White nationalism in Trump administration: The real threat to democracy
Presidential candidate Donald Trump works the crowd at a rally on Nov. 30, 2015, in Macon, Ga. | Curtis Compton / Atlanta Journal-Constitution via AP

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced the Justice Department would begin investigating “intentional race-based discrimination,” the only surprise was the degree of brazenness.

Taken together with a spate of other Trump Administration announcements, its aim is crystal clear: to bull-rush through an unpopular agenda, ensure authoritarian rule, and consolidate a permanent governing constituency based on white nationalism.

The Trump policies, despite their populist mask, are hugely unpopular and face unprecedented resistance. Nevertheless, the Trump administration is forging ahead with an extreme right-wing agenda to radically undo environmental, worker, and civil rights protections and curtail freedom of the press.

These assaults are being implemented behind a fog of lies and a flurry of executive orders and agency and department policy changes. They include radically reforming immigration, both legal and illegal, imposing a Muslim ban (even though it’s not called that), returning to the “war on drugs” and mass incarceration, unshackling law enforcement, carrying out widespread voter suppression, undoing efforts to address systemic racial and gender discrimination, and reversing LGBTQ rights.

Trump is governing as he campaigned. He and his confederates are determined to deeply divide the American people and consolidate a block of white nationalist and social conservative support on the basis of racial and religious resentments, xenophobia, Islamophobia, homophobia, and fear.

A white supremacist, alt-right fascist gang

The Trump administration cabinet is the wealthiest and most right-wing in history. They are busy eliminating the Obama legacy of environmental, worker, and civil rights protections.

But the core of white supremacists with fascist alt-right ties in the Oval Office and Justice Department are driving social policy: Attorney General Jeff Sessions and presidential advisors Stephen K. Bannon, Stephen Miller, and Sebastian Gorka, et al.

As editor of Breitbart News, Bannon met and worked with Sessions and his then assistant Miller. Sessions was the leading voice in the U.S Senate for anti-immigrant restrictions.

During those battles, they discovered their shared outlook and later found common cause in Trump, whom they saw as a vessel for their ideas.

“Trump is a blunt instrument for us,” Bannon told Vanity Fair.

Their anti-immigrant obsession is connected to the much broader belief that sees changing racial demographics—the rising number of people of color and immigrant residents—as the chief internal threat to the country. According to trends, the United States will have a majority people of color population by the year 2050.

They see this as a threat to white patriarchic domination of the U.S. economy, politics, and culture. For them, these shifts are a danger to the very viability of the GOP.

Cultural and social mores are also shifting. A new role for women and the LGBTQ community is emerging. All are shaping a new multiracial, multinational, multi-gender identity, multicultural, multilingual democracy.

And these breathtaking changes are taking place over the span of just a few decades. Since 1965, the immigrant population has grown from 9.6 million to 45 million, accounting for 55 percent of U.S. population growth. Between 1980 and 2008, the foreign-born Latino population grew four-fold from 4.2 million to 17.8 million.

These demographic, cultural, and social changes (and the pace at which they are occurring) against a backdrop of economic uncertainty are unsettling to many whites. A significant portion of the Trump vote is a reaction against the new multiracial, multicultural society that was embodied in the Obama coalition.

Sessions and Bannon see the Trump administration as the last chance to reverse this. The grand scheme is to slow down, halt, and reverse the demographic and cultural shifts taking place while driving a wedge among the multiracial working class and people. They aim to permanently entrench white nationalist rule.

As The Daily Beast described it, “They also believe that if they can get forty percent of the vote, they can continue to forge the shape of this new historical cycle for the duration. This is Bannon’s plan—to use the Electoral College to maintain the office (with the help of gerrymandering and voter suppression as well, and buttressed by the nationalist messages that traffic in confusion, fear, and paranoia). They believe that if they can get 60 percent of the white vote, and 40 percent of the non-white vote, which they presume to get by restoring the pre-globalist economy, they can rule for forty years.”

It is part of their vision for an even bigger pan-global European-Christian axis, embodied in the notion of an apocalyptic “clash of civilizations” between the Christian and Muslim worlds.

The grand scheme is to slow down, halt, and reverse the demographic and cultural shifts taking place while driving a wedge among the multiracial working class and people.

This fantasy is being brought to life through several policies:

First, the administration seeks to promote racial resentments among millions of white people. This is the meaning of the attacks on affirmative action going on under the cover of “investigations into race-based discrimination” against whites. The aim is to create “white nationalist” identity of a group being aggrieved economically, socially, and culturally.

Second, the Trump administration seeks the removal of 11 million undocumented immigrants. But they realize it is too expensive, the logistics too difficult and legalities too daunting for government to deport everyone, so the goal is “self-deportation.” Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is carrying this out by using tactics that spread terror among undocumented immigrant communities.

The administration aims to isolate and stoke hatred for immigrant communities by convincing the American people that undocumented immigrants are involved in widespread, violent, and heinous crimes. They seek to eliminate opposition to deportation by threatening to cut federal funding to sanctuary cities.

Third, Trump’s government is out to cut legal immigration by up to half through a radical restriction of documented immigrants from Africa, Asia, and Latin America while keeping the flow from Europe.

The administration and its Congressional allies are cleverly posing this as a matter of both documented and undocumented immigrants taking the jobs and lowering the wages of US workers, despite the lack of any evidence of such.

Fourth, there is a sustained effort to restrict the immigration of Muslims. They are achieving this by stoking fear and hatred of Muslims, by equating Islam with terrorism, and by promoting the big lie that Muslims are conspiring to impose Sharia law.

Fifth, Trump and company are seeking to resurrect the failed and fraudulent war on drugs which was responsible for the mass incarceration of millions—mainly African Americans, Latinos, and Native Americans. The administration is whipping up fear with the “alternative fact” that crime is skyrocketing, especially in African-American communities.

They have no serious measures to address the sources of gun violence in cities like Chicago other than greater repression. “Law and order” is needed, the administration declares, which requires unshackling the police. The administration is not only turning a blind eye to police brutality in communities of color; Trump encouraged it in recent speech to police.

The Justice Department is dropping consent decrees against police departments over racism and police brutality, and the administration hopes to build a mass right-wing base within law enforcement agencies.

Sixth, there is a massive voter suppression effort underway. The ground is being prepared by the Trump-created election integrity commission for a purge of millions of African American, Latino, young, and low-income voters who tend to vote Democratic. It is based on the lie that voter fraud is rampant and that millions of undocumented workers even voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

The expanded mass incarceration and criminalization of African Americans will also result in mass voter disenfranchisement.

Miller and Bannon are key advocates of the clash of civilizations view within the administration. | Evan Vucci / AP

Lies, lies, and more lies

The Trump lies blend seamlessly with the vast propagation of deceptions and bizarre conspiracy theories from right-wing media, the network of social conservative groups, the NRA, and fundamentalist Christian Evangelicals and Catholics bombarding millions of people around the clock.

Millions of Trump supporters believe these lies in spite of all evidence to the contrary. Despite all the corruption, conflicts of interest, and collusion with Russia to interfere in the U.S. elections, 83 percent of GOP voters have a stubbornly favorable opinion of Trump.

The outright lies, promotion of perceived white nationalist grievances, scapegoating of racial and religious minorities, and homophobia—combined with the erosion of democratic norms—is the bitter concoction from which authoritarianism and fascism brew. It must be resisted at every turn and defeated decisively through the broadest, most diverse unity possible.


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.