Racial rhetoric: Demeaning to both Trump and Clinton

Those on both the left and right are doing the nation great harm by sewing divisions along racial and ethnic lines.

Hillary Clinton - Donald Trump by Donkey Hotey (https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/)
Hillary Clinton - Donald Trump by Donkey Hotey (https://www.flickr.com/photos/donkeyhotey/)

WASHINGTON, August 27, 2016 — The latest racial attacks by both Republican candidate Donald Trump and Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton demeans both candidates and their campaigns, while further dividing society.

Trump has called Clinton a “bigot” while Clinton has connected Trump with the Ku Klux Klan.

Extremist groups on both sides welcome such divisions.

Both campaigns have associated themselves with divisive elements in our society. The Clinton campaign has aligned itself with the Black Lives Matters movement. The platform for BLM calls for, among other things, defunding police departments, race-based reparations, voting rights for undocumented immigrants, an end to private education and charter schools, a universal basic income, and free college for African-Americans.

Trump is right: “What do you have to lose?”

Prominent on the BLM website is a list of “guiding principles”:

“We are committed to disrupting the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement by supporting each other as extended families and ‘villages’ that collectively care for one another and especially ‘our’ children to the degree that mothers, parents and children are comfortable.”

In demonstrations around the country, BLM groups have called for the killing of police officers. In Dallas, Baton Rouge and elsewhere, individuals have followed this advice. Heather MacDonald, a fellow at the Manhattan Institute and author of the book “The War On Cops,” notes that,

For almost two years, Black Lives Matters has convulsed the nation. Triggered by the police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri in 2014, the…movement holds that racist police officers are the greatest threat facing black men today. This belief has triggered riots, ‘die-ins,’ the murder and attempted murder of police officers, a plan to eliminate traditional grand jury proceedings when police use lethal force, and a presidential task force on policing.

Even though the U.S. Justice Department has resoundingly disproven the lie that a pacific Michael Brown was shot in cold blood while trying to surrender, Brown is still venerated as a martyr. And now police officers are backing off of proactive policing in the face of relentless venom directed at them on the street and in the media. As a result, violent crime is on the rise.

Donald Trump appears to have embraced a loose amalgamation of far-right fringe groups called the “alt-right” (or alternative right). It includes white nationalists and people calling themselves “racialists.” He recently appointed Stephen Bannon as his campaign chairman. Bannon has declined to identify himself with the group, but as head of Breitbart News, Bannon has provided a platform for such voices.

After the murders at a black church in Charleston, South Carolina, Breitbart prominently displayed the Confederate flag and hailed the Civil War as a “war for Southern independence.”

Traditional conservatives are dismayed by Trump’s association  with the alt-right; the movement is not is conservative. Conservative New York Times columnist Ross Douthat describes this movement as “racist pro-Trump Twitter-accounts and anti-PC provocateurs.”

The Federalist called it “a mix of old bigotries and new identity and victimhood politics adapted for the straight white male.”

In National Review, David French wrote of the alt-right,

“Many of them are unapologetically white-nationalists, hate interracial adoption and other ‘race-mixing’ practices, and think about the issue of immigration primarily if not exclusively in racial terms.”

Peter Wehner, director of the White House Office of Strategic Initiatives under George W. Bush, writes,

“Movements like this, with toxic and nasty stuff, have existed in one form or another, but they’ve been kept on the outer fringes of American political life. Now, it’s command and control at headquarters. If the GOP becomes the home to the Breitbart and alt-right movement, it’ll cease to be the Republican Party as we’ve known it. There will be a huge crack-up beyond anything we’ve seen.”

Former Republican congressman Vin Weber of Minnesota, who was a top adviser to 2012 nominee Mitt Romney, says that, Most of us thought, until now, that after the election is over, we’ll be able to rebuild the party.” But, he says, Trump’s decision to put Bannon in charge of his campaign, “tells me that there’s going to be a battle inside our party for a long time to come. We’re going to have some very tough fights in the Republican Party when this is over.”

If Donald Trump understood conservatism, he would know that the goal of conservatism has long been to create a color-blind society in which men and women would be judged on their individual merit not on the basis of race. He would do better to surround himself with respected black conservatives such as Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams, Shelby Steele and John McWhorter, than people who seek to stir racial division.

But Trump and those around him seem unaware of the vibrant and thoughtful movement of black conservatives.

Stop arguing over Clinton and Trump: It’s pointless

Those on the left and right are doing the nation great harm by sewing divisions along racial and ethnic lines. In 1980, the respected black conservative J.A. Parker headed the Reagan Administration’s transition team at the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (this writer was a member of that  team). The report issued by this transition team called for an end to race based quotas and affirmative action.

The final report declared, in part:

Just as the American society came to accept the idea of moral equality for which men and women of good will fought for so many years, government has, through regulation, implemented a contrary view, that of ‘numerical quotas.’ … Affirmative action programs based on race … are demeaning to the very groups they are meant to serve, implying that members of these groups cannot compete successfully in the open marketplace … The enemy of black economic progress is white liberalism. … the maze of rules, regulations and debilitating welfare programs which, although they may have been motivated by high ideals, have had a wholly negative effect … The goal of Americans of good will should be the creation of a society which is both color-blind and committed to economic growth and advancement. A system of racial quotas and classifications … is the prescription for inter-group tensions and social dislocations. It violates our very basic principles of individual freedom and our hope for continuing progress.

In the years since 1980, America has made great progress. The country elected a black president twice, named two black Secretaries of State, and black men and women head major universities and corporations.

There is nothing in our society that cannot be achieved by ability and hard work. Yet to hear our presidential candidates, things couldn’t be worse when it comes to race relations.

Such negative rhetoric does not reflect the reality of American life. Any society of more than 300 million people of every race, religion and ethnic group is certain to encounter problems and difficulties.

America needs leaders to bring us together and intelligently confront the real challenges. That, unfortunately, is not the case with the current presidential candidates. Both candidates seem to be making unified appeals based on racial grounds, not calling for further divisions.

For the majority of Americans who seek real leadership for the future, the current choices are wholly inadequate.

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Allan C. Brownfeld
Received B.A. from the College of William and Mary, J.D. from the Marshall-Wythe School of Law of the College of William and Mary, and M.A. from the University of Maryland. Served as a member of the faculties of St. Stephen's Episcopal School, Alexandria, Virginia and the University College of the University of Maryland. The recipient of a Wall Street Journal Foundation Award, he has written for such newspapers as The Houston Press, The Washington Evening Star, The Richmond Times Dispatch, and The Cincinnati Enquirer. His column appeared for many years in Roll Call, the newspaper of Capitol Hill. His articles have appeared in The Yale Review, The Texas Quarterly, Orbis, Modern Age, The Michigan Quarterly, The Commonweal and The Christian Century. His essays have been reprinted in a number of text books for university courses in Government and Politics. For many years, his column appeared several times a week in papers such as The Washington Times, The Phoenix Gazette and the Orange County Register. He served as a member of the staff of the U.S. Senate Internal Security Subcommittee, as Assistant to the research director of the House Republican Conference and as a consultant to members of the U.S. Congress and to the Vice President. He is the author of five books and currently serves as Contributing Editor of The St. Croix Review, Associate Editor of The Lincoln Review and editor of Issues.