So writes Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic. I can't do justice to his thought-provoking article with a few quotes -- read the whole thing! Or listen on your commute, at the gym, etc.; there's audio too.
(Mr. Coates advisedly uses the N-word a number of times.)
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....
...Trump truly is something new—the first president whose entire political existence hinges on the fact of a black president.... He must be called by his rightful honorific—America’s first white president.
It turns out that conventional wisdom about Trump's appeal mainly to the white working class falls short. Running against Hillary Clinton, Trump won among white women, among white men, among lower-income and higher-income whites, among whites with college degrees and whites without, among every demographic group of white people. By slim majorities in some groups, by wide margins in others,
Trump assembled a broad white coalition that ran the gamut from Joe the Dishwasher to Joe the Plumber to Joe the Banker.... From the beer track to the wine track, from soccer moms to NASCAR dads, Trump’s performance among whites was dominant....
And Coates argues that people have reason to deny or ignore this unpleasantly broad support:
The motive is clear: escapism. To accept that the bloody heirloom remains potent even now... is to accept that racism remains, as it has since 1776, at the heart of this country’s political life.
The article (which is quite long, at over 8,000 words, or 50 minutes of audio at a relaxed pace) has details about racism throughout our political history, even among otherwise "progressive" people and groups, such as those working for workers' rights. A black underclass allowed working-class whites to feel kinship with wealthy whites -- I'll add, not unlike modern Republicans' reframing of working-class whites as temporarily embarrassed millionaires -- while whites considered black people "naturally" unintelligent, lazy, and otherwise unfit and undeserving.
Coates sums it up:
...the panic of white slavery lives on in our politics today. Black workers suffer because it was and is our lot. But when white workers suffer, something in nature has gone awry. ...Sympathetic op-ed columns and articles are devoted to the plight of working-class whites when their life expectancy plummets to levels that, for blacks, society has simply accepted as normal. White slavery is sin. [Black] slavery is natural.
...This is by design....
Trump, more than any other politician, understood the valence of the bloody heirloom and the great power in not being [black].
...Trump’s legacy will be exposing the patina of decency for what it is... It does not take much to imagine another politician... now liberated from the pretense of antiracist civility... doing a much more effective job than Trump.
...The first white president in American history is also the most dangerous president—and he is made more dangerous still by the fact that those charged with analyzing him cannot name his essential nature, because they too are implicated in it.
(Emphases, [N-word avoidance], and substantial ...ellipses... mine.)
The whole thing is well worth reading or listening to! https://www.theatlantic.com/amp/article/537909/
I'd read the article. Your cogent summary impresses me. "patina of decency" Yes, that's the core. Thanks!