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Greg Sargent: “Get ready for a brutal election about Trump’s racism and authoritarianism”

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In the Washington Post, Plum Line columnist Greg Sargent forecasts the Republican approach to the upcoming elections: Trumpian race-baiting and divisiveness. Sargent suggests that “the GOP embrace of full Trumpism means they’re going to bet it all on this gamble” and that this will produce “a midterm election that is to no small degree a referendum on Trump’s racism and authoritarianism.”

Read excerpts from Greg Sargent’s below and find the piece, with links, in its entirety here:

Remember when Republicans were going to make their tax cut the centerpiece of their strategy for the midterm elections? That plan is no longer operative. The new plan: Bet that President Trump’s race-baiting attacks on Democrats for coddling immigrant gang members, and on football players protesting systemic racism, energize the GOP and Trumpist base just enough to enable Republicans to hold on.

There are multiple reasons why this may get much, much worse, in effect producing a midterm election that is to no small degree a referendum on Trump’s racism and authoritarianism.

Last night’s results out of multiple states confirm that the hot takes pronouncing Democrats dead and buried were premature. Democrats appear to have avoided getting locked out of any House races in California. They nominated strong candidates in New Jersey, meaning they have retained numerous pickup opportunities in both states. Democrats also flipped a state Senate district in Missouri in a landslide, swinging it by more than 20 points, suggesting that maybe the tightening generic House ballot, while certainly a cause for worry, isn’t the only metric that matters.

Meanwhile, this morning, the Washington Examiner’s David Drucker reports that Republicans are increasingly planning to rely on Trump’s culture-war attacks — particularly those involving MS-13 and football players kneeling during the national anthem — to goose the base in the midterms:

Trump’s habit of ignoring the economic message preferred by House and Senate Republicans in favor of the culture war tropes that propelled him to the White House is increasingly seen as an asset. Though provocative, the president’s rhetoric resonates with the base, offering Republicans a vehicle for matching the Democrats’ critical voter enthusiasm edge.

The Examiner notes that Republicans are privately cheering Trump for claiming that House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) loves MS-13. And as GOP consultant Brad Todd put it, Republicans believe that “cultural cudgels” like Trump’s attacks on African American football players as anti-American and anti-military are “all upside for him.”

There are multiple reasons why this may intensify. Republicans have already shown that they don’t think messaging on the tax cut works, having cycled out of it during their loss in Pennsylvania’s 18th District. Trump himself appears persuaded that the race baiting of kneeling football players will work: Tuesday, the Associated Press reported that Trump plans to periodically “revive” these attacks, because he believes doing so “revs up his political base.”

Meanwhile, various circumstances may bring immigration to the fore. Centrist House Republicans are pushing a discharge petition to force a vote to protect the “dreamers,” and GOP leaders are trying to find a compromise that Trump might sign — protecting the dreamers, plus cuts to legal immigration — to avert that outcome. It’s unlikely that Republicans will find this compromise, and if the discharge strategy does force a House vote protecting the dreamers, Trump will insist that Senate Republicans block it. Whatever is to be in this debate, as it comes to a head, Trump’s demagoguery about immigrants will veer headlong into his usual modes of xenophobia and hate.

It’s possible more young people will try to cross the border in the warming weather, which we already know triggers Trump — and more news may emerge about children getting separated from their parents, thanks to Trump’s “zero tolerance” border policies — further polarizing the country on these issues. On these things, GOP candidates may echo Trump to energize his voters.

[ … ]

As Ron Brownstein reported for the Atlantic, Republicans are basically betting their majorities on the idea that such racial and cultural provocations will boost turnout just enough among aging, blue-collar and rural white voters unhappy with the evolution of the country to enable them to prevail. The embrace of Trump’s latest attacks underscores that point. Of course, we’ve also seen Trump’s racism, xenophobia and authoritarianism trigger a massive backlash on the other side of this cultural divide, among younger and more diverse voters, and college-educated and suburban whites (see, for instance, the Virginia gubernatorial race). And the GOP’s embrace of Trump’s cultural attacks could keep fueling it through election day.

Of course, it’s not clear if the anti-Trump backlash will be enough to deliver the House to Democrats. Indeed, Republicans, emboldened by their somewhat improved fortunes, appear to believe it might not be. Last night’s results suggest that confidence may be premature — as one GOP strategist commenting on the Missouri loss tells the Kansas City Star: “Every suburban Republican should be petrified tonight. This devastating loss signals they could lose this fall.” That would comport with the story we’d been seeing before GOP fortunes ticked up, suggesting the new GOP confidence is overstated and that the previous dynamic is still in force. But either way, the GOP embrace of full Trumpism means they’re going to bet it all on this gamble.