A Little Bit of Racism and a Whole Lotta Trump

Will Thomas of the Atlas Society complains that Donald Trump is a 21st century “Know Nothing”:

Donald Trump has jumped into the race for the 2016 Republican Presidential nomination with a splash. His current front-runner status reveals the ugliest side of the Republican coalition: the die-hard faction of nativists and collectivists. He’s a “know-nothing” for the 21st century. …

When Trump declares that he will expel all illegal immigrants, the racists and nativists cheer. Trump will save America for real Americans! Never mind that no administration has had the budget needed to do this task. And to do it would require creating an intrusive police state that would destroy the last vestiges of independent living in America. And for what? To elevate native-born Americans against immigrants, no matter their worth.

It’s a plausible set of claims, but it’s diluted by the author’s admission, in a different article published on the same site, that he is himself “a bit of a racist.”

I’m a bit of a racist. I’ll bet you are one, too.

Okay, no one wants to admit it. But I find I’m like most people: I take race seriously in making practical decisions. I think American blacks are likely to be less efficient and less capable at most jobs than are American whites. I think whites are likely to be sloppier and ruder than East Asians. I think Southeast Asians are likely to be cheerier than everyone. I’m worried that poorly-educated Latino immigrants might create a culture of Catholic poverty and Latin populism here in the U.S.

The passage suggests that Thomas is a bit of a nativist, too.

Here’s a hypothesis: Donald Trump is what happens when lots of people are “a bit” racist, nativist, and know-nothing in their political attitudes. Add up the hasty generalizations, the stereotypes, the selective moral laxity (and ad hoc moral severity), and then add a bit of free-floating ressentiment to the mix. Wait long enough, and iterate often enough, and the result will be Donald Trump.

For reasons that I regard as too obvious to belabor, you can’t function effectively as a critic of Trump if you’ve been part of the iteration process. Unfortunately, that’s something that can be said of large swatches of the political right, and is one reason among many for sensible people to stop cutting the Republican Party any slack and abandon them.

Put Biden on the ticket and I’ll vote for him. I’ve had enough.

7 thoughts on “A Little Bit of Racism and a Whole Lotta Trump

    • To answer the first question, no. To answer the second question, very (at least re academia).

      The Trump phenomenon is relatively recent, and I’ve been out of the country for awhile, so I’ve had limited time to engage with people on their sympathy for Trump. For whatever it’s worth, one cabbie who drove me to Newark Airport a few weeks back treated me to an unsolicited, impromptu anti-Trump speech. I’ll ask my students what they think of Trump, but Hispanics aside, I doubt they care. The people I met on Pine Ridge Indian Reservation were in favor of tribal sovereignty by the Sioux Nation, so I don’t think they supported Trump. Actually, what I’d love to see is a debate between Donald Trump and indigenist members of the Oglala Sioux Nation on the question of who is to deport whom from the country. Ideally, the debate would be moderated by Megyn Kelly, and take place on Columbus Day.


  1. To fayertim’s question — All you’ve got to be is a first-generation academic, and you’ve got a pretty good chance to have nearly entirely non-academics as your friends, family, neighbors, acquaintances, and so on — unless you’ve managed to leave all that and those behind, I suppose. Definitely not my case. I know quite a few Trump supporters, as well as quite a few supporters of the other candidates.


    • I’m a first generation academic, and lots of my friends are non-academics, but none to my knowledge is a Trump supporter. That said, all of my friends are college educated. The going profile of the Trump supporter is white, Republican, no college degree, hostile to Spanish-speaking immigrants. Despite being a first generation academic, I literally don’t know a single person who fits that description. So there’s a sense in which people like me are pretty insulated.


      • Well, there you go. I suspect, though, it’s not just about having circles who are mainly college-educated. I’ve got quite a few college-educated friends, acquaintances, and family members who seem to be supporters, and are interested in this guy. Then again, I’m also from the midwest originally, and many of those college-educated people in my circles aren’t in academic settings. So, perhaps that has something to do with it.


  2. Pingback: Heckling Violates Free Speech | Policy of Truth

  3. I believe that most presidents and people in general are racist, but this is the first time that I seen the candidates show their true colors such as Trump. Trump has no problem saying that he doesn’t want them here and as a Latino I don’t agree that he should want to take the Latino’s out of the United States but I do see his point… A lot of them do just come here to have kids and they are taking health care and money that us Americans need but the government now has to provide for them also and I do think that isn’t fair but I think he needs to find a better way in fixing this problem instead of just saying that making all the illegal Latino’s leave because at the end of the day most of the United States is populated by illegal Latino’s so if they were all forced to leave a lot of jobs will not get a done and it will take a big toll cause they’re people just like us who have homes,jobs and families and the United States would not be the same without them.


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