As many have pointed out, this election and recent political events in Europe highlight just how strong a force racism and xenophobia still are in the modern developed world. What seems to go unremarked upon is how this is a distraction from the actually important struggle between the moneyed elites and the rest of us. It’s not the Mexicans stealing our jobs, it’s the bankers and CEOs sucking up all the productivity gains from the last thirty years. Class warfare is the decisive struggle of our time and whenever we take our eye of the ball we are succumbing to the oligarch’s feint.
The elites harnessing racism to divert attention from their looting and pillaging of the economy is, literally, the oldest trick in the book. The key is to play on humanities natural prejudices to present an ideal cause for all the things wrong with your life. How convenient that you already harbor a natural animus towards that group and now you learn that all along they were sabotaging your life. I don’t like to bring up Hitler, but in this case it is a salient and well-known extreme example of relieving mass economic distress via unleashing racial animosity that culminated in genocide.
Now it should be obvious that apart from being morally wrong, tapping into racism almost never produces the results promised. Many studies have shown that immigration is at worst neutral for the existing population and in many cases bolstered the wages of natural citizens. Furthermore from a logical standpoint, racism (and sexism) are obviously inefficient. I wrote about this before, but the best everything are not all white males. By putting up barriers you are limiting the talent pool you can draw from and reducing the efficiencies of comparative advantage.
So playing on racism is a classic red herring employed by the elite to distract people from the true cause of their distress, the elites. They have a disproportionate amount of power, even in a democracy, over the apparatus of government. Upon acquiring this power, they bend the rules in their favor even further to amass more power and wealth. The trend toward heightened wealth and income inequality in developed countries suggest a vicious feedback cycle where wealth begets social power which begets more wealth.
Thus, the central skirmish of modern (and often ancient) civilization is that of the weak and numerous versus the few and wealthy. The oligarchs know that they are in fact quite vulnerable and the 19th and early 20th centuries bear this out as the working class realized that their institutions were merely the tools of the already powerful and revolted. Even when revolutions did not succeed, they reduce the precious wealth of the elite. As such the oligarchs employ a divide and conquer strategy to divert the masses. As long as the lower classes fight among themselves they can’t turn on the ruling class.
Now so far I have talked in generalities, but this is exactly what we expect a Trump administration to be. He gets elected on racial anxiety and may make a few attempts at some of the more insane proposals meant to ameliorate that anxiety, but more than likely the morass of the U.S. government will stop him. He will likely have far more success implementing the tax cuts for the rich, deregulation and the gutting of aid to the poor that have also been planks of his campaign and that of the now dominant Republican party. So he throws a few sops to the masses and gets on with his real agenda, enriching himself and his friends at the expense of everyone else.
So good job America. You elected a terrible man and you aren’t going to get any of the things you wanted while the real enemies gorge themselves.