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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

The GOP's Racist President Handbook

by digby

Mark Sumner at Daily Kos
lays out how the GOP has learned to deal with Trump's racism. I think he's got it exactly right:

Step one: Trump isn’t racist, because he didn’t mention race.

Whether it’s the Trump supporters phoning in to NPR or a group of Republican women interviewed by CNN, one thing is certain: What Trump said is not racist. That’s because Trump supporters have narrowed down racism to the narrowest possible definition. Under this definition, saying Mexicans are rapists isn’t racist. That’s about a nation. Saying congresswomen of color should get out of America isn’t racist. That’s about patriotism. As professor Carol Anderson has pointed out, this isn’t a new thing. In the past, Republicans have made it clear that terms such as “welfare queen” from Reagan and “gang banger” from Bush are also not racist—because they don’t directly mention a race. No matter how loud the dog whistle blows, Republicans will pretend they can’t hear it.

The definition of racism for the modern Republican is completely down to whether someone used a racial epithet. Trump did not say the N-word, so nothing else he could say could possibly be racist according to the Republican rules. And when Trump inevitably tweets the N-word, they’ll make new rules.

Step two: Trump isn’t racist; he’s just telling it like it is.

The next thing that Republicans do with a racist statement isn’t just to excuse it as nonracism, but to explain that it’s actually a good statement. A patriotic statement. An American statement. And that’s exactly what happened with Trump’s latest. Republicans from Kellyanne Conway to Kevin McCarthy have gone beyond just excusing Trump’s words; they’ve made the claim that he was on the side of justice.

As Trump has said, and other Republicans have echoed, his statements weren’t racist. They were just another restatement of that old conservative saw: America, love her or leave her. Which is a pearl of wisdom that Republicans pry free every time there’s a Republican in the White House. In defending his tweet, Trump declared that progressive Democratic congresswomen “hate our country” and have said “horrible” and “vile” things about America. Predictably, even when Trump has made these declarations to the press, no reporter has challenged him to say what these horrible or vile things might be.

This step is superbeloved of Republican voters. Not only does it exonerate Trump, but it also elevates his expressions of hatred into patriotism. And if it can do that for Trump, it can also do that for them. Trump supporters are reassured that Trump’s not a racist, they’re not racists, and the resentment and anger they feel toward people not like them—those urban, coastal elites—is completely justified. And see? No mention of race.

Step three: Democrats are the real racists, for saying that Trump is racist.

After determining that Trump’s statements aren’t racist, but are actually patriotic, and making it clear that it’s perfectly okay to hate the people Trump condemned because they’re vile America-haters who really should be run out of this country, the next step is to search for the real racists.

Because Republicans recognize that the word “racist” still has some punch. Being a racists is a bad thing, but Trump isn’t racist because that’s already been established in step one and step two. So if Trump didn’t say anything about race, then whoever mentioned race first is the real racist. QED.

Once Republicans have completed the racist waltz, they emerge at the other end feeling angered, justified, and satisfied that they have “won” this engagement by showing that the Democrats are the anti-American racists. Oh, and … some of them look like they may have come from “shithole countries.” Not that anyone is saying anything about race! That’s just nationalism. Xenophobia and nationalism are now 100% okay.

That’s how Donald Trump starts the week with a sickening expression of blatant racism, and turns it into an increase in support among Republicans. As Reuters reports, Trump’s net approval among Republicans rose by 5% following his “go back” tweets and his double-down, triple-down aftermath.