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“Trump Is Latest Version Of Long-Held Republican Strategy”: Trumpism Is Embedded In The Republican Party’s DNA

Is Donald Trump so different from Ted Cruz? From Ben Carson?

The Republican establishment is in a panic over the billionaire real estate mogul, whose poll numbers continue to rise despite (or because of) his racist and Islamophobic rhetoric, his lack of interest in the workings of government and his disdain for the boundaries of normal political discourse. Prominent Republicans are said to be mulling whether and when to try to trip Trump, opening a path for a different candidate.

Given the outlines of the GOP presidential contest so far, that would leave either Cruz, the senator from Texas, or Carson, the retired neurosurgeon, to take the lead. (Or perhaps Marco Rubio could edge in as the front-runner.) Currently, according to a Real Clear Politics average of polls, Trump has the allegiance of 30 percent of Republican voters, while Cruz draws 15.6 and Carson and Rubio are tied at 13.6.

Still, is Cruz so much more acceptable? The senator would trample the Constitution to end birthright citizenship and has insisted that Sharia law, a system of Islamic codes, is an “enormous problem” in the United States. Carson, for his part, has ruled Muslims unfit for the Oval Office, in blatant violation of the U.S. Constitution.

That means at least 59 percent of Republicans support a candidate who bitterly disparages President Obama, who would trample the Constitution to discriminate against minority groups and who indulges birtherism — as Trump, Carson and Cruz have done. That’s what the GOP establishment ought to be worried about: its voters.

Of course, prominent Republican figures have pandered to and nurtured those racially tinged grievances in working-class white voters for more than half a century. It’s disingenuous of them to now pretend shock — horreur! — at Trump, who simply refuses to speak the coded language that party elders prefer. His racism and xenophobia are unvarnished, unsophisticated, unveiled.

But Trumpism is embedded in the Republican Party’s DNA, the cornerstone of its modern structure. Desperate to peel working-class whites away from their allegiance to the Democratic Party, associated since Franklin Roosevelt with the interests of the common man, the GOP played to the social and cultural fears and prejudices of less-educated whites with a Southern strategy honed by the late Lee Atwater, once a prominent Republican operative.

As Atwater put it: “By 1968 you can’t say (N-word) –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. … ‘We want to cut this,’ is much more abstract than even the busing thing, uh, and a hell of a lot more abstract than (N-word, N-word.)”

Over the years, the Republican Party has refined and broadened that strategy. And it has been used by every Republican presidential candidate since Barry Goldwater, from Richard Nixon (“law and order”) to the sainted Ronald Reagan (states’ rights) to even the genteel George H.W. Bush (Willie Horton), cultivating the loyalty of working-class whites while simultaneously alienating black and brown voters. With the rise of a gay rights movement, homophobia has also become an honored tenet of that strategy.

When the nation elected its first black president in 2008, disaffected working-class whites became ever more resentful, many of them channeling their rage into a tea party movement that pledged to “take back” the country. How did the Republican establishment respond to that? By running from immigration reform, by indulging the birther movement, by disparaging Obama at every turn as a radical who would ruin the country and a weak-kneed coward who would give in to terrorists.

It worked. While a whopping 66 percent of Trump’s supporters believe Obama is a Muslim, a solid 54 percent of Republicans overall think the same thing, polls show. And 54 percent of Republicans also believe no Muslim should be elected president.

So the establishment wants to get rid of Trump? He may leave the race, but Trumpism is likely to linger for a long time.

 

By: Cynthia Tucker Haynes, Pulitzer Prize Winner for Commentary in 2007; The National Memo, December 12, 2015

December 14, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Establishment Republicans, GOP Presidential Candidates | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Empowering The Ugliness”: The Strategies Elites Traditionally Used On Those Angry Voters Have Finally Broken Down

We live in an era of political news that is, all too often, shocking but not surprising. The rise of Donald Trump definitely falls into that category. And so does the electoral earthquake that struck France in Sunday’s regional elections, with the right-wing National Front winning more votes than either of the major mainstream parties.

What do these events have in common? Both involved political figures tapping into the resentments of a bloc of xenophobic and/or racist voters who have been there all along. The good news is that such voters are a minority; the bad news is that it’s a pretty big minority, on both sides of the Atlantic. If you are wondering where the support for Mr. Trump or Marine Le Pen, the head of the National Front, is coming from, you just haven’t been paying attention.

But why are these voters making themselves heard so loudly now? Have they become much more numerous? Maybe, but it’s not clear. More important, I’d argue, is the way the strategies elites have traditionally used to keep a lid on those angry voters have finally broken down.

Let me start with what is happening in Europe, both because it’s probably less familiar to American readers and because it is, in a way, a simpler story than what is happening here.

My European friends will no doubt say that I’m oversimplifying, but from an American perspective it looks as if Europe’s establishment has tried to freeze the xenophobic right, not just out of political power, but out of any role in acceptable discourse. To be a respectable European politician, whether of the left or of the right, you have had to accept the European project of ever-closer union, of free movement of people, open borders, and harmonized regulations. This leaves no room for right-wing nationalists, even though right-wing nationalism has always had substantial popular support.

What the European establishment may not have realized, however, is that its ability to define the limits of discourse rests on the perception that it knows what it is doing. Even admirers and supporters of the European project (like me) have to admit that it has never had deep popular support or a lot of democratic legitimacy. It is, instead, an elite project sold largely on the claim that there is no alternative, that it is the path of wisdom.

And there’s nothing quite like sustained poor economic performance – the kind of poor performance brought on by Europe’s austerity and hard-money obsessions — to undermine the elite’s reputation for competence. That’s probably why one recent study found a consistent historical relationship between financial crises and the rise of right-wing extremism. And history is repeating itself.

The story is quite different in America, because the Republican Party hasn’t tried to freeze out the kind of people who vote National Front in France. Instead, it has tried to exploit them, mobilizing their resentment via dog whistles to win elections. This was the essence of Richard Nixon’s “southern strategy,” and explains why the G.O.P. gets the overwhelming majority of Southern white votes.

Sooner or later the angry whites who make up a large fraction, maybe even a majority, of the G.O.P. base were bound to rebel — especially because these days much of the party’s leadership seems inbred and out of touch. They seem, for example, to imagine that the base supports cuts to Social Security and Medicare, an elite priority that has nothing to do with the reasons working-class whites vote Republican.

So along comes Donald Trump, saying bluntly the things establishment candidates try to convey in coded, deniable hints, and sounding as if he really means them. And he shoots to the top of the polls. Shocking, yes, but hardly surprising.

Just to be clear: In offering these explanations of the rise of Mr. Trump and Ms. Le Pen, I am not making excuses for what they say, which remains surpassingly ugly and very much at odds with the values of two great democratic nations.

What I am saying, however, is that this ugliness has been empowered by the very establishments that now act so horrified at the seemingly sudden turn of events. In Europe the problem is the arrogance and rigidity of elite figures who refuse to learn from economic failure; in the U.S. it’s the cynicism of Republicans who summoned up prejudice to support their electoral prospects. And now both are facing the monsters they helped create.

 

By: Paul Krugman, Op-Ed Columnist, The New York Times, December 11, 2015

December 13, 2015 Posted by | Austerity, Donald Trump, Election 2016, France | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“GOP Will Sink Or Swim With The White Nativist Vote”: Doesn’t Matter What Rubio Or Cruz Campaigns Plan For This Election

This morning Greg Sargent did a good job of laying out the different electoral strategies of the Rubio and Cruz campaigns.

Marco Rubio has sought to project an optimistic, inclusive aura that seems designed not just to unite Republicans but also to appeal (at least on the margins) to Latinos and millennials. By contrast, while Cruz says publicly that he wants to win over Reagan “Democrats,” the more plausible interpretation of his approach is that it’s built around the idea that the electorate is hopelessly polarized and that maximizing conservative and GOP [white] base turnout is the route to victory.

The only thing I’d add is that, with his increasingly extremists statements during the primary, Rubio is likely going for what Eric Fehrnstrom described as Romney’s “etch-a-sketch” strategy: hoping that voters will wipe the slate clean when it comes time for the general election.

On the other hand, the Cruz strategy reminds me of something Adam Serwer wrote way back in 2011 in the lead-up to the 2012 election.

The Republican Party had a choice after 2008. They could continue to rely on a dwindling but still decisive share of the white vote to prevail, or they could try to bring more minorities into the party. While I’m not entirely sure how much of the decision was made by party leaders and how much is merely the unprecedented influence of Fox News, but whether it’s pseudo scandals of the past two years, from birtherism to the NBPP [New Black Panther Party] case, the GOP’s nationwide rush to ban sharia and institute draconian immigration laws, or characterizing nearly every administration policy as reparations, the conservative fixations of Obama’s first term indicate that the GOP will end up relying at least in part on inflaming white racial resentment to close the gap.

Sounds positively prophetic right now, doesn’t it?

Of course, the Republicans lost the 2012 presidential election and immediately performed their infamous “autopsy,” which found that they needed to do a better job of reaching out to women and people of color. We all know how that’s been going.

Frankly, it doesn’t matter what the Rubio or Cruz campaigns plan for this election. Back in the 1970’s the Republican Party decided to go with a Southern Strategy and built their electoral base on a platform of white resentment. Since then, they have only reinforced that with everything from Reagan’s “welfare queens” to Bush’s Willie Horton ad. At this point, they can’t abandon that base with any plausible effort to make their party attractive to people of color. The GOP will sink or swim with the white nativist vote.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Post, December 10, 2015

December 12, 2015 Posted by | GOP, Marco Rubio, Ted Cruz | , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

“He Has Adopted A Retro Racism Strategy”: Donald Trump Is Running The Most Explicitly Racist Campaign Since 1968

Donald Trump’s presidential candidacy is unique and remarkable in many ways. Never before has someone with no experience in government, not even a shred of understanding of public policy, and little in the way of an organized campaign done so well. Trump has been leading the Republican race for nearly five months, and shows no sign of faltering.

And here’s one other way it’s remarkable: After decades of rhetorical evolution from Republicans on matters of race, Donald Trump is now running the most plainly, explicitly, straightforwardly racist campaign since at least George Wallace’s third-party run in 1968, and maybe even Strom Thurmond’s in 1948.

All the way back in 1981, Republican strategist Lee Atwater explained how his party’s candidates had changed the way they talked about race and government to white voters over time. “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger,'” Atwater said. “By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’ — 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.”

Atwater’s point — that you could get whites to vote on the basis of racial resentments without using explicitly racist language — formed the basis of the GOP’s “Southern Strategy,” first adopted by Richard Nixon. Though you can hear blatant race-baiting just by turning on your favorite conservative radio host (particularly during the Obama presidency), what comes from the man at the top of the ticket has for some time been more subtle. Ronald Reagan may have complained in 1976 about the “strapping young buck” buying steak with his food stamps, and four years later thundered about “welfare queens,” but a Republican candidate today wouldn’t talk in those terms. In 1988, Atwater masterminded the campaign of George Bush, which made “Willie Horton” a household name, convincing voters that Michael Dukakis was going to send murderous, hypersexualized black men to rape their women and kill their men (though not in so many words, of course). But today no GOP nominee would use that story the way the Bush campaign did, because they know they’d be immediately called out for the clear racism of their appeals.

But here comes Donald Trump, who started his campaign by ranting about how Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers — in his announcement speech, no less. It was clear right then that Trump would say what others would only imply. And in the last week or so he has claimed that in Jersey City, “thousands and thousands of people were cheering” as the World Trade Center fell on 9/11. After a Black Lives Matter protester was punched and kicked at a Trump rally, Trump said “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” And he retweeted a graphic with fake statistics about black people supposedly murdering whites, which turns out to have been created by a neo-Nazi.

After innumerable media outlets confirmed that there were no mass celebrations in Jersey City on 9/11, Trump could have said, “I guess you’re right — I was probably remembering scenes I saw of people cheering in the West Bank.” But he didn’t; instead, he insists that he’s right and the facts are wrong. But the real point isn’t that Trump isn’t telling the truth; that has happened many times before and will again. What’s important is the thing Trump is trying to communicate with this story.

It isn’t an argument about the alleged threat posed by Syrian refugees, or something about ISIS (which didn’t exist in 2001). Trump is talking about Americans. He’s telling his supporters: Your Muslim friends and neighbors? They’re not the assimilated, patriotic Americans they want you to believe. They’re not regular people with jobs and families and lives like yours. They’re a threat, people to be surveilled and harassed and hated and feared.

Let’s be clear about one thing: The rest of the Republican Party’s more subtle language on race doesn’t excuse their actions. Making it as hard as possible for black people to vote and stirring up racial resentment on the part of whites are still at the core of GOP strategy. But whether out of the goodness of their hearts or simple political calculation, they’ve agreed that certain kinds of naked bigotry are simply unacceptable in the 21st century.

Donald Trump is not willing to go along with that consensus. So he has adopted a retro racism, telling primary voters in no uncertain terms that if you’re looking for the candidate who will indulge and validate your ugliest impulses, Trump is your man. And nearly as shamefully, his opponents tiptoe around the issue, unwilling to criticize him too severely. Even Chris Christie, whose own constituents are the ones being slandered by Trump’s 9/11 celebration lie, could only muster that “I do not remember that. And so, it’s not something that was part of my recollection. I think if it had happened, I would remember it. But, you know, there could be things I forget, too.” The supposedly tough guy from Jersey turns out to be a moral coward of the first order.

The reason isn’t hard to discern: Christie and the other candidates don’t want to alienate Trump’s supporters, who are greater in number than those behind any other Republican candidate. And that could be the most disheartening thing of all: not that there’s a candidate willing to make these repugnant appeals, but that so many Republican voters hear them and cheer.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, November 25, 2015

November 28, 2015 Posted by | Donald Trump, Racism, White Voters | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“No Longer Code, It’s Now In Your Face”: GOP’s 2016 Festival Of Hate”; It’s Already The Most Racist Presidential Campaign Ever

It appears that the GOP has traded in its dog whistle for a bullhorn when it comes to bigotry in the 2016 race for president. It’s as if the Republican presidential candidates are regressing to a time long gone.

There was a time decades ago that conservatives, and even Democrats like George Wallace, could and would openly demonize minorities in the most vile terms to attract white voters. But soon they realized the need to be subtler because times were changing.

The late GOP strategist Lee Atwater summed it up as follows (and forgive me for the blunt language, but it’s what he said): “You start out in 1954 by saying, ‘Nigger, nigger, nigger.’ By 1968 you can’t say ‘nigger’—that hurts you, backfires. So you say stuff like, uh, forced busing, states’ rights, and all that stuff, and you’re getting so abstract.”

So began the racial “dog whistle,” or the politically acceptable way of telling white people in a coded message that we will keep you safe from blacks, immigrants, etc. The first Republican to utilize this is generally seen as Barry Goldwater during his run for president in 1964. Goldwater’s campaign sought to capitalize on the backlash among conservative whites to the recently enacted Civil Rights Act. One famous example came shortly after the July 1964 riots in Harlem when he stated, “Our wives, all women, feel unsafe on our streets.” The message being that blacks are coming to rape your women and I will protect you.

In 1968, Richard Nixon ushered in the Southern Strategy, which Nixon’s special counsel, John Ehrlichman, candidly summarized as, “We’ll go after the racists.”

Nixon used the dog whistle of opposing “forced busing” and promising “law and order,” which were polite ways to say he would slow down desegregation and protect white America from black criminals.

And it has gone on from there in varying degrees.  There was Ronald Reagan’s invocation of “states rights” in his speech in Philadelphia, Mississippi, in 1980, and 1988 of course we had George H.W. Bush’s infamous Willie Horton campaign commercial.

Interestingly, during the 1996 presidential race, Bob Dole steered clear of dog whistles during his losing campaign. And George W. Bush, while supporting a constitutional amendment opposing gay marriage in 2004, refused to “kick gays” as some on the right urged him to do. Bush even rejected Muslim bashing after 9/11, instead making it clear that, “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends.”

Now, there’s no longer a need to be politically correct when demonizing minorities. The GOP has gone full bigotry.

GOP frontrunner Donald Trump appears to have cherry-picked the most effective dog whistles from past GOP campaigns and then injected them with steroids. Trump has plagiarized Nixon’s practice of appealing to the “silent majority” (white people) and promising “law and order.”

But he has gone much further. Trump not only released a Latino version of Bush’s Willie Horton ad which featured images of three scary-looking Latino men who had committed crimes, he has made stoking the flames of fear of Latino immigrants a central tenet of his campaign.

Trump told us in his very first speech as a presidential candidate that Mexico is “sending people” to America who “are bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” And on the campaign trail he has continued telling crowds that “illegals” had “raped, sodomized, tortured and killed” American women. (The GOP loves to invoke rape.)

Jeb Bush said over the weekend that Democrats lure black people to support them with the promise of “free stuff.” At least when Mitt Romney made his infamous comments that 47 percent of Americans support the Democrats because they “are dependent upon government,” he only implied it was minorities. But not Bush. (By the way, Goldwater made a similar remark in 1964 when he said, “We can’t out-promise the Democrats.”)

And Ted Cruz has unequivocally stoked the flames of hate versus the LGBT community with his recent remarks that the gay activists are waging a “jihad” against “people of faith who respect the biblical teaching that marriage is the union of one man and one woman.”

Then there’s Ben Carson, running neck and neck with Trump. Carson declared last week that Islam is incompatible with the Constitution and he would not support a Muslim American for president. On Sunday, Carson inadvertently summed up the GOP’s theme in 2016 when he told CNN’s Jake Tapper that only the media types are upset with these intolerant comments, “because the American people, the majority of them, agree and they understand exactly what I am saying.

Yes, we do understand exactly what Carson and the other GOP candidates are saying. It’s no longer code; it’s now in our face. The GOP’s 2016 platform is that Latino immigrants are coming to rape you, blacks want handouts, gays are waging a holy war versus Christians, and Muslims are not loyal to America.

The scariest part of all this is that we are just a few months into the race. Who knows how much more ugly and hateful this campaign could get before November 8, 2016? But given the frontrunners in the GOP race, I would predict it might just become the most bigoted and vile campaign in the modern era of American politics.

 

By: Dean Obeidallah, The Daily Beast, September 29, 2015

September 30, 2015 Posted by | Bigotry, GOP Presidential Candidates, Racism | , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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