Writing for the New York Times, demographics expert Thomas Edsall looked askance on President Donald Trump calling members of MS-13 “animals” during a rant on undocumented immigrants and tried to figure out a more scientific approach as to why Trump using the highly inflammatory rhetoric.
According to Edsall, “Through gut (or gutter) instinct, Trump has adopted a political strategy designed to exploit anger at and resentment toward immigrants as well as racial and ethnic minorities. This is the linchpin of his approach to the 2020 election.”
He notes that his colleagues, David Leonhardt and Ian Prasad Philbrick, once wrote: “Donald Trump has been obsessed with race for the entire time he has been a public figure. He had a history of making racist comments as a New York real-estate developer in the 1970s and ‘80s. More recently, his political rise was built on promulgating the lie that the nation’s first black president was born in Kenya.”
They continued, “Trump himself has claimed that he is ‘the least racist person.’ But here’s the truth: Donald Trump is a racist. He talks about and treats people differently based on their race. He has done so for years, and he is still doing so.”
To get to the root of the matter of why Trump descends into low-brow racism, Edsall said he turned to Boise State political scientist Stephen Utych who authored the study: ““How Dehumanization Influences Attitudes toward Immigrants.”
In an email, Utych wrote, “Taking the morality out of it, I’ve both conducted and seen research from others that consistently shows that dehumanization ‘works’ by making people dislike dehumanized groups, and wanting to take punitive actions against them. I think Trump has been doing this really subtly, especially over the last few months, so I definitely think this is a strategic move on his part.”
Utych added that Trump’s rhetoric, “denies out-groups traits that are uniquely human — things such as the ability to reason, think critically, or feel emotions.”
According to Steven Miller and Nicholas Davis, political scientists at Clemson University and Texas A&M, “Social intolerance of immigrants, those who speak a different language, and those from a different race leads to increased support for strongman rule in the U.S., potential rule of U.S. government by the army, and decreases support for even having a democracy in the U.S.”
That appeal to intolerance “increases white individuals’ openness to undemocratic alternatives — white Americans who exhibit social intolerance are more likely to dismiss the value of separation of powers,” meaning Trump is creating a standing army of racists who regard him as standing above — and superior to — the judicial and legislative branches.
Miller and Davis warn that the data they have surveyed indicates that anti-democratic sentiment is on the rise and the racial animosities may work hand in hand towards a predilection for “strong man” leaders.
Writing on growing “Trumpism,” Robert C. Lieberman and Suzanne Mettler — political scientists at Johns Hopkins and Cornell — along with three other political scientists applied the tendency to Trump.
“Trumpism has legitimized and ushered back into the foreground of American politics contestation over core questions of civic membership and status,”They wrote. “Hostile comments about members of specific ethnic and religious groups during the presidential campaign, to the Muslim ban, his pardon of former Maricopa County, Arizona, Sheriff Joseph Arpaio, and other policies his administration has promoted, to his response to the ‘Unite the Right’ rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, he has given license to political forces that vociferously and publicly spurn these developments.”
Edsall concluded that the trend appears to be growing and we may not be able to gauge the future of the US in a post-Trump presidency.
“Trump is a powerful force propelling the erosion of standards in our political life and throughout the broader social order, in a decivilizational process about which I have written before,” he wrote. “His stunning political success suggests that this trend has progressed further than most of us recognize, much less understand.”
You can read the whole report here.