I have been polling on matters of race and racism since the late 1980s. On one hand there has clearly been progress of sorts. Fewer Americans than previously seen in earlier Gallup Polls express overt racism, more Americans think race relations are better than before, and increasing numbers live near, work with, have a boss who, have attended a small party with, or have a friend who is of another a race. When it comes to attitudes, at the very least, more white Americans have learned to at least offer socially acceptable responses.

The changes are best exemplified by Millennials who are diverse in their makeup and have gone to the most integrated schools in American history.

But it appears that the election (and re-election) of Barack Obama has knocked a lot of people for a loop. And what I am hearing from not only the supporters of Donald Trump but, for that matter, those of some other Republican candidates, is a deep resentment that is more than just a reflection of lost economic status, financial insecurity, and a feeling of abandonment in the face of global terrorism.

It is racism-and you don't have to say it to mean it. I am hearing almost daily the refrain that we "have to take our country back." "American was once great because it was strong," our President is "a Muslim," "Obama was not even born here" and so on. In one of my colleague Frank Luntz's brilliant focus groups-this time among supporters of Trump-I heard some people say the President is "not one of us." For me, this conjures up memories of Bernard Epton's unsuccessful mayoral campaign against the first African-American mayor of Chicago. Epton's commercials urged city voters to support him "before it is too late." (For the record, many prominent Chicago Democrats supported Epton for just that reason.)

It isn't great being in the white middle class these days. The so-called middle class has been losing ground financially since the 1970s. It is also terrifying to view acts of terrorism against innocent civilians by sworn enemies of the United States. Tough talk and uncompromising street language can feel liberating and exhilarating, and strike back against an enemy that is hard to tackle. At the same time, the nation's demographics are changing dramatically. My Baby Boomer age cohort is over 80% white, but my son's Millennial cohort is just under 60% white. The traditional middle class family is no longer the norm and being a white Christian means you are not in the minority as opposed to the overwhelming majority. Millennials do not speak of "gay marriage," just "marriage."

There are other changes, too. Now for Americans to recognize that there are other world powers, terrorists that have the technology to kill us and shut down our systems is a lot to take. As one woman told me after my speech last week to the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce, "I am terrified for the first time in my life." But this time, these forces cannot be shut down by simply building walls, banning those who look different, dropping a nuclear weapon, or unleashing the largest ground war invasion in world history.

And the opening of sore wounds between people of color and local police is visibly polarizing our communities. Both sides are angry and resentful of each other. But racial turmoil is not new nor has it arisen as a result of the Obama Presidency. It has always been there. Those who want to "take our country back" should read Dr. Otto Bettmann's 1974 book The Good Old Days: They Were Terrible" to get just a little perspective.

It is a tough time but not a time for tough talk.

But relying on the old formula of racism has never been a winner for America or Americans. We have never won a war without the support of Americans of color-including those who had been enslaved or interned.

Electing Obama in 2008 and re-electing him in 2012 (both times with outright majorities) was a major statement to the world and to ourselves. In doing so, we took "our country back" by eschewing sensibilities that have been the worst in us.

The GOP cannot win an election as a lily-white party. It cannot win if it views 47% of our public as moochers. It cannot win (or govern) if it promises tough measures against foreign enemies and domestic terrorists that it simply cannot deliver. It can, however, win if looks to the future and does not try to take back an America that had its ugliness.