In risky bid, Trump stokes racial rancour to motivate voters

In risky bid, Trump stokes racial rancour to motivate voters

In risky bid, Trump stokes racial rancour to motivate voters

NEW YORK — President Donald Trump is wielding America’s racial tensions as a reelection weapon, fiercely denouncing the racial justice movement on a near-daily basis with language stoking white resentment and aiming to drive his supporters to the polls.

The incendiary discourse is alarming many in his own party and running contrary to the advice of some in his inner circle, who believe it risks alienating independent and suburban voters. It’s a pattern that harks back to cultural divisions Trump similarly exploited in his victorious 2016 campaign.

“It’s not about who is the object of the derision or the vitriol. The actual issue is understanding the appeal to white resentment and white fear,” said Eddie Glaude, chair of the Department of African American studies at Princeton University. “It’s all rooted in this panic about the place of white people in this new America.”

Though Trump has long aired racially divisive language and grievances in the public sphere, his willingness to do so from behind the presidential seal — and on his Twitter account — has reached a breakneck pace in recent days as the nation grapples with racial injustice.

The president tweeted — and later deleted — a video of a supporter yelling “white power.” He referred to the Black Lives Matter mantra as a “symbol of hate.” He took a swipe at NASCAR for removing the Confederate flag from its races and falsely suggested a Black driver had carried out a racially charged hoax. He mused about overturning a suburban fair-housing regulation and spoke approvingly of the current branding of the Washington Redskins and Cleveland Indians, team nicknames that many consider offensive to Native Americans.

Most notably, he has engaged in a full-throated defence of the Confederate legacy, which he at times has cloaked within tributes to the Founding Fathers, including during a pair of high-profile Fourth of July weekend speeches.

“Those who seek to erase our heritage want Americans to forget our pride and our great dignity, so that we can no longer understand ourselves or America’s destiny,” Trump said Friday at the base of Mount Rushmore. “In toppling the heroes of 1776, they seek to dissolve the bonds of love and loyalty that we feel for our country, and that we feel for each other. Their goal is not a better America; their goal is the end of America.”

In defending Thomas Jefferson and George Washington that night, Trump did not mention the Confederacy. Instead, he painted racial justice demonstrators with a broad brush that made no distinction between the many who oppose honouring the Confederacy and the relative few who question celebrating Founders who owned slaves.

But Trump has repeatedly called for the preservation of statues of the Confederacy and the names of its generals on military bases — all assailed in the protests that have swept from coast to coast in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd.

His comments are an apparent descendant, a half-century later, of Richard Nixon’s coded outreach to white voters known as the Southern Strategy. Trump himself has embraced Nixon’s phrase “the Silent Majority” to describe his own supporters.

By all accounts, the president’s actions are, at times, born of impulse and an instinctive reaction to what he sees on television. However, according to current and former Trump campaign officials, his overarching strategy is an appeal to white voters — some of them racist and some who fear being left behind by a government seemingly consumed with helping others. Those officials were not authorized to publicly discuss such private matters and commented only on condition of anonymity.

The belief is that his appeals will generate enthusiasm among the same disaffected white voters who made up the president’s base of supporters four years ago.

But many in Trump’s orbit are sounding the alarm that 2020 is not 2016.

White House advisers Kellyanne Conway and Jared Kushner, according to the officials, have both warned that some of the racist rhetoric, including the use of China-blaming “kung flu” to describe the COVID-19 pandemic, could turn off swaths of voters. And some believe there was more of an audience for inflammatory rhetoric about immigration four years ago, particularly as polls show the Black Lives Matter movement gaining widespread support.

“The 2016 debate about immigration was about the future of sovereignty, the American worker, and our culture. The issues that involve race now are completely different,” said Sam Nunberg, a former Trump campaign adviser.

“It’s not easy to conflate people who want to tear down the statues of the Confederacy and the few who want to get George Washington,” said Nunberg. “I don’t think it’s a winning argument in a time of a pandemic. This doesn’t affect people’s daily lives. This is a dumb issue to fight.”

Four months before Election Day, Republicans are nervously watching polls that show Trump slipping behind his Democratic rival Joe Biden. They have grown increasingly worried that his focus on racial rancour could force GOP senators locked in tough campaigns to distance themselves from their party’s president.

“Defending the Confederacy and racial dog whistles is not going to help win the suburbs. He is solely focused on a small part of his base when he should be looking to grow his support,” said Alex Conant, a Republican strategist who advised Sen. Marco Rubio’s presidential bid. “If Joe Biden proposed tearing down Mount Rushmore, that would be a huge opening for Trump. But Biden is not doing that.”

Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., said GOP candidates “need to do what they need to do to win. And in some states, he will be a benefit in some parts of the country. In other parts of the country, less so.”

The Trump campaign dismisses accusations of racism.

“President Trump’s Mount Rushmore address was a defining speech highlighting America’s highest ideals of freedom and individual liberty,” said campaign spokesman Ken Farnaso. “He both educated citizens on our shared history and pushed for a more united front combating those who want to create chaos.”

Democrats have charged that the president’s recent rhetoric is consistent with Trump’s history, including his call in the 1980s for the death penalty for Black teenagers later exonerated for the rape of a jogger in Central Park and for questioning whether the nation’s first Black president, Barack Obama, was born in the United States.

“We are beyond dog whistles with this president,” said TJ Ducklo, the Biden campaign’s national press secretary. “Donald Trump openly embraces racist rhetoric and sends blatant signals of support for the causes of white supremacists — and he does it from the highest office in the land.”

___

Associated Press writer Alan Fram contributed to this report.

___

Follow Lemire on Twitter at http://twitter.com/@JonLemire

Jonathan Lemire, The Associated Press

racism

Just Posted

The Alberta Recyling Management Authority will host a used paint and oil recycling day on May 15. (Photo courtesy of ARMA)
Used oil and paint recycling event set this weekend in Red Deer

Red Deerians will have their first of three chances to recycle used… Continue reading

Shanna Lydiard is upset to have had mail delivery cut off last month to her West Park street because of water main reconstruction. Delivery is to resume by May 19 at the latest, according to the City of Red Deer. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff).
Red Deer woman frustrated by mail delivery suspension due to construction

Shanna Lydiard said residents shouldn’t have to drive across the city for their mail

Innisfail-Sylvan Lake MLA Devin Dreeshen received his COVID-19 vaccine Tuesday at Jackson’s Pharmacy in Innisfail. (Devin Creeshen Twitter photo)
COVID-19: Most local MLAs have received their first vaccine shot

Alberta’s NDP is encouraging all MLAs to get vaccinated and publicly promote… Continue reading

Alberta continues to wrestle with high COVID-19 case numbers. (NIAID-RML via AP)
Red Deer up to 858 active cases of COVID-19

Province reports additional 1,799 cases of the virus

Bo's Bar and Grill owner Brennen Wowk said the hospitality industry is looking for more clarity from the province around what conditions must be met to allow for restaurants reopening.
(Advocate file photo)
Frustated restaurant owners want to know government’s reopening plan

Restaurant owners feel they are in lockdown limbo

Red Deer Mayor Tara Veer and several members of city council helped kick off the spring Green Deer cleanup campaign on Wednesday. Veer said city workers do their best to keep the city looking good, but need volunteer help to get rid of litter that has blown into bushes onto road sides over the winter. (Photo by LANA MICHELIN/Advocate staff)
Red Deer city councillors launch spring Green Deer campaign

Volunteers are needed to keep the city looking good

Ottawa Senators centre Josh Norris, right, celebrates his game-winning overtime goal against the Toronto Maple Leafs with left wing Brady Tkachuk Wednesday May 12, 2021 in Ottawa. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
Norris scored winner, Senators beat Maple Leafs 4-3 in Andersen’s return from injury

Norris scored winner, Senators beat Maple Leafs 4-3 in Andersen’s return from injury

Rafael Nadal, of Spain, holds up the trophy after beating Daniil Medvedev, of Russia, in the final at the Rogers Cup tennis tournament, in Montreal on Sunday, Aug. 11, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Tennis Canada could move top tournaments to US if Toronto, Montreal plan not approved

Tennis Canada could move top tournaments to US if Toronto, Montreal plan not approved

Philadelphia Flyers' Travis Sanheim (6) and Brian Elliott (37) celebrate with teammates after the Flyers won an NHL hockey game against the New Jersey Devils, Monday, May 10, 2021, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)
Puck luck? Hockey’s secrecy makes betting on NHL a gamble

Puck luck? Hockey’s secrecy makes betting on NHL a gamble

FILE - John Davidson, left, president of the New York Rangers, and Rangers general manager Jeff Gorton pose at a news conference in New York, in this Wednesday, May 22, 2019, file photo. The New York Rangers abruptly fired president John Davidson and general manager Jeff Gorton on Wednesday, May 5, 2021 with three games left in the season. Chris Drury was named president and GM. He previously served as associate GM under Davidson and Gorton. (AP Photo/Seth Wenig, File)
New York Rangers fire coach Dave Quinn, 3 assistants

New York Rangers fire coach Dave Quinn, 3 assistants

Denis Shapovalov, of Canada, returns a shot from Ilya Ivashka, of Belarus, during the Miami Open tennis tournament, Saturday, March 27, 2021, in Miami Gardens, Fla. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Wilfredo Lee
Canadian Denis Shapovalov books meeting with Nadal in third round of Italian Open

Canadian Denis Shapovalov books meeting with Nadal in third round of Italian Open

United States goalie Alex Cavallini (33) deflects Canada's Marie Philip Poulin (29) shot during the first period in the women's 3-on-3 game, part of the NHL hockey All-Star weekend, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020, in St. Louis. Hockey Canada's roster of players invited to try out for the 2022 Olympic women's hockey team indicates the squad will be experienced up front and less so on the back end. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Jeff Roberson
Hockey Canada announces players invited to try out for women’s Olympic team

Hockey Canada announces players invited to try out for women’s Olympic team

Atlanta Braves pitcher Max Fried works against the Toronto Blue Jays during the first inning of a baseball game Wednesday, May 12, 2021, in Atlanta. (AP Photo/Ben Margot)
Hernández 2 HRs as Ryu, Blue Jays improve to 5-0 vs Braves

Hernández 2 HRs as Ryu, Blue Jays improve to 5-0 vs Braves

Toronto Maple Leafs goaltender Jack Campbell (36) makes a save as Maple Leafs defenceman TJ Brodie (78) and Montreal Canadiens forward Tyler Toffoli (73) look for the rebound during first period NHL hockey action in Toronto on Saturday, May 8, 2021. The Leafs and the Canadiens will meet in the playoffs for the first time in 42 years when the 2020-21 NHL post-season gets underway.THE CANADIAN PRESS/Nathan Denette
Leafs, Habs will face off in long-awaited playoff rematch, Oilers will face Jets

Leafs, Habs will face off in long-awaited playoff rematch, Oilers will face Jets

Most Read