A column in the New York Times lays out what appears to be Donald Trump's reelection strategy and in the process explains, in my view, white evangelical support for Trump: white racism. Of course, evangelicals are not the only ones onboard Trump's racism train although evangelicals are perhaps the ones who are still the most angry over desegregation and an end of the Jim Crow laws. Given the economy's collapse and the seemingly out of control Covid-19 pandemic (especially in GOP led states that followed Trump's demands for "reopening"), Trump has little else to run on and has re-embraced what got him elected in 2016: white grievance and white racial animosity toward non-whites. Congressional Republicans and my Republican "friends" who refuse to admit that they fully realize what Trump's all about are lying to themselves and to others. One can only hope that this renewed shameless pandering to white supremacists and evangelicals (the two go hand in hand) fails in 2020, especially among suburban voters. Here are column highlights:
A lot of Republicans are acting puzzled about Donald Trump’s re-election pitch. “He has no message,” one Republican source told Reuters. “He needs to articulate why he wants a second term,” said another. Some have expressed hope that Trump would find a way to become less polarizing, as if polarization were not the raison d’être of his presidency.
It’s hard to know if Republicans like this are truly naïve or if they’re just pretending so they don’t have to admit what a foul enterprise they’re part of. Because Trump does indeed have a re-election message, a stark and obvious one. It is “white power.”
The presidentstarted this week by tweeting out a video that encapsulates the soul of his movement. In it, a man in The Villages, an affluent Florida retirement community, shouts, “White power!” at protesters from a golf cart bedecked with Trump signs. “Thank you to the great people of The Villages,” wrote Trump. Only after several hours and a panic among White House staffers did the president delete the tweet.
Republicans might act as if they don’t know why Trump’s fans are so unfailingly loyal. Some commentators spent the first year or two of his presidency dancing around the reason he was elected, spending so much time probing the “economic anxiety” of his base that the phrase came to stand for a type of willful political blindness.
But Trump understands that he became a significant political figure by spreading the racist lie that Barack Obama was really born in Kenya. He launched his history-making presidential bid with a speech calling Mexican immigrants rapists and adopted a slogan, “America First,” previously associated with the raging anti-Semite Charles Lindbergh. Throughout the 2016 campaign, he won the invaluable prize of earned media with escalating racist provocations, which his supporters relished and which captivated cable news.
Trump, however, seems to grasp that racism is what put him over the top. It’s what made his campaign seem wild and transgressive and hard to look away from.
Now Trump’s poll numbers are cratering, we have double-digit unemployment and our pandemic-ravaged nation has been rendered an international pariah. America is faring exactly as well under Trump’s leadership as his casinos, airline and scam university did. It’s not surprising that he’s returning to what he knows, and what seemed to work for him before.
In fact, Trump appears to think his problem is that he hasn’t been racist enough. . . . . “He truly believes there is a silent majority out there that’s going to come out in droves in November,” a source told Swan.
And so last week, as if to prod that silent majority, Trump tweeted out videos of Black people assaulting white people. . . . . He said he’d veto a $741 billion defense bill over a provision, written by Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, requiring that military bases honoring Confederates be renamed. Apoplectic over New York City’s plans to paint the words “Black Lives Matter” on Fifth Avenue in front of Trump Tower, he called the slogan “a symbol of hate.”
On Tuesday, Trump tweeted that he was considering scrapping an Obama-era housing regulation that required localities to address illegal patterns of residential segregation. . . . . The message to his white supporters seemed clear enough: Trump is going to fight to stop people of color from coming to your neighborhood.
The Times reported on the president’s rationale: “Mr. Trump and his campaign team, already concerned about his weakness in battleground states, have become increasingly alarmed by internal polling showing a softening of support among suburban voters.” Trump sees clearly — more clearly than most of his party — that racism is the main thing he has to offer.
There’s good reason to think that he’s misjudging these suburban voters. Polls show that a growing number of them, particularly women, are repelled by Trump’s race-baiting and divisiveness. But Republicans who complain that the president is undisciplined, that he can’t adhere to a strategy, miss the point: Bigotry has always been the strategy.
The Republicans who support him are yoked to that strategy. Their real frustration isn’t that it’s ugly but that it’s no longer working.