Donald Trump will now be President of the United States. Many people are concerned that Trump will undo much of Barack Obama's policy legacy. While true, this does not distinguish Trump from any other Republican candidate. But Trump is a different candidate, and he is so mainly because he ran without a trace of compromise towards America's burgeoning minority populations, who he consistently demonized. The results are evident in the exit polls, where Trump won the white vote by record margins.
There are many intersecting reasons for his victory: class, gender, anti-establishment grievance, and economic factors. But ethnic identity seems to have been decisive. A white America was an integral part of the Trump campaign message (and even more so for many of his supporters), and despite his comments and behavior towards women, 53% of white women tellingly voted for him anyway compared with only 43% for Hillary Clinton.
Now victorious, there's only one problem for these folks: whites are a majority today, but they won't be for long. Demography is destiny, and American minority groups are growing faster than whites are. By 2042, according to Census Bureau projections, the United States will become a majority-minority country. That's scarcely a generation away. If whites are to maintain political control of America, as they seem determined to do, America will need to become less democratic and it will need to have fewer non-whites. This will primarily be achieved through systematic voter suppression — in some U.S. states, this has already begun — and the mass removal of millions of human beings based on ethnicity. This is generally referred to as ethnic cleansing.
This sounds alarmist. It isn't. If there is an example of a majority power group losing its political power demographically and surrendering it peacefully, I am not aware of it. Civil war or illiberal/anti-democratic suppression are more common outcomes. There are several ways this could occur, and none of them are pretty, for they all involve the brutal realignment of citizens with borders in order to protect the sovereignty of the national identity group in power.
Despite accounting for their lowest share ever, whites were still 70% of the electorate in 2016. But demography is like an oil tanker: it has to be stopped miles before it even sees the shore because it takes so long to slow down. So the deportations will have to begin now, something intrinsically understood by those who favored a candidate promising to build a wall with Mexico, ban an entire religious group from entering the country, and remove 11 million people from American territory. And as the deportations become more futile in coming years, they can be expected to increase in intensity and cruelty, ultimately targeting not just undocumented migrants but citizens as well.
This is all around the world
This, sadly, is normal. In recent times, we've seen numerous attempts by governments to fight population demographics. Most of these involved systematic oppression, ethnic cleansing, or both, often in previously peaceful, stable, and diverse places. Within my lifetime, conflicts from Kosovo to Bahrain to Croatia to Apartheid South Africa to Iraq to Cote d'Ivoire to Syria to Rwanda have all featured mismatches between political/military power and demographic power. The results have ranged from suppression to genocide.
Whatever you think America stands for, or the West, or liberal democracy, just bear in mind that these things happen all around the world, and there is no reason why they cannot happen here. (After all, for African-Americans prior to the Civil Rights Movement, they really did happen here.) Consider America's institutions and ask yourself, under one-party control of all three branches of government, which among them would successfully prevent a sustained push towards such outcomes. With the end of the Voting Rights Act and a retrograde Supreme Court, active voter suppression can now join mass incarceration and gerrymandering to form a triumvirate of minority disenfranchisement. The President can also severely restrict migration, including from specific places, and, as we quietly saw with the Obama Administration, engage in mass deportations.
In fact, the sorts of leaders who do these things are globally ascendant. Illiberalism, authoritarianism, and nationalism, often marching hand in hand, have swept the world in a wave, from the Philippines to Turkey to Russia to Hungary and, now, to the United States. Each of these countries has its own unique characteristics, but they all have one thing in common: the consolidation of power behind an illiberal strongman advocating a nationalist platform.
The rise of European far-right parties is the next wave. It began with Brexit and it will not stop there. The Netherlands has an election next year, and current frontrunner Geert Wilders wants to ban the Quran and close mosques. France has an election next year, and Marine Le Pen's National Front is surging. Austria's forthcoming re-run of its invalidated May presidential poll, where far-right candidate Norbert Hofer nearly won, may yet produce the European Union's first far-right head of state.
Why is this happening?
There are two types of nationalism at play: ethnonationalism and economic nationalism, or, put bluntly, fear of immigrants and fear of trade.
Ethnonationalism can be expected to emerge any time there is large-scale demographic change in a country that threatens the identity of the power group. Far-right parties in Europe have been pretty open about this, whether it's Hungary's Viktor Orban referring to refugees as "poison" or the head of Austria's far-right party calling German Chancellor Angela Merkel "the most dangerous politician in Europe" due to her migration policy. For these folks, the immigrant is a fundamental threat to the identity of the nation. They are unapologetic in their desire to see more homogeneous countries.
Economic nationalism is more complicated. A combination of global factors have buffeted the working class in many countries for years, bleeding away job security while widening income inequality. An easy target is to blame foreigners, treaties, trade pacts, or international organizations such as the European Union, all of which are un-elected and therefore face a democracy deficit. Any capable populist demagogue can get extensive mileage from such tactics regardless of the facts.
All of this raises significant questions about future policymaking in the European Union and the United States. Perhaps trade deals will need to be abandoned, given the backlash they provoke. Perhaps migration will have to be forcibly halted, even for refugees, for if it isn't, right-wing parties will continue to seize power and ultimately dismantle the Union. (Le Pen and Wilders have promised Frexit and Nexit referendums for their own countries.) Perhaps this is even for the best: with the likes of Wilders and Le Pen in charge, refugees may not be safe in Europe anymore.
And for America?
My own country, a nation of immigrants, a nation that has from its inception been defined by those who journeyed to its shores to pursue their dreams, is now at a crossroads. Far more diverse than the typical European state, it must decide how widely to define the identity of "American." I have long hoped that America would continue to define the term outwards to encompass ever more groups, as it did in the past (including for my own ancestors). The identity politics at play in the 2016 Presidential election, however, suggest that it will not.
A lot can change in a quarter century, but let's be clear: white majority rule in America cannot be maintained by liberal means for much longer, and many of those who voted in this year's poll know it. The question is, did Trump win primarily due to ethnonationalism or economic nationalism? Or, put another way, how badly does America want to remain majority white?