Race Baiting, Polarization and the Attacks on Donald Trump

John C. Goodman
|
Posted: Mar 05, 2016 12:01 AM
Race Baiting, Polarization and the Attacks on Donald Trump

Just when you may have thought that nothing could be more childish that the kindergarten taunts the Republican candidates are hurling at each other, the liberal chattering class has shown that it is up to the task.

Writing in The New York Times Brent Staples tells us that Donald Trump “has functioned for years as a rallying point for … extremists and racists who are apoplectic about the fact that the country elected a black man president.”

He goes on to say that: “Racial hatred is a threat to the country and [the GOP’s] leading candidate is doing everything he can to profit from it.”

Not to be out done, New York Times columnist Paul Krugman claimed yesterday that “Donald Trump … promises to make America white again.” (No, that’s not a misprint. Check it out.) In an earlier column Krugman chimed in with this nugget: “Republican political strategy has been exploiting racial antagonism, getting working-class whites to despise government because it dares to help Those People, for almost half a century.”

Then, there is Ben Cohen at The Daily Banter: “To anyone familiar with Republican electoral tactics, it is clear that Trump is basically saying what their constituency believes -- that black people are lazy, Mexicans are stealing their jobs, torturing Arabs is fun, and women should stay in the kitchen. Of course Republicans cannot come out and say this … but the insinuation is enough to rile up and activate their base of angry white voters.”

Just for the record, Donald Trump’s lifelong personal history suggests just the opposite of what these critics allege. Palm Beach, Florida, for example, has a notoriously ugly history of discrimination against Jews, blacks and other minorities that goes back for decades. Yet when Trump opened his Mar-a-Lago Club there, he announced that membership would be open to everyone – an act that apparently so displeased the city elders and that a nasty zoning fight ensued. (See this Washington Post account.)

But what about the Democrats? Is it true that Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have been taking the high ground, as one New York Times editorial alleged? Far from it.

“Race baiting” is using false and misleading statements for the express purpose of engendering racial animosity. At election time it is invariably done to make people angry enough to go vote. That’s what Hillary Clinton does in virtually every campaign speech these days and Bernie Sanders is being drawn into the same behavior pattern.

A South Carolina television ad showed Clinton declaring that “too many encounters with law enforcement end tragically.” She later adds: “We have to face up to the hard truth of injustice and systemic racism.” The ad was obviously aimed at black voters.

After meeting with Al Sharpton, Bernie Sanders appeared on the TV talk show “The View” saying, “It is not acceptable to see unarmed people being shot by police officers.”

Do we have an epidemic of white police officers shooting innocent black youths? Far from it. Writing in the Wall Street Journal Heather Mac Donald reports that:

· In 2015, police officers killed far more whites and Hispanics (662) than blacks (258) and in the overwhelming majority of cases the victims were attacking the officer, often with a gun.

· Of the 6,095 black homicide deaths in 2014 only about 4% were the result of shooting by a police officer; the overwhelming majority was black-on-black crime.

· Tragically, mistakes are made, but black and Hispanic officers are much more likely than white officers to shoot blacks based on the mistaken belief that the victim is armed.

· The police are in greater danger than the civilians: Over the past decade, according to FBI data, 40% of cop killers have been black. Officers are killed by blacks at a rate 2.5 times higher than the rate at which blacks are killed by police.

Like the mistaken idea that white police officers shooting black teenagers is rampant, the national news media has recently become obsessed with contaminated water in Flint, Michigan -- leading to lead poisoning in children. But why? As I noted in a previous post, there are many other cities in the country where lead contamination is much worse. For example, in Cleveland the percent of children with lead poisoning is twice what it is in Flint. In Allentown, Pennsylvania, it’s more than three times the rate in Flint.

Yet right in the middle of a several fierce primary battles, Hillary Clinton went out of her way to visit Flint – where no one was voting at the time. Bernie Sanders made a trip there as well.

So what’s so special about Flint? Nothing, other than the opportunity to blame a white Republican governor for being indifferent to the health of black children. In almost every other contaminated city, the politicians in charge are Democrats.

If you are surprised by all this, you need to know that race baiting on the Democratic side has a long, long history.

On the eve of the 2000 election, the NAACP ran television and radio ads aimed at black voters implying that as Governor, George W. Bush was indifferent to the death of James Byrd, a black man who was dragged to death behind a pickup truck by three white racists. The charge against Bush was completely false.

In 2012, George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch coordinator for a Florida gated community, fatally shot Trayvon Martin during an altercation. Ordinarily, no one who lived more than 50 miles away would have ever heard about the case. However, this was an election year and it was initially reported that Martin was black and Zimmerman was white. The national news media pounced and virtually every news report suggested that racism was a factor. (See the summary here.)

After it was revealed that Zimmerman was Hispanic and from a multiracial family (that included blacks), the media behaved shamelessly. Several media outlets, such as CNN and The New York Times, began describing Zimmerman as a "white Hispanic." NBC doctored an audio tape in a way that suggested Zimmerman wrong doing. Before long, nearly 90% of African Americans called the shooting unjustified. And when Zimmerman was acquitted of any wrongdoing, that was even more fodder for the race baiting fire.

In the middle of a tough re-election campaign, President Obama said that "Trayvon Martin could have been me, 35 years ago." He also used the incident to say that black men in the United States (himself included, before he became a senator) commonly suffered racial profiling.

In the current primary election season, Morgan Freeman kicks off a 30-second spot for Hillary Clinton by naming three black victims of violence alleged to be racially motivated. One of the three is Trayvon Martin.

I’m an equal opportunity editorial writer. Donald Trump’s comments about illegal immigrants and Muslims are fair game and if critics want to read prejudice into those comments they are free to do so. And in my opinion, some Republicans have engaged in irresponsible immigrant bashing.

But encouraging racist attitudes toward blacks? Sorry, I don’t see it. If Republicans are using code words and other subtleties to engender white anger, I’m ready to consider it. But so far, I see nothing on the Republican side that even begins to compare to the race baiting, polarization, and divisiveness on the part of Democrats.