I Fear That We Are Witnessing the End of American Democracy’

The frank racism of the contemporary Republican agenda is on display at the R.N.C.

By Thomas B. Edsall

Mr. Edsall contributes a weekly column from Washington, D.C. on politics, demographics and inequality.

  • NY Times, Aug. 26, 2020

The center-right political coalition in America — the Republican Party as it stands today — can be described as holding two overarching goals: First, deregulation and reductions in corporate and other tax liabilities — each clearly stated on the White House website — and second, but packing a bigger punch, the preservation of the status quo by stemming the erosion of the privileged status of white Christian America.

For those who want confirmation of Republican accomplishments along economic lines, the Brookings Institution has provided a helpful deregulatory tracker. And The Times has published a thorough examination of Trump’s achievements in cutting taxes for the rich — not only the “big, beautiful” tax bill of 2017, but also this year’s “Tax-Break Bonanza Inside the Economic Rescue Package.”

The most important issue driving Trump’s ascendance, however, has not been the economy but race.

Last week, I argued that for Democrats the importance of ethnicity and race has grown, not diminished, since the mid-1960s. The same thing is true for Republicans — and many of the least obvious, or least comprehensible, aspects of Republican political strategy have to do with the party’s desire to cloak or veil the frank racism of the contemporary Republican agenda.

Robert P. Jones, the founder and C.E.O. of the Public Religion Research Institute, in his 2014 book, “The End of White Christian America,” described the situation this way:

America’s still segregated modern life is marked by three realities: First, geographic segregation has meant that — although places like Ferguson and Baltimore may seem like extreme examples — most white Americans continue to live in locales that insulate them from the obstacles facing many majority-black communities. Second, this legacy, compounded by social self-segregation, has led to a stark result: the overwhelming majority of white Americans don’t have a single close relationship with a person who isn’t white. Third, there are virtually no American institutions positioned to resolve these problems. Social segregation persists in virtually all major American institutions.

Firm allegiance to the conservative agenda has become crucial to the ability of Trump and the Republican Party to sustain the loyalty of an overwhelmingly white coalition that experiences itself as besieged and under the threat of losing power. The time when a major political party could articulate a nakedly racist agenda is long past, although Trump comes as close as possible.

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