These issues have likely shaped how Americans feel about where their country stands on race matters.
More than 65 percent of the public says racial and ethnic discrimination is a big problem in the United States, according to a Monmouth University poll released this week. The survey appears to mirror other recent reports on the topic. Nearly 60 percent of those surveyed recently told Gallup that they were somewhat dissatisfied or very dissatisfied with the state of race relations in America. And more than 60 percent of Americans say race relations in the United States are “generally bad,” according to a recent CBS news poll.
In many ways, this moment appears to be one of the most revealing about how Americans are responding to racism in recent history. Michael Eric Dyson, a Georgetown University sociology professor, told me at last week’s Aspen Ideas Festival that the nationwide protests against wherever systemic racism rears its head are “remarkable.”
“It is striking that we have seen yet another uprising, rebellion, resurgence and revival of a spirit of resistance that has barely been seen in this country since the civil unrest in the 1960s,” he said. “People keep asking me, ‘What’s different now?’ What’s different now is different now.”
“This is a global, if you will, acknowledgment to match the global pandemic. It’s a global explosion of consciousness and that is an attributable to our young, brilliant black people who have led the way,” Dyson added.
And to many Americans, if activists are to be given credit for helping Americans recognize the breadth of this country’s racism problem, Trump is responsible for making matters worse. Most Americans — 62 percent — say the president’s handling of the protests in response to the country’s racial issues has made situations worse, according to the Monmouth poll.
He has repeatedly attacked protesters, accusing them of being primarily motivated by their political differences with him while attempting to associate them with being part of anti-fascist groups with no proof. And he has taken to social media to double down on his unpopular stances on Confederate symbols despite the country as a whole — including some groups that have supported him — increasingly believing that the controversial symbols should be removed.
He elaborated on his view to The Washington Post’s Marc A. Thiessen:
They’re taking down everything. They’re taking down history, they’re taking down so much, Marc. They’re taking down everything and they call it ‘cancel culture.’ I don’t think it’s a beautiful term, but it’s actually very descriptive. . . . They want to cancel everything. They want to cancel the good and the bad. They started off by canceling things that were controversial, and I actually said years ago. . . . ‘Well, does that mean that George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are next?’ And it turns out that they are next. . . . I was sort of half-joking, and people are now saying ‘Trump was right.’ These people are crazy. They’ve gone stone-cold crazy.
All of this has come amid the pandemic, in which the president is widely viewed as responding poorly to a health crisis, as more than 130,000 people have died. But Trump has found a way to lean into racist tropes in the midst of it all. He has continued to refer to the coronavirus with names that Asian Americans have found offensive and that some argue have contributed to a spike in violence against members of their community.
As I previously wrote for The Fix, Trump has taken this time of national reflection on racism in America to stoke fears and anxiety in the Americans who support him most — and that often means leaning into racist ideas and tropes that are becoming increasingly unpopular. The president shows no sign of altering his course on these matters, and as a result, views of his handling of these national crises are likely to remain negative and could worsen. And the ramifications of that for an already unpopular president facing reelection could be detrimental as we get closer to Election Day.