The current political impasse in America is enigmatic. Here we have the two traditional political parties, the Democratic Party and the Republican Party, talking at cross-purposes, hardly getting anything of substance done in Congress. The polarization reflects the general divide in soceity, the schism based on the two opposing views of what America should be.
Roughly, we have a demography of Americans, mainly in the urban areas of the two coastal regions, who tenaciously hold on to the ideals of liberal democracy as espoused by the Democratic Party, and support it to represent all Americans regardless of race, gender, class, sexual orientation, and gender identity. It is a view that encompasses liberal social and cultural values and a pragmatic economic policy, at least in theory, that accounts for the vagaries of the market. At least this is the ideal the Democratic Party promotes and strives to realize. But the attainment of those ideals have been progressing in fits and starts, moving at a pace proverbially described as “one step forward, two steps backward. “
Those on the Republican side are basically driven by conservative social and cultural values and seem to be dogmatic about it, especially the fringe of the Republican Party that became influenced by the vociferous Christian Right, and to a lesser extent by white supremacist groups, groups that played a significant role in promoting an anti-immigration agenda and in agitating for the Supreme Court to reverse Roe vs Wade. Their view on economics is basically a laissez-faire capitalist economy, an unfettered free-market economy, and a reliance on low-taxes to presumably stimulate growth in the economy. A policy that has shown to favor corporations and wealthy individuals while curtailing essential social services needed by a significant number of the population.
The core problem underpinning this polarisation is the change in the nation’s demographic makeup, which has been causing undue anxiety on a significant number of a very vocal white population, and the perennial racism, the albatross around white America’s neck that has proved hard to rid. The inevitable fact that non-whites are likely to be in the majority in the coming decades has not been boding well with this group. This fact is seen as a threat to the privilege they have thus far been enjoying as the dominant economic and political group. This “take our country back” or “America first” sentiment is more pronounced and openly expressed in the Republican Party, especially with the re-rise of populism or nativism, more aptly named, white nationalism, that became ascendant with Trump’s winning of the national election in 2016.
On the whole, Democrats seem to be more attuned to the demographic change in the country and have made inroads in embracing all Americans. This had been cogently expressed by Obama, during his quest for the presidency, in one of his campaign events, when he said: “there is not a black America and a white America and a Latino America and Asian America; there is the United States of America.”
Obama’s 2008 campaign was innovative in the sense that he was selling a different vision for America, an America that is realistic and caters to the needs of all Americans, an America that is just and humane, an America that pulls itself out of its racist rut and respects the rights and dignity of all citizens, and extends equal opportunity to all to pursue their dreams and live their lives as they see fit. Basically he tried to remind white Americans to put into practice the core American values of freedom, equality, and justice. Obama’s vision, in its purest form, was an attempt to have a paradigm shift in society, to nudge white Americans to live up to the ideals of democracy, to have them realize that true democracy should encompass all racial groups and not be biased towards the dominant white racial group. Anything short of that can not be called a genuine democracy and can only lead to a continued racially divided society that would inevitably be not in the interest of all and a detriment to the nation’s peace, security, and prosperity.
The 2008 campaign for the presidency was successful. Obama got elected. A lot of people, myself included, did not expect the white population to cast their votes for an African American. Considering the long and pernicious history of white supremacy that has marginalized and treated blacks and other minorities with wanton cruelty for centuries, it was hard for some of us, those of us who have been at the receiving end of the inhumanity of racists, to imagine that an African American would occupy the White House and be at the helm of American government.
His election was a sweet surprise to a lot of us. Knowing that racism in America is deeply rooted, and the fact that generations of white Americans have been imbued with the myth of racial superiority and the understanding that this obstinate attitude of superiority and denigration of other races was the ineluctable state of being for many Americans, Obama’s election gave us a glimmer of hope that all that would be behind us and made us optimistic about white America’s coming to terms with its racist tendencies.
We believed that white America would accept and be at peace with its minority population, especially those Americans of African descent whose ancestors were forcibly brought to America as human chattel and have been living under total oppression since the early years of the American nation. It is inconceivable what African Americans have been through, and equally unbelievable is the barbarous treatment of indefensible human beings, yes, human beings that some callous white people failed to recognize as such.
The contradictions in white American society can not be veiled or swept under the rug, it is crystal clear for all to see the hypocrisy of upholding the so-called core American values —freedom, equality, and justice—that some White Americans claim to share on the one hand and on the other the extreme subjugation of African Americans and other minorities to their irrational racist attitudes and beliefs.
Despite that, we, that is those of us who are victims of racism , and the progressive elements in white society, which I like to believe is the majority, began to see Obama’s election as the inflection point in America’s race relations, a turning corner into the future where Americans would be judged by the substance of their character and not by their color. We got reminded of MLK and his hope for America, a color blind society, and that this would gradually become a reality.
But this was not to be. There was no hint of race relations getting any better, in fact racial hatred and incidences of hate crimes became more prevalent. And the dysfunctional Congress did not help much in conciliating the polarized society, in many instances they exacerbated the polarization.
Right from Obama’s first day in office, countervailing forces in Congress, the majority of Republicans in the house and senate, started undermining Obama’s plan for the country by erecting all kinds of political impediments and making it difficult for him to pass some of his initiatives. Some of them were even outright hostile, openly talking about making his presidency a one time deal and taking every opportunity they can get to criticize him and make his work difficult. Others were even questioning his citizenship and his faith, parroting what was bandied in Trump’s camp and in white nationalist circles that Obama is Muslim and is not a native born citizen. Their absurd claims and accusations verged on puerility, unexpected from elected members of a legislative body who were put there by their constituencies to do the peoples’ work with probity. But that seems not to have entered their mind, they were more interested in propagating misinformation and disinformation, maligning and trying to sully the president’s reputation and trying to make political scores. The work of the nation that their constituencies entrusted them with was put in the back burner; they spent most of their time concocting obstacles for the president and advancing a half-baked ideological stance. All executed in a mean-spirited and dishonorable ways. Needless to say, Obama’s two terms as president was mostly spent in trying to deal with one obstruction after another from a cantankerous Republican members of Congress.
That the Republican Party in Congress behaved the way they did was not a shock to those of us who follow American politics very closely. The Republican Party, over the years, has gradually become the party of nativists, white supremacists and neo-nazis , the Christian Right, and other diehard conservative groups, and maybe even some fascists, who collectively are bent on promoting their version or view of what America should be. Their America is the kind of country the nineteenth century Know-Nothing party, formally known as the American party, wanted to have, a country that privileges native born whites, a country that promotes the interests of its native born whites and marginalizes its immigrant population. Since the eighteenth century, generations of ‘new comers’, immigrants, have been subjected to racist and xenophobic whims of native white Americans, forgetting that once upon a time they too were ‘new comers’.
What the nativists are raring to achieve is to stop immigration, legal or illegal, particularly non-whites hailing from Africa, Asia, and the rest of the non-white world. They want to keep America white, a privileged racial group, and relegating a significant minority population who are already in the country , some of whom have been living in America since the dawn of its history, to the periphery as a subservient class. An idea that any rational person can see as far-fetched, never to happen.
The bankruptcy of this idea would be made more clear when one looks at the current minority demographic data and the expected inevitable drastic change in that demography in the near future. In 2010, the multiracial population was 9 million. In 2020, it jumped to 33.8 million, a good 276% increase. According to Wikipedia, “ the whole United States is projected to become majority-minority by the middle of the twentieth-first century if current trends continue. “ Five states are already a majority-minority population: California, Nevada, Texas, Hawaii, New Mexico, and Maryland. The district of Columbia (DC) is also majority-minority. So the question becomes, how are the nativists, those who want to keep whites as the dominant group economically and politically, and who have thus far been lording it over a minority population, going to deal with the stark fact that sooner or later they are going to be the minority in the nation. How are they going to cope with that incontrovertible truth? What are they going to do with a minority population that is slated to be more than 50% by 2050 or earlier as some statistical data suggests. How are they going to keep America purely for whites? The census bureau projects that in 2050 US population will increase to 404 million. According to this figure, more than 50% will be minorities i.e non-whites. What are nativists and white supremacists going to do to more than 200 million minorities( by 2050)? Relegate them to second class, third class citizenry and bring back the apartheid system of Jim Crow days? If so, do they think the majority minority population would stand still and be subservient to a white nationalist country?
So, I think what some nativists and other racists are striving to achieve is futile. White America, whether they like it or not, have to learn to live with the unalterable fact that America is a multi-cultural society and that the only way for America as a nation to stay coherent and viable is for whites to acknowledge diversity and strengthen the democratic system and make it work for all citizens of the United States.
Bringing Obama’s exhortations again: “there is no a black America and a white America and a Latino America and Asian America; there is only the United States of America. “
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