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“There is a social crisis in white America,” said Dorian Warren, a political analyst and former host of MSNBC’s “Nerding Out.”
“All the dysfunctions that have historically plagued black people are now also affecting poor whites,” Warren said, referencing poverty, lack of education, higher death rates and the scourge of drug addiction, among other social ills.
“For the first time, they think their children are going to have a worse life than they did.”
Warren, a fellow at the Roosevelt Institute, was one of the panelists during a wide-ranging Thursday evening discussion hosted by the Duke Council on Race and Ethnicity (DCORE), “The 2016 Election in Black and Brown.”
The panel also included Duke alumna Victoria DeFrancesco Soto, Ph.D. ’07, an MSNBC and Telemundo contributor; and Duke political science and African and African American Studies associate professor Kerry Haynie.
Mark Anthony Neal, a professor of black popular culture and DCORE co-director, moderated the conversation about the political power of Latinos, blacks, women, working-class whites and other ethnic groups.
“It’s troubling to watch as a political scientist,” said Haynie, referring to the racism and xenophobia marking Donald Trump’s campaign that many scholars thought was a relic of the past.
He said the election results will have an enormous effect on people of color. Citing a Pew study, Haynie said there is an increase in voter diversity as the demographics of the U.S. change and there are more eligible Latino voters.
“I think this growth is the answer to what we see from Trump and his followers,” Haynie said, attributing the zeal, for example, to enact voter ID laws to anxiety some whites feel due to the country’s changing demographics. “Where poor whites are hurting the most, they’ve been governed by Republicans.”
Warren predicted that anger over police killings of unarmed citizens will mobilize voters and that social movements, such as Black Lives Matter, could help determine the White House’s social and economic agenda.
“Progressive folks need to think about the appropriate strategy to hold the president accountable,” Warren said.
“Trump talking about ‘law and order’ is a reaction,” to the Black Lives Matter movement, Haynie said. “It remains to be seen whether that movement will show up at the polls Nov. 8.”
Haynie described “linked fate,” the idea that black people, no matter their socioeconomic class, will suffer the same ramifications of structural inequality and racism. Therefore, they tend to vote similarly, supporting Democrats, he said.
DeFrancesco Soto said that, to understand the interests of ethnic Latinos and how they will vote, it’s important to understand why they immigrated to the U.S.
“Some come for economic reasons. Mexicans and Dominicans tend to have higher poverty rates. Cubans, Guatemalans came over for political reasons. Their interests are going to be different off the bat,” DeFrancesco Soto said. “It’s easier to cast Latinos in the immigration bucket.”
She said Republicans had made inroads with the Latino community in past elections, pushing through legislation they favored, such as No Child Left Behind.
“There was a time when the party was on the cusp of really laying down a foundation with the Latino electorate,” DeFrancesco Soto said. “I believe core Latino Republicans would be receptive to a born-again Republican Party.”
She added that a newly leaked email from the Democratic Party with “needy Latinos” in the subject line underscores Latino leaders’ mistrust of Hillary Clinton.
“Latinos have had questions about Clinton. They feel they are being taken for granted,” she said.
In regards to Clinton’s reputation in general, Haynie said she does have “high negatives,” but some of the things pinned on her are not her own doing.
“A critique of President Bill Clinton’s policies should be just that, a critique of his policy. I think this only happens to women in politics — you get saddled with something your husband did,” Haynie said.
Neal added that there is a subset of people who cannot accept a woman being the face of the “American empire.” The panelists said that other countries have been more accepting of female leaders and perhaps that is indicative of the fragility of the country.
“The identity politics happening in this election is around white men,” Warren said. “There is a real feeling of loss that is not going away. I just want to turn to them (white men) and say, ‘It’s going to be OK. You still live in an empire.’”
The event was co-sponsored by The Graduate School and the Department of Political Science.
DCORE is an interdisciplinary association of centers, working groups and scholars who research the cultural, political, legal and social dimensions and consequences of racial and ethnic identity. For more information, visit sites.duke.edu/dcore.