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Land theft and human plunder cleared the grounds for Trump’s forefathers and barred others from it.

Once upon the field, these men became soldiers, statesmen, and scholars; held court in Paris; presided at Princeton; advanced into the Wilderness and then into the White House.

the obvious of Donald Trump: that he is a white man who would not be president were it not for this fact.

With one immediate exception, Trump’s predecessors made their way to high office through the passive power of whiteness—that bloody heirloom which cannot ensure mastery of all events but can conjure a tailwind for most of them.

The former were virtuous and just, worthy of citizenship, progeny of Jefferson and, later, Jackson.

The latter were servile and parasitic, dim-witted and lazy, the children of African savagery.

The focus on one subsector of Trump voters—the white working class—is puzzling, given the breadth of his white coalition.

But when white workers suffer, something in nature has gone awry.(“If white slavery be morally wrong,” he wrote, “the Bible cannot be true.”) Nevertheless, the argument that America’s original sin was not deep-seated white supremacy but rather the exploitation of white labor by white capitalists—“white slavery”—proved durable.Indeed, the panic of white slavery lives on in our politics today.On the eve of secession, Jefferson Davis, the eventual president of the Confederacy, pushed the idea further, arguing that such equality between the white working class and white oligarchs could not exist at all without black slavery: I say that the lower race of human beings that constitute the substratum of what is termed the slave population of the South, elevates every white man in our community …It is the presence of a lower caste, those lower by their mental and physical organization, controlled by the higher intellect of the white man, that gives this superiority to the white laborer.Their individual triumphs made this exclusive party seem above America’s founding sins, and it was forgotten that the former was in fact bound to the latter, that all their victories had transpired on cleared grounds.No such elegant detachment can be attributed to Donald Trump—a president who, more than any other, has made the awful inheritance explicit.But whereas Fitzhugh imagined white workers as devoured by capital, he imagined black workers as elevated by enslavement.The slaveholder “provided for them, with almost parental affection”—even when the loafing slave “feigned to be unfit for labor.” Fitzhugh proved too explicit—going so far as to argue that white laborers might be better off if enslaved.In the early 17th century, these two classes were remarkably, though not totally, free of racist enmity.But by the 18th century, the country’s master class had begun etching race into law while phasing out indentured servitude in favor of a more enduring labor solution.

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