Is a Donald Trump victory a win for racism and bigotry?
For Trump, it's all about winning, and if the votes of KKK help, then so be it
“I know nothing about David Duke, I know nothing about White supremacists.” Donald Trump, CNN, February 28, 2016
In the last 48 hours, Republican frontrunner Donald Trump has refused to condemn an American terrorist organization that has bombed churches and murdered innocent children, and to disavow the endorsement of a racist U.S. figure who started his career parading in a Nazi uniform.
For Trump, it's all about winning, and if the votes of Ku Klux Klan or their racist “wizard” David Duke will aid in victory in the 12 states voting today – in Super Tuesday – then so be it. Absent of a surprise, and buoyed by an anti-immigrant and a fear mongering message, the American businessman is on his way to clinch the nomination to represent the Republican Party in the general election.
The "pure breed"
The embrace of Donald Trump by the KKK and the likes of David Duke should not come as a surprise to anyone. While the candidate himself can pretend all he wants to be against racism, the actions of his supporters from punching a Black activist, to slurring Jews, African Americans, Latinos and Muslims on social media, speak louder to the nature and the brand of his campaign.
After all, when Trump's own spokesperson Katrina Pierson boasts in Nazi terms about his "pure breed", one can understand the parallels drawn between her boss and Adolf Hitler. Pierson stole a page from the KKK manual on the purification of the breed and asked on Twitter last month: "Perfect Obama's dad born in Africa, Mitt Romney's dad born in Mexico. Any pure breeds left?"
Calling Mexicans "rapists", speaking in derogatory terms about women, refugees, and Muslims, Trump has crossed every threshold of divisive politics in an attempt to win votes. The bullying and egomaniac approach is not new to Trump. He is still the same loud mouth who wasted months asking for President's Barack Obama birth certificate, and the misogynist who feels threatened by women from Rosie O'Donnell to Megyn Kelly.
Donald Trump’s rise did not happen overnight, and the GOP is partially responsible for the anger and racially charged rhetoric accompanying itJoyce Karam
In 2016, Donald Trump is exploiting the fears of the Republican base and particularly among the white majority. Following the election of Barack Obama, and the changed demographics in America, the base appears increasingly threatened of losing the majority status to a wave of new immigrants and a more diverse second generation.
Trump's anti-immigration, and anti-Muslim slogans, pander to a radical white constituency, unwilling to accept that in four years the new majority in the United States will be minorities. New U.S. census data suggests that the country is becoming a minority-majority nation, with “20 million children under 5 years old living in the U.S., and 50.2 percent of them were minorities."
This dilemma and delusion for some in the far right is manifesting itself in supporting Trump, who perhaps can build a wall and change this reality. Ironically, the same margins voting for Trump in the Republican race, match the numbers of those in the party who still think Obama is a Muslim.
Senator Lindsey Graham is right, Trump's ride to the Republican nomination and his embrace by the opportunists, and the racists is "batshit crazy". However, Donald Trump’s rise did not just happen overnight, and the GOP is partially responsible for the anger and the racially charged rhetoric accompanying it.
Trump's own tactics of defamation and slurring his opponents, are not new in Republican politics. In 2000, George W. Bush strategist Karl Rove used an equally low tactic to defame Bush’s opponent John McCain. Then, Rove released a phony poll asking voters "would you be more or less likely to vote for John McCain if you knew he had fathered an illegitimate black child?" The child was McCain's dark-skinned adopted daughter, Bridget, and the racial insinuation helped Bush win in South Carolina and later take the nomination.
The Rove tactics from 2000-2008 pushed the Republican Party to the right, pandered to the far right base, and utilized dirty campaign politics to secure Bush’s two terms. This came at the cost of licensing these tactics and alienating minorities who voted in big margins against the GOP in 2008 and 2012.
As Robert Kagan explains in the Washington Post, Trump is the Republican Party’s Frankenstein monster. The anti-Obama rhetoric, demonization of the opposition be it Nancy Pelosi or Hillary Clinton, has backed the GOP into a corner, strengthened its extreme base, and crippled its chances at effective governance. Trump has strategically utilized this anger and identity politics to his own benefit, and to undermine his more moderate rivals.
Whether Trump wins or loses the nomination has almost become irrelevant given the current ruckus-filled state of the Republican Party. The anti-Semites, the racists, and anti-immigrants that Trump has awoke will not be simply put to sleep by voting for another nominee. Changing the trajectory requires a whole new approach for the Republican Party in governance and messaging to its supporters.
Today, a Trump win will be a win for bigotry, divisiveness and for those resurrecting the demons of racism. In the long run, “Trumpism” exemplifies a bigger crisis for the Republican Party, with an urgency to abandon the mindset of the old majority and reconcile with the realities of the new America.
Joyce Karam is the Washington Bureau Chief for Al-Hayat Newspaper, an International Arabic Daily based in London. She has covered American politics extensively since 2004 with focus on U.S. policy towards the Middle East. Prior to that, she worked as a Journalist in Lebanon, covering the Post-war situation. Joyce holds a B.A. in Journalism and an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution. Twitter: @Joyce_Karam