President Trump And The White Working Class

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President Donald Trump reacts to the song as he arrives at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix. (Alex Brandon/AP)
President Donald Trump reacts to the song as he arrives at a rally at the Phoenix Convention Center, Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Phoenix. (Alex Brandon/AP)

This week on Freak Out And Carry On, Ron Suskind and Heather Cox Richardson take a step back from the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, and examine the greater implications of President Trump's rhetoric and policies around race. They're joined by Carol Anderson, professor of African-American studies at Emory University and author of "White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide."


On the Trump administration:

Carol Anderson:  I see a regime that, on one hand, is like the Keystone Cops. It can't get out of its way. It's bumbling and stumbling and absolutely inadequate on every measure. Except they have been brutally efficient in one realm, which is to enact policies that subjugate minority communities, they have been so good. They came stumbling out the box with the Muslim travel ban but they kept at it until they got some portion of it. Think about how quickly they have used the Department of Homeland Security and the ICE raids that ostensibly are going after all of these hardcore criminals and these these gangs like M-S 15. Except what they're actually going after are people who have been here for years, people who have worked hard in this country for years whose children are American citizens and they're deporting them. They're breaking up these families. Then you you think about President Trump in Long Island, where he's giving the speech before law enforcement officers and he says "hey don't be so nice on these guys." So what is he saying? Knock their heads up against the car and create skull damage? Or throw them into what he called a paddy wagon, like Freddie Gray who ended up with his neck broken because he's got a rough ride by the Baltimore Police Department? You have the President of the United States giving sanction. And he was very clear: "these thugs" which is again part of that coded language, part of those dog whistles that are barely dog whistles, that resonate so profoundly with that base of white resentment.

Heather Cox Richardson: Carol, you've written about how white supremacists have very successfully used the language of democracy and freedom to undermine black success. Do you want to walk us through that?

Anderson:  Oh absolutely. I'll take something that's right now in our face, voter suppression. So with voter suppression what you hear is this language of "we must protect the integrity of the ballot box. We must protect the integrity of our democracy from voter fraud." When Trump was on the campaign trail he talked about a rigged election. But then he pointed to Philadelphia, St. Louis, Chicago. He didn't point to Beautifulville, South Dakota. He specifically pointed to these major urban areas. Again, coded language, barely coded, signifying: black fraud, black criminal, black threat to democracy. And so now we have the Election Integrity Commission, headed by Kris Kobach and Vice President Mike Pence. They say that there's this massive voter fraud and they're out here to protect the integrity of democracy. But when you look at what they do, what it actually does, despite all of the language around it, is it targets minorities. You've got over a 50 percent kill rate, targeted at African-Americans who get purged off the list. That's about 27 percent for Asians, I believe, about 17 percent or so for Hispanics. However for whites they are underrepresented on the purge list. But it's all cloaked in the language of protecting democracy.

On the racial violence in Tulsa, Oklahoma in 1921:

Anderson:  In Tulsa, Oklahoma there was an area called "Black Wall Street". The black population in Tulsa was thriving. They embodied this notion of the American dream. You had businessmen. You had dentists. You had physicians. White Tulsa was poor and white Tulsa looked at black Tulsa with all of that wealth and prosperity and education and resented black Tulsa eight ways to Sunday. And one day a young man was delivering a message in a downtown building and he was in an elevator with a young white woman Somehow he bumped into her or he stepped on her toe. She hollered rape. When the black leadership learned that the young man had been arrested they came down to the police station because they were afraid of a lynching. They left you after they got assurances that the man would be protected from the lynch mob is forming outside. But instead, what happened was just horrible. Whites were then deputized to basically round up African-Americans. They swooped into the black neighborhood in Tulsa and began shooting and burning African-Americans out of their homes and businesses. Then somebody got a plane and started dropping bombs on "Black Wall Street", blowing up the community, that thriving black community. The pictures are absolutely horrific when you look at that devastation. That was the greatest act of domestic terrorism before 9/11.

Richardson: Several hundred African-Americans killed and several dozen whites as I recall right.

Anderson: Yes. Black Tulsa never recovered.

On the history of push-polling:

Ron Suskind:  Ronald Reagan's strategist Lee Atwater was a real innovator on the Republican side. He he was the guy who is know for using something called "the push poll". That is where some sort of volunteer gets on the phone and acts like a pollster and calls up a likely voter and says, "Would it change your view of so and so if you knew that...." They did it first with a guy named Tom Turnipseed who was running for Congress in South Carolina. Folks called up likely voters in Charleston and asked, "Would it change your view of Tom Turnipseed if you knew that he was on the board of the NAACP?" Now he wasn't on the board of the NAACP but boy this was so incredibly effective. And the push pull grew in usage right up to a key moment in the 2000 Republican primary between. John McCain and George W. Bush, again in South Carolina. McCain slaughtered Bush in the New Hampshire primary. The whole Bush juggernaut's wheels were coming off the bus. Karl Rove, Dick Cheney were all involved in this. They call the voters with just the most diabolical push pull. The McCains, Cindy and John McCain, had adopted a young girl, Bridget, from Calcutta. They didn't want to single her out in any public way to say she's adopted. But you know she often appeared with the rest of the McCain children on stages and their picture was out and about. So while that photograph is being passed out to likely voters in South Carolina the push pollster asks, "Would it change your view of Senator McCain if you knew he sired a child with a black prostitute? Slightly change, no change, significantly change."

The views and opinions expressed in this podcast are solely those of the participants and do not in any way reflect the views of WBUR management or its employees.

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