Donald Trump came to North Carolina this weekend to campaign for Ted Budd and other candidates. Of course, much of the event was Trump airing his grievances and touting his victimhood because it’s always all about Donald. Still, the stage was full of Trump sycophants, hoping some of his magic will rub off on them.
Besides Budd, House Speaker Tim Moore showed up. So did Lieutenant Governor Mark Robinson, Congressman David Rouzer, and Congressional candidate Bo Hines. A host of Republican Congressional candidates nobody had heard of also took the stage. They called Democrats Marxists and socialists. Most harped on immigration, building the wall, and IRS agents.
One moment, though, was most revealing. During his speech, Donald Trump called out, “The N-word! You know what the N-word is?” The crowd clearly responded with “N****r,” even if it’s hard to hear in the audio. But we know because of Trump’s response. When he heard it, Trump said, “No, No, No. It’s ‘nuclear.'”
In other words, Trump baited his own audience into exposing their bigotry. He knew what the response would be. He knew that the press wouldn’t cover it, but he gave MAGA permission to gleefully yell out racist epithets in public with no consequences. That’s part of why they love Trump. He’s not offended by their racism. He even encourages it.
None of the Republican candidates said anything. Ted Budd knows who MAGA is. Tim Moore knows. Even Mark Robinson knows. But to them, the power is more important than principles.
Hiding racism in plain sight has been the norm, particularly in the South, for decades. For MAGA, racism and xenophobia are the animating fears that drive them to the polls. People like Ted Budd know that. It’s why he focused his time on the stage on immigration and the Southern border.
Back in the 1980s, during the Reagan years, people who tried to exorcize hateful language from public acceptability were called politically correct, or “PC.” To hear Republicans tell it, uptight liberals lacked the sense of humor to laugh at racist jokes. They took offense at innocent, off-hand comments that might be demeaning to people of color or gays.
Today, MAGA wants to bring back that simpler time when Blacks and gays knew their place. They want to return to a time when the immigrants to this country came from places like Ireland, Italy, or eastern Europe. They want the freedom to use the N-word in public again and not receive a rebuke.
And people like Ted Budd will give it them. You certainly won’t see Budd criticizing Trump for baiting his audience. You won’t even see him disavow the people in the audience who shouted out the racial slur because, you know, MAGA will be MAGA. It’s just some harmless fun.