Obscurity has been a feature of politics probably since politics was a thing, but it got especially severe starting with Nixon and his Southern Strategy: Court racism without actually saying openly racist shit. The principles of the strategy seem to have spread quickly, and Kristen Cardozo reviews its modern impact:
And yet this is a strangely naked moment we’re living in. If there has been a historical progression, it has been in language, moving away from an open declaration of our alignments and into euphemism. Now, in Trump’s America, our euphemisms are being set aside in favor of the open, forthright bigotry modeled by officials in the highest offices in the land. We live in an America where a sitting US president has insisted that some people marching under a Nazi flag, at a rally where an American woman was murdered, are good, a president who has referred to a “they” who are stealing “‘our’ history and ‘our’ heritage,” as Confederate monuments tumble. The president, in his first major policy decision post-Charlottesville, cancelled the wildly popular DACA program that allows undocumented people brought to this country as children to work, presumably because it will play to his rapidly shrinking and very white base, as well as thwart the will of the first Black president. Trump’s alignment to white supremacy is expressed loudly, not in a polite whisper.
Our president literally opened his campaign with a claim that Mexicans are rapists and criminals. As Trump won primary after primary, white pundits repeatedly said, up until the moment that Trump took office, that his bigotry “wasn’t funny anymore.” That it could ever have been seen as “funny” at all shows a divide in how people of different races read. For people who have been on the receiving end of American racism, the blunt declaration of a candidacy predicated on open hatred of brown bodies was another sign that, to white people, the fundamental American was always white. White Americans found Donald Trump’s overt racism humorous because too many of us saw it as an aberration, one that had no place or purchase in our egalitarian culture. People of color, who live under a daily onslaught of micro and macro aggressions, saw it as a clear reveal of the racism that underlies American culture.
Read more here.