In celebrating the liberation from Donald Trump’s misrule, we must not forget that Trump’s presidency embodied the raw politics of US white supremacy. He often spoke like a segregationist Southern governor of the 1960s, and, after losing the 2020 election, like a secessionist senator on the eve of the Civil War. To sustain the victory over Trump’s destructive politics, we must overcome the racism that brought him to power. That urgent challenge faces not only the United States, but many multi-ethnic societies around the world.

Trump sold a segment of American society — white, older, less educated, Southern and Western, suburban and rural, evangelical Christian — on the idea that they could reclaim America’s racist past. That group of voters, some 20–25% of American adults, became Trump’s ardent base in the 2016 election. That base was large enough for Trump to capture the Republican Party and then to squeak to victory in the Electoral College, despite losing the popular vote by three million.

Other quirks of American politics enabled Trump’s 2016 win. If a high proportion of Americans voted, as in countries where registration is automatic and voting is encouraged or even mandatory, Trump would not have come close to victory in 2016. But impediments to voting that burden African-Americans, the poor, and the young are a long-standing part of American politics, their purpose being to maintain the political and economic supremacy of wealthy white people. In short, their purpose is to enable the election of the likes of Trump.

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