President Donald Trump was clearly trying to fire up his MAGA base during his divisive Friday, July 3 speech at South Dakota’s Mt. Rushmore, where he angrily railed against George Floyd protestors and defended Confederate symbols. Trump is not shying away from playing the race card: he is doubling down on it. And his reliance on racial politics is the focus of two recent Washington Post pieces: a news article by Robert Costa and Philip Rucker and a column by Dana Milbank.
In their article, Costa and Rucker stress that Trump’s racism is worrying fellow Republicans — even if they are afraid to criticize the president publicly.
“President Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination, crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mt. Rushmore, has unnerved Republicans who have long enabled him but now fear losing power and forever associating their party with his racial animus,” Costa and Rucker explain. “Although amplifying racism and stoking culture wars have been mainstays of Trump’s public identity for decades, they have been particularly pronounced this summer as the president has reacted to the national reckoning over systemic discrimination by seeking to weaponize the anger and resentment of some white Americans for his own political gain.”
During the Mt. Rushmore speech, Costa and Rucker note, Trump’s campaign “strategy” was obviously “galvanizing white supporters.” For example, Trump told the predominantly white crowd, “Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values and indoctrinate our children. Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”
According to GOP strategist Scott Reed, Trump’s racially polarizing message is undermining the GOP’s chances of maintaining their U.S. Senate majority. Reed told the Post, “The Senate incumbent candidates are not taking the bait and are staying as far away from this as they can. The problem is this is no longer just Trump’s Twitter feed. It’s expanded to the podium, and that makes it more and more difficult for these campaigns.”
Former Ohio Gov. John Kasich, one of Trump’s right-wing critics, cited Trump’s racially divisive rhetoric as a prime example of why his party is “in decline.”
Kasich told the Post, “They coddled this guy the whole time, and now, it’s like some rats are jumping off of the sinking ship. It’s just a little late. It’s left this nation with a crescendo of hate not only between politicians, but between citizens…. It started with Charlottesville, and people remained silent then — and we find ourselves in this position now.”
According to GOP pollster Whit Ayers, Trump is still wildly popular with his MAGA base — but that base alone won’t be enough defeat his Democratic rival, former Vice President Joe Biden, in November.
Ayers told the Post, “The president’s base is locked in. They love him, they’re going to turn out, and they’re going to vote for him. The problem is that the base is not enough to win. You can make a case that protecting Confederate monuments is very popular among at least a portion of his base, but it does nothing to expand the coalition — and that’s the imperative at the moment and will be going forward if the party hopes to govern.”
In his column, Milbank asserts that opposition to Trump’s racism is widespread in the U.S. Milbank observes, “White women, disgusted by Trump’s cruelty, are abandoning him in large number. White liberals, stunned by the brazen racism, have taken to the streets. And signs point to African- American turnout in November that will rival the record level of 2012, when Obama was on the ballot. This, by itself, would flip Michigan, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin to Democrats, an analysis by the liberal Center for American Progress shows.”
According to Milbank, “Trump’s racism has also emboldened white Democrats, who have often been on the losing end of racial politics since George H.W. Bush deployed Willie Horton against Michael Dukakis in 1988.” And that type of strategy, Milbank emphasizes, can only cause the GOP to shrink.
“To the extent Trump’s racist provocation is a strategy rather than simply an instinct, it is a miscalculation,” Milbank asserts. “The electorate was more than 90% white when Richard Nixon deployed his southern strategy; the proportion is now 70% white and shrinking. But more than that, Trump’s racism has alienated a large number of white people.”