Donald Trump’s victory in the presidential elections of 2016 marked an unprecedented revival of the far-right agenda on a political level. Many of his speeches directly or indirectly led to the rise of racistic, misogynistic, xenophobic, and anti-immigrant sentiments among the president’s supporters (Pettigrew 116). His popularity thrived on disruption and division by pitting native-born Americans against aliens, the working class against the disadvantaged, whites against blacks, as well as Latinos against whites (Karpman and Miller 95). On the other hand, it also raised a significant wave of opposition and harsh criticism from other Americans, including many celebrities and journalists. As a result, the divide and antagonism between the U.S. citizens have reached a critical point. This is because Trumpism inflamed practically everyone by vilifying, criticizing, condemning, defaming, and accusing others of committing atrocities.
Trump courted white working-class voters by promising to restore the old industrial economy by renegotiating trade accords and lowering import taxes, as well as deporting illegal immigrants. Additionally, he promised to address the issues related to business dissolution and immigration to third-world countries and increased unemployment among non-college whites (Norrlof 88). Consequently, such a political strategy indeed caused wealth to grow among this stratum of Americans (Lieberman et al.). Yet, it also revealed and intensified the existing social conflicts in two main ways, namely the conflict between blue-collar employees and capital owners and between the dominant ethnicity and minority groups. In this regard, from the sociological perspective, the phenomenon of Trumpism and its consequences can be best explained through the theoretical lenses proposed by Karl Marx and William Edward Burghardt Du Bois.
Marx’s Views and Trumpism
One of the most fundamental sociological theories of social conflict is Marx’s notion that class war between workers and the bourgeoisie is intrinsic to an industrial society and capitalist economy. According to Marx, capitalism was a system of production in which capitalism holds power and wealth and exploits the workers who produce it (Poulantzas 25). Marx’s theory was based on two classes in capitalist societies, which were known as the bourgeoisie oppressing the working class, the ‘proletariat.’ Capitalism did not just appear; rather, it evolved out of a coming together of events and ideas.
It is fundamental to recall that Marx saw society’s organization in terms of its central classes and that the scuffle between them was the engine of transformation within that structure. The structure was an offshoot of as well as a contributor to the class struggle. Marx will therefore view this occurrence of Trumpism as the rise of social classes as he regards a class by the ownership of property. Such ownership gives a person the ability to keep others out of the property and exploit it for personal gain. Marx would focus on the two major groups of society: the bourgeoisie and the proletariat, in connection to Trumpism (Lebow 398). Because Marx views a class as a theoretical and formal relationship between individuals, this is the case. However, people form classes to the degree that their interests engage them in a battle with the opposing class, such as the divide caused by Trump’s ascent between whites and blacks.
Du Bois’ Views and Trumpism
In Du Bois’ work ‘Black Reconstruction,’ racial oppression is a means of economic exploitation. It facilitates the extreme exploitation of one group of black Americans and the class oppression of working individuals by diving the working class along racial lines. According to Du Bois, racism is powerful when it is tied to the material interest of the most dominant class in society (Du Bois and Jones Mack 1880). Because Trumpism has resulted in the formation of classes between whites and blacks, it provides fertile ground for the conceptions of class and race to flourish. As a result, class, as put by Du Bois, can assist explain how people who profit the most from capitalism handle capitalism’s most fundamental political issues. On this landscape, race, as Du Bois contended, underpins capitalism in a similar way. The cornerstone of capitalism was laid by Du Bois’s Reconstruction of Reconstruction (Prior). This may be used to the emergence of Trumpism as a source of reconsideration in the aftermath of political and economic transformations, as well as in the future. Class and ethnicity are important terms for activists of workers and persons of color on the margins.
Comparison of Marx’s and Du Bois’ Frameworks
There is much evidence that could point to augment and argue the Trumpism phenomenon as the most racial error in modern American. For instance, the ex-president of the U.S. told African-American congresswomen to return to their homelands and refused to condemn white supremacists during a political debate (Smith). He further created policies that marginalized people of color. Trump supported expressed very hardline views on immigration since the very start of his presidency in his rhetoric and executive policies. His rhetoric policies on immigrants from Marx and Du Bois perspectives are embodied entirely in southern, who are poorly educated, and rustic working-class white people. The immigration policies were based on racism that foreshadowed what is now called intersectionality.
Du Bois’ critique of American capitalism proposes an alternative framework for conceptualizing capitalism than Marx’s proposed class structures. According to the theories, capitalism generates two proletariats: white and black workers. While Negro workers in America suffer as a result of the capitalist system’s inherent inequalities, white employees experience the lowest and most fatal amount of pain. According to Du Bois, capitalism provided the second proletariat, or white workers, with a police duty in regard to the first proletariat (Thompson). He supposed that white labor was hoodwinked into a for-profit system centered on the color social group during Black Liberation.
Unlike Marx, Du Bois saw race as well as the state as essential components of capitalism. During Black Reconstruction, the state was perceived from two perspectives. Europe and the United States defined worldwide white supremacy. According to Du Bois, capitalism’s supremacy was due as much to the political alignment and efforts of white workers as it was to the capitalists (Myers 31). Putting equivalent responsibility for industrialist oppression on the democratic majority, as is required in an egalitarianism, is a substantial shift in perception from censuring the dominant class for the majority of society’s problems. From Du Bois’ perspective of capitalist organization, there was no alternative to addressing as well as conquering the illogicalities between the two workers, whether for collectivism or abolitionist democracy.
Overall, Karl Marx and Du Bois, two of sociology’s most prominent thinkers, give close attention to the issue of inequality in the context of class and race. The dominant position of the top class over the working class, according to Marx, is the cause of social inequality. He also argues that class antagonism, which is linked to labor division, drives societal development. Du Bois, on the other hand, emphasizes the need to understand the socially created character of racial relations in American culture. Therefore, if Marx would consider Donald Trump as a savior of the American proletariat, Du Bois would argue that although the ex-president increased the white working-class members’ well-being, his policies marginalized people of color. As a result, Du Bois would conclude that Trumpism not only intensified the conflict between capitalists and the working-class but also increased race-based antagonism within the proletariat.
Du Bois, William Edward Burghardt, and H. Jones Mack. Black Reconstruction in America: Toward a History of the Part Which Black Folk Played in the Attempt to Reconstruct Democracy in America, 1860-1880. Routledge, 2017.
Karpman, Hannah, and Josh Miller. “Social Class and Social Work in the Age of Trump.” Smith College Studies in Social Work, vol. 90, no. 1-2, 2020, pp. 79-95.
Lebow, David. “Trumpism and the Dialectic of Neoliberal Reason.” Perspectives on Politics, vol. 17, no. 2, 2019, pp. 380-398.
Lieberman, Robert, et al. “Trumpism and American Democracy: History, Comparison, and the Predicament of Liberal Democracy in the United States.” Comparison, and the Predicament of Liberal Democracy in the United States (2017).
Myers, Ella. “Beyond the Psychological Wage: Du Bois on White Dominion.” Political Theory, vol. 47, no. 1, 2019, pp. 6-31.
Norrlof, Carla. “Hegemony and Inequality: Trump and the Liberal Playbook.” International Affairs, vol. 94, no. 1, 2018, pp. 63-88.
Pettigrew, Thomas F. “Social Psychological Perspectives on Trump Supporters.” Journal of Social and Political Psychology, vol. 5, no. 1, 2017, pp. 107-116.
Poulantzas, Nicos. Classes in Contemporary Capitalism. Verso Books, 2018.
Prior, David. Reconstruction in a Globalizing World. Fordham University Press, 2018.
Smith, Allan. “Trump Says Congresswomen of Color Should ‘Go Back’ and Fix the Places They ‘Originally Came From‘.” NBC News, 2019.
Thompson, J. Phillip. “Forging a Unified Proletariat: Relocating Working Class Agency.” Reconstruction and the Arc of Racial (in) Justice. Edward Elgar Publishing, 2018.