Barack Obama and Donald Trump sitting in the White House Oval Office on November 10, 2016.
Pete Souza/Wikimedia
argument / power

Welcome to the Second Redemption

The accomplishments of the first black president will be erased by a man who rose to power on slandering him.
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House Speaker Paul Ryan announced Wednesday that “this needs to be a time of redemption, not a time of recrimination.” But however hopefully the speaker meant it, the idea that America needs to be redeemed, like the notion that it needs to be made great again, rests on the notion that something has gone horribly wrong.

The notion that Trump’s victory, and the perception that society must be “redeemed” has nothing to do with a racist backlash might be comforting, but it flies in the face of available statistical evidence.

A Reuters survey in June found Trump supporters were more likely than Clinton supporters to see blacks as ‘criminal,’ ‘unintelligent,’ ‘lazy’ and ‘violent,’” though Clinton supporters were certainly not immune to those prejudices. Analysis by the RAND Corporation’ Presidential Election Panel Survey found that “Trump performs best among Americans who express more resentment toward African Americans and immigrants and who tend to evaluate whites more favorably than minority groups.” And even those Trump voters who did not approve of his remarks and policy proposals aimed at blacks, Muslims, and Latinos did not find them disqualifying.

The election of Donald Trump, and the complete dominance of the Republican Party both in the federal government and in the states, may usher in a new era of Redemption, one which could see the seemingly astounding racial progress of having a black president relegated to little more than symbolism.

The federal government currently protects people’s ability to find a home, to make a living, to cast a ballot, to worship freely, to drink clean water and breathe clean air. A Trump administration can leave these rights unprotected for the people most vulnerable to having them denied because of the color of their skin or their faith, before having to ask Congress for a single vote on legislation.

The conservative backlash against Obama limited much of his agenda after the first two years to things that could be achieved by the executive branch.
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