There has long been a paranoid and racial element to movement conservatism. We saw this disturbing trend begin with the Goldwater campaign in 1964 when he carried five states in the deep south based upon his opposition to the passage of the Civil Right Acts that year. This trend was further amplified by Nixon’s “infamous Southern strategy” in which he made coded appeals to racial resentment with the use of terms like “states’ rights” and “law and order.”
Subsequent Republican Presidential campaigns continued to use Nixon’s southern strategy to win votes. President Obama’s most vitriolic and bitter enemies have pursued this strategy up to the present day. This is what the birther movement is all about. Even Mitt Romney used a page from this playbook as recently as 2012 when he briefly ran television ads falsely accusing President Obama of eliminating the work requirements in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.
What makes the Donald Trump phenomenon so disturbing is that he has completely dropped all artifice and has made blatant appeals to racial resentment and xenophobia. In his campaign, Trump has called Mexicans rapists, criminals and drug dealers. What’s more, Trump has called for the forcible deportation from the U.S. of eleven million aspiring U.S. citizens.
Trump has been especially harsh with respect to Muslims. The GOP Presidential frontrunner has called for the registration of Muslims and the closing down of Mosques. The GOP front runner recently ignited a firestorm when he called for a “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.”