Is This the Most Racist Political Race in Years?
This weekend felt like a low point for the 2016 race, and for Donald Trump’s campaign rhetoric in particular, even in an election cycle that’s seemed like an ever-accelerating race to some elusive bottom.
At a Trump rally in Birmingham, Alabama, Saturday, a Black Lives Matter protester was surrounded by a group of men, who he says punched him, kicked him and told him, “Go home n—-r.” Speaking about the incident the next day, Trump said, “Maybe he should have been roughed up, because it was absolutely disgusting what he was doing.” (The activist, Mercutio Southall Jr., had interrupted Trump’s speech to shout, “black lives matter!”)
The same day, Trump tweeted a compilation of fake crime statistics that appears to have originated from an account with a stylized swastika for an avatar, and a bio that reads, “we Should have listened to the Austrian chap with the little moustache.” (If you’re curious, the Washington Post has the accurate statistics.) Days earlier, the leading GOP candidate suggested all U.S. Muslims be registered in a database, and falsely claimed Muslims in New Jersey cheered on 9/11.
All this, on top of Trump’s comments about Mexican immigrants – not to mention other candidates’ views on Syrian refugees, among other things – makes this feel like one of the most overtly racist political election cycles in recent memory.
Rolling Stone got on the phone Monday with Berkeley professor Ian Haney-López, the author of Dog Whistle Politics, to ask him about it.
“I would not call it overt racism,” Haney-López says, of the broader 2016 race. “It’s important to realize that you do not have a candidate who is saying, ‘We have a problem with sp-cs in this country. We have a problem with sand n—-rs in this country.'”
What we have instead, he explains, is “a rhetoric that is heightening racial fears, and that is seeking to communicate to people that there are black and brown ‘others’ from abroad, but also here at home, who are a direct threat… to white Americans.”
“This is a sort of racism that is often hidden from even the intended audience — the people these politicians hope to mobilize through this discourse of fear,” Haney-López says.