For the Globe and Mail, I wrote about Trump’s long-running birther crusade against President Obama:
What Americans did not know is that this was arguably the moment Mr. Trump’s serious presidential ambitions began. When Mr. Trump announced his 2016 candidacy, he had not yet shaken the mockery of President Obama’s riposte, nor had he gained, in the interim, the “credentials” or “breadth of experience” Barack Obama said he lacked.
What he had managed to do was turn birtherism into a national narrative. Birtherism is a vision of the U.S. that excludes Mr. Obama and any American whose name or heritage marks a break in white Christian dominance. Mr. Trump’s vow to “make America great again” always rested on rendering non-white, non-Christian citizens inherently suspect. Proclaiming Mexicans “rapists” and Muslims “terrorists,” Mr. Trump propelled white nationalism out of the shadows and into the spotlight.
Birtherism was never truly about where Barack Obama came from. It was about where he was allowed to go. Power, for Mr. Trump, a wealthy real estate scion, was rooted in birthright. Birthright became a theme of his campaign, as he insisted to supporters that illegitimate outsiders like Mr. Obama had taken what was rightly theirs. In ways both subtle and overt, Mr. Trump promoted whiteness as assurance, for white Americans, of immunity from hard times.