Here’s how racist this ad is: CNN actually called it racist, and not the standard “racially charged” cowardice that typically emanates from our mainstream media on stuff like this. The New York Times’ Trump whisperer who can barely bring herself to say the word “lie,” Maggie Haberman, even called it racist. Here it is.
If you find yourself enraged over this, don’t worry, everyone is this morning. But if you find yourself thinking that this ad is a new development in the racism of our politics, well, let me direct you to George H. W. Bush’s famed Willie Horton ad from 1988.
What makes this new Trump ad so different from Bush’s “Willie Horton” ad, as historian Kevin Kruse detailed, is that famed GOP strategist Lee Atwater laundered the Horton ad through third parties, distancing the presidential candidate from this outright racism and fear-mongering (“Willie” wasn’t even Horton’s name, it was a nickname cooked up by Atwater). Trump is posting this from his own account, and it was produced specifically for the Trump campaign. The racism and xenophobia undergirding the Trump administration is not new to the Republican Party. Since the Civil Rights Act was passed in 1964, the GOP has always campaigned on white racial resentment. What’s different is that they now refuse to hide their bigotry behind dog whistles and third-parties spreading their fear for them.
It’s difficult to write about Trump in the context of the GOP these days, because it seems like the GOP is more racist than it used to be. To some extent, that’s true. Trump has given America’s deplorables the cover to show their true colors in public. Before Trump, these folks still harbored these racist beliefs, but decades of norms emanating out of the Civil Rights movement made them fearful to share their hatred in public, lest they be shunned. Now, it’s all out in the open, and it’s hard to figure out how to assign blame between a Republican Party whose lifeblood has always been closeted bigotry and a Republican president who tells those bigots that they do not need to hide their hatred anymore. Regardless of the details, one thing is clear: the Republican Party is a fundamentally bigoted institution that exists for two reasons—to promote white supremacy and steal as much money from America poor and middle classes to give to our richest folk. Please vote Democrat next Tuesday, lest Trump and the GOP learn from the midterms that outright bigotry and xenophobia is still how you gain power in America.
Jacob Weindling is a staff writer for Paste politics. Follow him on Twitter at @Jakeweindling.