August 27, 2015

THE KNOW-NOTHING URGE:

The Fearful and the Frustrated : Donald Trump's nationalist coalition takes shape--for now. (EVAN OSNOS, 8/28/15, The New Yorker)

To inhabit Trump's landscape for a while, to chase his jet or stay behind with his fans in a half-dozen states, is to encounter a confederacy of the frustrated--less a constituency than a loose alliance of Americans who say they are betrayed by politicians, victimized by a changing world, and enticed by Trump's insurgency. Dave Anderson, a New Hampshire Republican who retired from United Parcel Service, told me, "People say, 'Well, it'd be nice to have another Bush.' No, it wouldn't be nice. We had two. They did their duty. That's fine, but we don't want this Bush following what his brother did. And he's not coming across as very strong at all. He's not saying what Trump is saying. He's not saying what the issues are."

Trump's constant talk of his money, his peering down on the one per cent (not to mention the ninety-nine), has helped him to a surprising degree. "I love the fact that he wouldn't be owing anybody," Nancy Merz, a fifty-two-year-old Hampton Republican, told me. She worked at a furniture company, she said. "But the industry went down the tubes." Her husband, Charlie, used to build household electricity meters at a General Electric plant, until the job moved to Mexico. Now he parks cars at a hospital. Trump, in his speech, promised to stop companies from sending jobs abroad, and the Merzes became Trump Republicans. They are churchgoers, but they don't expect Trump to become one, and they forgive his unpriestly comments about women. "There are so many other things going on in this country that we've got be concerned about," Nancy said. "I've seen a lot of our friends lose their houses."

Trump's fans project onto him a vast range of imaginings--about toughness, business acumen, honesty--from a continuum that ranges from economic and libertarian conservatives to the far-right fringe. In partisan terms, his ideas are riven by contradiction--he calls for mass deportations but opposes cuts to Medicare and Social Security; he vows to expand the military but criticizes free trade--and yet that is a reflection of voters' often incoherent sets of convictions. The biggest surprise in Trump's following? He "made an incredible surge among the Tea Party supporters," according to Patrick Murray, who runs polling for Monmouth University. Before Trump announced his candidacy, only twenty per cent of Tea Partiers had a favorable view of him; a month later, that figure had risen to fifty-six per cent. Trump became the top choice among Tea Party voters, supplanting (and opening a large lead over) Senator Ted Cruz, of Texas, and Governor Scott Walker, of Wisconsin, both Tea Party stalwarts. According to a Washington Post /ABC News poll conducted last month, the "broad majority" of Trump's supporters hailed from two groups: voters with no college degree, and voters who say that immigrants weaken America. By mid-August, Trump was even closing in on Hillary Clinton. CNN reported that, when voters were asked to choose between the two, Clinton was leading fifty-one per cent to forty-five.

In Hampton, I dropped by Fast Eddie's Diner for the breakfast rush. "He has my vote," Karen Mayer, a sixty-one-year-old human-resources manager, told me. Already? "Already," she said. Her husband, Bob Hazelton, nodded in agreement. I asked what issue they cared about more than any other. "Illegal immigration, because it's destroying the country," Mayer said. I didn't expect that answer in New Hampshire, I remarked. She replied, "They're everywhere, and they are sucking our economy dry." Hazelton nodded again, and said, "And we're paying for it."

When the Trump storm broke this summer, it touched off smaller tempests that stirred up American politics in ways that were easy to miss from afar. At the time, I happened to be reporting on extremist white-rights groups, and observed at first hand their reactions to his candidacy. Trump was advancing a dire portrait of immigration that partly overlapped with their own. On June 28th, twelve days after Trump's announcement, the Daily Stormer, America's most popular neo-Nazi news site, endorsed him for President: "Trump is willing to say what most Americans think: it's time to deport these people." The Daily Stormer urged white men to "vote for the first time in our lives for the one man who actually represents our interests."

Ever since the Tea Party's peak, in 2010, and its fade, citizens on the American far right--Patriot militias, border vigilantes, white supremacists--have searched for a standard-bearer, and now they'd found him. In the past, "white nationalists," as they call themselves, had described Trump as a "Jew-lover," but the new tone of his campaign was a revelation. Richard Spencer is a self-described "identitarian" who lives in Whitefish, Montana, and promotes "white racial consciousness." At thirty-six, Spencer is trim and preppy, with degrees from the University of Virginia and the University of Chicago. He is the president and director of the National Policy Institute, a think tank, co-founded by William Regnery, a member of the conservative publishing family, that is "dedicated to the heritage, identity, and future of European people in the United States and around the world." The Southern Poverty Law Center calls Spencer "a suit-and-tie version of the white supremacists of old." Spencer told me that he had expected the Presidential campaign to be an "amusing freak show," but that Trump was "refreshing." He went on, "Trump, on a gut level, kind of senses that this is about demographics, ultimately. We're moving into a new America." He said, "I don't think Trump is a white nationalist," but he did believe that Trump reflected "an unconscious vision that white people have--that their grandchildren might be a hated minority in their own country. I think that scares us. They probably aren't able to articulate it. I think it's there. I think that, to a great degree, explains the Trump phenomenon. I think he is the one person who can tap into it."

Jared Taylor, the editor of American Renaissance, a white-nationalist magazine and Web site based in Oakton, Virginia, told me, in regard to Trump, "I'm sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit."

Posted by at August 27, 2015 5:41 PM
  

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