It’s a utilitarian sign has had a place in American history from before the Constitution was signed.

“________________ NEED NOT APPLY”

“Women Need Not Apply” They were denied the right to vote.

“Blacks Need Not Apply” They were three-fifths of a person and the word “Black” would have been replaced by something uglier. And they were enslaved and lynched.

“Native Americans Need Not Apply” Unless it was for the right to be hunted down and murdered, and they would have been called Indians or something viler.

The cavalcade of the excluded has spanned the history of the so-called land of the free. Just fill in the blank on that sign: “Jews Need Not Apply”; “Mexicans Need Not Apply”; “Chinese Need Not Apply”; “Japanese Need Not Apply.” Gays, Lesbians, Puerto Ricans, Italians, Irish, Muslims, Catholics, French, and countless others. (Apologies to any and all who have been omitted from this roster. The parade of hate in American is too daunting to recall all the targets.)

Now, the latest group to join the list is white men. Yes, those very same white men who were most responsible for each of those earlier signs of hate now find themselves added to the list. “White Men Need Not Apply.”

It’s not an actual sign but it’s there, nonetheless. Want an appointment to a position on a government board or commission. Sorry. There are black seats, Latino seats, seats for the LBGTQ community, transgender seats, women seats. But no white seats or male seats. We see legislation enacted to require corporate boards to diversify by adding women and people of color. Government contracting gives preferences for businesses owned by minorities.

White males still hold the reins of power at most levels of government and business. But their grasp is weakening and they don’t like it. For them Make America Great Again is a call for a return to the glory years of their unchallenged dominance and even those work-a-day white males who are not leaders of government or business feel the call.

Most white men are not aligned with the white supremacist and fascist groups that staged the attack on the federal Capitol Jan. 6 or are planning additional actions in the future. But that doesn’t mean they don’t hear and share the message of those groups. They are aggrieved because they believe they are being replaced. They believe that because it is not wholly untrue and because there are forces at work massaging their angst for personal and political gain.

To seize hold power by pitting those who might form an opposition against each other is a tactic that has been successful through history.

The best political speech I ever heard during 63 years as a news reporter and political consultant was given by the late Congressman Ron Dellums of Oakland CA in the spring of 1972. Dellums was the luncheon speaker at a convention of the California Democratic Council, an organization of liberal Democratic clubs from throughout the state.

In capsulizing Dellums’ message I’m going to substitute “N-word” for the more explicit word he used repeatedly that day. Group by group, Dellums went through the demographics of the American panorama and enunciated how each had at one time been the prime focus of hate and bigotry. He pointed out that what they had in common was that a central force – an alliance between big business and the Republican Party – was pitting them against each other and benefiting from it.

After naming each group Dellums closed with, “Let’s face it, if you’re a (black, brown, gay, Asian, female, Jewish, etc.) person in America you are an ‘N-word’. And we have to face the fact that the overwhelming majority of people in America are ‘N-word’.”

In short, you have society’s victims fighting among themselves while the white male dominated Republican/business cabal keeps the pot stirred as a distraction from its own agenda of centralizing wealth in fewer and fewer hands.

All this is central to the situation that plagues the Democratic Party and challenges the presidency of Joe Biden. The alienation of this substantial segment of the American electorate is deep and distrustful. In the face of one of the most despicable four years of any presidency, a majority of this group still gave its votes to Donald Trump.

The reason is simple. The message of the Democratic Party, once seen as the champion of working people, has been diverted.

History has seen few rivals to today’s Democratic Party as champions of the rights and needs of the marginalized and diminished. But that distinction has come with a price and Republicans are quick to amplify and capitalize on that price. In a society where there is competition for every job, for every seat in a university and every political office Republicans don’t hesitate to scream to white men that “they are displacing you”.