While few sitting Republican legislators echo these sentiments publicly, Republican audiences are now being fed white-nationalist philosophy through mainstream conservative figures with national followings. Unless something changes, conservative constituencies will eventually begin to demand that their representatives adopt those views as well.
Adam Serwer, “The White Nationalists Are Winning.”
When was the last time you heard a Republican politician actually speak out against racism? Or better yet, when was the last time you heard a Republican even acknowledge his Party’s racism?
Go ahead, I’ll wait…
While the GOP has employed race-baiting and racist dog-whistle messaging in its high-profile political campaigns over the last half century, over the past two years these tactics have gone noticeably mainstream. Republican politicians from Corey Stewart to Steven King are finding that in the age of Trump, overt appeals to white superiority or affiliations with white power extremists need no longer be disguised or sugar-coated for their constituents. Through social media platforms and the high profile afforded by the media to racist extremists (lazily characterized by the media as the “alt right”), the Republican Party is gradually but unmistakably transforming itself into a Party publicly wedded to an ideal of white supremacy.
Two articles, one by Adam Serwer in The Atlantic, the other by Chris Riotta for The Independent, illustrate how the GOP has rapidly (and likely permanently) become captive to extremist, “white nationalist” culture:
It is a problem that starts from the top down, according to Tim Miller, the former communications director for Jeb Bush’s 2016 presidential campaign. “There’s a growing crisis within the Republican Party in which neo-Nazis, racists and xenophobes are attracted to the GOP,” he told The Independent.
This has an extremely dangerous impact on the party, in that it’s slipping increasingly into a party represented by people who are espousing alt-right, quasi-white nationalist beliefs,” Mr Miller said.
The reason for this transformation is not particularly complicated—when a Republican candidate espouses views that are meant to appeal to their constituents’ racist instincts, people with those sort of inclinations volunteer to work for those candidates. And gradually, those people begin to be promoted to positions of power within the Party. Eventually they become the people who run for office. They become the face of the Party.
While most Americans recoiled in horror at the cleanly-scrubbed white men who marched with their torches and chants of “Jews will not replace us” last year in Charlottesville, as Serwer points out, the marchers themselves regarded that episode as a victory. They achieved their goal of exposure and more importantly, they received tacit recognition from the most powerful representative of the Republican Party imaginable:
[T]he alt-right and its fellow travelers were never going to be able to assemble a mass movement. Despite the controversy over the rally and its bloody aftermath, the white nationalists’ ideological goals remain a core part of the Trump agenda. As long as that agenda finds a home in one of the two major American political parties, a significant portion of the country will fervently support it. And as an ideological vanguard, the alt-right fulfilled its own purpose in pulling the Republican Party in its direction.
The murderous romp of white supremacists in Charlottesville has done nothing to dilute the Administration’s unapologetically race-baiting tactics. Trump’s rallies, at this point, are simply orgies of white people demonizing Hispanics and Muslims. His Tweets target African-American football players as un-American. His policies on the ground continue to demonstrate raw racism and cruelty towards immigrants, even down to their children. And following his lead since Charlottesville, Republican media outlets have amplified and spread the message of white supremacy and white genetic superiority to a Republican audience increasingly willing to accept it:
A year after white nationalists in Charlottesville chanted, “You will not replace us!” their message has been taken up and amplified by Fox News personalities. Tucker Carlson tells his audience that “Latin American countries are changing election outcomes here by forcing demographic change on this country.” Laura Ingraham says that “the America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of “massive demographic changes” as a result of “both illegal and sometimes legal immigration that progressives love.” They echo the white-nationalist claim that America is at risk because the nation is growing more diverse, an argument that treats the mere presence of nonwhite people, citizen or noncitizen, as an existential threat to the country. White nationalists like Cantwell are cheered to hear their beliefs championed on Fox. Cantwell wrote last year that Carlson “is basically telling white America to prepare for war as directly as he can get away with while remaining on Fox News.”
Out in the political arena, the net impact of this infiltration of the Republican Party by overt, out-and-out racists has been to the Party’s messaging, making it less apologetic, less surreptitious, more blatant and direct. And their constituents grow from simply becoming acclimated, to actually expecting, anticipating and desiring this line of political rhetoric. As Riotta notes, most Americans’ political beliefs derive from what their political party’s candidates say and do. Republican voters who had thus far been inclined to silently wink or nod at their Party’s implicit racism are now being presented with real deal, as the GOP has finally begun to openly acknowledge racism as a fundamental, necessary piece to their Party’s very existence:
It’s a gamble with huge implications, both for the individual candidate and the party. By playing on their supporters’ fears, Republicans are taking a gamble that they’ll be rewarded by voters who have decided to believe immigration is inherently bad, and certain racial stereotypes are inherently factual, simply because their elected officials have made those points.
For all intents and purposes, the Republican Party has irrevocably hitched its star to white supremacy, hoping that its voters will follow. And thus far, their tactics have sparked virtually no backlash, no protest, no condemnation from the Republican base. At this point, as Serwer points out, the only thing remaining to validate or invalidate these belief systems is for the American people to render their judgment, by voting on them:
Only when Americans render a political verdict against Trumpism and its racialized vision of American citizenship will that skirmish be won. Until that happens, the white nationalists know that despite their infamy and humiliation, their pathetic adherence to a genetic determinism they desperately hope will rescue their lonely lives from insignificance is slowly succeeding at remaking the country in their image.