After a young black protester was dragged out of one of his rallies last week—getting sucker-punched by a 78-year-old white man on his way out—Donald Trump looked out at the jeering, seething, booing crowd in front of him. “Nasty, nasty!” he said. A plaintive look came over Trump’s face.
“Why are they allowed to do things that we’re not allowed to do, can you explain that to me?” he said fretfully, pointing his right index finger upward and jouncing his hand up and down. “Really a disgrace.”
It was a potent summary of the identity politics that seem to form a significant part of Trump’s appeal: the idea that they, the others, enjoy privileges, resources, and status to which we are denied access. It is a sentiment I have repeatedly heard from the dozens of Trump supporters I have met over the past eight months I have spent covering his campaign. More complicated than the overt bigotry of, say, the Ku Klux Klan, it is a form of racial resentment based on historic white entitlement and a backlash to the upsurge in leftist identity politics that has marked American politics in the age of Obama.
I was with Trump in Alabama and Georgia last month, in the days after he caused an uproar by briefly declining to disavow the support offered to him by David Duke. When I asked his fans about it, they repeatedly brought up the Black Lives Matter movement, asserting that politicians should be pressed to denounce all race-based agitators, not just those representing white people. Why are they allowed to do things that we’re not allowed to do?