Two days ago, Republicans in Connecticut sent out a mailer depicting a Jewish Democrat as money grubbing. It reminded me of the pieces sent out in North Carolina saying Democrats are “not one of us” because they have “New York liberal values.” It’s all a bunch of dog whistles to the bigots in their base.
When I retweeted the post and noted that the NCGOP had similar leanings, a communications person with the GOP responded on twitter, “Your party had Keith Ellison down to speak at the Sanford-Hunt-Frye breakfast. Spare us your bs.” He followed it with a tweet that said, “You guys have openly embraced Linda Sarsour and her band of anti-Semites, have candidates who hang out with Louis Farrakhan, and have a Congressional candidate in MN who called Israelis ‘evil.'”
I don’t agree with everything Ellison says or does but he’s disavowed Farrakhan and differences of opinion about Israeli policy aren’t necessary anti-Semitic. The Democratic Party is diverse with diverse opinions. To put it in perspective, about 75% of Jews vote for Democrats, more than 80% of black Americans support Democrats, about two-thirds of Muslims consider themselves Democrats, more than 60% of Asian-Americans vote for Democratsand two-thirds of Hispanic voters identify with the Democratic Party. In other words, Democrats are the party of Jews and Muslims, blacks and whites, Asians and Hispanics. A tent that big is going to have a diversity of opinion and disputes but the fact that people from all of those backgrounds gravitate toward the Democrats makes accusations of bigotry within the party pretty absurd.
Farrakhan is not a leader in our party and has never been a major figure, even if some on the fringe of the party may have supported him at times. Linda Sarsour, one of the organizers of the Women’s March, is not a leader of the Democratic Party. I’m not sure she’s even a Democrat, but I know there are as many people who dislike her as support her. The Democratic Party is not led by its left flank. Its led by relatively moderate leaders like Pelosi, Schumer and Obama who often leave the progressive wing of the party frustrated.
In contrast, the GOP right now has leaders who openly flirt with the far right and use racism, xenophobia, homophobia and anti-Semitism to incite and motivate their base. Trump openly fans the flames of fear by heralding an immigrant invasion from a caravan of destitute asylum seekers from Central America. Yesterday, he released a Willie Horton-type ad implying that Hispanics are blood-thirsty killers and that the caravan is full of them. The so-called moderates in the GOP either sit quietly or make excuses for them.
The latest example here in North Carolina is Senator Dan Bishop. Bishop, who gained notoriety for proudly sponsoring HB2, was an early funder of the white supremacist social network Gab. Bishop loves the spotlight. He wore accusations of gay-bashing on his sleeve during the HB2 wars and proudly tweeted when he made his donation to fund Gab. Now that the Pittsburgh shooter has been exposed for spewing his hate across Gab, Bishop’s denying he knew it was a bigoted site.
The GOP staffer who called me out was silent despite his assurances that “I will always disavow white supremacists bigots.” No word yet from the rest of the GOP, either. They’ve taken Bishop’s denial, which amounted to “I don’t know why anybody’s paying attention to me,” at face value. They always do. They won’t call out the president for his bigotry and they won’t call out their elected officials.
Democrats may have bigots in their midst, but they live on the fringes of the party. Under Trump, xenophobia is now a core a value of the GOP. Party leaders regularly stay silent to racist or bigoted ads. They’ll stand with the Dan Bishops of the world and deny calling opponents “others” has bigoted implications. It’s the same old story. They denied Jessie Helms’ “Hands” ad was racist. They denied Willie Horton was racist. They’ll deny that Dan Bishop’s open support of openly white nationalists is bigoted.
But you know something? If you deny racism is racist, you just might be a racist.
Thomas Mills is the founder and publisher of PoliticsNC.com. Before beginning PoliticsNC, Thomas spent twenty years as a political and public affairs consultant. Learn more >