Villarreal deconstructs the history that the Entrada supposedly represents:
“Glorifying Spain is practically unheard of in Mexico, where a mestizo nationalism emerged (Mexican immigrants must find our Fiesta quite baffling). Nuevomexicano claims to Spanish origins were only made possible or appealing in the context of Anglo domination and white supremacy in the Southwest. Like other oppressed minority groups, Nuevomexicanos have adapted to (and also resisted) U.S. racial and economic systems in different ways in order to survive, participate and gain respectability in a society that has never fully included us. Some of these adaptations and forms of resistance are accommodative in that they assimilate parts of the dominant culture and systems of power. This is how colonialism operates.”
White Americans continue to support Trump because he keeps their anger directed at the exploited: people of color, poor people, gays, the disenfranchised. This is Ta-Nehisi Coates in The Atlantic: “Certainly not every Trump voter is a white supremacist, just as not every white person in the Jim Crow South was a white supremacist. But every Trump voter felt it acceptable to hand the fate of the country over to one.” How do we combat the racism that Trump embodies? Mark Lilla wrote an article “The End of Identity Liberalism” in the New York Times shortly after the election, arguing that “identity liberalism has failed” and the Dems need to return to the Clinton center. He was excoriated by the left, most recently by Beverly Gage in the New York Times reviewing the book that expands on this thesis, The Once and Future Liberal. Then Chris Hedges published an article called “How ‘Antifa’ Mirrors the Alt-Right,” a screed against the Anti-Fascists who have been fighting back against the white supremacists and neo-Nazis. We’re not accepting this position, either, which plays into the hands of the establishment Dems.
We’re not going back. The resistance is already here, in full force, in all its diversity, fomented at the community level where folks are making decisions based on circumstances and need. The focus is not on conversion of the racists and xenophobes and fundamentalists who will no doubt always be with us until the structure that supports these reactionary beliefs is relegated to the dustbin of history. The assault on that structure lies in minority emancipation, the emergence of a fully realized multicultural society, demilitarization, and economic equality. If the Democratic Party decides to represent this movement it will survive and morph into something closer to socialism, but our own brand. (I love this statement by Arun Gupta: “What we’re fighting for is a complete social transformation where Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren are the right wing of the progressive movement.”) With or without the Dems, however, the movement continues towards inclusion and equality and against the bigots and billionaires: we outnumber them, our young people will replace them, and eventually (though probably not in my lifetime), the capitalist system that creates them will implode.