I want to elaborate on yesterday’s post.
It has been fascinating–and infinitely depressing–to follow the reactions to Trump’s racist rants on Facebook and in the Twitter-verse. I’ve been particularly struck by comments defending him and insisting that his attacks “weren’t racist”–that he was just “expressing his opinion,” perhaps inartfully.
And Bill Barr’s refusal to indict the officer who choked Eric Garner to death–despite DOJ lawyers’ contrary’ recommendation– wasn’t another not-so-subtle message to Trump’s white supremicist base. Kellyann Conway’s response to a Jewish reporter’s question with a demand to know his “ethnicity,” was just an innocent question. And the troglodytes at Trump’s North Carolina rally chanting “send her back” were just patriotic Americans.
Nothing to see here.
We all know better. Those MAGA caps might just as well say what they have always implied: Make America White Again.
Yesterday, I characterized the upcoming election as a contest for the soul of America. Let me enlarge on that assertion: 2020 will force America to confront the country’s “original sin”–the persistent racism that once allowed some people to own others, that reacted to emancipation with segregation and Jim Crow, and that has responded to every movement toward civic equality by doubling down on racist rhetoric and discriminatory behavior.
With the ascension of Donald Trump, the GOP has stopped denying its “southern strategy,” abandoned its dog whistles, and publicly embraced white nationalism.
Denying Trump’s racism requires deliberately ignoring his long and consistent history of racist behavior, a history that David Leonhardt laid out in a recent New York Times newsletter.
His real estate company tried to avoid renting apartments to African-American tenants. He described “laziness” as “a trait in blacks.” He called for five black and Latino teenagers to be executed — and then insisted on their guilt even after DNA evidence proved their innocence.
He rose to prominence in the Republican Party by questioning the citizenship of the first black president. He launched his presidential campaign by saying Mexican immigrants were “rapists.” His political organization created a television advertisement that Fox News pulled for being too racist.
He frequently criticizes prominent African-Americans for being unpatriotic, ungrateful, disrespectful or unintelligent. He mocks Native Americans and uses anti-Semitic stereotypes. He retweets white nationalists. He said that a violent white supremacist march included some “very fine people.” He regularly appoints people with a history of racist comments.
And over the weekend, he told four nonwhite members of Congress — all citizens, of course, and three of them born in the United States — to “go back” to where they came from.
President Trump doesn’t just make racist comments. He is a racist. He’s proven it again and again, over virtually his entire time as a public figure. His bigotry is a core part of his worldview, and it’s been central to his political rise.
In 1981 Lee Atwater, the famed Republican political operative, explained to an interviewer how his party had learned to exploit racial antagonism using dog whistles. “You start out in 1954 by saying ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’” But by the late 1960s, “that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, ‘forced busing,’ ‘states’ rights,’ and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract. Now, you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is, blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
Well, the dog whistle days are over. Republicans are pretty much back to saying “Nigger, nigger, nigger.”
What voters need to understand in the run-up to 2020 is that it isn’t just Trump.
Krugman points to the silence of prominent Republicans in the wake of Trump’s most recent racist outburst, to the administration’s dishonest conflation of immigration and crime, and to a proclamation just signed by the Republican governor of Tennessee honoring Confederate general Nathan Bedford Forrest, a war criminal who massacred African-American prisoners and helped found the Ku Klux Klan. I’ll add the increasing coziness of the GOP with the alt-right, Neo-Nazis, and fellow-travelers like David Duke.
I’ll also reiterate–and update– my son’s analysis, which I shared yesterday.
A vote for Donald Trump or any Republican in 2020 means one of only two things: The voter is a racist, or the voter doesn’t consider the GOP’s thoroughgoing embrace of racism/white nationalism disqualifying.
In 2020, no other issue matters.
If we resoundingly defeat the cancer that is Trump and Republican white nationalism in 2020, we can return to our heated debates about public policy, left versus right, and the proper interpretation of various constitutional rights. If we don’t, none of those things will matter.
In 2020, we will find out whether a majority of Americans are ready to confront –and reject–America’s original sin.