Why the GOP Establishment Tolerates Trump’s Racism

The political world has been rocked by Trump’s racist comment that Judge Gonazlo Curiel’s “Mexican heritage” constituted an “absolute conflict” for him to preside over the Trump University litigation. The presumptive nominee doubled down on those bigoted remarks when he expressed doubt that a Muslim judge could be neutral in a case involving him or one of his companies. These remarks followed on the heels of several other racist remarks that the orange hued mogul had made earlier in the election cycle.

Trump’s remarks were followed by ritualistic condemnation from many prominent Republicans. Ben Sasse tweeted that: “Public Service Announcement: Saying someone can’t do a specific job because of his or her race is the literal definition of ‘racism.’ ” House Speaker Paul Ryan – the highest elected Republican official – stated: “Claiming a person can’t do their job because of their race is sort of like the textbook definition of a racist comment. I think that should be absolutely disavowed. It’s absolutely unacceptable.” Nevertheless, with certain rare exceptions (including Sasse), most elected Republicans said they would continue to support Trump’s candidacy.

Most elected Republicans have tolerated Trump’s racism because the GOP has long stoked racial resentment and animus for political advantage. This all began in the late 1960s with Richard Nixon’s infamous “Southern Strategy.” Nixon made coded references to race with his calls for “law and order” during his 1968 Presidential campaign. In 1980, Ronald Reagan called for “states’ rights” in a speech in Tuscumbia, Alabama – which was located about seven miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi where civil rights workers were killed in 1964.

Other Republican nominees followed suit. In 1988, George H.W. Bush was elected in part due to numerous references he and other Republicans made to the infamous Willie Horton case. Moreover, references to the Reverend Jeremiah Wright by Sarah Palin in 2008 clearly played upon racial fears and resentment. Subsequently, Donald Trump was one of the most prominent purveyors of the theory that President Obama was born in Kenya. Moreover, in 2012, the Romney campaign falsely alleged that the Obama Administration had rescinded the work requirements in the 1996 Welfare Reform Act.

What makes Trump so outrageous and controversial is that he doesn’t rely upon the usual code words and winks and nods. He has taken off the mask and removed all of the usual artifice. Trump’s campaign is the most openly racist Presidential campaign since George Wallace’s 1968 independent bid. It is the openness of the bigotry that has so alarmed the GOP and outraged Trump’s critics.

The Republican establishment and donor class is also tolerating Trump’s racism because he has sold out and adopted it’s agenda. As Paul Ryan said, he continues to support the presumptive nominee because he will enact the GOP’s regressive and unpopular agenda.

It wasn’t always this way. Earlier in the election cycle, Trump posed as a different kind of candidate who rejected long time conservative orthodoxy on many key issues. Trump said he wanted to increase taxes on the wealthy and even raise the minimum wage. Moreover, Trump also came out in opposition to cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Recently, Trump has been singing a different tune on these issues. He has moved to the right and morphed into your standard, garden variety right wing Republican. This shift on the issues directly coincides with Trump breaking his pledge to self fund his campaign. Now Trump needs to raise a lot of money very quickly from the GOP establishment and donor class. That’s why he put a long time Wall Street insider in charge of his fundraising operation.

After posing as the scourge of the big banks, Trump is now making nice with Wall Street. In a recent speech, Trump said he would gut nearly all of 2010 Dodd-Frank Act – which has successfully reined in Wall Street since the crash of 2008. “I would say it’ll be close to a dismantling of Dodd-Frank. Dodd-Frank is a very negative force, which has developed a very bad name,” the former television reality show host said.

The orange hued mogul has also changed his position on Social Security and Medicare in an effort to please the GOP donor class. Sam Clovis, one of Trump’s chief policy aides, recently attended a meeting organized by the pro-austerity billionaire Pete Peterson. Clovis told the assembled billionaires that a Trump Administration could support cuts to Social Security and Medicare.

Trump has undergone a similar evolution on the tax issue. After flirting with the idea of raising taxes on the wealthy, a Trump spokesman confirmed that he won’t be altering his tax plan. According to two non-partisan think tanks, Trump’s tax cut would add anywhere from $10 trillion to $12 trillion to the deficit over the next 10 years. Moreover, for the top 1 percent of earners, the average reduction in their tax load would be approximately $275,000, while the top 0.1 percent would grab $1.3 million.

Trump’s recent shift to the right on the minimum wage would also be a windfall for the super wealthy and big business. Earlier this year, Trump came out generally in favor of a higher minimum wage. After blowback from the GOP donor class, Trump came out against the very concept of a federal minimum wage. The orange hued mogul doesn’t even want the federal government to set a floor for the minimum wage. Instead, Trump would leave that up to the states.

Trump’s new reactionary position on the minimum wage would hurt working families since many states still maintain the $7.25 per hour minimum wage that was enacted by the Congress in 2007. Moreover, six red states have either no minimum wage at all or one as low as $5.15. If there was no federal minimum wage guarantee, we would see a race to the bottom among many of the red states to either reduce or eliminate the minimum wage entirely.

What we have here is a candidate who has evolved from being anti-GOP establishment to adopting their regressive economic agenda. That’s why the GOP donor class still supports Trump despite his open racism. As GOP lobbyist Grover Norquist said in 2012: “We don’t need a president to tell us in what direction to go. We know what direction to go. We want the Ryan budget. Pick a Republican with enough working digits to handle a pen to become president of the United States.”

In the unlikely event Trump is elected President, the Republican members of Nebraska’s Congressional delegation will vote for this regressive agenda. As a matter of fact, Fischer, Sasse, Fortenberry and Smith are already on record in support of the Ryan budget. Ben Sasse may condemn Trump and not even vote for him this fall but if Trump wins the Presidency, Nebraska’s junior Senator will loyally fall in line with the rest of his party and support Trump’s legislative program.

When I say that Trump is unlikely to win the election, I mean it. Our nominee is well positioned to win this fall and our party should pick up seats in both Houses of Congress. Nevertheless, we can take nothing for granted. We must work hard to insure a victory for Progressive ideals this fall. We must also be united against the threat presented by Trump and his party. United we are strong. United we will win!