For decades now, the Republican Party has used dog whistle racism to win the votes of those who like to see themselves as decent people, but who deep down long for white privilege and the "good old days." Making matters worse, the party for decades has been prostituting itself to rabid Christofacsists who are (i) out of touch with reality, by definition, and (ii) more often than not, racists. Along the way, sane, rational and decent people fled the party. The culmination of this process has been Donald Trump as the GOP presidential nominee - a man who doesn't even engage in the pleasantry of using dog whistle calls to racism and bigotry. Now that the GOP has made racism a key pillar to its identity, leaders who have encouraged the process are faced with the reality that a majority of Americans find both open racism and the GOP abhorrent. Thus, the Paul Ryans of the party have the dilemma of determining how to proceed. A piece in New York Magazine looks at this self-created problem. Here are highlights:
Paul Ryan appeared today in Washington, D.C.’s impoverished and overwhelmingly black Anacostia neighborhood to promote the House Republican agenda. The visit was steeped in racial symbolism, a long-planned photo op intended to convey Ryan’s no-doubt-sincere belief that his party’s policies would better the lives of the urban poor by freeing them from the dependence of subsidy (and, by reducing taxes and regulations on business owners, supplying them with more jobs). Unfortunately for Ryan, the visit came as the news media was in a full-blown frenzy over racist comments made by Donald Trump against Gonzalo Curiel, the judge in his fraud trial. The contradiction between the two could not be ignored.
The trouble for Republicans is that building a real-world constituency for these policies does rely on racism. Conservatives stopped the momentum of the New Deal in the mid-1960s only when they associated it with support for the black underclass. Republican politics has grown increasingly racialized over time, a trend that has dramatically accelerated during the Obama era.
Over the last eight years, the tension between these two things has grown unbearable for conservatives. Republican voting support is increasingly coterminous with white racial resentment even as conservatives firmly believe in their own racial innocence. Conservatives have built an alternative history in which racism, rather than migrating to the Republican Party as white Southerners revolted against the Democratic Party’s embrace of civil rights, remained in the Democratic Party all along.
Conservatives deny the existence of racism in the Republican Party as a matter of doctrinal sanctity, just as Soviet authorities had to officially deny the existence of poverty in the USSR.
Trump has ratcheted the tension between theory and reality to unbearable levels. Of course, Trump has exploited racism for years, from his public demand to execute what turned out to be innocent black youths a quarter-century ago to his birtherism to his crude bigotry toward Mexican and Muslim immigrants. But because his outbursts against Curiel are bigoted in such an undisguised fashion, with no policy pretext to hide behind, they forced the question into the open.
[T]he overwhelming majority of Republicans committed to supporting Trump have engaged in various tortured constructions. “I would not have said what he said, but then I don’t know all the facts,” asserted Senator Charles Grassley. “My experience with Donald Trump is he doesn’t have a prejudicial bone in his body,” said Orrin Hatch.
Even those Republicans willing to describe the statement as racist (and not merely as something that implied racism) presented it as a singular mistake that did not reflect their nominee’s belief system.
Ryan hates the words that come out of Trump’s mouth, but he draws no conclusions from them and will endorse him anyway because Trump will sign Ryan’s bills into law. “I do absolutely disavow those comments,” he pleaded. “I think they are wrong. I don’t think they are right-headed. And the thinking behind it is something I don’t personally relate to. But at the end of the day this is about ideas. This is about moving our agenda forward.” Somehow, once again, Ryan’s agenda found itself in the anomalous position of depending on a racist in order to prevail.