Joe Biden’s selection of Sen. Kamala Harris as his running mate last week placed two facts on graphic display. The first is that President Donald Trump, who is rattled by accomplished women generally, is deeply rattled by Harris, a former prosecutor who, as a member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, drilled holes in experienced dissemblers like Attorney General William Barr and Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. The second is that Trump’s reelection chances hinge on two tactics: discouraging citizens of color from voting in November or preventing them from doing so altogether, and ginning up the largest possible turnout of white voters disposed to think that nonwhites threaten their way of life, if not their existence.
A recent Pew Research Center survey told us what we need to know about Trump’s path to retaining power. It found that Biden leads Trump among Blacks 89% to 8%, among Hispanics 63% to 35% and among Asian Americans 67% to 31%. Among white men with college degrees, Biden is ahead 58% to 41%; among white women with college degrees, he leads 63% to 35%.
That leaves exactly one demographic that favors Trump: white Americans without college degrees, and he leads among them by nearly 2 to 1. Therein lies the simplicity of Trump’s battle plan: suppressing the vote in communities of color, frightening the devil out of non-college-educated whites and pushing the view that he is the Preserver of White Power incarnate.
It worked for Trump in 2016, and he hopes it will work again in 2020. In the lead-up to Biden’s widely expected choice of Harris, whose mother was born in India and father was born in Jamaica, Trump called the movement to affirm that Black lives matter “a symbol of hate,” stoking certain whites’ fear of Blacks with characteristic elegance. Touting his rollback of an Obama administration rule simply requiring local communities receiving federal funding to study racial discrimination and set goals for reducing segregation, Trump declared himself the savior of lily-white America. “I am happy to inform all of the people living their Suburban Lifestyle Dream,” he tweeted, “that you will no longer be bothered or financially hurt by having low income housing built in your neighborhood.” Suburbanites, he continued, “are thrilled that I ended the long running program where low income housing would invade their neighborhood.” In order to make sure that no whites missed the message, he told reporters on July 31: “You build low-income housing, and you build other forms of housing — also having to do with zoning — and destroy people that have lived in communities in suburbia. For years, they’ve lived there, and they want to destroy their lives and destroy what they have.”
If Trump has a distinctive hallmark, it is his lack of class, and he reminded us of it when the selection of Harris was announced. Born and raised in California, Harris is indisputably an American citizen. This did not stop Trump from pointedly encouraging the crackpot hogwash that Harris’ citizenship is an “open question.” “If she’s got a problem, you would have thought that she would have been vetted by sleepy Joe,” sneered Trump, thereby encouraging Americans to ingest the snake oil that Harris had “a problem” when she has none. It was the very same racist claptrap that Trump had promoted about Barack Obama. Harris and Obama are both Black, you see, which Trump hopes will suggest that their citizenship is dubious. Trump’s Kool-Aid chorus picked up the refrain, with wingman Tucker Carlson acting like a juvenile delinquent by intentionally mispronouncing Harris’ first name.
It’s Bigot Time in America, and our president sees each news cycle as a new opportunity to hit a new low. “We are in a battle for the soul of the nation,” says Joe Biden, and is he ever right.
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