America has to deal with a virus infecting our politics stemming from demographic shifts and racial-threat anxiety or it will continue to poison our politics.
Remember the tea party? They were the conservatives in 2009, who had bold rhetoric about freedom and tax cuts, but their social policy revealed racial nativism and anxiety about white social, political and economic standing. Their rise came around the time the nation elected its first Black president.
Stanford University business professors explored the rise of the tea party during the Obama administration in a paper titled Threats to racial status promote tea party support among white Americans. The researchers conducted five experiments, which found that, while the tea party movement did contain people who advocated for libertarian politics, its growth was driven largely by racial-threat anxiety among whites concerned about their group position.
The paper cites other scholars as noting: A substantial literature demonstrates that racial threats can prompt antipathy, violence and political mobilization by dominant racial group members.
We should note that, while the tea partys economic agenda sounds libertarian, the Libertarian Party didnt benefit the way the tea party did from the movement.
In interviews, Glenn Beckwho is no liberalexpressed concern about tea party acolytes embrace of Trumpism and suggested the embrace wasnt due to economic-libertarian views but rather to racial-threat anxiety.
Trump certainly leveraged and spoke the language of white racial-threat anxiety throughout his administration. During his candidate announcement, he suggested Mexico was sending criminalsincluding rapiststo the United States. He suggested there were good people on both sides during a Unite the Right rally, where white supremacist marchers in Charlottesville, Virginia, shouted, Jews will not replace us.
According to The New York Times, he suggested shooting migrants in the legs to slow them down. He demanded President Obamas birth certificate. And he was always slow to denounce white supremacists.
Trumpism replaced the tea party in many ways, but what happened to the tea party?
It essentially went away. There is a Freedom Caucus. The group had more influence when Republicans were in the majority in the House. But in many wayslike Trumpthe groups actions helped Democrats move out of the minority, which diminished the caucuss influence.
This is not a definitive statement, but it is certainly aspirational: Trumpism will die.
Five people were killed during the violent insurrection of a riotous lot of patriots, who fed off a steady stream of alternate-reality tweets and Fox Newsbut most shamefully enabled by, among others, U.S. Sen. Michael Braun, U.S. Rep. Jim Banks and U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski of Indiana.
Reality will set in as employers learn that their employees participated in only the second breaching of the nations Capitol in history. They will face questions about their role in one of the most ignominious days in U.S. history.
The rioters will face prosecution. The rioters, we hope, to prison for sedition. They might call it persecution. We will call it justice.
Cabinet members and others will continue to resign, much too late to save their reputations. No one will actually want Trump on their resume, their bioor even their obituary. Trump is a stamp of shame.
Trumpism will die.
Given this coming reality, one might presume that, like a virus, elements of Trumpismor at a minimum, racial-threat anxietywill continue to evolve. They will.
But perhaps recognizing issues related to racial-threat anxiety and addressing the economic anxieties of poor white people could create a political herd mentality.
Wolley is a lecturer, columnist and diversity and inclusion consultant.
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