Politics·Analysis

Trump riding the monster the Republicans created: Neil Macdonald

Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan denounced Donald Trump this week for comments he considered "textbook" racism. Then, in the next breath, he affirmed his support for Trump's presidential nomination. In normal times, Ryan's admission would be devastating for the party. But these aren't normal times, Neil Macdonald writes.

Republican Speaker says Trump's comments racist ... but he still supports him

Donald Trump was criticized by leading members of his own party this week for suggesting a judge adjudicating a suit against Trump University could not be impartial because the judge is of Mexican heritage. (REUTERS)

So, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, the third most important elected official in the United States, thinks it's better to have a racist in the Oval Office than Hillary Clinton.

That's not an extrapolation, or a cleverly selective syllogism, ignoring context. It is exactly what Paul Ryan said.

The Speaker stood before cameras and denounced his party's presumptive nominee for president, and was explicit about why he was doing it.

Ryan said Donald Trump's suggestion that a judge adjudicating a suit against the for-profit Trump University could not be impartial because the judge is of Mexican heritage is "the textbook definition of a racist comment."

Then, in the next breath, Ryan affirmed his support for Trump's nomination. Better Trump, he reasoned, than Hillary Clinton.

"I believe that we have more common ground on the policy issues of the day and we have more likelihood of getting our policies enacted with him than with her."

In normal times, Paul Ryan's admission would be a devastating admission for the party.

And in fact, by any sensible measure, that's exactly what it is. But it didn't devastate. In fact, the U.S. news cycle has already moved on.

Because these are not normal times. Or, more aptly put, they are normal, and a lot of the progress Americans thought they'd made on race issues until now has been a sham.

The fact is, the nation that prides itself as being a beacon of freedom and tolerance, a shining city on the hill where everyone is first and foremost an American, has been exposed as something else altogether, and Donald Trump, rather than the cause, is merely the agent.

Trump, in his vulgar, plaintive way, has peeled away America's official lamination of equality and class-free, colour-blind tolerance. He has not just exposed maggoty, subcutaneous race and class hatreds, he has licensed and normalized them.

"We're not allowed to punch back anymore," he told a crowd in Las Vegas. "I love the old days."

For this, many of his followers adore him. At last, it's OK to say out loud the things they've until now had to mutter in a lowered voice to trusted friends at dinner.

An anti-Donald Trump protester tears a campaign sign during a Trump rally at the UIC Pavilion in Chicago on March 11. (Tasos Katopodis/AFP/Getty Images)

Now, free to shout from their roofs, they're a swollen, surging mob, convinced they are taking back their country, or, as Trump's ridiculous tractor cap proclaims, "making America great again."

They feel that in just a few months, they'll install their champion as leader of the free world, and America will again look like a Norman Rockwell painting, decent and simple and, most importantly, white, and the great wrongs forced upon them by politically correct liberal swine will be righted, and, by the way, God help anyone who stands in their way or threatens the mission.

Jewish journalists who write critically of Trump are showered with anti-Semitic filth.

Shouting "Black Lives Matter" at a Trump rally, where violence is at least tacitly encouraged by the presumptive nominee, can be downright dangerous.

Trump has mocked the movement, and told his crowds he'd like to punch a BLM protester in the face.

In a familiar scene for the Trump campaign, a protester and a supporter argue outside a campaign event in San Diego. (REUTERS)

And all that resentment about millions of illegal Mexican immigrants — never mind the fact that America relies on them to dig ditches and do scut work no one else wants to do — can now be unapologetically unleashed. After all, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee calls them rapists.

This snarling, liberated mob is the reason Paul Ryan had to stand in front of the camera and affirm his continuing support for the textbook racist.

Carol Anderson, an Emory University professor and author of White Rage: The Unspoken Truth of Our Racial Divide, says the GOP is now looking at something it deliberately created, beginning with Richard Nixon's "Southern strategy" of using race to cultivate disaffected white Democrats below the Mason-Dixon line.

"They have so pulled on the racism in their base that … they know they cannot come out against it now," Anderson told Anna Maria Tremonti on CBC's The Current this week. "They have fed the monster for so long that now the monster has taken over."

That monster has terrified and cowed all manner of prominent Republicans, many of whom considered Trump a bad joke just a few months ago.

After Trump's remarks about the judge, Senator Richard Burr of North Carolina said racism is like pornography; you know it when you see it. He then, quickly and rather gormlessly, added he doesn't think the party will get to that point.

Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee, who triumphed over a black opponent partly because of a TV ad, financed by the Republican National Committee, that invoked shibboleths about interracial sex, said there "could be" a line which, if Trump crosses it, would make Corker withdraw his support. Happily, though, that hasn't happened yet.

And Trump just rides the monster, having crafted a powerful, binding hackamore. The monster won't throw him, even if it devours the party.

In fact, in many ways, it is the party.
Donald Trump's campaign rallies can be rowdy and sometimes violent events. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)

After all the uproar over the judge remark, Trump regretted in a statement that his remarks were "misconstrued."

Some of his best friends are Mexicans, he declared. And he employs a lot of them. But, by the way, that doesn't make the judge any more impartial.

Onward, friends. The prize is nearly ours. The old days can begin again in November. There's nothing to be ashamed of.

About the Author

Neil Macdonald

Opinion Columnist

Neil Macdonald is an opinion columnist for CBC News, based in Ottawa. Prior to that he was the CBC's Washington correspondent for 12 years, and before that he spent five years reporting from the Middle East. He also had a previous career in newspapers, and speaks English and French fluently, and some Arabic.

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