When Steve Bannon left the White House, he made a remark that generated a piece in the NYTimes asking "What if he's right?" The remark was that if the Democrats concentrated on racism, the Republicans would win the midterm elections. The more Democrats get distracted from economics, the easier it is for Republicans.
Why? Mainly because a lot of racism conversations center a lot on PC, and PC appears to be what conservatives hate about liberals above all else - PC demonizes them and they view it as a violation of Free Speech. PC is what enables White guys to feel like victims, and nothing activates people like perceived victimhood. And these White guys are angry enough about it not only to vote for Trump but to continue supporting him in spite of everything, no matter what he does.
If Trump buys into what Bannon said, and keep in mind that Bannon had a lot to do with Trump's wildly improbable win in 2016, what's the most logical thing he can do to get reelected? Keep the Democrats focused on racism, which costs Trump nothing with his angry core voters; and especially keep the forces most worried about PC as active as possible and as extreme as possible.
I can't tell you if Trump is smart enough to take Bannon's advice. All I can tell you is that this hypothesis does something nothing else I've seen does: It makes a whole lot of Trump's behavior make complete sense.
He can't look like a completely blatant racist. He needs a little deniability.
The extent to which he needs to look like one is the extent to which he continues to let the White guys know that he considers them to be victims.
This is how he conducted his campaign. This is why he treated Black Lives Matter like this, it's why he suggested the Muslim ban, it's why he's overwhelmingly supportive of whatever the police do, and it's why he pushed the Wall. Hell, this even accounts for the whole Happy Holidays/War on Christmas idiocy.
It is electorally more important for him to keep reinforcing that he knows White guys are victims than it is for him to appear honest, competent, or ethical.
Look at how Trump handled Charlottesville. He was very careful, even to the point of reversing himself, to cast the KKK and Nazis as victims as well as as perpetrators.
Look particularly at the statues issue. The statues issue is perfect for him because it's one area where liberals are guaranteed to overreach to the point of making White guys feel like victims, playing right into Trump's hands. There's a distinction to be drawn about statues, one I've made myself and one I've heard on the Daily Show: It is one thing to remove or move statues of people whose primary claim to fame is treason in the cause of preserving slavery; it's quite another to remove monuments of all sorts to people famous for doing great things for America but who also did awful things, like owning slaves. We've already seen this is Britain recently where there has been an outcry to take down a statue of Admiral Nelson because he treated Indians (Asian, not American)terribly. So many Americans key to founding and preserving the United States did terrible things or were racists (including Lincoln)that if we de-memorialize them all we'll have very few people left to thank for giving us and preserving our country. Going down this road will make White guy victimhood skyrocket as they say all these Others are targeting every eminent White male historical figure and will tear down the Washington Monument and rename anything and everywhere named after Washington, Jefferson, Madison, and Columbus.
Whether or not this is true, it will be a great tool to get out the vote because there normally aren't liberal voices correcting liberal excesses - the excesses are too unimportant to us, even if we disagree with them. That means we can be painted as agreeing or at least as complicit. This was the case for flag burning, an issue which was used successfully for Republican organizing/fundraising for decades.
So what do we do? If we just ignore racism, we could be in for a year and a half of more Trayvon Martins.
If White guys are responsible for getting Trump and other Republicans elected, we have to figure out how to shake some of these White guys loose. Concentrating on economic issues is one way. Another has to do with how we talk about racism.
Basic psychology will tell you that people are least receptive while being attacked. Being attacked makes people defensive, and conceding a point while being attacked is usually humiliating. If we're going to shake any of these voters loose, we need them receptive.
If you were to ask Trump-supporting White guys what they thought of feminism, they'd probably give you an answer involving "feminazis" or something along those lines. However, I think if you asked most of them if women not getting equal pay for equal work was right, they'd tell you No, it isn't.
It matters how we frame things. It matters what terminology we use and also what terminology we avoid, but avoiding terminology does not meet avoiding ideas.
The objection I'm likely to hear is that these White guys don't deserve our sensitivity. True, but irrelevant because we deserve a better government and, in order to get one, we need their votes. It is a mistake to assume that we can't get them - not all of them, but enough of them. If we couldn't, Obama could not have been elected once. He was elected twice.
They're not all monsters. Some of them, sure, like the guys who marched in Charlottesville and the President who gave them his support. A whole lot of them may be insensitive self-centered jerks but some of those jerks have consciences and some of them are concerned with justice where they see it.
If we want to win elections, helping them see it would be a good idea.