Eyes openened

I’ll admit, I’m kind of a sucker for the confessionals from the #neverTrump Republicans who finally admit that, yes, a huge part of Republican appeal in recent decades has been based on racial animus.  Of course, they are at least honest and empirical enough to finally recognize this truth.  Many others are either a) still lying to themselves, or, even more disturbingly, b) are okay with winning votes on racialized appeals as long as they get their tax cuts.

Anyway, enjoyed Peter Wehner in the Atlantic:

Instead of rejecting him, however, the Republican Party eventually nominatedDonald Trump. His defenders say, with some justification, that he has delivered on the agenda that they wanted. But that is hardly the whole story. Trump has shown himself to be a pathological liar engaged in an all-out assault on objective facts—on reality and truth—concepts on which self-government depends. The president is also cruel, and dehumanizes his opponents. He’s volatile and emotionally unstable. He relishes dividing Americans along racial and ethnic lines. He crashes through norms like a drunk driver crashes through guardrails. And he’s corrupt from stem to stern. The difference between Trump supporters and right-leaning Trump critics is how we balance the scales of his conservative achievements (like with the courts) against the harm he’s caused and the ways he’s changed the Republican Party and the country, as we weigh what will be most definitional to his presidency.

Some Republicans quiescently accept Trump’s transgressions, unwilling to take him on, fearful of incurring his wrath. Others convince themselves that the Trump agenda is worth the price of lavishing praise on him and turning a blind eye to his offenses. Still other Republicans protect and defend him at every turn, serving as his attack dogs. As an institution, the party rallied behind him. The few Republicans who have challenged Trump from time to time—Jeff Flake, Bob Corker, and Mark Sanford come to mind—feel the anger of the party’s base. It cost all three their seats in Congress. The Republican Party is both shrinking and getting more Trumpified…

At the time the ads ran, and for years after, I thought that they were fair criticisms of Michael Dukakis for his furlough policy. Liberals took them as self-evidently racist; I thought that charge was toxic and partisan.

Willie Horton was a real person who committed awful crimes; to say that this couldn’t be pointed out in an ad because of his race struck me as wrong. In addition, it was Al Gore who first raised the furlough program (if not Horton directly) in the 1988 Democratic primary. Further, I didn’t know any Republicans whom I considered remotely racist; the idea that this ad was a Republican “dog whistle” was one I considered misguided. I didn’t for a moment think that appealing to overt or subliminal racist sentiments would garner anything other than a few votes on the malicious fringe of American politics—and believed that any such gains would come at the expense of the majority of Republicans, who would be repelled by that kind of appeal. If Horton had been white and committed the same crime because of the same furlough program, I believed, an ad with a white Horton would have been made. The point was the criminal who committed the crime, not the race of the criminal who committed the crime.

Similarly, I assumed that the claim that the Republican Party’s effort to win the South’s support in the late 1960s was part of a “southern strategy” relying on a coded racial appeal was unjust. Enforcing law and order is certainly a legitimate issue for politicians to run on, and a basic function of government.

Today I see the Republican Party through the clarifying prism of Donald Trump, who consistently appealed to the ugliest instincts and attitudes of the GOP base—in 2011, when he entered the political stage by promoting a racist conspiracy theory, and in 2016, when he won the GOP nomination. He’s done the same time and time again during his presidency—his attacks on the intelligence of black politicians, black journalists, and black athletes; his response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Virginia; and his closing argument during the midterm elections, when he retweeted a racist ad that even Fox News would not run…

It would be deeply unfair to claim that most Republicans are bigots. But it is fair to say that most Republicans today are willing to tolerate without dissent, and in many cases enthusiastically support, a man whose appeal is based in large part on stoking racial and ethnic resentments, on attacking “the other.” [bold is mine] That has to be taken into account. At a minimum, their moral reflexes have been badly dulled.


About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

One Response to Eyes openened

  1. homeys44 says:

    Trump loves these elitists that obsess about race rather than stuff like his failures to get wall funding or his jacking up the deficit. Instead this guy wants to cry about Willie Horton ads from 30 years ago? .

    And Paul Krugnan says guys like this won’t be voting for Howard Shultz over Elizabeth Warren?.

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