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Our Racist President

“Donald Trump lost the election because he veered so far off course from what it means to be a decent person, to be a leader, and to be an American. He interpreted his 2016 victory as a mandate to act like the bullying, vindictive business tycoon he had always been, forever in denial about his actual popularity and the extent of support for his manner of governing, notably his reliance on racism to advance the white nationalist cause. He thought America would embrace a tough talking demagogue who was going to clean house, alleviate middle-class grievances, and remake the world, none of which he accomplished and all of which he made worse. In his failures, however, he forced us to look in the mirror and see just how far the country needs to go in its noble experiment.”

The above is what I would like to write on November 4, 2020. The most important theme that Democratic candidates at all levels, moderate and progressive alike, should emphasize is that Donald Trump is and always has been hostile to traditional American values. Far from seeking to make America great, he has degraded and divided the country, notably with blatant appeals to anti-immigrant sentiments, attacks on non-white officeholders, and rejection of the values of multiculturalism and diversity. The depths of his influence as a racist may be gauged not merely by the support he receives from certain whites but also, and more conspicuously, by the indifference to his racism of the Republican Party establishment.

A Quinnipiac University poll finds that 51 percent of Americans believe Trump is a racist. Yet the New York Times reports that Democrats are uncertain how to respond to Trump’s race baiting and xenophobia. There shouldn’t be any uncertainty: Democrats should hold nothing back in portraying Trump as un-American, a man whose racism is not merely divisive but also informs many of his policy stances—for example, on law and the courts, the economy, education, foreign aid, and emergency assistance to US communities. If Trump is reelected America will be unrecognizable as a democracy open to all. How absurd that a president cannot be impeached for such an obviously “high crime and misdemeanor.”

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Mel Gurtov is Professor Emeritus of Political Science at Portland State University, Editor-in-Chief of Asian Perspective, an international affairs quarterly and blogs at In the Human Interest.

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