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Can Hate Win an Election?

The opinions expressed by columnists are their own and do not necessarily represent the views of
AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

I don’t understand why this election is even close.

Donald Trump draws huge crowds whose energy and enthusiasm is palpable. When Joe Biden ventures from his basement, the handful of onlookers not only look bored, they look like they may have been paid to be there.


In a normal election, even a hint that a presidential candidate is showing signs of dementia would be lethal. A credible accusation that a candidate may have traded access for dollars would be impossible for the candidate to ignore.

So why are polls showing Joe Biden in the lead?

The answer, I am told, is that no one is actually for Joe Biden. They are against Donald Trump. They’re so much against Trump that they are willing to overlook almost any Biden deficiency or transgression.

For the first time in the history of American politics, an entire presidential campaign is being managed by a strategy of sitting on the sidelines. Why is Biden not campaigning? Because it appears that nothing he can say or do would change a single vote.

At Trump rallies, adoring supporters are now yelling “We love you.” Biden supporters don’t attend Trump rallies. But if they did, they would be yelling “We hate you.”

Is hate enough to win?

The politics of hate is closely connected to the politics of identity.

The Democratic Party has a long history of race baiting as elections draw near. No, Trayvon Martin was not killed by a white assailant with an animus toward blacks. No, Michael Brown did not say “hands up, don’t shoot.” No, George Bush did not side with the racists who chained James Byrd to a pickup truck and dragged him to his death


But if you are an African American, you have probably heard these myths repeated time and again – on black radio, on black TV, and perhaps even in church. They are repeated often at election time. Hillary Clinton even had the mothers of Martin and Brown sitting on the stage with her at the national convention when she was nominated to be the Democratic candidate for president.

No, Donald Trump did not say white supremacists are good people. But that doesn’t stop the latest message conveyed by the hatemongers: If Donald Trump and the Republicans have their way, you could end up like George Floyd.

All this rhetoric has one and only one purpose: to make black voters angry enough to vote for Democrats. 

And it has one very sad side effect. It completely distracts us from a rational look at public policies that need change.

Consider two statements:

  1. There is systemic racism.
  2. There are public policies that systematically harm low-income minorities.

The first statement is false. The second statement is true.

Low-income black families in inner cities all too often must send their children to the worst schools. They tend to live in the worst housing. They tend to receive the worst city services. They are subject to the worst environmental harms.


Yet, as Donald Trump has repeatedly reminded everyone, almost all these cities are run by Democrats. Often by black Democrats. The idea that black city managers are harming fellow blacks because they are racist is simply not credible.

Here is what is true. Liberal Democrats believe in special interest government. Their whole approach to politics is based on it. The idea is that each interest group agrees to support the outcome as a whole so long as the group receives benefits that are especially important to it.

Here is what that means in practice. In return for support of the teachers’ union, the political leaders agree not to fire bad teachers. In return for the support of the police union, the leaders agree not to fire bad cops.

Agreeing to pay higher salaries is hard. Money is scarce. Budgets are tight. But it’s easy not to fire bad apples. Well, it’s easy unless a mishap gets on national TV.

Other policies follow the same pattern. The reason why California has the highest homeless population in the country is because liberals in San Francisco and other California cities want zoning laws that protect their wealthy enclaves from inexpensive housing that threatens to arise next door.

The reason why environmental externalities are not evenly spread throughout the city is because the wealthy liberals have more influence over public decisions than low-income blacks.


No one sets out to harm poor people. Politicians are merely pursuing their own interests. Inner-city minorities get the short end of the stick because they are the least influential special interest around.

In the current race, Donald Trump is approaching black voters with a different message: school choice, safe neighborhoods, enterprise zones, liberating the job market, etc. This message is focused on public policies, not on race-baiting rhetoric.

In fact, Trump is the first Republican candidate in modern times to seriously compete for black votes at all.

Will that strategy work? We’ll see.

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