Politics in the United States have always been a heated issue, and never more so than now. The surprising election of Donald Trump has created a clear cultural divide on many levels that continues to cultivate hate, and gifts not just Americans but the entire world with cultural racism that we have not seen for a long time. The political divide in America affects every American, every day, so much so that you would be hard-pressed to find someone that does not feel passionately, one way or the other.
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Political racism, and racism in general, has a long history in the United States, particularly with the Tea Party and Right-wing political groups. The colonial era to the Civil War proved to be the beginning of the manifestation of racism, and has been the foundation of the cultural division in the United States (Lotto, 2016). There are countless factors that have influenced the American voters in the most recent 2016 presidential election, and it has opened the door for white radicals to exhibit acts of blatant racism. In this paper, I will explain the progression of racism, the Tea Party involvement in racism, and what ultimately led to the election of Donald Trump as the leader of the free world.
Although the Tea Party, a right-wing movement that promised to restore America’s founding principles of fiscal responsibility, constitutionally limited government, and free markets, has come a very long way since colonial times, the Republican party is still synonymous with racism (Azevedo and Rothmund, 2017). Largely underground, a clear history of right-wing rage, fear, and it’s conservative belief system are apparent in the laundry list of targeted cultures. This list includes, but is not limited to Native Americans, Catholics, Bolsheviks, Germans, Japanese, Russians, International Communism, and now Islamic Terrorists and Mexicans (Lotto, 2016). Could the Tea Party be fighting a battle that started decades ago? One theory is that this rise of racism is a result of the losing side of the Civil War’s decedents having failed to mourn that loss, and as a result have adopted a Survivor Mission (Lotto, 2016). In other words, groups, particularly in the South, have often unconsciously passed down a dedication to be faithful to the values, beliefs, and ideals of which they fought decades ago (Lotto, 2016). Those that feel as if they have been wronged in the past will typically seek reparations for their perceived injustices, ideally wishing to rewrite history and restore white supremacy (Allcorn and Stein, 2018). For the Tea Party, this means that the commitment to stay true to their predecessors poses a deep-rooted footing, and social injustices can then be justified by previously denounced reasons.
The election of the first African American President in 2008 proved a hard pill to swallow for the Tea Party, and is thought to be the beginning of the resurgence of racism in America (Lotto, 2016). While most Trump supporters are content with African Americans obtaining equal rights, it is unfathomable that a black man be leader of the free world and head of the most powerful nation on the planet, as this symbolizes that the white American male is no longer the dominant leadership figure, as has been the case up to this point, and violates the founding principle that slaves should not have power over the masters (Lotto,2016). Although President Obama’s elected 2-term presidency was thought to be a sign that racism was on the decline, the backlash from it has proven otherwise (Lotto, 2016). The long and drawn out process to repeal and replace Obamacare has consumed both the Republican political agenda, and Congress for nearly seven years, and counting (Allcon and Stein, 2018). President Obama’s plan for each American to secure affordable health insurance was said to be his legislative legacy, and a leading symbol of his vow to help all Americans live healthier lives. As one of Obama’s most recognized symbols of his presidency, it is not surprising that Republicans have focused so intently on dismembering it. Republicans have seized the opportunity to manipulate and play off of the public’s concern about the Affordable Care Act’s policies, for example the penalty for not having health insurance and the freedom to elect to purchase it. It is argued that there is a more troubling, underlying reason for such persistent and malicious debate over Obamacare. Many right wing whites, possibly subconsciously, are said to be on a mission to rid the White House, and the government in general, of blackness (Allcon and Stein, 2018). President Obama was simply a stain on the White House that needed to be cleaned (Allcon and Stein, 2018). Allcon ad Stein (2018) proposed a theory to aid the general public in understanding the driven efforts of Congress to repeal the Affordable Care Act, the hatred of Donald Trump for Barak Obama, and the current increase of racism toward not only African Americans, but toward anyone not Anglo-American, called the three-legged-stool image (Allcon and Stein, 2018). The first leg of the stool is the meeting that was held by the Republican party shortly after President Obama was elected in 2008, where plans were put in to place to block, reject, and oppose anything that President Obama put in place, especially the Affordable Care Act (Allcon and Stein, 2018). One member of the Republican party, John Boehner, even was recorded saying Hell No on the floor of the House in reaction to Obamacare being passed (Allcon and Stein, 2018). The second leg of the stool was the influx of overt racism that seemed to coincide with President Obama’s election in 2008. Backed by the Koch Brothers, a predominately Southern-based white movement, set out to be at the right hand of the Republican Party (Allcon and Stein, 2018) to assist however necessary. At the same time, numerous racially charged posters were circulated amongst Tea Party followers (Allcon and Stein, 2018). These posters depicted President Obama and the First Lady as the cartoon monkey character, Curious George, clearly a racist jab at the President, depicting blacks as less-than-human (Allcon and Stein, 2018). The third and final leg of the stool is the unbelievable rise of Donald Trump to the presidency in 2016. It is very evident that Donald Trump has a clear hatred for Barak Obama. Throughout President Obama’s 8-year, 2-term run in the White House, Donald Trump consistently and repeatedly attempted to delegitimize the President. Trump was even said to be the spokesperson for the birther movement, which was understood to be an effort to slander the Obama administration (Allcon and Stein, 2018). In an act of defiance, Trump and the Tea Party refused to believe that President Obama was an American-born citizen, going so far as to demand to see his birth certificate (Allcon and Stein, 2018). This, they claimed, is the proof they needed to declare that President Obama could not legally be the standing president (Allcon and Stein, 2018). They would also later claim that he was not a Christian (Allcon and Stein, 2018). Donald Trump is well known to be thin skinned, therefore some accept as true, even though he vehemently denies it, that Trump’s decision to run for president in the next election, came when President Obama roasted Trump at the White House Correspondents’ Dinner, publicly humiliating him (Allcon and Stein, 2018). Trump likely sought revenge, meaning that his run at the presidency was not only political, but deeply personal as well. Trump’s personal attacks and missions to abolish President Obama’s policies, fanned the old flames and grudges of racism within white supremacy groups, and opened the door for outward racism to be not only tolerated, but accepted and encouraged. Underground racism was no longer underground.
The 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump was interpreted by many to be a rejection of the social and economical status quo (Azevedo and Rothmund, 2017). This is significant because generally, the Republican party prides itself on being the ultimate support system for the government and traditional roles. Donald Trump was labeled as an outsider, never having held any sort of political office (Azevedo and Rothmund, 2017). This is far from traditional. Hillary Clinton, his democratic opponent, was considered to be the established candidate, or the status quo (Azevedo and Rothmund, 2017). Donald Trump’s running mate, Mike Pence, even dubbed her Secretary of the Status Quo (Azevedo and Rothmund, 2017).
Sitting president Donald Trump’s presidential campaign was comprised mainly of smear campaigns targeted at Hillary Clinton, whom he dubbed Crooked Hillary. Jeremy A. Frimer (2018) conducted a study centered on the Montagu Principle, which suggests that, in general, people favor those that are civil to their opponents to those that are uncivil, and the influence of the Red Meat Hypothesis on the Montagu Principle, which suggests that politicians that throw red meat to their aggressive base in the form of uncivil attacks on their opponents, are simply satisfying the wants of their hyper-partisan followers, and further reinforcing the existing cultural divide while simultaneously feeding political cultural racism (Frimer, 2018). Frimer (2018) hypothesizes that the Montagu Principle does not apply to politics because among hyper-partisans, group loyalty takes precedence over seeking objective knowledge, and not surprisingly, that people tend to be less tolerant of those who do not share their same beliefs (Frimer, 2018).
Group loyalty has proven to be an important factor for most voters’ political beliefs, both liberal and conservative. A study conducted by Cohen (2003) on the effects of group influence on political beliefs, suggests that mob mentality is a true concept. Voters tend to agree with policies labeled with their political preference, regardless of their personal views on the details of the policy (Cohen, 2003). Further, voters were blind to the fact that any group influence had even occurred, yet very aware of their political adversaries blindness to group influence (Cohen, 2003). This study proves an important concept, that voters can be persuaded to support ideas that they would not typically support, racism included. The study proves that regardless of objective content, voters will likely be in favor of a policy or ideal simply because it was labeled for their preferred political party. It is to be assumed then, that Donald Trump’s negative and outright racist at times, opinions of refugees, immigrants, and liberals is to be adopted and in some cases magnified by his followers as well. Although blatant racism is not politically correct, or tolerated in public, even by Tea Party standards, Donald Trump has opened a path of accepted hatred by outspokenly bashing refugees, immigrants, the mentally and physically handicapped, and lower income populations that just happen to be predominantly non-white. Additionally, he seems to have little no disregard for the consequences of the accusations and hate mongering delivered to the public on a daily basis.
In modern politics, the trend of individual characteristics of voters and candidates is weighing more and more heavily on voters decisions at the polls (Capara and Zimabrdo, 2004). Voters are electing those officials that share the same values and traits as their own. Previously, categorical values including education, gender, and age were the guiding factors in the voters ultimate electoral decision (Capara and Zimabrdo, 2004). As voters stray further and further from the old guiding factors, they move closer and closer to the new, personally and often racially charged factors. On the other side, candidates have been more focused on portraying themselves favorably on a personal level, than promoting a solid political policy, the ultimate mean-girl popularity contest (Capara and Zimabrdo, 2004). One way that the candidates have succeeded in promoting themselves personally has largely been through television advertisements (Capara and Zimbardo, 2004). Unfortunately, politicians will also use this platform to portray their political opponents as unfit candidates, using vulgar language and stretching the truth in some instances. The candidates are able to implant themselves and their ideals directly in to the voters homes, all hours of day or night. This can be a dangerous tool for those looking to gain political favor by defaming their opponents. Additionally, it will likely have heavy influences on the next generation of impressionable voters looking for guidance.
Only time will tell how future politics will affect the melting pot of cultures in America. I know I am not alone in hoping that, regardless of political preference, that all humans are treated with dignity and respect, and each is given their natural right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
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