By Greta Hallberg, Columnist
Last month, political scientist Lynn Vavreck came to Miami's campus. She's a professor at UCLA and writes for the Upshot, a political blog by the New York Times that I read pretty regularly. I was geeking out.
Her talk was about the 2016 election - a wacky one, to be sure - and focused primarily on the rise of Donald Trump. With Trump's candidacy, no rules apply. Political scientists have been wrong about his unexpected success at every stage of the election.
Vavreck explained Trump's popularity by examining the groups of likely Republican primary voters. In 2012, Romney did well among economic conservatives and moderates. Santorum won the Tea Partiers, Evangelicals and born-again Christians. Cruz's supporters are among the same vein - the ultraconservative niche groups. But Trump? He fares equally well among moderates and the far right. It's a total anomaly.
But Vavreck's hypothesis, supported by data, is that they've been looking at the wrong groups. It's less about political and religious ideology and more about their racial identity. Those who feel strongly connected to their white identity are more likely to support Trump. Those who experience racial anxiety, that is, those who feel discrimination against whites or feel threatened by other races, make up a strong base of Trump voters.
So Trump's white ethnocentric rhetoric isn't a new opinion among the American public. Trump is simply echoing the sentiment of a lot of voters on the "white" issue. He's capitalizing on this divide, revolutionizing the way that GOP candidates target different voter groups.
These people feel that they are losing their rights, that they are being targeted because they are white. Trump supporters feel disillusioned from Democrats, who are seen as extending rights to non-whites, and thus taking away their rights.
Vavreck's discussion of racial anxiety among Trump voters reminded me of an article in the Huffington Post: "'When You're Accustomed To Privilege, Equality Feels Like Oppression.'"
Sure, by extending rights to other peI hear this kind of conversation around college scholarships. The MTV documentary "White People" features a girl who is upset that she did not receive financial aid when so many of her non-white counterparts did. I'm not sure if it was need-based or merit-based, but this girl had such an air of entitlement when it came to her scholarship. In reality, more than two-thirds of all merit-based financial aid goes to Caucasian students, according to a 2011 study by FinAid.org.
Extending scholarships to minority groups does not take away scholarship money from whites. Sure, there might be a finite pool of money for financial aid, but it's a huge freaking pool. Giving immigrants, non-whites, non-straight people and even women rights does not take rights away from any other group. That just isn't how the rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution work.
I'm white. I'm straight. I come from a financially secure background. I know that by simply being born into my family, I have an immense privilege. I did nothing to deserve it, just like my friend born to drug dealers in inner-city Cleveland did nothing to deserve being born into his situation. I don't feel threatened by his success or his entry into grad school. In fact, he has worked harder to get into college than I ever had to.
Trump argues that "Mexicans are taking our jobs." Nobody is "stealing" jobs from anybody. Competitive markets, including the labor market, are what make capitalism, well, capitalism. Employing illegal immigrants a rate below the minimum wage goes against the law - I'm not advocating for that - but any rational business owner is going to try to cut costs in any way possible. That means employing people for the lowest possible wage, for which immigrants and minority groups are often willing to work.
Let's keep in mind that the 14th Amendment, the one that extends equal rights to all American citizens regardless of race, was passed in 1868, following the Civil War. The Civil Rights Act, which outlawed discrimination based on race, was passed nearly 100 years later in 1964.