Column: Trump’s dire warnings are not about Biden’s America. They’re about his America
Over the past two weeks, the competing visions of President Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden have been laid out — starkly — and the narrow slice of undecided voters will have to settle on what kind of country they want.
Do they want an America that strives toward racial justice and equality, that values its place in the community of nations, that will work to reverse the catastrophic effects of climate change?
Or do they want four more years of chaos ?
Trump’s performance over the past 3½ years has made it clear that his greatest passion is himself, which means he is loyal only to those who are loyal to him, a group that includes his white base and selected international despots. His tax cuts have benefited the very richest, his wall on the Southern border remains unfinished, an entirely foreseeable pandemic caught him unawares, the economy has tanked, millions of Americans are unemployed and schools, most of them anyway, are shuttered.
He does not even pretend to be the president of all of us, and his best argument against Biden is downright nonsensical. (I want to say “craven,” but I am in danger of overusing that word when I write about Trump.)
If Biden is elected, Trump predicts, the country will explode with the kind of racial unrest and protests against police brutality that we saw this summer after a white police officer choked the life out of a Black man, George Floyd.
It’s a neat and cynical trick: Vote for me because what’s happening on my watch is unacceptable.
Cities run by Democratic mayors and states run by Democratic governors are not going to magically turn into Republican strongholds if Trump is reelected. If they were, they would have done so by now. If Trump is returned to office, expect more of what we’ve seen this summer, not less.
What Trump is promising is four more years of what is already devastating our country: a pandemic he tried to wish away that has killed more than 180,000 Americans and counting; violent reactions to police brutality and the systemic racism that allows an unarmed Black father to be shot seven times in the back while a white teenager who is alleged to have murdered two people with an AR-style rifle walks calmly past police, who ignore him.
In a shocking but predictable turn of events, Trump’s acolytes on the right have defended the white teenage shooter.
“How shocked are we that 17-year-olds with rifles decided they had to maintain order when no one else would?” asked Tucker Carlson on his Fox News show.
“I want him as my president,” tweeted Ann Coulter.
As Biden told MSNBC’s Andrea Mitchell on Thursday, “This happens to be Donald Trump’s America.”
Trump went all out this week to prove that he is a friend of Black Americans, the bloc of voters who put Biden on the road to the Democratic nomination after he scored a huge win in the South Carolina primary.
In 2016, Trump earned 8% of the Black vote; current polls show that number has not much changed, despite Trump’s increasingly desperate attempts to prove he is not a racist. Winning over a relatively small number of Black voters could help him win hotly contested states.
The GOP convention was filled with Black speakers — from Republican U.S. Sen. Tim Scott to Alice Johnson, who was pardoned by Trump (with Kim Kardashian’s help) after spending nearly 25 years behind bars for a nonviolent drug conviction.
Are these Black Trumpers mere tokens, who exist to make white people feel good about supporting a white supremacist? The Nation’s Elie Mystal thinks so. In an essay titled “We Need to Talk About the GOP’s ‘Black Friends,’” he wrote:
“It is important to understand that tokenism is not done to benefit minorities, not even the token minorities used in the scheme. Tokenism is done for the benefit of white people, to make them feel more comfortable and less complicit in the prejudice and bias of their institutions, schools, and workplaces. It’s done to shield white endeavors from accusations of discrimination.”
I do not question the sincerity of the Black Americans who are Trump supporters. Rather, I question how he uses their support to further an agenda that has no interest in ending systemic racism, police brutality, the rise of white nationalism or an economic system that disadvantages people of color.
The extent of Trump’s gaslighting on race is something to behold.
His convention’s opening night featured the white St. Louis couple who brandished guns at Black Lives Matter protesters. The McCloskeys intimated darkly about the coming destruction of suburbs.
On Thursday night, Trump repeated a travesty he has uttered before: “And I say — very modestly — that I have done more for the African-American community than any president since Abraham Lincoln.”
Does Trump really believe that he has done more for Black Americans than President Lyndon Johnson, who signed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act and the Fair Housing Act? That he has done more than President Truman, who desegregated the armed forces by executive order?
Historians remind us that President Ulysses S. Grant sent troops to South Carolina to protect the rights of freed Blacks during Reconstruction, and that Grant was president when the 15th Amendment was enacted, giving African-American men the right to vote.
“I would say the only president who rivals Trump in terms of treatment toward African Americans is Andrew Johnson, the most explicitly racist president we’ve ever had,” Civil War historian Eric Foner told the New York Times in June. “If I were him, I would not pursue this historical analysis any further.”
Between now and election day, I expect Trump will double down on the absurd claim that he’s been a champion for Black Americans.
He’s shown no regard for truth in the past. Why would anyone expect him to start now?
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