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After President Trump's debate debacle, the Twittersphere was abuzz with posts about some of his fans uprooting their Trump 2020 yard signs.

Covid-19 has put him in the hospital. Thus, I wonder how many more Ever Trumpers who spurned masks because Dear Leader did are finally clued in to that lunacy, and, knowing they can't receive the high-powered health care Trump is getting if they catch the potentially lethal virus, are feeling angry, scared and betrayed, masking themselves and trashing their signs. 

So, curious about the fate of all those Trump signs and flags in my neck of the western Kentucky woods, I drove around to see if any of them were gone.

As far as I could tell, none were. (Confederates flags are still keeping some company, too.)

The president “sits at the sweet spot between greed and selfishness and racism,” Princeton Professor Eddie Glaude Jr. said on MSNBC. 

The signs and flags reflect what Glaude meant. They also mirror Yale Professor Jacob Hacker’s comments on WBUR, Boston’s NPR station. They're online:

“…What's really distinctive about the American version of right-wing populism is that it’s been married to plutocracy, by which we mean government of, by and for the very rich. And this marriage, this bitter brew, has transformed the Republican Party over the last generation, not just under Donald Trump. And so one side of this is the organs of money, the organized money within the party.”

On the other side are “the organs of outrage. The National Rifle Association, the Christian right, and especially right-wing media. 

My end of Kentucky is Trump territory. It's also NRA country, 90-percent white and mainly evangelical Protestant conservative. A ton more locals tune into Fox News than watch “fake news” channels like MSNBC and CNN.

Our region was a Democratic bastion until the 1980s, not coincidentally when GOP operative Lee Atwater, the guy who made the Willie Horton ad for George H.W. Bush, told party bigwigs how to exploit "this broad sort of cultural and racial backlash that was occurring in response to the civil rights movement and the rise of crime, as well as the rise of the evangelical movement that was pursuing more conservative social policies,” Hacker explained.

Atwater advised the Reagan campaign, “there is a group of voters we need that we can't get unless we understand them. And he says this: these are populists. They're conservative on social and racial issues, but they're there on the left on economic issues. (Western Kentucky was big on FDR.) And so we have to make the subject these social and racial issues."

The wealthy white powers-that-be have been running race-based cons on less-than-rich white folks since the country's infancy.

In other words, he proposed "using race in somewhat subtle ways to activate white backlash and thereby get voters who are left on economics to support a party that is siding with those at the very top and conservative on economics,” Hacker wrote.

(Trump, the Yankee George Wallace who got elected on a stock Wall Street Republican platform in 2016, turned the Atwater-Bush I-Reagan dog whistle into a bullhorn.)

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Of course, the wealthy white powers-that-be have been running race-based cons on less-than-rich white folks since the country's infancy.

Before the Civil War, the slaveholding aristocracy in Kentucky and the other slave states, aided and abetted by politicians, publishers and preachers, were ever telling whites--even the ones the Good Book calls "the least among us"—that their skin color alone made them superior to enslaved or free African Americans.

In the 1890s, the left-leaning, mostly agrarian Populist Party demanded that Uncle Sam intervene in the economy on behalf of poor farmers and poor workers—whites and Blacks—urban and rural—and urged them to unite at the ballot box against those who were sticking it to them—fat-cat, union-busting factory owners up North and julip-sipping land barons down South. 

The Populist message of activist social democratic government and class solidarity terrified the plutocracy. Especially in the South, where most African Americans lived, they played the race card, which was a major factor in the Populists’ demise.

Starting in the 1960s, what became known as the GOP "Southern Strategy" won over a slew of erstwhile Democratic white folks in the old Confederacy who despised the new landmark federal civil rights bills aimed at ending decades of Jim Crow segregation, race discrimination and Black disfranchisement.

President Lyndon Johnson, a Texas Democrat who championed the historic legislation, understood white folks in the Lone Star State and the rest of Dixie. “If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”

Martin Luther King Jr., got it, too. He remembered that the old Southern aristocrats “took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for food that his empty pockets could not provide, he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, he was, at least, a white man, better than a black man.”

A lot of white folks--and not just Southerners—are still gobbling that foul fowl.

Economist and former labor secretary Robert Reich put that King quote in a Guardian article. “The rich know that as long as racial animosity exists, white and black Americans are less likely to look upward and see where the wealth and power really has gone,” he wrote.

Whites are “less likely to notice that the market is rigged against them all," according to Reich."They’ll cling to the meritocratic myth that they’re paid what they’re ‘worth’ in the market and that the obstacles they face are of their own making rather than an unjust system." (The flags and signs I saw are in front of White middle class homes. During the Great Depression, sociologists were astounded to hear so many workaday Americans blame themselves, not unfettered, red-in-tooth-and-claw capitalism, for their economic misery. Naturally, the plutocrats ate it up.) 

Reich concluded that “Trump is the best thing ever to have happened to the new American oligarchy, and not just because he has given them tax cuts and regulatory rollbacks.

“He has also stoked division and racism so that most Americans don’t see CEOs getting exorbitant pay while slicing the pay of average workers, won’t notice giant tax cuts and bailouts for big corporations and the wealthy while most people make do with inadequate schools and unaffordable healthcare, and don’t pay attention to the bribery of public officials through unlimited campaign donations.

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“The only way systemic injustices can be remedied is if power is redistributed. Power will be redistributed only if the vast majority – white, black and brown – join together to secure it.

“Which is what the oligarchy fears most.”

Berry Craig