The scariest thing about Donald Trump’s presidency isn’t the steady stream of outrageous lies cascading from his White House or the cavalcade of offensive and ill-informed tweets, or even the clear nepotism and suggestions of corruption. His campaign’s possible collusion with Russia isn’t the most frightening thing. Nor is his reckless bluster toward North Korea and Iran.
The scariest thing about Trump’s presidency is that millions of voters continue to support him no matter what he does, continue to believe him no matter what lies he tells, continue to pardon his every transgression, no matter how dangerous or treasonous. (A June Associated Press-NORC poll shows that 75 percent of Republicans still approve of the job he’s doing.) If this great democracy is lost, history will show that the seeds of its demise were embedded in the troubling appeal of its 45th president.
Pundits and political scientists have already expended countless joules of intellectual energy to explain Trump’s election, with economic insecurity among the more popular answers. But several researchers who have pored over the data have concluded that anxiety over lost jobs and closed factories didn’t propel Trump into office.
An analysis of data from the American National Election Studies confirms what some of us have long suspected: Trump’s appeal lies in his implicit promise to restore white hegemony, to put black and brown people in their place, to return America to a bygone era of racial repression.
Philip Klinkner, a political scientist at Hamilton College, has…
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