Donald Trump’s election strategy is clearly focused on tearing this great nation apart along racial lines. The path he has taken can best be described as the “Southern Strategy on Steroids.” For those too young to remember, the Republican’s Southern Strategy began in the 1960s and targeted white Southerners’ racial resentment of gains made by blacks during the Civil Rights movement.
The late Lee Atwater, a political consultant and strategist for the GOP who also served as chairman of the Republican National Committee, in a candid 1981 interview, described the evolution of the Southern Strategy in these terms: “By 1968 ... you say stuff like forced busing, states’ rights and all that stuff. You’re getting so abstract now that you’re talking about cutting taxes, and all these things you’re talking about are totally economic things and a byproduct of them is blacks get hurt worse than whites.”
While the initial target of the strategy was white Southerners, Trump’s focus has expanded nationwide. The racism and bigotry he espouses has gotten worse as he has grown more desperate and he doesn’t speak in abstracts or employ dog whistles. Trump is now using a bullhorn to spread his hate. For example, in the last few weeks he has (among other things):
• Retweeted a video in which a man shouts “white power” and later deleted but never disavowed it.
• Talked of the pandemic as “kung flu” resulting in increased assaults and discrimination against Asian Americans.
• Labeled signs proclaiming “Black Lives Matter” a “symbol of hate.”
• Threatened to veto a defense bill if it removes the names of Confederate generals from U.S. military bases.
• Attacked NASCAR for banning the Confederate flag.
• Announced he was considering the elimination of an Obama-era program intended to eliminate racial housing disparities in the suburbs.
But the most tragic aspect of Trump’s drive to divide our country is the silence of most Republicans at all levels of government. From the halls of Congress, to state legislatures, to county and local government, the silence is deafening. Some remain silent because they fear Trump’s wrath or the wrath of fellow Republicans. But your cowardice only serves to enable Trump and white supremacy. Your silence makes you complicit and we will not forget.
Michael E. Waters