Donald Trump and Enabling Racism

I don’t know Donald Trump’s heart. I cannot tell you if he is, at his core, an unrepentant racist. Frankly, it doesn’t matter if he is or is not. I can tell you that his behavior caters to racists and enables open and unabashed acts of racism and bigotry. Whether he is painting with the broad brush of absurd stereotypes by referring to Mexicans as rapists or advocating discrimination on the basis of religion, Trump delights in being politically incorrect in the most hateful ways possible. A large, disgusting portion of his political support comes from such people. And they are dangerous. Take a look at how white supremacists at a Donald Trump rally in Louisville, Kentucky behaved at a Super Tuesday rally:

Look at the anger and hate. This, more than anything, seems to be the energy of the Trump campaign. Every supporter mentions how Trump speaks to their anger. Anger with the government. Anger with immigration. Anger with homosexuality. Anger over Black Lives Matter. And anger with the GOP for failing to preserve their America.

Shaun King suggests that it will not be long before someone is killed at one of these events. He may be right.

Did you notice the incredibly angry man in the red hat who pushes and screams at the girl starting around the four-second mark? That appears to be Matthew Heimbach, self-appointed leader of the Traditionalist Worker Party. Here is his profile from the SPLC. A few of his greatest hits:

“No longer will the homosexual, Muslim, and black supremacist groups be allowed to hijack our campus. … Youth for Western Civilization is preparing to take our campus back, all we need is the help of people like you to make it happen.” – Youth for Western Civilization blog, January 2012

“[W]e shouldn’t give up California just yet. Because it truly is beautiful in terms of weather, but it’s full of Mexicans and that’s sort of a problem.”
– Traditionalist Youth Hour with Matthew Parrott, July 10, 2013

And then there is this:

In case you are still not convinced that this moron is a white supremacist, take a look at his twitter feed or facebook page. Or check out the twitter page of his little sycophant pictured riding around with him in King’s piece. She hates “Libtards.” And thinks the Nazi’s were the real victims of genocide. That Hillary is funded by the Jews…

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That cultural diversity is black people coming to kill you…

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And that the Jews are behind liberal gun control (hat-tip to bigot and idiot Ted Nugent)…

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In many ways, Heimbach and his merry band of uneducated hill people are a great representation of what really fuels the Trump revolution. According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, there has been a recent spike in white-supremacist activity. Since 2008, there has been an 800 percent increase in what they call “patriot groups” and a twofold increase in hate groups (with a great deal of cross-over between the two). Like Heimbach, these groups make a half-assed effort to couch their politics in vague patriotic rhetoric regarding freedom, use fabricated statistics and pseudo-science to lend credibility to their claims, and leverage Christian phrases designed to make their racist message more palatable to the general public.

This, of course, is nothing new for the conservative movement. Dog-whistles like “states’ rights” (code first for slavery and then institutionalized segregation and racism of the Jim Crow era), “welfare queens” (black women who live promiscuously and use government funds meant to aid their children to live a high lifestyle), or “traditional values” (used to paper over many things, most recently to oppose LGBTQ rights). I’ll let Reagan’s political strategist Lee Atwater explain how the GOP used this approach in his own words:

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 forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now [that] you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is [that] blacks get hurt worse than whites.

And subconsciously maybe that is part of it. I’m not saying that. But I’m saying that if it is getting that abstract, and that coded, that we are doing away with the racial problem one way or the other. You follow me — because obviously sitting around saying, “We want to cut this,” is much more abstract than even the busing thing, and a hell of a lot more abstract than “Nigger, nigger.” — Lee Atwater, 1981, Lamis, Alexander P.; et al. (1990), “The Two Party South”, Oxford University Press

Conservatives have tried to spin Atwater’s damning, if glaringly obvious, admission ever since. Their tactics are simple. Deny that it happened. Claim that the KKK and states’ rights are liberal tools and positions (conflating the racist Dixiecrats of the pre-1960s south with today’s Democratic party, ignoring that the Dixiecrats defected to the GOP and make up the backbone of the GOP’s electoral domination of the south). Aggressively position the left as being racially divisive for demanding rights for blacks, gays, women, or any other group. It isn’t people like Matthew Heimbach who are dividing America, it is the damn blacks and their white political allies.

Here, watch CNN conservative analyst Jeffrey Lord trot these arguments out one-by-one in defending Trump and his supporters to Van Jones:

This argument is as absurd as it is demonstrably false. Yet intelligent, well-meaning conservatives have repeated it for decades. And that has to stop.

Let me be clear and direct on this. If you have ever uttered words like Heimbach’s, Atwater’s, or Lord’s you were enabling racism. It doesn’t matter if you have black friends, are black yourself, or consider yourself a colorblind child of Jesus. What you have said and some of the policies you support were designed specifically to harm black people and directly benefit white people. The people who designed them explicitly said they were. And the measurable outcomes historians, sociologists, political scientists, and economists have unearthed with their research overwhelmingly corroborate this account. You might not feel like you are racist. And in your heart, you probably are not. But your actions have allowed and encouraged racism to flourish in this nation. Call that what you will.

This is a moment of truth for my conservative friends and family. You can drop the dog whistles, turn your back on the Trumps and Heimbachs of the world, and forge a new brand of conservatism that appeals to people on the basis of political ideology. Or you can openly embrace the white supremacist movement that has been the largely invisible glue of your coalition since the 1960s. Time to pick sides. Choose wisely.

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