As with Jackson, Trump’s detractors (including yours truly) fear “what a popular strongman might do when encouraged by an angry mob.” Trump rode a wave of white conservatives’ anger, fueled by racial and economic anxiety and resentment, all the way to the Republican nomination. Indeed the racial attitudes of Trump’s supporters has over shadowed their economic concerns, as they rally around his rhetoric. A recent Reuters/Ipsos poll put the racial attitudes of Trump’s supporters into sharp focus.
Nearly half of Trump supporters described African-Americans as more "violent than whites.
The same amount of Trump supporters described African-Americans as more “criminal” than whites.
Forty percent described African-Americans as more “lazy” than whites.
You can see how there would be something almost intoxicating about that for a certain kind of white man. He keeps hearing about “privilege” but he doesn’t feel privileged. His hometown is becoming diverse in a way he’s not too pleased with—but he’s not supposed to say it’s a bad thing. His job isn’t great and his boss is kind of a jerk—but the last thing he’s allowed to do is act like Donald Trump and tell the boss where to shove it.
What appalls the rest of us feeds the ardor of Trump’s base, because at his most crass and vulgar he is saying and doing what they long to, and he’s saying it to the entire country on their behalf — and winning, at least in the primaries. He is their hero, because he gets away with it where they can’t.
Trump is merely reaping a harvest of bigotry that Republicans sowed the “Southern Strategy,” fertilized with covert appeals their base’s racial anxieties, and secured by drawing lily-white “safe” districts left them unprepared to face a more diverse America. Meanwhile, the economic anxieties of the voters now propelling Trump to within shouting distance of the Oval Office were left untended. Trump may be using racism to sell himself to the GOP base, but that’s only because it works. It works because Republicans spent decades making sure it would.
A Hillary Clinton victory will mean another failure to restore white male supremacy circa 1950, which is what Trump means by “making America great again.” The anger that spawned the tea party movement after a failed restoration in 2012, and moved Republicans to vow to make Barack Obama a one-term president when he upended the natural order in 2008, will likely come roaring back. Given the right’s white-hot hatred of Hillary Clinton, it could make the tea party look like child’s play. It never really subsided, and Trump probably won’t let it.