To the Editor:
For one who has never held an elected office, Donald Trump is a brilliant politician. His TV persona and his high profile media ventures have served him well. No one should be surprised, it was all laid out in his best seller, The Art of the Deal.
But, make no mistake, what he is selling is why he may be our next president. Historians call this view of the world “nativism.” Its core message is simple: America first. But the America he is referring to is very limited. That America belongs to those who consider themselves here first, and whose culture is dominant. Every other race, ethnicity, sexual preference, or religion is considered inferior. This is a powerful message to those of the dominant culture. Many of them feel economically left out; threatened by cultural changes, or betrayed by our government and our political system.
Dictators and totalitarian leaders throughout history have used this message to consolidate their power. Putin with his desire to bring back the glory of old “Mother Russia” is a classic example of the power of nativism.
Many politicians and public figures throughout U.S. history have railed against immigrants, and those that are different. The Catholics, the Jews, and now the Muslims; all whom, at one time or another, have been labeled as a threat to our “American way of life.” The Blacks, the Asians, and now the Mexicans have all been seen as a danger to the purity of the dominant culture. And now the LGBT community is in the bull’s eye simply because their very existence calls into question some of the most sacred religious beliefs of the dominant culture.
All these “others” are convenient diversions from the real challenges we face today. But as any good politician knows, it’s not your policy positions that really score votes, it’s the emotional appeal that drives people to the poles. Those in the dominant culture are deeply troubled by the future they see. Mr. Trump has tapped into that fear and anger.
I doubt that Donald Trump has any idea of the historical context for the movement he now leads. I doubt that he is a racist or he even cares about these issues. As he has said many times, it is all about winning. If he wins, all the “others” may lose.