Republicans are worried that fully supporting a racist president will forever associate the Republican Party with racism without even allowing them to hold on to power:
President Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination, crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mount Rushmore, has unnerved Republicans who have long enabled him but now fear losing power and forever associating their party with his racial animus.
The latter has already happened; the only question is the former.
Although amplifying racism and stoking culture wars have been mainstays of Trump’s public identity for decades, they have been particularly pronounced this summer as the presidenthas reacted to the national reckoning over systemic discrimination by seeking to weaponize the anger and resentment of some white Americans for his own political gain.
Trump has left little doubt through his utterances the past few weeks that he sees himself not only as the Republican standard-bearer but as leader of a modern grievance movement animated by civic strife and marked by calls for “white power,” the phrase chanted by one of his supporters in a video the president shared last weekend on Twitter. He later deleted the video but did not disavow its message.
Over the years, some Republicans have struggled to navigate Trump’s race baiting and, at times, outright racism, while others have rallied behind him. Bursts of indignation and frustration come and go but have never resulted in a complete GOP break with the president. Trump’s recent moves are again putting Republican officeholders onto risky political terrain.
This is too generous to Republican elites who, inter alia, are desperately trying to hang onto power by waging war on voting rights. But it’s still striking that mainstream news accounts are accurately describing Trump’s racism in straight news stories, rather than dancing around it as was the style in 2016. The Times political desk has become equally brutal on Trump without trying to balance it with 4,000 word deep dives into a time in which Joe Biden was alleged to take up two parking spaces at a Target in Wilmington or something.
As Will Bunch says, Trump was able to win as the result of an interlocking series of flukes, but one of the most important factors was an opponent who was the subject to a decades-long misogynist hate campaign. Without that, they have no idea what to do, and reporters no longer feel as compelled to whitewash Trump or prop him up with false equivalences.