Trump Made Working-Class Whites Believe A Rich, Elitist Cared About Them. Turns Out He Didn’t

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Trump rally attendees in Nashua, N.H. (Marc Nozell)

I’ve often compared Cult 45 to Scientology. It’s a BS cult and eventually, the cult members are going to wake up and realize they’ve been conned.

Donald Trump didn’t offer anything different than the garden-variety Republican fare of low taxes and trickle down economics, which don’t work. But he did ramp up white nationalism and culture war issues. He did that because he knew that race and culture are hot-button issues guaranteed to stop people thinking and react emotionally.

Trump knew the Republican Party didn’t have the solution to the nation’s problems. They’ve been playing this divide and conquer game for decades. Rile up working-class whites with race issues, so they don’t realize the real people screwing them over are rich people, not poor black and brown people.

Trump played this tactic masterfully. He sold his followers on the idea that they were in danger of being swamped by multiculturism and he was the one to drive back the unwashed (non-white) hordes. He also sold them on cultural issues like the fictitious “War on Christmas.” I saw a woman on a focus group who said that since Trump won she felt she could “say Christmas again!”

But, like a well-practiced con-man Trump, sold his followers a false bill of goods. There never was a War on Christmas or laws that prevented people from saying “Merry Christmas.”

The United States population is changing, whether people like it or not, as white people have fewer children, and immigrants and their children have more. And the much-ballyhooed 1950s only existed on TV. And unless you have a time machine, you can’t go back to the past. Trump told his followers he was going to save them from imaginary enemies, win a non-existent war and return to a past that never existed.

But he failed to address the real, bread-and-butter issues that are affecting working-class Americans, the rising cost of living, the unstable job market and wages that have been stagnant for decades.

The GOP has never addressed any of these issues. They believe the cost of labor should be set by the market. Some Republicans even want to do away with the minimum wage. Their tax cuts favor the 1 percent and they’re anti-union, the one group that fights for better wages and working conditions. Whatever made voters think their policies would help working-class Americans?

There is a lot of blame to go around on why some blue-collar workers have thrown their lot in with the GOP. Yes, the Democrats have leaned too heavily on corporate donors and ignored workers, but why did so many Americans believe the words of a gold-plated huckster? Trump claims to be a nationalist, but he has business interests around the world. He claims to be a popularist, but he’s a second-generation millionaire who went to an Ivy league school and inherited a fortune from his father. He’s the definition of the elite.

However, this bait-and-switch technique isn’t new.

President Lyndon Johnson once said, “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best-colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.

And Dave Chappelle told a brilliant story in his recent Netflix special where he mocked poor whites for voting for Trump.

Chappelle said. “He (Trump)’s fighting for me.”

The Midterm election blue wave, was just the beginning of the pushback. However, if Trump’s still president in 2020, I hope more Americans vote on real issues instead of the smoke and mirrors culture wars. After four years you should have realized you got conned.

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Manny Otiko writes about race, politics and sports. He has been published in Salon and LA Weekly. Follow him on Twitter @mannyotiko.

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