The Anti-American values party
The Anti-American values party
By Lee A. Daniels, George Curry Media Columnist
As Donald Trump marches toward the Republican Party’s presidential nomination, holding high the banner of racist demagoguery, I suggest the GOP change its name to something more accurate. Given the despicable words and proposals of its leading presidency-seeking candidates and some of its elected officials this month, it should really be called the Anti-American Values Party.
After all, isn’t closing America’s borders to refugees fleeing terror in their countries anti-American? Isn’t it anti-American to reach back to the unjustified World War II-era imprisonment of Japanese Americans in concentration camps, and the postwar “red-scare” witch hunts as models for putting “suspicious” people under surveillance? Isn’t proposing to wage a religious and race war against certain “not-like-us” Americans anti-American?
Not, it’s clear, if you’re a GOP presidential candidate or one of its leading racist provocateurs. Horrific terrorist attacks occur thousands of miles away in Beirut, Lebanon, in Paris, in Bamako, Mali, and outcome the proposals to turn away Syrian refugees, close mosques, put Muslim Americans under surveillance and force them to “re-gister” on a government “database.”
“We’re going to have to do things that we never did before … we’re going to have to do certain things that were frankly unthinkable a year ago,” said Trump, the man who conflated his attending a military-themed boarding school with actual service in America’s military – which he dodged.
Ben Carson, Ted Cruz, and Marco Rubio are all playing variations of this dirty gambit, too – underscoring the truism that when you lie down in the cesspool, the only place to go is deeper and deeper into the filth. But leave it to Iowa Rep. Steve King, America’s worst elected bigot, to be the deepest cesspool diver. He said on CNN Nov. 24, speaking of not only Syrian refugees but Arabs in general, “no one has shown me an example of people from [the Middle East] that have assimilated into the broader [American] society.”
This kind of brazen racism disappeared from respectable political discourse with the defeat of the Southern segregationists and the dismantling of Jim Crow in the 1960s. And once upon a time, GOP officials regularly trotted out such slogans as “the Party of Lincoln” and “the Big Tent,” if only to continue to fool the foolish about how far it was tracking into the wilderness of reactionary ideology.
But Trump’s money and low character has enabled him to strip such rhetoric out of the GOP playbook – with nary a peep of protest from the pathetic contingent of Black and Hispanic conservatives. Now, overt racism is the chief “talking point” of those Republicans – and some Democrats – playing armchair warrior. These are people who, when times are calm, boast of their being stewards of the “values” that made America great. But when danger looms, or they’re just feeling anxious – or they see a profit to be made – they readily choose callousness over compassion, cowardice over integrity, prejudice over tolerance, division over unity, and, most of all, the lie over the truth.
So, one shouldn’t be that surprised at Trump’s anti-refugee proposals; or his vile lie that on 9-11 he saw “thousands” of Arab-American residents of New Jersey cheering on the banks of the Hudson River as they watched the destruction of the World Trade Center. Remember, this is the man who opened his campaign for the Republican presidential nomination with a vicious slur against the Mexican government, undocumented Mexican immigrants and Hispanic Americans in general. And he then quickly incorporated all sorts of offensive remarks into a campaign built entirely on empty boasts, outright lies and naked appeals to bigotry of one kind or another.
For example, in response to the fierce condemnation of his slur against Arab-American residents of New Jersey, Trump, via a re-tweet, told another brazen lie: claiming that 97 percent of Whites who are murdered are slain by Blacks [It’s actually 14.8 percent]. Both falsehoods – the kind of lies that at one time had the stature of Scripture in White America – were quickly refuted with facts and other evidence. But such things are meaningless to many Republicans because they, like Trump, are addicted to the brazen lie. The more outrageous the lie, the more they cling to it in order to stoke their hatreds. This dynamic, which fuels the support of Carson, Cruz and Rubio, too, indicates that the GOP’s moral rot has left it with a sizable base of voters who are enthralled by empty boasting; are contemptuous of considered thought and factual evidence; and are driven by a deep-rooted racism and fear of democratic principles.
Further, Trump’s approval at a campaign rally of several thuggish supporters’ attacking a lone Black heckler – “Maybe he should be roughed up a little,” he said – is more proof that, contrary to the hypocritical cant of free speech absolutists, racist expression is not always just “speech.” Racist verbal expression always contains at the least the implicit threat of physical violence, too. Sometimes the violence is expressed in nonviolent action – such as housing discrimination; or in just words and gestures alone. But the whole history of racial bigotry in America proves it can and does stoke physical violence as well. It should be clear to all now that that dynamic is central to not only Trump’s campaign but today’s Republican Party as a whole.
Lee A. Daniels is a longtime journalist based in New York City. His essay, “Martin Luther King, Jr.: The Great Provocateur,” appears in Africa’s Peacemakers: Nobel Peace Laureates of African Descent (2014), published by Zed Books. His new collection of columns, Race Forward: Facing America’s Racial Divide in 2014, is available at www.amazon.com