The Trump-GOP Message of Hate, Division and Bigotry Failed in 2018
If anyone was still doubting the premise, last night’s ugly rally in North Carolina confirmed that President Trump – to an extent unprecedented in modern American politics – will run an overtly racist presidential campaign with a core focus on animating racial grievance and xenophobia.
As Ron Brownstein tweeted after last night’s rally, “Racism on open display, whipped up and encouraged by the president in a public setting. Candidates have done it sure: Wallace, Bilbo, Thurmond. But whatever their sentiments (Andrew Johnson, Wilson) has a sitting president in American history engaged in such public racism? … The president is validating and empowering a crowd to openly chant racist slogans that would cause the expulsion of high school students, the firing of executives, the dismissal of soldiers if they aimed them at a colleague. CEOs, principals, generals ok w/this as a new standard?”
According to Pili Tobar, Deputy Director of America’s Voice:
It seems impossible for Trump to hit a new low but everyday he finds new ways to express more vile hatred and racism, and to encourage outright hostility towards our fellow Americans. This isn’t just appalling, it’s outright dangerous. Trump is well beyond attacking immigrants, immigration, refugees or foreigners and is now moving on to targeting native-born and naturalized U.S. citizens, even those who are elected leaders who serve our country, making it clear that it’s all about race and a terrifying white nationalist agenda hell bent on making America white again, less diverse, less tolerant and even more divided than we already are. The next 16 or so months before election day will be ugly, will further divide our country and wound us in ways that will take years to repair because our highest elected leader does not work for all Americans, does not consider all Americans equal, and does not stand behind America’s strength, that out of many we are one or E Pluribus Unum.
We don’t know exactly how this will play out, but we do know that Trump is running a vile and racist campaign and that same strategy backfired in 2018 (as we discussed in detail yesterday). Below are leading observers assessing what’s on display and what it all may mean for 2020 politics and the health of our democracy:
- Republican consultant Stuart Stevens: “There is a certain relief to be done with the need to pretend that Donald Trump isn’t a racist. It’s 2019 and the @GOP is now embracing ‘send them back to Africa.’ Every corporate donor to GOP should be asked if their company is comfortable supporting this open racism.”
- Anti-Defamation League leader Jonathan Greenblatt: “This is the sound of illberalism, intolerance. Listen closely: it’s a danger not just to immigrants and minorities but to all Americans. Put politics aside. Time for leaders from all parts of society, people from all walks of life, to step up and say: enough.”
- New York Times political reporter Alex Burns: “This can’t be said enough. People are conditioned to assume that presidents — and politicians generally — are the best judges of their own political interests. That’s not always the case, and with Trump, often clearly so.”
As New York Magazine Jonathan Chait writes:
After President Trump made racist attacks on left-wing Democrats, his supporters engaged in frantic historical revisionism. Trump was not calling his nonwhite targets foreign or denying their Americanness, they insisted. He merely noted that they may wish to emigrate given their deep ideological disagreement with the country’s institutions and political character. “His message is simple: The U.S.A. is the greatest nation on Earth, but if people aren’t happy here they don’t have to stay,” White House press secretary Stephanie Grisham calmly explained. Wednesday night, Trump dispensed with that pretense. After a long and almost entirely dishonest attack on Ilhan Omar, his crowd began echoing Trump’s infamous words, chanting, ‘Send her back!’
Alex Shepherd in The New Republic assesses:
It’s true that Trump’s support among Republicans has ticked up slightly in the wake of his tweets. But it’s also declined among independents. No one should ever take Fleischer at his word, but it’s worth noting that Trump basically rolled out this exact strategy during the 2018 midterms. In the final weeks of the campaign, Trump used rallies, Twitter, and his bully pulpit to fearmonger about undocumented immigrants and a migrant “caravan” approaching the southern border. As a result, Republicans lost across the country, and in historic fashion. Yes, there were a few victories in battleground districts, but overall, there were signs that this racist, divisive message wasn’t playing in states the president must win if he wants to be re-elected—states like Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania.