The GOP’s Racist Rot Began Long Before Trump
The party’s rot didn’t begin with this president, but it’s collapsing beneath him.
The Republican Party is in tatters.
After spending decades investing in hyper-partisan, mean-spirited political shenanigans that gave safe harbor to white nationalists who believe this land belongs solely to them, they may finally pay a price for callously putting a madman in the Oval Office.
There are, of course, the “never Trumpers” who found ready platforms on cable news and opinion pages to beat their chests. But they, too, invested— with their decades of silence and tacit approval for the public policies that served only a fraction of the public—and lined their pockets with the political benefits of hate-mongering. The blame is theirs too.
In the ’90s, it was the “silent majority,” a Nixonian phrase resurrected to advance so-called family values, by destroying reproductive rights and shredding the social safety net. The rise of Barack Obama fueled the Tea Party movement dedicated to resisting him—a scheme that used taxation, gun policy and fears of “big government” as cover for white supremacy.
It worked. The electorate, at least the fraction that turned out to vote, has handed the GOP control all three branches of government. That appears set to change in November, and some Republicans are already searching for the exits. Even MSNBC contributor and former Republican campaign strategist Steve Schmidt stomped out of the party, after masterminding GOP wins across the country and attempting to position then half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin—who reportedly knows how to field dress a moose, but who couldn’t think of a single newspaper or magazine she’d read in recent memory—to be next in line as the leader of the free world. Schmidt has since apologized and rightly so.
But, think about that.
The very notion of a Palin presidency should have been enough to force the GOP to re-think its ways. Instead it doubled down on her brand of ignorant and angry politics.
Decades of criminalizing the poor and disenfranchised and bedeviling anyone who was not white, male, Christian, and wealthy has finally cost us our standing in the world. Our allies look on in pity and horror as their once trusted partner—that shining light on the hill—now favors warlords, dictators, and autocrats.
The respectable Republicans told us that Donald Trump would surround himself with advisers who would serve as a check on his worst impulses. Instead, he installed people like Sarah Huckabee Sanders—who wastes no breath lying to protect him—and relies on a cadre of sycophants and anchors-for-hire, like Jeanine Pirro and Sean Hannity, to slavishly feed him and the rest of their audiences a daily dose of democracy-busting fan-fiction.
None of that ended with Trump’s surrender Wednesday when he signed an executive order ending his own cruel and unusual family separation policy.
Unless Congress or the courts act, immigrant families can only be detained together for up to 20 days. Federal health officials have already asked the Pentagon to prepared to house as many as 20,000 unaccompanied migrant children on the nation’s military installations, in the hopes of indefinite detentions. And there is no plan in place to reunite the parents already separated from their children—many of whom are being housed in once abandoned big-box stores and strip malls, while others have been placed in foster homes in Michigan, California, New York, and elsewhere.
No one should be surprised with his crumbling presidency or that some Congressional Republicans in once reliably red districts are running for the hills to shield themselves ahead of the November ballot.
We should remember their cowardice as indictment after indictment of some of his closest advisers is handed down. We should remember that they did not disavow people like neo-Confederate and alt-right hero Corey Stewart or former judge and child molester Roy Moore. We should remember Trump’s silence after four black victims were killed in a Tennessee Waffle House, his “fine people” on both sides remarks during the Charlottesville press conference, and his failure to speak out about any number of atrocities committed here in the U.S., while quickly responding—even before the facts could be determined—about mass casualties in Paris or London committed by people of color. We should remember today’s House vote that could strip school lunches from thousands of schoolchildren.
When taken to task, the president’s response is the same as it always was: a Twitter feed festooned with brickbats aimed at those who oppose his most vile impulses.
We should remember that his grown children and his companies have profited handsomely from his selective glad-handing with foreign leaders. We should remember his embrace of Putin, asking that Russia be readmitted to the G-7 despite their known interference in U.S. elections, annexation of the Crimean Peninsula and the jailing and murder of political dissents and journalists. We should remember his attempted Muslim travel ban, concocted by Miller, and how he ordered thousands of innocent immigrant children—at least one as young as 8 months old, another with Down syndrome, and some too young to remember their mother’s names—forcibly separated from their parents and held in cages in an attempt to bully Congress into funding a border wall.
We should also remember how he demonized NFL players for exercising their First Amendment right to free speech, while pandering to white supremacists after Heather Heyer was mowed down and killed for daring to march for justice.
There are things we should expect from a president.
We should expect toughness, compassion, and integrity. To lead these United States should mean to lead this nation—heralded as exceptional—to a higher calling of morality. Our president should be deeply devoted to forwarding the rule of law, to surrounding themselves with the best and brightest who will forward our collective values, to know a God greater than themselves rather than submit to their personal vices, and to eschew personal gain in favor of the greater good.
History will not be kind.
I openly wept the morning after the 2016 presidential election. “People will die,” I told my newsroom colleagues. “If you aren’t white and male, your life just changed.”
Even I did not know the full measure of my words. I could not have accounted for the millions, including children on CHIP, who would lose access to basic health care, or the babies who would be trapped in metal pens crying out for their fathers and mothers.
I was not prepared for that.
Even after understanding that this president would hold fast to his position that five innocent boys should be executed and that our first black president was somehow illegitimate and un-American, I was not prepared for a presidency that would erase the value of black and brown lives. I was not prepared for a president, even after he smeared immigrants “rapists” and murderers, who would decide child concentration camps were decent.
Even as some Republicans are running away from Trump and his party, many more are standing with them. Rep. Peter King of New York was one of many who shrugged at the horrific photographs and leaked audio of caged children. “Americans care more about Americans,” he told TPM reporter Alice Ollstein.
I think he’s wrong about that, but it’s up to us to prove it.
We must decide that the folks subsisting on broken promises in Appalachia, the black boys dying in the streets of north St. Louis, our Muslim brothers and sisters praying in mosques throughout the land, the Guatemalan children crying in pens uncertain of when or if the people who love them will ever come back, the babies with untold health conditions and inadequate schools drinking poisoned water in Flint, the families without electrical power in Puerto Rico and unable to reach the mainland, the Palestinian journalist who faces a sniper’s bullet.
We can right this road. But we must do it. We can and we must throw the bastards out—Trump and every elected official who stands with him.
We must decide that every single life matters. We must decide that the Republic matters.