LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Labeling Trump supporters “racist” denigrates their frustrations, values and opinions


LETTER TO THE EDITOR: Labeling Trump supporters “racist” denigrates their frustrations, values and opinions

Commentators are unfairly invoking a broad brush condemnation of millions of American voters.

As a registered Republican who has voted such in every election since I voted for Ronald Reagan – sometimes understanding it was a lost cause (Dole and McCain) – I, too, am baffled by the unabated capacity of the Trump candidacy.

And to put my cards on the table, should you care, my Tennessee Republican Primary vote went to John Kasich.

My initial belief was that one of two things would happen over the course of the campaign: either the voters would tire of Donald or ‘The Donald’ would tire of the voters. Neither has happened. Watching the results of Super Tuesday with my wife and a friend I confessed, “Its as though something is going on out there that I am completely unaware of.”

That said, there is one speculation of Mr. Trump’s candidacy that is beginning to be presented in the media as an axiom: those voters who support Donald Trump are inherently racist.

Two examples of this are presented by ABC on Jimmy Kimmel Live and by an article in The New York Times.

The Kimmel piece was a parody of the award winning Broadway production The Producers. Featuring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the Kimmel spoof is creative, funny, focused on its target, and just plain enjoyable. Satire can be a powerful weapon if done well. And this was done well, except – and this is where it lost its power – when it labeled Trump supporters as “crazy, old, semi-racist white people.”

This broad brush condemnation of millions of American voters is propped up in an article by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, in which he cites the New York Times’ Nate Cohn, using data from Civis Analytics, stating that Trump’s support is strongest from the Gulf Coast, through the Appalachian Mountains, to New York, among marginally attached Republicans (possibly former Democrats). He then observes that it is a familiar map for some demographers, since it’s similar to a heat map of Google searches for racial slurs and jokes.

“That Mr. Trump’s support is strong in similar areas does not prove that most or even many of his supporters are motivated by racial animus,” Cohn writes. “But it is consistent with the possibility that at least some are.”

In the Kimmel sketch, the label applied to Trump supporters equates to Clinton supporters being labeled ‘delusional, immature, gay and lesbian minorities.’ In the case of the Clinton supporter, any such published description would be met with outrage, and the labeler decried as “homophobic and racist.” Not so with those labeling the Trump supporter.

In The Atlantic article, Nate Cohn does a good job of verifying the ‘Trump supporters are racist’ moniker while appearing to backpedal against that very label.

After noting that the demographics of Donald Trump’s support overlays that of areas of racial slurs and jokes – damage done – he states that such an overlay:

“does not prove,”

“that most, or even many,”

“of (Trump’s) supporters are motivated by racial animus …”

If Mr. Cohn’s assessment is that the very data he references does not prove that most “or even many” of Mr. Trump supporters are racist, why apply the label?

Lest we give Mr. Cohn the benefit of the doubt that this hidden disclaimer serves as a ‘Reader Beware,’ he applies brush to paper with the word “But.” In other words, ‘disregard the previous disclaimer.’ He sums up by saying, “But it is consistent with the possibility that at least some are.”

Let’s break that sentence down.

“consistent”: constantly adhering to the same principles, course, form, etc.:

“possibility”: that may or may not, exist, happen, be done, be used, etc.

“some”: being undetermined or specified

“are”: Are what? Racist.

What Mr. Cohn (and the Kimmel sketch, in its way) wants the sentence – and his position – to mean is that the data confirms that Trump supporters are racist. What the sentence actually states is:

‘If there is one element that is true in this charge that Trump supporters are racist, it is that it consistently may or may not be true that some unspecified supporters may or may not be racist.’

Perhaps therein lies insight into what is fueling the Trump supporter: a boiling point of frustration that in today’s political and social environment their voice is no longer recognized, and their values and opinions are dismissed and denigrated to nothing more than the words of racists.

Bryant Phillips

Brentwood, TN 37027

As a registered Republican who has voted such in every election since I voted for Ronald Reagan – sometimes understanding it was a lost cause (Dole and McCain) – I, too, am baffled by the unabated capacity of the Trump candidacy.

And to put my cards on the table, should you care, my Tennessee Republican Primary vote went to John Kasich.

My initial belief was that one of two things would happen over the course of the campaign: either the voters would tire of Donald or ‘The Donald’ would tire of the voters. Neither has happened. Watching the results of Super Tuesday with my wife and a friend I confessed, “Its as though something is going on out there that I am completely unaware of.”

That said, there is one speculation of Mr. Trump’s candidacy that is beginning to be presented in the media as an axiom: those voters who support Donald Trump are inherently racist.

Two examples of this are presented by ABC on Jimmy Kimmel Live and by an article in The New York Times.

The Kimmel piece was a parody of the award winning Broadway production The Producers. Featuring Nathan Lane and Matthew Broderick, the Kimmel spoof is creative, funny, focused on its target, and just plain enjoyable. Satire can be a powerful weapon if done well. And this was done well, except – and this is where it lost its power – when it labeled Trump supporters as “crazy, old, semi-racist white people.”

This broad brush condemnation of millions of American voters is propped up in an article by Derek Thompson in The Atlantic, in which he cites the New York Times’ Nate Cohn, using data from Civis Analytics, stating that Trump’s support is strongest from the Gulf Coast, through the Appalachian Mountains, to New York, among marginally attached Republicans (possibly former Democrats). He then observes that it is a familiar map for some demographers, since it’s similar to a heat map of Google searches for racial slurs and jokes.

“That Mr. Trump’s support is strong in similar areas does not prove that most or even many of his supporters are motivated by racial animus,” Cohn writes. “But it is consistent with the possibility that at least some are.”

In the Kimmel sketch, the label applied to Trump supporters equates to Clinton supporters being labeled ‘delusional, immature, gay and lesbian minorities.’ In the case of the Clinton supporter, any such published description would be met with outrage, and the labeler decried as “homophobic and racist.” Not so with those labeling the Trump supporter.

In The Atlantic article, Nate Cohn does a good job of verifying the ‘Trump supporters are racist’ moniker while appearing to backpedal against that very label.

After noting that the demographics of Donald Trump’s support overlays that of areas of racial slurs and jokes – damage done – he states that such an overlay:

“does not prove,”

“that most, or even many,”

“of (Trump’s) supporters are motivated by racial animus …”

If Mr. Cohn’s assessment is that the very data he references does not prove that most “or even many” of Mr. Trump supporters are racist, why apply the label?

Lest we give Mr. Cohn the benefit of the doubt that this hidden disclaimer serves as a ‘Reader Beware,’ he applies brush to paper with the word “But.” In other words, ‘disregard the previous disclaimer.’ He sums up by saying, “But it is consistent with the possibility that at least some are.”

Let’s break that sentence down.

“consistent”: constantly adhering to the same principles, course, form, etc.:

“possibility”: that may or may not, exist, happen, be done, be used, etc.

“some”: being undetermined or specified

“are”: Are what? Racist.

What Mr. Cohn (and the Kimmel sketch, in its way) wants the sentence – and his position – to mean is that the data confirms that Trump supporters are racist. What the sentence actually states is:

‘If there is one element that is true in this charge that Trump supporters are racist, it is that it consistently may or may not be true that some unspecified supporters may or may not be racist.’

Perhaps therein lies insight into what is fueling the Trump supporter: a boiling point of frustration that in today’s political and social environment their voice is no longer recognized, and their values and opinions are dismissed and denigrated to nothing more than the words of racists.

Bryant Phillips

Brentwood, TN 37027

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