Americans are scared enough

Before the US congressional elections"White Anxiety" - The fear of whites

"Build this wall ..."

Donald Trump in the election campaign. Here is a picture from 2016, when he was finally elected president. His mantra: "Immigration", protection against illegal immigration and "recapture the real America". That's what convinced people. That was his brand essence in 2016, so he won. And he will be again this year when he campaigns for Republican candidates for the Senate and House of Representatives. Trump: "You know it: if necessary, I'll send the military to protect our southern border."

"Immigration must be done right"

In the election campaign, those candidates who want to make the borders impermeable with Trump have the best chances with the Republicans. Who write "Our America for us" and "Make America strong again" on their flags. When you talk to people on the go, no topic is as emotionally charged as "immigration". "I think we have to solve the immigration problem. Above all, the problem of illegal immigration," says Rosalinda Spinoza.

Rosalinda Spinoza lives right on the border with Mexico, has elected Trump and is now voting for the Republican candidate. Here in Del Rio, Texas, over 60 percent of the population is Hispanic. There you see immigration differentiated. Knows that it won't work without workers from the south, maybe has relatives on the other side of the border.

"Immigration is important. I have no problem with you coming here and living here. But it has to be done right. But have your papers in order. Then you are more than welcome."

Immigration, yes, but legal, please. With papers, regulated. Here it is not the stranger who is scared, who is not stranger at all, but something that cannot be calculated. "I live very close to the border and my family's safety is at risk."

Family members meet at the U.S.-Mexico border (AFP / Herika Martinez)

Who are the people who care so much about a homogeneous America as a goal that they put other concerns aside? The most important core target group: The white working class in the country. Whites without a college degree are the largest group of voters. They make up 44 percent of the electorate.

But not only they feel addressed, says Vanessa Williams, political scientist at the Brookings Institute in Washington: "Trump's supporters are predominantly white, but come from all economic classes. We look closely at the poorer voters because they seem to vote against their own interests . The poor would benefit more from a democratic government because it invests more in the welfare system. "

2044 - a striking date

So there has to be something that is more important to them. The central point: sociological studies have clearly shown that many of these people often make their decisions on the basis of fear. And there is now a technical term for it, "White Anxiety".

There is a date that is almost symbolic of "White Anxiety": 2044. By then at the latest, whites will make up less than 50 percent of the population in the USA. Then the former majority, to which everything was oriented, becomes a minority. "To the minority in their own country," many of them would say.

"I'm not afraid. Well, and you have to make an effort to become the majority. With us Texans. We're a lot," says Donald Chaddy. He lives in McCamey, a small street village in Texas in the middle of the desert. Essentially an intersection, a couple of gas stations, restaurants with big burgers and steaks. An ardent Trump admirer. He trusts because he promises to restore some of the old values ​​and the old order. Trump supporters mobilize: The president relies on the same brand essence as in 2016, protection against illegal immigration (imago / Zuma Press)

But: people like him are actually becoming less and less when viewed across the country. Says William Emmons, chief economist at the State Bank of Missouri in St. Louis, "This group is declining - both in size and in comparison to others. In their financial situation, their income and especially in terms of wealth."

Emmons has examined where the various population groups stand today in economic terms, how they have changed and how their environment has changed. And since people perceive changes more sensitively than a certain state, he concentrated on these changes: "The gap between whites on the one hand and blacks and Hispanics on the other hand, both without a university degree, is getting smaller. Just as the gap is getting smaller overall."

Imbalance in salaries

The social order in the lower and middle middle class has basically remained the same over the past few decades. Whites with a college degree earn far more and have far more wealth than those without. Blacks and Hispanics with college degrees still earn less, on average, and have fewer wealth than whites without college.

But it is precisely this gap that is currently closing. And there are reasons for this: Globalization, exacerbated by the post-2007 recession, has made better-paying manual jobs disappear. In the good service areas - banks, insurance companies, lower management in many companies - you need at least a bachelor's degree. And there is an increasing number of minorities with a university degree. For the others, it was mainly cheap jobs that remained.

"The white working class sees that the world has changed. The competition on the labor market has become tougher. Globalization has also changed the type of jobs. This affects those with simple school-leaving qualifications hardest because there are fewer and fewer typical middle-class jobs . "

You have to keep in mind that Americans have to take care of themselves much more than Germans: Is our health insurance enough, or will we become poor in the event of an accident? - How do we pay for our children's school or university? - What can we save for old age? How do we create it so that it stays that way? "These are topics of daily conversation. Of course in all sections of the population. But the white middle class sees itself threatened for the first time. Is afraid that their children might be less well off than themselves. And that they lose their traditional place in society.

"There are even signs that the death rate is rising. The birth rate is falling for all whites, but especially in this group. It is falling for home ownership, marriage rate, that is, families with two adults. Health is particularly noticeable. A clear decrease in how members of the white working class feel healthy. "

Life expectancy of the white middle class is falling

In addition to the economic situation, William Emmons also examined the question of how well people are doing beyond that. And this is where this surprising development becomes apparent: that life expectancy is falling is quite unusual for an industrialized country outside of wars. A huge opioid crisis, i.e. pain reliever addiction, is rampant primarily among the white middle class and contributes to it. Over two million are addicted. 40,000 die each year from overdoses.

"When you're not so sure about the bright future, you cling to your status for strengths. And being a white person in the United States has always given you advantages."

It's also about identity. Until a few years ago, immigration meant assimilation, says Pat Buchanan, former head of communications for Ronald Reagan, himself a presidential candidate and now a conservative author. Those who came were guided by the world of whites and adapted to it: "We used to have a melting pot. They learned American literature and language, American history and American heroes, American holidays. We all had largely the same Judeo-Christian values. And so we had a nation, a country, a people. And that was a great achievement. "

Before the federal court in Cleveland / Ohio in May 2018: Relatives and victims of the opioid epidemic are demanding billions to finance rehab centers (Deutschlandradio / Lorenz Rollhäuser)

That has changed. Society is divided into numerous individual groups, each of which wants and is allowed to maintain its own rights, its own culture, and its own language. But that jeopardizes the role of whites as a yardstick for what "American" is. That calls into question their identity. Especially since the liberal-urban coastal culture promotes multicultural thinking, even more: In the eyes of the white lower class, every minority is granted respect and protection, just not them, who actually make America what it is.

Vanessa Williams, political scientist at the Brookings Institute in Washington: "We live in a country that is less and less a country of the white majority. And especially for people who grew up in an earlier era, it's frightening."

The fear of losing one's identity goes even further, especially when looking at urban versus rural areas. In one thing, these have aligned, namely that the number of working women has increased massively. This affects all regions, except that the highly qualified jobs are more likely to be found in the cities than in the countryside. The values ​​and rituals that shape daily life are only slowly converging. Differences remain and traditions are continued.

Trump relies on the gap between urban and rural areas

But exactly there is another point of conflict: It is about security in one's own lifestyle, it is about being able to be sure of one's own values ​​and ways of life. However, it is precisely these that now differ widely in rural areas and urban regions. Political scientist Isabel Sawhill from the Brookings Institute in Washington has investigated precisely these values. In the rural part of the USA, traditional role models in particular have survived: women, like their husbands, are convinced that their place is in the house. A belief that the urban elite do not share. But because this urban elite has access to the media, because it is they who determine the public discourse in the media, they are at the same time a threat to their own way of life.

And Donald Trump's rhetoric makes precisely this difference between the life plan of the urban elite and the economically and socially insecure rural population his own, and he turns it into a central line of argument: Protection of the real America from the establishment of the coastal cities. However, these diffuse fears can also easily be channeled into fear of the stranger - in a line between immigration and the respective personal life situation.

"A lot of companies suffer because of immigration. There is so much black pay, which ultimately increases the costs for everyone. Then our schools are overcrowded. Tax money goes in there. We have to pay more teachers. And it affects health too. That all the money that we are paying for the immigrants is getting more and more. And if we don't get that under control now, we as a country will at some point no longer be able to afford anything.

Bryan Brence lives in Crane, a small town in Texas. Oil is extracted here and there are plenty of jobs. Illegal immigration, people who would have to be provided with public funds, do not play a major role here. Yet many transfer their worries about the future to immigrants. Mark Paul, Mayor of Crane, said: "At the same time, we see our own citizens suffering who are not given equal rights. It is a burden on our workers, it takes our citizens' jobs away."

"We have to take care of our country"

And Mark Paul immediately points out to the President that he is the one who really takes it under control: "Our President is working very hard to curb immigration. We have to take care of our own structures, of our own citizens. We can do not take in immigrants indefinitely. That is what scares people most. "

Rosalinda Spinoza sees it that way too. For them, Trump is the one who finally names the problem by its name and also acts. He realized what it was about: "I hope that this will play a big role in the election. I am a resident of Texas and I love this country. Securing our borders is not just for Texans, it is important for everyone . This is our country and we have to take care of our country. "

And Donald Trump takes up exactly this stance: I am the one who puts our country back at the center. That is its brand essence. In a speech in Texas he even went so far as to call himself a nationalist. He knew that he was provoking. The Democrats cannot do anything about it at the moment because they are divided and they lack a clear strategy. White working class people want their representatives to speak about mainstream values ​​and to do something pragmatic that will improve their lives.

Trump picks up people with their fears

And so the president, as an election campaigner before the congressional elections, ties in right there. He's the one who takes care of the land, of the frightened. He used the two years, he says. Keeping his promises. Made America great again, and so great that more and more wanted to come: "I have created such an incredible economy, so many jobs. I made this country so great with you that everyone wants to go in."

The economy is actually doing better than it has been for a long time. Unemployment is low, and for the first time wages in the lower groups are also rising. Trump rhetorically links this to his fight against immigration. That is well received and applauded. And it sounds like confirmation that only the right person has to come to dry up the swamp of established politics. Then it will get better. And he also makes sure that things get better for you, not for those on the outside.

So what makes Donald Trump so attractive to this population group? He is by no means the first to make immigration a campaign issue. So what is he doing differently? Vanessa Williams, political scientist at the Brookings Institute: "The USA has a long tradition of fear of foreigners, of fear of foreigners. Donald Trump has managed to drill into this attitude much more directly than other Republican candidates were ready."

Trump's language catches on

And that is also evident in the language: "He was much more undiplomatic in his statements about ethnic minorities. He was much more direct in what he announced. To build a wall. To say that Mexico does not send its best, that they are rapists . All very, very blunt statements. "

But that is exactly what matters to Trump's supporters. Trump is not only straightforward in terms of content, but also speaks a very simple language: main clauses, a few words in a sentence. People find this refreshing and honest - even if some of the content is a lie.

Trump deliberately differs from traditional politics in his language. In doing so, he rhetorically underpins the second enemy image of his political brand world: an unholy alliance of established politics, media and industry in the cities on the coasts. You have moved jobs abroad, protecting all sorts of minorities, but not the white middle class in the country, which sees itself as the core of America. On the contrary, they make fun of the backwoodsmen.

It's about white identity

And the media make sure that their concerns are brought up against the wall and that their positions are not disseminated: "When people are afraid, they need someone to tell them a story. About the why. Why things don't go as well as they do for the previous generation. And it is also right to want to know why the children and grandchildren are burdened with student debts. Why they are only one disease away from bankruptcy. "

Donald Trump tells this story. They choose him because he is their hero. The one who fights for them against these arrogant enemies, who gives them back their dignity. And that's what it's about: Protecting your own identity. Throughout their lives they have been able to define themselves through their work and being part of the dominant culture as well as through their country. As whites, this guaranteed them a status that gave them privileges and dignity. They no longer feel that this is safe today. They build a wall around themselves and their souls that protects them from the threat to their identity. And Donald Trump promised them this wall.

"Build this wall ..."