Historian and author John Hennen doesn’t mince words about a big swath of working class whites who support Donald Trump for president.
“Whatever legitimate economic grievances these folks have is, sadly, secondary to the fear and hatred of 'the other' in their hearts,” said Hennen, who recently retired from Morehead State University and is an adjunct history professor at Virginia Tech.
Added Hennen: “If that were not the case, they would have gotten behind Bernie Sanders instead of Trump. But Trump knows which buttons to push, and here he stands, a racist with a real chance of becoming president.”
Hennen, who was on the board of the Louisville-based Kentucky Labor Institute, traces the GOP presidential hopeful's rise and “the modern normalization of alt-right-white supremacist dogma” to Ronald Reagan’s first presidential campaign stop in 1980.
Whatever legitimate economic grievances these folks have is, sadly, secondary to the fear and hatred of 'the other' in their hearts. If that were not the case, they would have gotten behind Bernie Sanders instead of Trump. But Trump knows which buttons to push, and here he stands, a racist with a real chance of becoming president.
Reagan “opened his presidential campaign by winking and nodding at 'states rights' in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the site of the murder of three civil rights workers in 1964.
“In so doing, he acknowledged that once again it was okay to be openly racist and the Republican Party was embarking on a campaign to roll back the political and economic advances of African Americans under the guise of 'freedom' and 'supply side economics.'”
Hennen said Trump is “a legacy of that regrettable era we know as the 'Reagan Era,' although the embrace of racism as a political tool has, of course always, existed, as evidenced by the Jim Crow Southern Democrats of the 1870s to the 1960s and [Republican President Richard] Nixon's 'Southern Strategy.'”
Hennen said when the Republicans turned away from their history as the party of Abraham Lincoln and civil rights, they “kicked off the modern open embrace of racism with the Reagan speech in Mississippi. Since then the party has applauded racial bigotry when it works politically.”
Hennen said the election of Barack Obama, the country’s first African American president, “unleashed hysteria among the growing Republican base of white nationalists and the ‘polite racism’ of the Republican elite was supplanted by the open-throated hatred of government, Obama, and dark-skinned people, which lies at the Tea Party core.”