There are two men, a VP, and a senior manager at the company that I've spent my entire career with. We all started around the same time and moved through the ranks together. I'd like to think I know them pretty well as I spend more waking hours a day with them than my own family. I trust, and respect both of these men to act in a sociable acceptable way.
In all the years we have worked together I have never heard them utter any single negative word or racial slur towards minorities. Yet both men expressed and continue to express their full support for Trump. One of them shocked me at lunch today when he stated that the media is making everything out to be Trumps fault. He thinks many other men in their 40's and 50's feel the same way and they are sick of it. As far as he's concerned Trump can do whatever he wants at this point and he will back him.
I know lots of these people. My dad is one. A chunk of my high school class--proportional to most of the polls you've seen--are like this too. In my experience, the breakdown by age group reduces radically with age, just as you see in the polls too.
Of these people, I notice three distinct strains:
- Outright racists, who while they'll keep their mouths shut in public or in mixed groups, mostly keep it to themselves, but really let loose when they've got fellow racists around, and occasionally let it out by accident because it's always just below the surface. This is really a tiny group.
- Unconscious racists, who swear they don't have a racist bone in their body and point to all their black/Latino/Jewish friends, but who have learned to use the talking points prepared for them by their more racist friends that appear to be more palatable: strong anti-immigrant (more than illegal, immigration of "undesirable" people, like Muslims and people who "won't assimilate"), anti-integration, anti-affirmative action, and in the same vein, very anti-LGBT. These people will always hire a white person over a minority and not notice what they're doing.
- Conservatives in denial: These are people for whom Trump is a Rorschach test. He's whatever they think he *ought* to be. He's just a successful business man, and they're blind to the things that are clear indications of pandering to the radical right base that Trump has specialized in targeting. My dad and your co-workers fall into that category, and my perception is that this is the largest group of "Trump supporters." Scary thing is that these people will unconsciously pick white people to work for them, but if they have a policy that promotes affirmative action, they'll mostly fall into line because that's actually what Abe Lincoln would do.
Most of the real racism in America is the first two groups, but because affirmative action actually isn't terribly widespread beyond government and large corporations, along with bursts of anti-affirmative action policy pushes, we still see minorities and women struggling to reach their representation in the population and having similar wages to white males that is the fault of all three groups. And that's why affirmative action has a purpose, and trying to apply it to supposed "discrimination against white people" is so silly: if you're at the top of the heap, people in other groups demanding their fair share when you've got more than they do, isn't "discrimination."
But that "feeling" of "economic anxiety" that is pointed to by all three groups above really has at it's root a combination of the fact that most of them are being squeezed by the increase in income inequality, but they're being directed to the demands of "undeserving" minorities for their fair share as the "real cause" of their very real less secure economic situation.
I won't engage in any conspiracy theories about who is doing what to make this happen, but the shift in where the benefits of society has been going is very real:
So yes, folks that are far below the poverty line are now less likely to starve to death or at least suffer malnutrition, but basically all the money went to folks in the top 5% and really the people in the top 1% took about 90% of it.
So it's not the moochers who took all your money. It's the really, really rich.
But listening to Fox News, right-wing radio and most of all just about every Trump speech, you'll be pretty much convinced it's the moochers (47%, scary Muslims and Mexicans, etc).
The anxiety is real, and the loss is undeniable. But the people who took it require a real re-examination, and that's not coming from the sources of information that these groups "trust."
There is also a cultural "loss" theme in here two, but I've found that by far, a lot of those issues are actually rooted in this perceived economic anxiety. If people weren't so squeezed, they wouldn't be so anxious to find someone to blame.
I've been puzzling about how to go about changing this, and I don't have good answers, although I've learned how to carry on a conversation with these folks, and have gotten as far as finding their limits, but the main problem comes down to "what they know that just ain't so."
Two half truths don't make one truth,