Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trump's Lies Are White Nationalist Gospel

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Trump's Lies Are White Nationalist Gospel

Article excerpt

Trump's lies are white nationalist gospel

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This article was originally published on The Conversation, an independent and nonprofit source of news, analysis and commentary from academic experts. Disclosure information is available on the original site.

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Author: Jason Opal, Associate Professor of History, McGill University

U.S. President Donald Trump's bigotry is no longer in question. Most recently he has called Haiti, the largest Black nation in our hemisphere, a "shithole" whose people "all have AIDS."

The man's a racist, period. So are many of his fans.

The puzzle is how Trump came to be a symbol of national pride for evangelical Protestants who value strict morality and good manners. In 2016, 80 per cent of white evangelicals voted for a thrice-married vulgarian of no evident piety, a slightly higher level of support than they showed for choir boy Mitt Romney and born-again George W. Bush. Why?

The quick answer is that these conservatives wanted anyone but Hillary Clinton and knew that Trump would appoint pro-life judges. And yet they've mostly stuck with The Donald through a rough first year, suggesting a real affinity rather than a marriage of convenience.

If we take a broader and deeper view of American history, we find that evangelical voters and Donald Trump share a version of that history, a master narrative of a chosen nation with special powers. It's a long and twisted tale, a bloody saga torn from Scripture and sewn into too many American flags.

Pilgrims and founders

The story began with the New England Puritans, who saw themselves as pious seekers in a "heathen" land. The wars they waged against Indigenous peoples in the 1600s gave rise to best-selling captivity narratives, in which innocent white women endured long months in wild forests with the men who had just scalped their children.

The Ulster Scots who came to the middle and southern colonies of British North America in the 1700s had told similar tales about the savage Irish back home, and they easily recast the Creeks, Cherokees and Shawnees into the role of bloodthirsty infidels.

As men of the Enlightenment, the American Founders disliked such religious tribalism. They proudly called themselves "liberal," by which they meant open to the rest of the world. They thought of race in environmental rather than biological terms.

But they did not see non-white people as full members of an American "nation." That word meant not only political community but also the more intimate bonds of language and culture. (It comes from the Latin natio, birth).

Thomas Jefferson was not even sure if white Americans were a nation, given their diverse ethnicities. But he did call Blacks a hostile nation, an enemy within to go along with the Indigenous enemies beyond.

The War of 1812 was a watershed. …

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