Moving Beyond ‘MAGA’? – The New York Times

From the moment he rode down that escalator in June 2015, Donald Trump has peddled a muscular political message packaged in gauzy nostalgia. An argument for the future wrapped in a yearning for the past.

Make America Great Again. It’s a promise to return the country to past glory. A time of strength abroad. A time of prosperity at home. A time of “so much winning.”

A time that never really existed.

The past wasn’t all that great if you were, say, brown, black, Indigenous, L.G.B.T.Q., Jewish, Muslim, a woman, an immigrant, or plenty of other people. For a large swath of the country, the present is far from perfect, too. But few of them would want to turn back the clock to the days of more segregation, more open discrimination, more people in the closet.

Mr. Trump’s message focuses on the economy, but also taps into a vein of white political grievance. There have been a number of studies showing that’s exactly what happened in the 2016 election. Many white, Christian and male voters, academic research suggests, supported Mr. Trump not because of financial anxiety but because they felt their social status was at risk.

Those concerns were deeply intertwined with race. Support for Mr. Trump was closely linked to a belief that groups like whites, Christians or men faced more discrimination than groups like minorities, Muslims or women, according to various analyses of the election.

Public polling today indicates that the number of voters sympathetic to that view is shrinking — fast.

Public opinion on race and criminal justice issues has been creeping leftward since the fatal shooting of Trayvon Martin in 2012. The killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis last month supercharged that shift, as my colleagues at the Upshot detailed on Wednesday.

Over the last two weeks, support for Black Lives Matter increased by nearly as much as it had over the previous two years, according to data from Civiqs, an online survey research firm. A series of polls shows a significant increase from just a few years ago in the belief that African-Americans face a lot of discrimination, and that it’s a “big problem.” A majority of Americans say that black Americans are more likely to be mistreated by the police, and that the mass protests in cities nationwide are justified.

“In my 35 years of polling, I’ve never seen opinion shift this fast or deeply,” Frank Luntz, a veteran Republican pollster, tweeted this week. “We are a different country today than just 30 days ago.”

Even within some of the most culturally conservative corners of the country, views are shifting. This week, NASCAR banned Confederate flags at races. The military is open to renaming its bases named after Confederate leaders. Statues of Confederate solders, slave owners and race-baiting politicians are falling like dominoes.

The country is changing; Mr. Trump is not.

Rather than acknowledge the realities of systemic racism, he attacks protesters and militarizes the area around the White House. He has yet to deliver a speech devoted to race or reconciliation, instead posting near-daily tweets extolling “Law and Order!” He’s returning to the campaign trail on Juneteenth (June 19), a day dedicated to honoring black emancipation, in Tulsa, Okla., a city with a devastating history of racial violence. He lends credibility to the views of white nationalists on Twitter.

Mr. Trump delivered some of his most extensive comments on the protests at an appearance today at a Dallas church, but his strongest sympathies were reserved for the police, as he repeated his call to “dominate the street.” He said he would sign an order to encourage better police practices, but stayed away from broader proposals to address racial injustice.

“We have to work together to confront bigotry and prejudice wherever they appear, but we will make no progress and heal no wounds by falsely labeling tens of millions of decent Americans as racist or bigots,” he said.

Though Mr. Trump’s hard-core supporters stand with him, other Republicans are following the country’s lead. Senator Mitt Romney marched with protesters on Sunday, trying to create a permission structure for Republican voters. Acknowledging that voters want action, Mitch McConnell, the Senate majority leader, tapped Senator Tim Scott of South Carolina, the lone black Republican in his ranks, to lead an effort on how to address police misconduct.

Mr. Trump’s November opponent, Joe Biden, once declared that “nothing would fundamentally change” under his presidency, and he faced criticism during the Democratic primary over his legislative record on race and nostalgia for the past. But Mr. Biden, long a reliable ally of law enforcement, supports overhauling the police, as does nearly all of his party.

Few Democrats have embraced the calls to “defund the police” issued by activists. But there is a growing sense that something fundamental has gone awry in America.

In his inauguration address, Mr. Trump described “American carnage,” outlining a doomsday vision of a country ravaged by economic disaster, violence and fear.

For many Americans, that carnage has now arrived, visited upon us by a virus, a recession and social unrest. For others, including many of those protesting, the carnage was always there.

If Mr. Trump loses in November, the carnage may be self-inflicted. –Lisa Lerer

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