A Question With No Answer

A few days ago, our friend Hugh asked a question:

“Apropos of nothing in particular, but I wonder if Trump’s popularity, not to mention his election, is a cultural reaction to the fact that America had a black president for eight years. If this is even a possibility, it would suggest a racism that is endemic to this country and goes much deeper than I had imagined. Just asking…?”

Not for the first time, I revisited this question, for it is one I have asked since well before the election, when Trump’s popularity seemed to rise in direct proportion to his level of obnoxiousness.  My answer to Hugh was …

“This is the question I have wrestled with for more than a year, and I have concluded that yes, indeed, the “Trumpian revolution”, if you will, is naught more than a push back response to the election of an African-American president. Much of our nation is, indeed, extremely racist. That anybody could condemn Obama for wearing a beige suit one day, for trying to ensure that everyone is able to seek medical assistance, and at the same time support a ‘man’ who calls white supremacists “fine people” and proves time and again that he has no morals, no character … to me, that is the proof. I think there are more in this country like you and I, who are appalled by the current climate, but the racists, for the moment at least, own the stage. Some say Trump’s win was a response to economic frustrations among the middle class, but that argument doesn’t hold water for a number of reasons. Others say they were tired of the corruption in Washington, but look at it now! So … sad to say, but blatant racism, hatred for any who is different, seems to be the only answer.”

Each time I revisit this question, my conclusion is the same, and in my mind, I have often likened it to a pendulum that swings to the left and back to the right.  Or vice versa.  But the thing I have never been able to wrap my head around is the answer to the next question:  WHY?

Last night I came across an article on NPR:

Why More White Americans Are Opposing Government Welfare Programs

“A new study shows that since 2008, more white people in the United States oppose welfare programs, in part because of increasing “racial resentment.”

One of the reasons for this opposition, according to the report, is white Americans’ perceptions that they might be losing their financial and social status while people of color make gains in those areas.”

According to the findings of the study, while white American’s perception is that minorities are the biggest recipients of safety net programs such as Medicaid, food stamps and housing assistance, the reality is that 52% of the recipients are actually whites.  African-Americans are fewer than 25% of the recipients.  But even when these statistics were pointed out to them, whites were against safety net programs that they continue to perceive as helping minorities.

Another study in 2016, by the same researchers, linked racial bias to the Tea Party movement.

Kevin Boyle, an American history professor at Northwestern University, says that white supremacy has always lurked in America’s shadow, and …

“Donald Trump gave them permission to come out into the real world.”

There is some agreement among scholars as to how the widening racial and ideological divide took root: Some white Americans began feeling left behind by progress. The decline of the white working class coincided with drastic cultural changes, like quickly diversifying demographics and the election of the nation’s first black president.  According to Steven Hahn, a history professor at New York University …

“With the election of Barack Obama, there was so much talk about being this post-racial moment, and on some levels it was extraordinary. But it didn’t take long for the really vicious racism to surface. It turned out to be an instigator of an enormous amount of rage, and I think Trump both fanned it and inherited it.”

All of which is intended to explain, but in my mind, it doesn’t.  Decline of the ‘white working class’?  What, exactly, is the ‘white’ working class?  In a factory or an office, there are people doing a job.  If you do the better job, perhaps you will be promoted, given a raise.  It doesn’t matter whether your ancestors hailed from Africa, Northern Ireland, Samoa, Argentina or Germany does it?  It doesn’t matter whether you consider yourself a Christian, a Muslim or an atheist, does it?  And it doesn’t matter whether the partner you go home to at night is of the opposite or same sex, does it?  What matters is that you are dedicated and enterprising at the job you do.  Or at least that is what should matter.

Last night I spent nearly three hours reading articles, studies, OpEds and the like, seeking an answer, and I still do not understand.  Yes, Donald Trump sits in the Oval Office today because Obama sat there for the previous eight years.  But WHY?  Obama was intelligent, well-educated and soft-spoken, and the majority of his policies were for the betterment of the nation and its people.  Obama’s presidency saw no scandals … not a single one.  His daughters did not appear drunk in public, he did not engage in extramarital affairs, and he and his family were the epitome of grace and dignity.  His policies were humanitarian, seeking to help people from all walks of life.  He was not perfect and did not always make the best decisions, but what president does?  If one considers the many foibles of his predecessor … and his successor … well, enough said.

So yes, the fact that a racist, ignorant, ill-spoken madman was elected to the highest office in the land is a push back, a response to the fact that we had a black man who was the opposite of all those things in office for the previous eight years.  It is, but I do not understand why, and likely never will, for I think the explanation defies logic.  That our nation is heavily racist is no longer in doubt, and the current climate that gives permission to such racism is setting this nation back in time.  As I said in the beginning, it is like the swing of a pendulum and I do wish somebody would take the battery out of the damn clock so the pendulum might come to rest.

42 thoughts on “A Question With No Answer

    • Thank you, Lindi, for that quote, which makes much sense, but also for the link. I read the entire post and … wow! What an awesome post that was. As a pragmatist, I have trouble understanding that some things defy understanding. I want there to be a logical explanation for everything. But, obviously, sometimes things defy logic, or are irrational. Thanks again!


  1. Racism, hatred, bigotry…whether fueled by ignorance or fear…are a reality that is often beyond comprehension, at least for me. I possess many questions and only feeble answers at best. I have read your post several times and revisited often to follow all of the comments, many from more informed and intelligent minds than my own. Thank-you, one and all.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thanks Ellen! I think the answer is more complex than I will ever grasp, and at some point I have to wonder if that may be for the best, for if I could understand it, would that mean I was like them? I don’t know, but I suspect I will grapple with this one for a long time. I often make the comparison of humans to the animal kingdom (humans come out on the losing end) where animals kill either for food or defense, but never because they don’t like the colour of another’s fur!!!


  2. Some human character traits are more powerful than others and we struggle to over come them as best we can. Sexual desire is far stronger than ethnic or class differences , many men who would not be seen dead with a black woman will have sex with her if it suits their need.
    Many a racist will gladly engage in a beneficial financial transaction with those he would not associate with on a friendship level.
    Ethnocentrism ( another of those many isms ) is a universal human trait , an innate tribal tendency, part of our evolutionary inheritance.
    How much our biases show depends on circumstances and at the moment we have a stagnant working class and a rising right wing movement.
    Genetically race has no meaning , there is only one race the human race or homo sapiens. DNA has shown we all have an African origin some of us even have DNA from the Neanderthal hominid species.
    Today we have a huge host of isms that we throw at each other and use as levers to stand on high moral ground. Cronyism is an easy one to throw at those in leadership positions and elitism puts the well to do in their place. With the rise of veganism speciesism has taken on a new insulting character. The one I find most comforting is humanism , although it’s a label I often fail to live up to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hmmmm … you have come close to answering the question of “why?”, and while I may not like the answer, I admit it makes sense. The reason I don’t like it is that it pretty much says that there will always be bigotry — tribalism — and no matter how hard we work to educate the masses, we will never completely eradicate racism. I have long said exactly what you said here … there is only one race, the human race. And I truly do NOT think you fail to live up to humanism very often … your heart is in the right place.


  3. Great post. I believe race most definitely played a far larger part in tRump’s election than it’s given credit for. I’ve not met a white, male tRump supporter who hasn’t brought the issue up with me. I also find the I.Q. of many tRump voters to be questionable. “52% of the recipients( of welfare) are actually whites”. This is SO true and SO nutty because many of the whites receiving help from these programs voted for tRump! They just don’t see that it won’t just be minorities who will be hurt by cuts to these programs, they will be, too. Education, and an emphasis on its importance, is partly at fault here, too. Education is not valued as it should be, and anti-intellectualism is extremely high in America. tRump loves the uneducated. He’s said so. It’s much easier to manipulate those who despise learning and healthy critical reasoning. I hope this changes, and I hope things go well in November, but I see nothing that tells me anything but a deep red wave is coming, again. Please, let me be wrong, you mighty deities in the sky. Please.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Y’know … you definitely hit the nail on the head when you mention anti-intellectualism and a lack of value on education. I remember a conversation with a (former) friend during Trump’s 2016 campaign, where she said I was “too damned educated to understand anything”. I wasn’t sure whether to laugh or be offended. But even since then, I have been involved in discussions where somebody told me I was naught but an educated fool. It’s almost a stigma to have college degrees and to be capable of intelligent thought. That’s a problem, and one that cannot be solved overnight, or even in the course of a decade … it will take a generation or two, and sadly we are not, with Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education, and Trump who values the uneducated, even moving in the right direction!

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Trump got elected because a element of society is closed minded, self-centered, thinking only of themselves…. their thinking being if they can get the “right” people in high places they will be able to control and/or stop change…. Trump is there just to fuel his ego, the White House is his podium for his act and the world is his audience…. 🙂

    “Change is the law of life. And those who look only to the past and present are certain to miss the future.” John F. Kennedy

    Liked by 2 people

      • Donald Trump is a arrogant, self-centered individual on a ego trip, nothing more than a mouthpiece/figurehead for, at this time, the Republican party… those that are making the decisions, setting policy are in the background, in the shadows… impeaching Trump will accomplish very little, for change there needs to be change in the ideology/thinking of the current system/administration nationwide… 🙂

        I do not believe that Trump will get votes in 2020 because a good number of people (thinking only of themselves) voted for Trump on a whim and suspect they may be disappointed and vote for someone else, again most likely on a whim and I believe the Republican party is “milking” Trump for all they can get (shackled to their ideology) and will eventually turn to someone else.. 🙂

        There will be an election in 2020 but it remains to be seen what it will look like…in either case, unless there is a desire for moderation and compromise, the only change there will be are the names and faces… 🙂

        “I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief” Gerry Spence

        Liked by 1 person

        • Good points. The only one I might disagree with is whether he will get the votes in 2020, for as of today, he has the highest approval rating among republicans of any prez since GW immediately following 9/11. I don’t understand it at all, but for some reason, republicans still love the idiot! This, despite the fact that he is the personification of all the things the religious right claim to hate: vulgar, promiscuous, temperamental, etc. But, a lot can happen in two years. I certainly hope something happens to get the democrats more motivated before November so we can see some change in Congress.

          Liked by 1 person

          • I didn’t say he wouldn’t get any votes, I predicted he won’t get elected president… 🙂 there are closed minded individuals (especially in religion) who are set in their ways, thinking only of themselves and will vote for anyone (including bin Laden) if they thought it would get them what they wish… there is change coming, it is in the air… 🙂

            “When we begin to build walls of prejudice, hatred, pride, and self-indulgence around ourselves, we are more surely imprisoned than any prisoner behind concrete walls and iron bars.” Mother Angelica

            Liked by 1 person

  5. Hi Jill, et al…
    There is one thing that has not been covered in your comment section, although as I started to read Sha’Tara’s comment I thought she was going there then changed directions, and that is the old saw about when an organism us dying, and knows it is dying, it fights harder than ever to stay alive. And sometimes, for a while, it looks like it is winning. But death is inescapable, and will come in its own time.
    White superiority is dying. Asians are regaining their ascendency. Middle Eastern states are regaining their ascendency, and African-based peoples are finally coming into their own.
    I can remember 60 years ago when none of those peoples were credited with much world influence, almost everything had come from white Europe, and Christian adherents.
    Then, in the 60s, with a lot of help from the hippie movement (and especially the Beatles), the West began looking to the ancient sciences and philosophies of the East, and now anyone can think of many examples of Eastern thought in our Western way of life: karma, soulmate, reincarnation, acupuncture, namaste, feng-shui, nirvana, zen, tea and ketchup or catsup all come from Asiatic languages, along with a long list of others. Meanwhile, Hispanic, Arabian, and African ideas, thoughts, and language are now all a part of American and English language and culture.
    Trump is representative of White Supremacist attitudes that go back to the days of Columbus calling the inhabitants of North America “Indians.” The industrially-led Europeans thought themselves the most advanced of all races, and treated others accordingly. And that is what is dying.
    Sure, there are lots of white people around who have no problem with the death of colonialism, including probably all your regular readers, but there are also a lot of white people everywhere, especially in Canada and the USA who fear the coming death.
    What could be a determining factor you might ask, and in one word it is isolation, and in another it phrase is the world wide internet. If you will allow me, Americans and Canadians have been pretty protected by the lack of adjoining land masses. Our countries are huge, and until the last 30 or 40 years, fairly much ignored by the rest of the world, geographically and culturally speaking. Except for a few brief periods, we have not been overrun by wars, or had to deal with much intermingling of non-white immigrants or refugees. Aside from African slaves and cheap Chinese labourers, most of the movement of great groups of people came from white or mediterrainian Europe. We came close to eradicating the Aboriginal people’s of North America, and we ignored the Mexicans as few people aside from migrant workers were crossing the southern border in our early days. In other words, we were at peace with ourselves and most of our world. Nothing was really disturbing our growing cultures.
    But since 1914 for Canada and 1916 for the USA, that isolation has been changing. I do not know when people from Mexico started crossing the southern borders in huge numbers, but it wasn’t until about the 70s that large groups of non-white people started to immigrate to our two countries. And now, as Trump has insanely bitched about, the greatest numbers of immigrants are from parts of the world that used to feel more-or-less safe where they were. Now the ratios of whites to non-whites in both countries are changing, and the previously “safe” whites are getting fearful.
    Canada just recently ended a long love-affair with ultra conservative Prime Minister Stephen Harper, just in time for the USA to elect an ultra-conservative leader in Donald J. Trump. The similarities between Harper and Trump are many, except that Harper was at least somewhat mature–Trump will never have that word attached to him.
    Anyways, to get back to the argument I was trying to make, ultra-conservative white supremacists are losing the war, though they have been winning some battles. They are fighting the fight of their lives, for their way of life, but they cannot win, short of destroying the world, which they are liable to try. If they can’t have their world, no one else can have it either. (Where have I heard that line before?)
    Let us hope it does not come to that…

    Liked by 2 people

    • Hmmmm … I will need to ponder on this some more, for you covered much here, but my initial reaction is that yes, I can see this. They are afraid of change, clinging desperately to a lifestyle they think they are ‘entitled’ to, and I have to wonder if they are, in fact, willing to destroy the world, or at least the nation, rather than allow the changes to happen. I see evidence of that in many of the profiles and comments I have ready by and about white supremacists. I still just don’t understand, though, how anybody ever did think that superiority or inferiority was based on the colour of one’s skin. Sigh. I think it may be one of those things I just go to my ash urn never understanding. Thanks for your thoughtful comment … much to absorb here!


  6. I read a NYTimes article recently about a book by on of Obama’s advisors. The article talked about Obama wonders what he did wrong or could have done differently to stop this. He even wondered if he came to the presidency 10 or 20 years too early. I remember in the 1980s everywhere I tirned people were talking about the “Browning of America”. I dont remember if there was more than one book but it seems the notion was everywhere and I remember telling a friend this is not going to end well. Fast forward many years and Im looking at an interview with Ann Coulture and Jorge Ramos. She is talking about the superiority of the white race and accused everyone else if trying weaken the race and make it disappear. I tried to continue to watch but she makes me sick but I watched long enough. Fear is the motivating factor. I hate to beat an old horse, but I know people of color who buy into the conservative message. The churches preaching the message. Like the Muslim extremist, they think they are on a mission from God. There is more than one answer.

    Liked by 2 people

    • Yes, I saw that article in the NYT too! I’m with you on Ann Coulter … the woman infuriates me and I have to turn her off before I literally start throwing things! 😉 But to your point, yes there are multiple parts of the answer, I’m sure, but there is nothing that I have heard that explains to me why or how anybody can possibly believe that skin colour is an indicator of superiority or inferiority. There is just no … no logic. Sigh. I suppose that I am doomed if I keep expecting to find logic in everything, eh?


  7. Life on earth is a pendulum, or perhaps made up of billions of pendulums, some long, some short… and things repeat but nothing ever, not ever, goes so far beyond that it isn’t drawn back. That’s history. We aren’t moving ahead, we are indeed and always, stuck upon the swing of a pendulum. To move ahead and I mean, to make real change, we have to disconnect the pendulum and figure it out without it. A pendulum is attached to a fixed point. It may swing way out, or very little, but THERE IS NO REAL FORWARD MOVEMENT IN A PENDULUM-DRIVEN SYSTEM. Our civilization is a pendulum-driven system. Once we as intelligent, sentient and self-aware beings claim our prerogative of power to make real change; once we break free of the past through self empowerment, then change worth talking about will happen, none of it based on old patterns. Not many are ready, willing or daring enough to even consider such a ride.  In a pendulum-driven society, should the pendulum come to a complete rest means that society has reached maximum entropy and is essentially dead. We’re getting there.

    Liked by 2 people

    • That’s an interesting way of looking at life, and when I think about it, I can see some logic to it. But do you truly see us ever “breaking free of the past” and moving forward in any real sense? If we look back, throughout thousands of years of history, mankind hasn’t really learned the lessons of the past and keeps repeating the same mistakes, so doesn’t it seem that if we were going to figure it out, we would have done so by now?


  8. I suspect your problem is that you seek a rational explanation and there may be none! I have the same problem. Some things simply cannot be explained, though I suspect that racism can be traced to fear which is ultimately traceable to ignorance.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You are right … I always believe there is some rational explanation for everything. I agree with your assessment that it ultimately traces back to ignorance, but also it is carried forward as parents put forth their values (lack of) onto their children. A while back I suggest a one-generation ban on having children. Oh wait … there might be a problem there … 😀


  9. Jill, to me there are so many factors. One key is we are a largely uniformed and misinformed. Here are three items Americans probably are not aware, but the President and misinformation media can tell a grander story:

    – the largest demographic group on welfare is White Americans.
    – we are in the second longest economic growth period at 107 consecutive months of growth in our history, yet Trump had only been President for 17 of those months.
    – under Obama, the stock market more than doubled; while it has continued to climb under Trump, it was on an upward path.

    As for racism, I do not think everyone who voted for Trump is a racist. But, it is also clear that the significant majority if not close to all white supremacist groups voted for him. Had John McCain won, would we have had Trump. Probably not. Of course, he might have run as a Democrat which is what he was. Keith

    Liked by 1 person

    • Those three facts … I don’t believe any are unaware, but simply either in denial or choose to ignore the facts. We seem to be becoming an ignorant nation. No, not all Trump supporters are racists … or are they? Think about it … if they are still supporting him, after numerous incidents where he proved himself to consider whites superior to all other races, mustn’t they at least be ‘okay’ with racism? If one like you or I are adamantly opposed to racism, we could not in all good conscience support a racist to lead the nation, right? So, doesn’t that make them at least passive racists?

      Liked by 1 person

      • Jill, good point on racism. It is like abetting a drug addict. So, you cannot be silent, otherwise you agree in absentia.

        I would push back on people knowing those three things. Trump preys on fears and ignorance as he gaslights folks. I wrote a post on gaslighting and a reader attached an even deeper post on Trump’s gaslighting. Keith

        Liked by 1 person

        • You may be right about the three points being either unknown or unaccepted. I guess I thought that since you, me, and others have said them so often, people should be aware. I forget that there are people in this world who don’t read our blogs. 😉 And I forget that there are many out there who, even when confronted with facts, don’t believe them. I haven’t had a chance to check out your blog for a few days … I will go now and read your piece on gaslighting!

          Liked by 1 person

            • Oh my … if I had as many followers as Trump, I would have to hire people to help me keep this blog going! But you are right … for many, his word is the only one they will hear. And these are the same ones who challenged every word Pres. Obama uttered!


  10. Mr. Obama certainly wasn’t black in the American sense, of the word. he was a substitute to appease the poor. In reality, I feel the poor were done a dis-service for that. Barry Soweto was a substitute

    Cheers Jamie

    Liked by 1 person

    • I am still proud to have had Obama as president. He could have and would have, I believe, done so much more had Congress not had a mandate to strike down everything he wanted to do after the first two years, and had the nation not been so bigoted. I still have no idea who this Soweto guy you keep bringing up is. Cheers!!!

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Some white Americans began feeling left behind by progress.

    Well, yes, they may feel that way. However, they were not left behind. Rather, they quite deliberately chose to stay behind.

    Decline of the ‘white working class’? What, exactly, is the ‘white’ working class?

    I can sort-of guess about this one, though it is a guess.

    In the 1960s, unionized assembly line workers were doing pretty well. They were earning substantially more than white collar workers.

    Unfortunately, their unions were highly racist. You could not get an assembly line job without joining the unions. And the unions made it clear that no blacks should apply.

    This racist system was broken up by the Johnson era civil rights legislation. But a lot of resentment continued.

    By now, most of those assembly line jobs don’t exist. They have been replaced by automation. But the older “white working class” people still blame this on integration. The real blame, of course, is that their unions forced wages so high, that this motivated a move toward increased automation. Integration had nothing to do with it. But that’s what they still blame.

    Liked by 1 person

    • You are quite right that they chose to stay behind, and even today would prefer to go back 50 years if they could. Your explanation about the unions makes as much sense as anything. Another thought I had was affirmative action, which some see as ‘reverse discrimination’. But there would have been no need for affirmative action if people had not been bigoted to begin with.

      Liked by 1 person

  12. The explanation does defy logic. If white working class Americans are inherently racist, then why did they vote for Obama twice? The “blue wall” rust belt states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania voted for a black man in 2008 and 2012. Then, they all voted for a white man in 2016. Is it at all plausible to assert that Trump alone was capable of suddenly inciting this latent racism into political unity? No, it isn’t. What enabled Trump’s empowerment was very long in the making and far more complex than this overly simplistic explanation.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Agreed … I know it is much more complex than a single pithy answer can provide, but despite all the facets of the issue, I still cannot understand how any human being can consider another to be of lesser value simply because of such superficial things as skin colour, ethnicity, religion, gender identification, disability, hair colour or whatever. I just cannot get it. It is the most ridiculous concept imaginable and to me, denotes a lack of humanity, a lack of intelligence … Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

      • You’re preaching to the choir, Jill. I’ve been railing against bigotry and racism for nearly five decades now. My blog has a category devoted to the problem, and I recently engaged in a heated debate with a white supremacist who masquerades as an atheist.

        However, we must be mindful of our tribal human nature because that’s what xenophobia feeds upon. It should not be surprising that educated, enlightened, and prosperous people are less afflicted with these negative impulses than are ignorant, regressive, and economically struggling people. Social circumstances do matter a very great deal.

        I realize the centrist establishment is stubbornly resistant to such reasoning, but facing painful realities is our only way out of this mess. The election of Donald Trump provides a case study for understanding our past mistakes. We should seize the opportunity. For example:

        During the 2016 primaries, Bernie Sanders garnered a lot of support from those working class voters in the rust belt states I cited earlier. But, his message was completely opposite from the vitriolic rhetoric of Trump. What motivated these voters towards Sanders in the primaries, and towards Trump in the general election, and turned them away from Hillary Clinton? Obviously, white supremacist sentiment wasn’t the common driving force. It was something else less tangible, and therein lays the answer.


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