Columnist explains how the RNC 'dressed up' the fury 'smoldering at the center of the populist Republican Party'
During the 2020 Republican National Convention last week, it was painfully clear that President Donald Trump was emphasizing white grievance along with fear-mongering. Some of the speakers tried to soften Trump’s image and show empathy, including First Lady Melania Trump and White House Senior Adviser Ivanka Trump (the president’s daughter). But journalist David Ignatius, in his Washington Post column, stresses that Trumpism continues to be a very bitter and angry ideology.
Republicans, Ignatius writes, “dressed up their rage in prettier colors at this year’s convention.”
“Speakers from First Lady Melania Trump to Vice President Pence tried to make the GOP sound like a party of healing and tolerance,” Ignatius explains. “But smoldering at the center of the populist Republican Party, there’s still the bright orange ball of fury that is Donald Trump — wounded and angry and promising white men in his trademark, code-worded slogan that he’s going to ‘Make America Great Again.’”
The United States, Ignatius stresses, is a very “wounded” country in the Trump era. But he applauds former Vice President Joe Biden, the 2020 Democratic presidential nominee, for calling out Trump’s racism as well as violence at protests. And he warns that Trumpian rage is as strong now as it was four years ago.
“When historians try to understand what happened to the United States in these years, they will study what spawned the Trump spasm of rage,” Ignatius argues. “Perhaps the most striking demographic change in the years preceding his election was the catastrophic decline in the health, income and cohesion of white men without college educations. That group voted 64% for Trump in 2016, making it one of his largest voting blocs, according to the Pew Research Center. The best account of this white collapse is ‘Deaths of Despair and the Future of Capitalism,’ published this year by economists Anne Case and Angus Deaton.”
Research by Case and Deaton showed how high suicide rates have become, in recent years, among whites who lack a college degree. And Ignatius cites “the loss of income and respect for working-class white men” as one of the things that fuels the anger and bitterness of Trumpism.
“For white men without a college degree,” Ignatius explains, “their ‘median earnings lost 13% of their purchasing power between 1979 and 2017,’ even as per capita national income rose 85%, write Case and Deaton…. A freewheeling democracy that prizes individualism is our great American gift. But it’s also why we need good leaders so badly — to hold together and avoid the abyss of social disintegration.”