By Dr. Wilmer J. Leon, III
“… like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them… each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.” — Sen. Barack Obama, April 6, 2008
“A certain segment has basically been feeding a kind of xenophobia. There’s a reason why hate crimes against Hispanic people doubled last year. If you have people like Lou Dobbs and Rush Limbaugh ginning things up, it’s not surprising that would happen.” — Sen. Barack Obama, May 22, 2008
When former Sen. Obama made these statements in 2008 he was castigated. Hilary Clinton said, “I was taken aback by the demeaning remarks Senator Obama made about people in small-town America… His remarks are elitist and out of touch.”
Likewise, Sen. John McCain said, “Barack Obama’s elitism allows him to believe that the American traditions that have contributed to the identity and greatness of this country are actually just frustrations and bitterness…”
Based upon the most recent remarks made by Donald Trump and the support he continues to receive, Sen. Obama was absolutely right if not prophetic. In the wake of the San Bernardino, Calif. shootings Trump’s campaign released the following statement, “Donald J. Trump is calling for a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on…Until we are able to determine and understand this problem and the dangerous threat it poses, our country cannot be the victims of horrendous attacks by people that believe only in Jihad, and have no sense of reason or respect for human life.”
Earlier in the campaign Trump made the following comments about Mexican immigrants who have entered the country illegally, “When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems. They’re bringing drugs, they’re bringing crime. They’re rapists and some, I assume, are good people, but I speak to border guards and they’re telling us what we’re getting.”
In spite of these racist, bigoted, xenophobic statements, Donald Trump not only remains the Republican frontrunner, his numbers are on the rise. According to Real Clear Politics, Trump is leading the pack of Republican contenders, 30 points to his closest rival Sen. Ted Cruz’s 15 points. In speaking to Trump supporters on CNN, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) said, “He’s a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. He doesn’t represent my party. He doesn’t represent the values that the men and women who wear the uniform are fighting for… He’s the ISIL man of the year.”
Earlier in the CNN interview Graham said, “I don’t know who you are (Trump supporters) and I don’t know why you like this guy.” Well senator, that’s easy to answer. Trump is speaking to the same people former Congressman Joe Wilson (R-SC) was speaking for when he said to President Obama, “You lie!”. He’s speaking to the same people that former House Speaker Gingrich addressed when he said “[Obama] really is like the substitute [National Football League] referees in the sense that he’s not a real president,” or when Gingrich said, “What if (Obama) is so outside our comprehension, that only if you understand Kenyan anticolonial behavior can you begin to piece together (his actions)? …This is a person who is fundamentally out of touch with how the world works…I think he worked very hard at being a person who is normal, reasonable, moderate, bipartisan, transparent, accommodating — none of which was true. … He was authentically dishonest.” He’s speaking to the same people that former Congressman Tancredo (R-CO) was speaking to when he said, “”This is our country…Let’s take it back.”
Graham wonders who Trump is speaking to? He’s speaking to the same people that Republican leadership such as Mitch McConnell (R-KY) failed to address when 31 percent of Republicans said Pres. Obama was a Muslim. When asked about this on Meet the Press McConnell said, “The president says he’s a Christian. I take him at his word.”
Trump is speaking to the same Tea Party members who spat on Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO) called Rep. John Lewis (D-GA) a “n***r” and Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) a “fa**ot.” All of this took place while Republicans such as Graham, Tancredo, McConnell and others in positions of leadership or former members in leadership cajoled and encouraged them with code language or tacit agreement through their conspicuous silence. The problem that many Republicans are now having with Trump is that he’s no longer speaking in code; he’s spewing his hatred loud and clear.
Senator Graham is right; Trump is a race-baiting, xenophobic religious bigot. But, he’s also a Wharton Business School MBA who clearly understands markets, marketing, and messaging. He’s playing to the same audience that Republican leadership has played to since the election of President Obama and right now his message is being well received in the Republican marketplace of ideology.
“The Donald” has learned his lessons well. He clearly understands that bigotry and hatred are his Trump cards. The question is, as they say at the card table, will his own partners “cut his Trump”?