Lilliana Mason, who specializes in political science at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, has had a lot to say about identity politics in the United States and how ugly, divisive and bitter they have become. Mason is the author of the 2018 book "Uncivil Agreement: How Politics Became Our Identity," and she recently co-authored a troubling study titled "Activating Animus: The Uniquely Social Roots of Trump Support." Mason discussed the findings of the study this month with NPR's Danielle Kurtzleben during an appearance on the long-running program "All Things Considered."
Mason told Kurtzleben, "So, the colloquial stories we hear about Trump suggest that he somehow created a whole bunch of hatred in American politics. And instead, what this data shows is that what he did was serve as a place where people who already held a lot of animus towards marginalized groups — they all sort of gathered around him. So, this was a latent faction of Americans that had just — that had already been sitting there and had already existed."
In other words, that hostility towards "marginalized groups" existed before Trump's 2016 presidential campaign, but he encouraged it. That "animus," according to Mason's research, "uniquely draws" those "Trump voters" to him.
Mason told Kurtzleben, "When we control for partisanship, what we found is that people in 2011 who have negative views of these particular groups are much more likely to approve of Trump in 2018. They're not any more likely to approve of the Republican Party, to approve of Mitch McConnell or to approve of Paul Ryan."
According to Mason, "There isn't sort of an anti-White racism that's driving Democrats the way that there's anti-Black racism driving Trump support. There isn't an equivalent figure on the Democratic side. And, in fact, Trump is unique on the right."
Progressive firebrand pundit Mehdi Hasan, now an MSNBC host, has used the word "fascist" to describe Trump and the MAGA movement he has created. Mason never used the word "fascist" during her NPR appearance, but she did describe the Trumpified GOP of 2021 as "anti-democratic."
Mason warned, "What we're seeing is a real empowerment of this group of people that have, you know, truly anti-democratic attitudes and goals. And they have also taken control of basically the entire Republican Party at this point — not because all Republicans agree with them, but mainly because Republicans fear the voters that agree with them."