Clinton’s speech yesterday carefully laying out Donald Trump’s history of racism was indeed very important. It’s also enormously difficult to imagine a major Democratic politician giving it ten years ago — Trump has had a taboo-shattering effect two ways, not only making the overt expression of racism within the Republican Party more common but allowing it to be called out without immediately setting off Both Sides Do It alarms. I also agree with Jeet Heer that what appeared to be conciliatory language towards Republicans was actually more like “if you support Trump, explicitly or passively you own him.” And the most important Republicans, we should never forget, do:
Republican leaders Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have ducked questions about Clinton’s denunciation of the alt-right. But the question has already been answered. Party leaders who can accept Trump as their nominee have made a public admission that racism in the Republican coalition is a fact of political life they are willing to live with.