Trump’s Overtly Racist Campaign

 

 

If you are supporting Donald Trump, perhaps you should reconsider because you are supporting an overtly racist candidate. If you’re comfortable with that, so be it. But don’t try to say later that you didn’t know. It has now become clear that Donald Trump is a racist, and is running an overtly racist campaign.

Let’s start with his ridiculously ill-advised visit to Flint, Michigan on Wednesday, September 14th. His visit began with his being greeted by large booing crowds upon his arrival in Flint. He then toured a defunct water-treatment plant (which was a bit pointless – that plant was shut down about 2 years ago), and then finished at the predominantly African-American Bethel United Methodist Church, where he tried to give his typical stump speech. When Trump started in with the “Hillary-bashing” portion of his speech at the church, the Pastor interrupted him, saying, “Mr. Trump, we invited you here to thank us for what we have done in Flint, not to make a political speech.” Trump was clearly flummoxed, agreed to return to the topic of Flint’s suffering, and although he cut his speech short, he was frequently heckled about why he had discriminated against black tenants in his buildings back in the 70’s – something he denied, but news reports from the time (including this one from 1973) prove that he and his father did in fact engage in such practices and were even sued by the Justice Department over it (twice). Trump then left, chastened and humiliated. This incident became the primary focus of the next 24-hour news cycle, in which several news outlets enhanced their coverage of Trump’s alleged racism with additional examples from over the many years Trump has been in the public eye.

Then came Friday. I’m not sure what Trump or his campaign were thinking, but things could not have gone worse.

For a little background, Donald Trump has been a prominent “birther”, and has been arguably the single most visible proponent of the notion that President Obama was not born in the United States. He has pushed this long-since-debunked – and obviously racially motivated (clearly implying that the President is not “one of us”) – claim on television, radio, on Twitter, and in print for years. He was such a public face for the “Birther” movement, President Obama single him out at the 2011 White House Correspondent’s Dinner, poking fun at Trump’s “Birtherism” by noting that, now that his [Obama’s] birth certificate had been released, Trump could concentrate on more important matters, such as “Did we fake the moon landing? What really happened at Roswell? And where are Biggie and Tupac?”

Now, back to Friday. The Trump campaign had announced a “press conference” – their description – that would take place at Trump’s new hotel just blocks from the White House. Trump came onto the stage and, after basically performing a 30-minute live infommercial for his hotel,  gave a 30-second speech on the “birther” issue, during which he made a number of false statements (and spoke one significant truth). His most egregious lies were: 1) that Hillary Clinton and/or her campaign had started the whole birther movement back in 2008, and 2) that he had stopped pushing questions about President Obama’s birthplace back in 2011, when the President’s long-form birth certificate was released.

As for Hillary starting the birther movement, this is just ludicrous. Neither the 2008 Clinton campaign – nor Hillary Clinton herself –  ever raised the issue, although a close friend and advisor of Hillary’s, Sydney Blumenthal, apparently privately asked James Asher, a journalist from McClatchy, to look into the matter (Asher did so and found no truth to the rumors, and Blumenthal never publicly questioned where Barack Obama was born). There was also a volunteer coordinator in Iowa that forwarded a single email promoting the birther theory; he was immediately fired by the Clinton campaign. Even if one were to argue that this is enough to prove that the birther movement was started by the Clinton campaign (to be clear, it’s nowhere close), it would pale in comparison to Trump’s efforts to promote the birther movement over the years. As for Trump’s claim that he had stopped pushing the birther issue back in 2011, this is demonstrably false; he has pushed the issue on TV, radio, on Twitter, and in print repeatedly since then. In fact, during this Presidential campaign, Trump has still been saying that he doesn’t know where the President was born.

Fortunately, the media didn’t fall for it – many news outlets went so far as to use the words “lie” and or “liar” to describe Trump and his statements, some of them even put those words in the headline (for an especially fun treat, watch Stephen Colbert and Seth Meyers’ reactions to Trump’s statement here). As noted above, Trump did speak one significant truth on Friday: he stated unequivocally that “President Obama was born in the United States. Period.” He offered no explanation of any kind for his change of heart, but I suspect it had a lot to do with not wanting to have to deal with that issue during the upcoming debates. Unfortunately for him, his false allegation that Hillary Clinton started the birther rumors in the first place, combined with the total lack of an explanation for his complete reversal on where the President was born, will virtually ensure that this issue comes up. Trump then left the stage without taking any questions (wasn’t this supposed to be a “Press Conference”?), despite the shouting reporters trying to get a response out of him. As a final insult, the backdrop on Trump’s stage collapsed on camera – perhaps a metaphor for the Trump campaign’s own impending collapse? One can always hope. Thankfully no one was hurt.

As angry as the media was (there were headlines along the lines of “Trump Punks the Media” and CNN stated on air that “We were played”; these are among the nicer ones), it was the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) that really unleashed its fury. In a hastily-arranged news conference in front of the Capital Building in Washington, members of the CBC came to the microphone one by one to demand in no uncertain terms that Trump apologize to the President, to Hillary Clinton, to African-Americans, and to all of America for his lies and what they consider to be his racially-motivated efforts to “delegitimize” our nation’s first black President. Trump said during his brief talk at the hotel that he “finished it”; I suspect that the opposite is true – he has instead guaranteed that we’re just getting started with this one.

Another press conference had been scheduled for Friday, but not by Trump or Hillary. This one was on the topic “What is the Alt-Right?”, and had been originally scheduled to take place at the National Press Club in Washington. The subject matter seems to have been a bit uncomfortable for the National Press Club, however, and the press conference was moved to “a nearby location”. Then it just got weird. If reporters still wanted to attend, they were told that they would need to stand outside a certain restaurant and look for a man wearing a brown tie and a dark grey suit – no, I’m not kidding – who would tell them where the press conference was being held. It turned out to be in a meeting room at a nearby hotel, where most of the nationally-known leaders of the White Supremacist movement spoke with reporters about the need for a white homeland in America, the genetic superiority of whites, and on and on – the usual crap these idiots espouse. Most significantly, they all declared their allegiance and support for Donald Trump, who they consider to be their “champion”. One thing is clear: these usually-marginalized racists felt emboldened enough by what they see as Trump bringing their cause into the mainstream that they believed they could hold a press conference to openly discuss their views.

To be sure, no candidate should be held responsible for the views of every single supporter, and Trump is no exception. Candidates on both the left and the right often have supporters they would rather do without because of their controversial views, which are not shared by the candidates. In this case, however, there is clear and irrefutable evidence that Trump does share these views.

For example, there is that Justice Department lawsuit against Trump and his father in 1973 – and a second one in 1976 – over racist policies for tenants in their buildings. I prefer to focus on more recent indicators, however. People can evolve on an issue, even on race. As an example, Robert Byrd, the long-time Senator from West Virginia, had been a leader of the KKK and filibustered against the Civil Rights Act of 1964, but by the time of his death in 2010 (he was still serving in the Senate at the time; he served over 61 years, making him the longest-serving Senator in history), he had become a champion of civil rights. Sadly, it appears that Trump has not undergone a similar evolution.

Here’s why I think this:

The “Alt-Right” consists primarily of white supremacists, anti-Semites, and extreme right-wing conspiracy theorists. This is a group that usually supports Republican candidates, but normally those GOP candidates either ignore them or do everything possible to distance themselves from the alt-right. There are several websites that cater to these nutjobs, and one of them is breitbart.com – a “news outlet” founded by the late Andrew Breitbart. The current CEO of breitbart.com is Stephen Bannon, who has proudly proclaimed that website to be “the platform for the alt-right.” Instead of distancing himself from the alt-right, Donald Trump has put them in charge of his campaign by hiring Breitbart’s Stephen Bannon as the CEO of the Trump campaign. This says it all, but there’s more.

The most obvious are Trump’s own words. Trump entered the Presidential race in June of 2015 with a speech that should have served as an indicator of what was to come; he called Hispanics – and Mexicans in particular – criminals and rapists, and then added that maybe some of them might be good people. Wow. Not long after, he called for a ban on all Muslims entering the country. Perhaps someone – like, say, the father of a Muslim soldier killed in action in Iraq – should offer Trump their copy of the Constitution so he could read it (The first Amendment begins with the words “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof” and immigration policy is determined by laws passed by Congress, so the ban would be unconstitutional on its face). Oh wait – one such father did do that, and Trump’s response was to attack the Gold-Star family in retaliation. Nice. Even the VFW went after Trump on that one.

Trump has made several statements over the years regarding various minority groups. Among them:

  • “I’ve got black accountants at Trump Castle and Trump Plaza. Black guys counting my money! I hate it. The only kind of people I want counting my money are short guys that wear yarmulkes every day. … I think that the guy is lazy. And it’s probably not his fault, because laziness is a trait in blacks. It really is, I believe that. It’s not anything they can control.” (to John O’Donnell,  then-President of the Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City, upon seeing a black accountant counting money. Although Trump initially denied saying this, he ultimately conceded in an interview with Playboy that “the stuff O’Donnell wrote about me is probably true.”)
  • “Our African-American communities are absolutely in the worst shape that they’ve ever been in before. Ever, ever, ever.” (Trump said this at a rally in North Carolina on Tuesday, September 20th. Apparently he has forgotten – or is perhaps denying? – that African-Americans have historically been subjected to slavery, lynchings, and Jim Crow laws.)
  • “He’s a Mexican. We’re building a wall between here and Mexico. The answer is, he is giving us very unfair rulings — rulings that people can’t even believe.” (accusing Judge Gonzalo Curiel, who is hearing the Trump University Fraud case, of being incapable of impartiality simply because of his Mexican heritage; Judge Curiel was born in Indiana. Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan called this the “textbook definition of a racist comment”.)

And who can forget his “I love Hispanics!” taco bowl tweet on Cinco de Mayo:

trump-taco-bowl-tweet

Trump has had legal troubles over his racism as well. He and his father were sued twice by the Justice Department in the 1970’s (in ’73 and ’76) for practices that prevented blacks from renting in his buildings. The Trump Plaza Hotel and Casino in Atlantic City was fined $200,000 by the New Jersey Casino Control Commission in 1992 for removing black dealers at the request of a big-spending patron. The fine was upheld on appeal. The list goes on and on (you can read articles on Huffington Post and/or Fortune for more).

But that’s not all. Trump has re-tweeted several memes and posts from white supremacist websites, such as the Daily Stormer and the “Hunter Wallace” blog. Last March, Trump’s son, Donald Trump Jr., went on a radio show called “The Political Cesspool”. What Trump Junior claims to have been completely unaware of is that this is a white supremacist show. He expects us to believe that he had no idea he was talking to white supremacists [UPDATE (10/7/16): Trump’s other son, Eric, appeared on the same show just last week – will Trump and his campaign still try to argue that they didn’t know this is a white supremacist show? Seriously?]. But his contacts with the alt-right and his actions call this excuse into question. Trump Junior recently tweeted an image featuring his father:

deplorables

As you can see, this is a play on Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment. Trump is at the front in the middle, with running mate Mike Pence to the left (Trump’s right). Also seen are both of Trump’s sons, Eric (on the left) and Donald Junior (on the right); and three prominent Republicans: Ben Carson and Chris Christie (2nd and 3rd from the left) and Rudy Giuliani (4th from right). On the very far right is Milo Yiannopoulos, a tech editor at Breitbart.com, who has been banned from Twitter – for life – because of his abusive racist tweets; on the very far left is Roger Stone (who also tweeted the photo), a revisionist historian and close adviser to Donald Trump, and second from the left (next to Yiannopoulos) is Alex Jones of Info Wars, a conspiracy nutcase who thinks 9/11 was a United States government operation and that the horrific shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut never happened – according to Jones, that tragedy was faked as part of a plan to take away our guns, and those twenty beautiful children who were killed never existed. As bad and offensive as all that is, what really stands out is Pepe the Frog, just over Trump’s left shoulder. Who is Pepe? I suggest you Google it for yourself to learn more, but suffice to say that Pepe, which started out innocently enough, has been hijacked to become a white supremacist meme; a sort of “dog whistle” which signals agreement with the alt-right’s white supremacist wing. Donald Trump himself has even tweeted an image of Pepe:

trump-meme-feed-inline-3

Both Trump and his son claim that they had no idea that Pepe the Frog was a racist or anti-Semitic image.

Really?

I call bullshit, and I’m not alone. Of course they knew! They may “deny” that they agree with the racist and anti-Semitic views held by these white supremacists, who recognize these “denials” for what they are – a political necessity that the “alt-right” accepts with a nod and a wink. But their actions speak louder than their denials.

The subject of Trump’s racism has been coming up more and more as additional racist quotes, actions, and legal problems resulting from those actions come to light. It has entered the mainstream media and is getting more and more airplay, so Trump’s supporters cannot simply say they didn’t know.

Here’s the bottom line. Donald Trump, despite his claims to the contrary (usually something like “I have a great relationship with the blacks,” – which of course is something a non-racist would totally say), has promoted racist ideas, brought the “alt-right” into the mainstream and put them in charge of his campaign, and constantly lumped all members of a given group (Hispanics, Muslims, African-Americans, and so on) together as a monolithic entity who are of a single mind, rather than acknowledging that there could actually be individual opinions within these groups.

And that’s a racist attitude. Period.

As a man identified only as the “imperial wizard for the Rebel Brigade of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan” said during a recent interview on NBC affiliate WWBT in Richmond, Virginia, “The reason a lot of a lot of Klan members like Donald Trump is because a lot of what he believes, we believe in.”