After a weekend of deep relief and celebration, progressive Americans need a dose of reality. Over 70 million Americans voted for Donald Trump this time, 8 million more than in 2016. They voted for him knowing who he is. They voted for him without the excuse that Hillary was corrupt or unlikeable. A white female medical worker from Eastern Pennsylvania and an avid Trump supporter told the New York Times that if President Trump was defeated for reelection, “this is not the America I want to live in anymore.” Trump supporters picketing against the vote count in Pennsylvania declared that if Biden and the Democrats stole the election, “We can kiss freedom goodbye.” Joe Biden is not going to win this crowd over by calls for unity and healing. They don’t want to heal.
In the name of balance, the New York Times bends over backwards to publish Trumpist commentary. The Times was sharply criticized for publishing an absurd op-ed by Senator Tom Cotton (Republican-Arkansas) were he invented a threat to law and order in the United States from “cadres of left-wing radicals like antifa.” The Times later acknowledged in print that the Cotton “essay fell short of our standards and should not have been published.” One problem the Times has with maintaining balance is that its more conservative columnists, Bret Stephens, Ross Douthat, and David Brooks, can’t stand Donald Trump because he is a threat to democracy in the United State and global stability.
I guess in desperation, the Times published a post-election “Letter to the Editor” by serial newspaper letter writer and Facebook Trumpist Charles Michael Sitero of Ormond Beach, Florida. If you do a Google search, which apparently the Times didn’t, you see that Sitero complains about everything from the local supermarket to Clinton’s emails and the Mueller investigation.
What was interesting about this letter is Sitero’s careful effort to explain the Trumpist philosophy and agenda, actually more articulately than the MAGA President. In Sitero and Trump’s world racism, economic inequality, xenophobia, climate change, conspiracy theories, disrespect for knowledge, facts and Fauci, the rejection of science, and COVID-19 are not real concerns. QAnon, rightwing militias, Fox News false claims of voter fraud, and Trump’s twitter tirades are patriotic forces, not threats to democracy.
Sitero credits the sizable Trump following in the United States to “the fact that a large percentage of the American people still doesn’t want high taxes or job-killing government restrictions. Nor do we want open borders or sanctuary cities. Americans support law enforcement and the military and don’t want a socialist government that will lead to bankruptcy and the loss of our freedoms,” especially the “right to bear arms.”
Of course Joe Biden is not a socialist and not interested in taking away Sitero’s freedoms, although hopefully Biden might support some gun control measures. Sitereo blames “political bias in the media” and the “censorship of people like him for hiding these truths and causing the politicization of everything from pandemics to the rioting and looting in our cities.” Sitero also dismisses professional athletes and movie actors who lecture about social injustice right rights for African Americans.
Is Sitero a racist? Is Donald Trump? Are Trump followers and voters? Many certainly are and some do not deny it. Interviews with voters showed there were strong differences along racial lines. Donald Trump is a nihilist who plays to that crowd and inflames hatred in speeches and tweets, but who knows if he actually believes anything. I think it is more useful to say that racist or not, Trump followers and voters either support or tolerate policies that have racist impact.
A high percentage of the Trump voters are self-professed white Christian evangelicals who claim to be guided by Biblical passages. Unfortunately they seem to have missed passages like Matthew 5-7, also known as the Sermon on the Mount, where Jesus preaches “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth”; Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy”; and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” They also miss Matthew 35-36 where Jesus welcomes someone into heaven saying “For I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me.”
Clearly something other than the Bible guides white Christian evangelical voters. For many, it is their sense of being displaced and animosity towards those they fear are replacing them, immigrants, especially Latinos and Muslims, African Americans, and liberal coastal professionals, especially Jews. How else do we explain West Virginia where white voters overwhelmingly supported an immoral candidate who promised and failed to restore the coal industry?
Trumpers are not only white Christian evangelicals. In New York City, a very moderate first-term Democratic Congressional representative was defeated for reelection by a Republican Trumper in the 11th Congressional District that includes Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn. The Times interviewed a voter who explained, “The Republican promise was strong in terms of safety.” He claimed his neighborhood was in decline and “We need a change.” That neighborhood, Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, is 2/3rds white with sizable Irish, Italian, and Greek enclaves. But it also has an increasing Chinese and Latino population. It is one of the safest neighborhoods in New York City and the local 68th Police Precinct has a lower crime rate today than it did in the 1990s when the neighborhood was almost all white. If the vote in the 11th Congressional district was not tinged by racism, I don’t know how else to explain it.
Charles Sitero closed his “Letter to the Editor” warning that the “populist movement that Donald Trump started four years ago cannot be stopped by a corrupt establishment, and no amount of spin by those who control the information in our nation can stop it,” especially efforts by “the left.” The New York Times felt compelled to publish a letter dismissing Joe Biden’s moderate climate and health policies as “socialist” and ignoring the history of race and racism in the United States. Charles Michael Sitero of Ormond Beach may not know better, but the New York Times certainly should.
Reading Sitero, I felt like I was meeting one of the puzzling Trumpers Jordan Klepper interviews at Trump rallies for The Daily Show on Comedy Central. Maybe the Times printed the letter so its readers could better understand Trump world and its threat to democracy and democratic institutions in the United States. Unfortunately, in publishing the letter, the Times gave legitimacy to conspiracy theories it has criticized social media outlets for not suppressing.
Caution and compromise are not going to unite and heal America. What might work for Joe and the Democrats is a vigorous jobs program, public works to improve the environment, and a national health care program, policies like the Green New Deal that will improve the conditions of American lives and may help white America move beyond its fears and hatred. But with Republican obstruction, these will be hard to implement.
Follow Alan Singer on twitter at https://twitter.com/AlanJSinger1.