Trump and the Politics of Resentment
When New York billionaire and GOP presidential candidate, Donald Trump, launched into his anti-immigrant tirade against Mexicans crossing the border, he was using a long-term political technique of plugging into the live wire of American resentment for the “other.”
Today it’s Latinos, of course, more precisely, those from the southern borders: Mexicans, Salvadorians, Guatemalans, Hondurans, and the like. But since the 19th century, politicians have used these currents of fear to fuel movements against those who came from abroad. In those days though, the targets of nativist ire, were those from Ireland, Jews from Russia, people from Italy and other Europeans sites.
These forces gave birth to the American Party, a fierce anti-immigrant group that became known popularly as the “Know Nothings.” They formed a third-party during the 1850s and ran former U.S. President Millard Fillmore as their unsuccessful candidate.
U.S. historian Richard Hofstadter, in his classic work, The Paranoid Style in American Politics, argued that much of the energy of the anti-immigrant forces stem from what might be called “status anxiety,” or the intense insecurities of people unsure of their place in U.S. society, but who could point to others, immigrants, who hold weaker positions in society. Furthermore, these same anxiety-ridden groups often have mixed feelings of fear and admiration for social elites. And who is more elite in America than the super rich?
Witness the spectacle of Donald Trump, who without question is perhaps the richest man to ever run for president, and as a billionaire populist no less!
I wouldn’t get too excited about his place in the polls right now. In 2012, the toast of both press and polls was a pizza exec named Herman Cain. We know how that worked out.
But most candidates, especially of the GOP, worship at the throne of the wealthy. For they are the ones they serve.
The thousands and perhaps millions who rage at Latino immigrants also worship the rich. In Donald Trump, they have found their voice, and he has found the energies of resentment. An undeniable fuel for failure.
—Prison Radio, August 4, 2015
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