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Donald Trump's Candidacy, And The Death Throes Of White Male Privilege

Steve Almond: "We may look back on the 2016 election as the year that White Male Privilege finally got what it’s had coming to it for more than 240 years: a drubbing at the polls." Pictured: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump describes how he was ready to punch a person who rushed the stage during an election rally earlier in the day, as he speaks to a crowd in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, March 12, 2016. (Nati Harnik/AP)
Steve Almond: "We may look back on the 2016 election as the year that White Male Privilege finally got what it’s had coming to it for more than 240 years: a drubbing at the polls." Pictured: Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump describes how he was ready to punch a person who rushed the stage during an election rally earlier in the day, as he speaks to a crowd in Kansas City, Mo., Saturday, March 12, 2016. (Nati Harnik/AP)

As we trudge ever closer to election season, theories abound as to how a human being as juvenile, dishonest and ill-prepared as Donald Trump could serve as the actual, no-kidding nominee for President.

We’ve heard about the GOP’s longstanding reliance on aggrieved nativism, and Trump’s authoritarian appeal, and his cynical enablers in the corporate media. We've heard about his pitch to culturally and economically anguished supporters who feel (with considerable justification) that Washington, D.C. is broken.

...we all know that America was founded on [White Male Privilege]. This is why an actual slave owner was recruited to write The Declaration of Independence, with its eloquent doublespeak about all men being created equal.

Let me now hurl one more useless log onto the pyre.

Whatever else his rise reveals about America, Trump’s candidacy also represents the apotheosis of White Male Privilege (WMP).

Of course, we all know that America was founded on WMP. This is why an actual slave owner was recruited to write The Declaration of Independence, with its eloquent doublespeak about all men being created equal.

And we know that WMP has been the law of the land ever since. (Think of it as the original version of Affirmative Action.) It is, in fact, so ingrained that we’re often blind to its most obvious symptoms.

Which leads us back, alas, to Trump.

Here we have a familiar character: a white man born into affluence. Without much conscious recognition of this fact, Americans have granted him remarkable rhetorical and moral license.

He maligns entire subsets of our population. Mexicans and immigrants are criminals. Muslims are dangerous enough to be registered. Ugly women, or those who are menstruating, are gross. Those who protest against him deserve violent punishment. Oh, and disabled people should be publicly mocked for their disability.

Trump is given permission to speak and act in this way because our culture is conditioned to let wealthy white man say and do whatever they want. Think about the Robber Barons of the Gilded Age. Or all those Wall Street executives whose greedy speculation tanked the economy. Think about Enron. Think about the Neocons, who failed to protect us from terrorists on 9/11, then used that failure to mislead us into two ruinous wars. What did all these bad actors have in common? I mean besides never having to go to jail.

If you’re feeling defensive at this point, let me suggest that you conduct a little thought experiment.

Steve Almond: "Trump is given permission to speak and act in this way because our culture is conditioned to let wealthy white man say and do whatever they want." Pictured: An anti-Donald Trump protester stands alone in the audience as the Republican presidential candidate speaks during a campaign rally Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)
Steve Almond: "Trump is given permission to speak and act in this way because our culture is conditioned to let wealthy white man say and do whatever they want." Pictured: An anti-Donald Trump protester stands alone in the audience as the Republican presidential candidate speaks during a campaign rally Saturday, March 19, 2016, in Tucson, Ariz. (Ross D. Franklin/AP)

Try to imagine what would happen if Hillary Clinton assumed the same bombastic tone that Trump does. Or if she advised those attending her rallies to rough up protesters. What if she referred to Trump’s legions as “a bunch of voc-tech drop-outs in the thrall of a bright orange con-man?” Or if she speculated that Trump brags about his manhood because he’s suffering from erectile dysfunction?

How quickly would Hillary be branded as shrill, bigoted, castrating? How quickly would media outlets begin to speculate that her erratic psychological and emotional states render her unfit for office?

In the case of Barack Obama, you don’t even have to do a thought experiment. Because you’ll remember that, in 2008, he had the gall to note that certain voters “cling” to their religion and their guns. He spent the rest of the election apologizing for this observation. God Forbid an African-American man express too blunt an opinion in public, let alone anger.

No, we extend that privilege only to rich white guys like Trump. Even his efforts to praise minorities come off as psychotically entitled. He loves to talk about how “the Hispanics” love him, and he is always careful to mention that he’s had thousands of Hispanics work for him. How very WMP of him.

Trump is billed as this huge departure from past GOP candidates. But he’s cut from the exact same cloth as George W. Bush and Mitt Romney. They’re all white guys who were born into wealth and never developed a sense of humility because it was never required of them.

The GOP, as a party, has mass marketed white entitlement and white victimhood for decades. Trump is the logical result.

The GOP, as a party, has mass marketed white entitlement and white victimhood for decades. Trump is the logical result.

The beautiful thing about a democracy, though, is that everybody gets the same number of votes. Despite the Republican effort to disenfranchise voters of color, they will soon compose a majority of our electorate.

To this point, Trump has exploited the power of WMP to vanquish his foes in the GOP. Because the primary voters on the right are, by and large, pale-skinned cheerleaders who adore a throwback like Trump, who tells it like it is. Or how it used to be, back when certain folks knew their place.

But if he’s the Republican nominee, he’s going to run smack into an electorate that’s wise to his shtick.

We may look back on the 2016 election as the year that White Male Privilege finally got what it’s had coming to it for more than 240 years: a drubbing at the polls.

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