Donald Trumps public attacks have ruined the Republican’s desire to maintain “deniability.” That’s something Republicans have tried to hang on to since the civil rights era of the ‘60s.
Coded appeal to racial hatred in: naked bigotry out.
When Obama was elected in 2008, The New York Times headline screamed:
For many, those were giddy days and a feeling of astonishment at what happened prevailed. There was an almost electrical sensation of joy when people started to realize the idea that America had just chosen a black as President.
The feeling went beyond the personality and politics of Obama. Whether someone approved of the man’s politics or not, his election addressed something much bigger. It spoke to a sense of possibility and a promise that color and background didn’t express destiny.
In the light of day, that was too naive. Racial improvement, historically, evokes a wicked backlash.
Now, eight years later, Trump is stoking ethnic violence not seen since segregationist George Wallace ran for president in 1968.
Trump has Tweeted — and re-Tweeted — White Supremacist tweets, fired off vicious verbal assaults on Mexican-Americans, made anti-Muslim statements and racked up endorsements from a rogue’s gallery of white nationalists and neo-fascist groups.
It isn’t like that animus has not long been there. Since the civil rights era, though, politicians have figured that subtlety wins out over naked bigotry; it’s somehow more palatable to the large mass of voters who are middle-of-the-road.
It gave rise to what has become known as “dog whistle politics”; a coded appeal to racial hate that could be heard and understood by those it was aimed at. Yet, it would still be plausibly denied by politicians when the public called them out.
Neither party is immune to this. Bill Clinton, despite his great popularity among African American voters, tried to shore up his conservative credentials with tough-on-crime policies, welfare reforms and tort reforms that disproportionately impacted black Americans.
The biggest question now is if a majority of twenty-first century Americans are willing to go down the same road with Trump. Can the demagogue play off one racial/religious group against another? Can he stoke the anger of enough Americans to win The White House?
If Trump does — we all bear the stain of shame. Trump’s candidacy already stinks. His presidency would just spread the stench wider — and deeper.