Racism lands among the top Republican campaign strategies for 2018

Deb Haaland
Deb Haaland

Republicans are leaning hard on racism to woo voters against a historically diverse Democratic field of candidates this year. It can be hard to keep track but Huffington Post has a running list of racist comments, ads, and mailers, “grad[ing] the attacks on their subtlety using a scale of one to five white hands.”

The cases that get five white hands will be familiar to many Daily Kos readers: efforts to paint Rhodes scholar Antonio Delgado as a scary black rapper, to link Aftab Pureval to terrorism through a case he never worked on handled by the giant international law firm at which he was an associate, to link Ammar Campa-Najjar to terrorism through a grandfather who died before he was born, and, of course, Ron DeSantis’s infamous “monkey this up” comments the morning after the Florida gubernatorial primary.

But even if you know all about those incidents, it’s striking to see how widespread overt racism is in Republican campaigns, whether in casual comments from candidates or as a planned campaign strategy.

Often, it’s a comment that shows how Republicans habitually look at people of color. Both Deb Haaland and Sharice Davids, Native American women running for the House in New Mexico and Kansas, respectively, have faced comments about “the reservation”—a local Republican official wanted to send Davids “packing back to the reservation,” while Haaland’s opponent thought that identifying Haaland as Indian wasn’t quite right because it “evokes images that she was raised on a reservation.” Republican Rep. Pete Olson called his Democratic challenger, Sri Preston Kulkarni, a “liberal Indo-American who’s a carpetbagger,” when Kulkarni was raised in the suburban Houston district he’s running in and is descended from Sam Houston.

Republicans aren’t always shy about memorializing their racism, though, in the form of campaign mailers and ads. A Republican running for Tennessee state Senate against Gabby Salinas, who is an immigrant, sent out a mailer saying “his family has called Shelby County home for seven generations. He’s from here. He’s one of us.” (Subtext: And she’s not.) In Arizona, ads attacking Democratic gubernatorial candidate David Garcia have darkened his skin.

The list goes on because Republican racism goes on and on and on. And no doubt the list will keep growing in the final weeks of the campaign, and beyond. After all, we all saw how much racism didn’t go away when we elected a black president.

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