In April, I asked Hillary Clinton if she planned to build on the country’s changing racial population by contesting Georgia and Arizona. She was noncommittal. A campaign donor who had read my book on the coming demographic revolution in America, Brown Is the New White, invited me to participate in a small roundtable discussion with her in San Francisco, where I asked her if her campaign was planning to expand the map of states it would contest. She acknowledged the potential opportunities brought about by the demographic shifts but was not prepared to commit to that strategy. This week, however, her campaign announced that they will, in fact, make a play for those rapidly changing Southern and Southwestern states. That’s great news. If the rest of the progressive movement now rallies to the cause over the next 87 days, we can drive a stake through the heart of the politics of racial resentment. After decades of Republicans using coded—and not-so-coded—appeals to white racial fears, defeating Trump and his unapologetic practice of demonizing people of color will definitively prove that there aren’t enough angry white people left in America to win a national election.
Redirecting $20 million from the roughly $500 million still to be spent by Democrats and progressives can turn the traditionally red states of Georgia and Arizona blue, crush the campaign of Donald Trump, increase the size of the Democratic majority in the Senate, and put in place the cornerstones of a future, practically impenetrable Electoral College fortress anchored in the swelling ranks of voters of color.
Up until now, conventional wisdom held that this election would be decided in the Rust Belt states of Ohio, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan where Trump, the logic goes, has an opportunity to win over enough angry white working-class voters to turn those states red. As a result, the Clinton campaign and its supportive independent allies have trained their firepower on those states, targeting them with tens of millions of dollars in paid ads. While those states likely do represent Trump’s only path to victory and absolutely need to be defended (which is best done by mobilizing voters of color rather than wooing conservative white swing voters), there is another, historically significant and highly strategic, step that can be taken for just a fraction of the amount of money that will be poured into ads in the Midwestern battleground states. That is, contesting those states in the South and Southwest where the growing numbers of people of color make Clinton competitive.
At its core, Trump’s campaign is a virulent and vicious backlash to the demographic revolution that has transformed the country and twice elected a black man to the most powerful position on the planet. Make no mistake about it; the clarion call that enabled Trump to trample all his Republican opponents was a battle cry to make America white again. As Slate writer Jamelle Bouie put it, Trump’s candidacy is the latest manifestation of a recurrent reality: “Throughout our history, a substantial minority of whites has responded to America’s always-shifting racial and economic terrain with a primal fear of being dominated, of finding themselves at the bottom of the hierarchy. It’s one of the strongest forces in American life.”
A recent, disturbing New York Times video of footage from Trump rallies laid bare the raw emotion, hatred and fear propelling the Republican nominee. One of the people in the video distills the essence of Trump’s appeal by saying, “I feel he’s the last chance we have to…preserve the culture I grew up in.”