Ta-Nehisi Coates has a new essay pursuing the novel idea that racism and white supremacy made Donald Trump president. An alternative interesting hypothesis is that Ta-Nehisi Coates made Donald Trump president. Here’s Google Trends data for Ta-Nehisi Coates (blue) and Black Lives Matter (red) over the last five years for the District of Columbia.
As you can see, while Ta-Nehisi Coates was hardly a household name, obsession with him among the chattering classes in DC preceded interest in Black Lives Matter, and at a few points spikes of interest in TNC immediately preceded spikes in interest in BLM. More importantly, Black Lives Matter hit its peak of public consciousness immediately before the election, and appears to have been highly (and negatively) salient to Trump voters, while relatively weakly appealing to Clinton voters; Trump voters also had extremely positive affect towards police, while Clinton voters also had positive affect towards police, suggesting that Black Lives Matter’s criticism of police had little traction across the electorate:
Contrary to Coates’s argument, these weren’t just general racial views, they were specific to Black Lives Matter and to police. So if the exhilaration among professional journalists around Coates’s 2014 reparations articles, coverage of Trayvon Martin, Eric Garner, and Michael Brown, and his book Between the World and Me set the stage for the around the clock media obsession with Ferguson, Missouri during Fall 2014, and sympathetic coverage of BLM-organized riots in 2015 and early 2016, and if Hillary’s flatfooted response to BLM-related spikes in violent crime and assassinations of police officers drew partially from the determination among those advising her that Ta Nehisi Coates’s view that white supremacy was at the root of all black dysfunction was correct, if this intellectual environment- that bestowed the National Book Award, MacArthur Fellowship, and pretty much every other imprimatur of official approval on Coates during the rise of Black Lives Matter to national consciousness- was ultimately the reason Hillary reacted to fourteen police officers being shot at a BLM rally by tweeting immediately that “White Americans need to do a better job listening when African Americans talk about the barriers they face,” maybe Ta-Nehisi got Trump elected.
Take a bow, TNC.