In a way, it’s good to have this finally stated. Over the past 30-odd years, we’ve been treated again and again to more than obvious attempts by the Republican Party to channel racism from their base of support. In the past these efforts were characterized by the media—often correctly—as racist “dog whistles,” in which the Republican candidate would, I guess “cleverly,” resort to “coded” terminology in order to inflame the resentments and grievances of white Americans toward their fellow citizens of a darker shade of skin.
Thanks to Donald Trump, the GOP has finally dispensed with such niceties. As Paul Waldman writing for The Washington Post points out, out-and-out racism is no longer something to be disguised in the Republican Party. In fact, it’s something to broadcast loudly and clearly, just so there’s no mistake.
With Republican Glenn Youngkin successfully turning the Virginia gubernatorial campaign into a referendum on whether White students are being cruelly forced to think about racism, Democrat Terry McAuliffe is charging that Youngkin is deploying that most underhanded of rhetorical techniques, the “dog whistle.”
He’s ending his campaign on a racist dog whistle,” McAuliffe said on “Meet the Press” this Sunday, just one of many times he and his surrogates have made that allegation.
But here’s the reality: There are no more dog whistles in American politics. And this race shows why.
The GOP of years gone by wouldn’t dare stick its hateful, racist nose out for all to see. That was the time of Ronald Reagan, with his clever allusions to “welfare queens” and government as the “enemy.” Republicans knew exactly what he was talking about, but God forbid anyone in the media could acknowledge it. There was always some sort of rhetorical escape hatch, a back door of plausible deniability: Oh no, we weren’t talking about race, how dare you accuse us of that!
That convention—always one of convenience—has now been summarily tossed out the window by the modern Republican Party. Waldman explains the transformation as an acknowledgement that Republicans really want to be racist, and not only that, they want to fly their racist flags as high as they can imagine.
As Waldman observes, the internet has played a large part in this pathway to acknowledgment by the GOP of its inherently racist underpinnings. Since it’s become “impossible to send a hidden message to anyone that will not be immediately noticed, dissected, and decoded,” Republican thinking has finally come around to the realization that hiding it is simply a waste of time.
The final catalyst in this epiphany was the presidency of Donald Trump, which effectively taught Republicans that they could afford to be blatant racists without worrying about the consequences. As Waldman notes, “They wanted to be loud and unapologetic, especially when saying things that are unpopular or simply offensive.” Trump taught them that this was all A-OK. And, as Waldman points out, they’re “not going back.”
That’s because, deep down, (as Waldman implies) Republicans enjoy their racism. They like it, they feed on it, they revel in it, and they’ve felt so constrained for years about letting it all out. Waldman notes: “They think it’s clever and funny, but they aren’t trying to fool anyone.”
So it’s really just a matter of time before Republicans actually begin to act out on their beliefs. There are myriad historical consequences to racism, and we should expect Republicans will openly embrace these as well. Oppression? Lynching? Genocide? It’s all an accepted part of the platform. And when they get tired of maligning and demonizing all the people of color, they’ll move to Jews, LGBTQ people, and others (in fact, they already are). Because that’s the way it always works.
But please. Now that it’s out in the open, spare us the smoke and mirrors routine. It’s just embarrassing. Honestly, it’s probably a good thing that we’ve dispensed with the coyness, with all the dissembling, all the mealymouthed excuses you’ve offered over the years.
Now, at least, the rest of the American people can see you for what you really are.
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