Bigotry isn’t a bug or a put-on in the rightwing base
In pieces such as Timothy Egan’s New York Times op-ed, Trump Is the Poison His Party Concocted, pundits act as if the rightwing activists have been whipping up toxic racism, sexism, and homophobia only during the last decade or so. The truth is that all of that bigotry has been part of the fabric of the religious right going back through the 70s, 60s, 50s, and much, much earlier. Randall Balmer wrote about some of this last year on Politico: The Real Origins of the Religious Right – They’ll tell you it was abortion. Sorry, the historical record’s clear: It was segregation.
I’ve seen a lot people, from reporters to pundits to ordinary folks, make the specific claim that Donald Trump is in the lead among Republican voters not because they agree with his crazy racist and misogynist comments, but because they know his comments drive “liberals” nuts. These folks usually go on to say that eventually the Republican voters will get serious and vote for one of the other candidates once they’re finished yanking our chains. The unspoken proposition in that reasoning is that some of the other candidates are less racist and/or less misogynist than Trump is.
And I can’t figure out how anyone who has actually heard any of them talk could think that.
I said, half-jokingly, that I wasn’t going to watch the debates last week because I’d wind up drinking an unhealthy amount of alcohol to get through it. I have a much bigger reason not to listen to it: there is no policy differences between any of the 17 Republican candidates. None.
- All of them want to de-fund Planned Parenthood.
- All of them are opposed to marriage equality in particular and gay rights in general (yes, even former Governor Kasich, don’t let his sound byte about attending a “gay marriage” distract you from his decades of voting against and vetoing gay rights bills, funding for heatlh care for domestic partners of state employees, gay adoption, and so on).
- All of them are opposed to a woman’s right to choose.
- All of them are opposed to raising the minimum wage.
- All of them are apposed to restrictions on the same banking and financial institutions that destroyed the economy.
- All of them are in favor of more war.
- All of them want to repeal the Affordable Care Act.
- All of them want to cut taxes even further on the rich.
- All of them want to take away the few remaining protections workers have in the work place.
- None of them want to do anything about climate change.
- All of them favor some flavor of “religious liberty” laws that allow people to discriminate.
- All of them oppose anti-bullying programs in public schools that don’t have religious exemptions allowing Christian kids to bully their queer classmates.
- All of them try to blame problems in the economy caused by some of their other policies on immigrants.
- All of them want states to be able to enact more laws designed to keep poor and minority voters from voting…
I could keep going. But, seriously, the only thing that differentiates any of them is the tone of arguments they make on those issues, and which of those things they think is more important. But they’re all in favor of racist and misogynist policies. Each and every one of them. And they believe all of those things because the Republican base supports all of that.
To be fair, a lot of the base is sincere when they claim not to be bigots. This isn’t to say that they aren’t bigots, I’m just saying that they sincerely believe that they aren’t. It’s like one of my relatives who sends me sad messages wondering why my husband and I didn’t come to her Independence Day barbecue, the same day she was posting long tirades on Facebook about how god is going to destroy america because of marriage equality. She doesn’t see the contradiction between claiming she loves and respects us, her gay nephew and his husband, while also insisting that our love is an abomination that is going to cause an apocalypse.
Similarly, they have no qualms getting angry at the Black Lives Matter protestors by insisting “the blacks” should be grateful to the police for all the good they do. And “those blacks” shouldn’t be out protesting because of a “thug” who got what was coming to him. And if “those blacks” had real jobs instead of “taking welfare all the time” they wouldn’t have time to be protesting. But they insist they aren’t racist and it is a terrible slander for someone like me to point it out. Oh, and how dare I be offended about the confederate flag when “that damn president covered the white house in the immoral rainbow after the gay marriage ruling!”
But they aren’t bigots, no, not at all.
One of the local news people, when he expressed the hope that all this apparent support for the candidate saying the most obviously racist and misogynist things is some sort of put-on, said he did so because he hoped that the American people weren’t that bigoted. “The majority can’t really believe that stuff, can they?” The problem he’s having is the assumption that the Republican base represents the American population as a whole.
Let’s do some very rough math. In the last presidential election, the Republican candidate got only 47% of the vote. Less than a majority. And we know from other polling that the got less than a third of the so-called swing voters (that notion is worth its own blog post). So let’s say that roughly 45% of the population aligns with the Republicans. Other statistics show us that less than one-third of voters participate in primaries and caucuses. So that means that at most, 15% of the population falls into the category of “likely Republican primary voter.” And at most, 25% of those people support Donald Trump. So, 25% of 15% leaves us with 3.75%. In other words, less than 4% of all voters support the blatantly racist, misogynist b.s. that Trump is spewing.
Unfortunately, other polling indicates that at least 60% of likely Republican voters oppose gay rights, pro-choice policies, and civil rights protections. Which is why the other 16 clowns officially in the race for the nomination all have policies statements that align with Trump’s, they’re just a bit more genteel in their language (some times). But lest you despair, that’s 60% of the 45% mentioned earlier. So while these positions will continue to dominate the Republican party, by sticking to these ideas the candidates are only appealing to 27% of the entire electorate; in the process alienating most of the remaining 73%.
So it isn’t likely to be a winning strategy in the end. And while it’s scary to realize there are folks who feel that way, I think it’s good that things like this remind us who they are.