Trump is trying to turn chickenshit into chicken salad with his embrace of the white supremacist label. According to Trump and his allies political logic, Democrats will suffer politically:
Rather than balk at the label, however, the Trump campaign is taking it in stride. According to Axios, Team Trump sees the Democratic charge of white supremacy as a political benefit for the president in 2020. Their theory is that the accusation will help him with his most hardcore base while bringing more moderate Republicans, who may see the charge as a step too far, over to their side. In short, the Trump campaign sees in the white supremacist label a potentially useful rallying point, as Hillary Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” was in 2016. “They’re trying to make the case that anyone who supports this president is a racist,” a Trump campaign official told Axios. “They’re talking about [nearly] half the country.”
This is the Stephen Ross defense. “I agree with Trump on some things, but how dare you call me a racist for supporting Trump!” All those Trump voters will now be enraged to be called racist for supporting Trump. And any of those who were “persuadable” will be turned off by the Democrats charges of Trump being a racist and white supremacist.
The only problem with this brilliant political strategy is that history shows it doesn’t work.
If publicly acknowledging that you are a white supremacist was such a great political strategy, David Duke would have been elected as governor of Louisiana.
Well, Republicans would claim that was just David Duke. But I watched a racist Republican win several elections to the U.S. Senate from North Carolina, Jesse Helms, and if Helms felt it was safe to run as an openly avowed racist, he would have. But Helms was smarter than that.
As I have written about before, Helms understood that Republicans could not be openly racist or use obviously racist language in order to win elections. Republicans had to talk in code to obtain the votes of the die hard racists and so called white “moderates.” As long as you were not a member of the Klan or were caught using the N word in public, you could not be accused of being a racist because there was no proof. And this allowed white moderates to vote for the Republican without having to acknowledge that they were supporting a racist.
I can’t tell you the number of times I heard people say, “I voted for Helms because of his stance on abortion or on the budget deficit. I don’t think he is a racist.” But Helms rise to power was based upon the dog whistling of “I’m for white supremacy.” Helms had to go through all these linguistic maneuvers because he understood that there were not enough die hard “kill all the N******!” voters to win an election.
Now, if Helms didn’t wear the racist or white supremacy label with pride back then, what makes anyone think that it is a truly smart political strategy today?