Donald Trump’s success in emerging as the presumptive nominee for the Republican Party is to some degree attributable to racism. This is not the message you will hear people say though because racism is a subject that most people are afraid to discuss. They will deny it, defend against it, or simply ignore it.
Like a surfer who catches the big wave and rides it, Donald Trump has caught the wave of racism and is riding it well. This wave of racism developed from three sources: the Republican anti-Obama crusade, Donald Trump himself being a catalyst for racism, and the hatred of Pres. Obama.
Republican anti-Obama crusade— this crusade began immediately after Pres. Obama’s first term in the White House. The object of the crusade was to make him a one-term president and to make sure his legacy would be insignificant.
Any doubt that racism has been a factor in the anti-Obama crusade can be dispelled by Donald Trump. During the anti-Obama crusade, Trump promoted the birther conspiracy theory to delegitimize Pres. Obama. This was unadulterated nonsense yet the GOP leadership allowed Trump to promote it as part of their crusade.
Under the Republican anti-Obama crusade, racism was implicit in the Tea Party’s mantra “We want our country back.” It is interesting to note that this mantra emerged after Barack Obama became president and not when George Bush was president. The interpretation of the Tea Party’s mantra is that they became incensed over a black man taking over the country and as a black man, he had no right to do so.
If there is any defining characteristic of the anti-Obama crusade it is that it laid the foundation for the disrespect and hatred shown or expressed to the president. High-ranking members and leaders of the GOP who facilitated this and made comments to help promote the crusade includes: former Speaker John Boehner, Mitch McConnell, John Sununu, Sarah Palin, and Rudy Giuliani.
Donald Trump is a catalyst for racism – the accusation that Donald Trump is racist dates back to the 70s when the New York Times called him a racist – because of his racial discrimination policies of eliminating African Americans from renting his apartments in New York. More recently, Steven Rosenfeld of Alternet also alluded to racism and xenophobia as the reason why Republicans love Donald Trump. Others like Dana Millbank a Washington Post columnist wrote in an article, “Let’s not mince words: Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.”
David Duke is fully aware that Donald Trump is a champion of white supremacy. Here is what he told Politico last December,
He’s made it okay to talk about these incredible concerns of European Americans today, because I think European Americans know they are the only group that can’t defend their own essential interests and their point of view.
Even if Donald Trump is not a racist his campaign comments about Mexicans and Muslims smacks of racism and are dog whistles that encourage or incite racial animosity. It is not surprising then that people who have racist beliefs would love Donald Trump. David Duke the former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard encouraged white supremacists to vote for him in the 2016 election – despite Trump disavowing him in 2000 by refusing to run on the Reform Party platform because David Duke was a member of it.
From the beginning of his campaign, Donald Trump set the stage that would brand him as a catalyst for racism by making the following two comments: “We don’t have time for political correctness,” and “I will build a wall and make Mexico pay for it.” Later on in the campaign he followed up with, “We should put a temporary ban on all Muslims entering this country until we figure out what the hell is going on.” For people who cling to racist beliefs these are exactly the things they want to hear.
The hatred for Pres. Obama – If the GOP’s anti-Obama crusade achieved anything, it was that it enabled its supporters to disrespect and hate Pres. Obama. The conservative media and other prominent GOP supporters who made frequent disparaging comments about the president reinforced this negative behavior. The effect of this was that many conservatives chose to hate the president.
Even if Pres. Obama was a bad president – and his performance does not reflect that despite the stream of blatant obstruction and unfair criticism of anything he does – he does not deserve the hatred and disrespect he gets. It is interesting to note that the president has demonstrated more character and integrity than his detractors have, yet he is the one who is the villain. This hypocrisy is what the 19th century American poet Joaquin Miller described in his poem:
In men whom men condemn as ill
I find so much of goodness still.
In men whom men pronounce divine
I find so much of sin and blot
I do not dare to draw a line
Between the two, where God has not.
The disrespectful treatment of Pres. Obama and Donald Trump’s success in the 2016 presidential campaign indicate that America has not reached the point where racism has been reconciled or is not a major problem in America. If Mr. Trump is elected president it will be difficult to see how he could help America reconcile its racial problem to achieve racial harmony.
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