IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

As elections near, racist appeals receive little GOP pushback

The problem is not just that Republicans are making racist appeals. It's made worse when others in the party remain silent in response.


The racist messages from prominent Republicans came in rapid succession. It was on Friday, Sept. 30, when Donald Trump used racist language toward Elaine Chao, who served as his transportation secretary for four years. A week later, Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama used racist rhetoric about Black people, crime and reparations.

The next day, Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia re-emphasized her support for the racist “great replacement” conspiracy theory. All the while, Black candidates for the U.S. Senate were confronting attack ads emphasizing race in unsubtle ways. Yesterday, for good measure, Trump thought it’d be a good idea to dabble in antisemitism — again.

To be sure, the push isn’t especially surprising. It’s also an offensive with ample precedent in the American tradition. What’s more, it’s very likely to have the intended effect: The right would steer clear of such ugly tactics if conservatives were convinced they wouldn’t work.

But The Washington Post had a good report over the weekend noting the difference between this year’s offensive messaging and what voters have seen in recent years.

As the campaign heats up in the final weeks before November’s midterm elections, so have overt appeals to racial animus and resentment. And the toxic remarks appear to be receiving less pushback from Republicans than in past years, suggesting that some candidates in the first post-Trump election cycle have been influenced by the ex-president’s norm-breaking example.

Michael Steele, a former chair of the Republican National Committee and an MSNBC political analyst, told the Post, “Anybody who’s got a title in the party could say something — senator, governor, anybody.” Referring to the party’s indifference to Tuberville’s public comments, Steele added: “Anyone could stand up and say, ‘Can we stop this please?’ But they won’t.”

Quite right. Party officials could’ve stepped up to denounce any of the recent examples of, to borrow the Post’s phrasing, “appeals to racial animus and resentment.” But not only did Republicans prefer to stay silent, they tried to change the subject when confronted with their own party’s offensive messaging.

For example, Sen. Rick Scott, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, recently appeared on CBS News’ “Face the Nation” and was asked about offensive rhetoric from the likes of Trump and Taylor Greene. The Floridian not only dodged the question, he responded by lying about comments from Vice President Kamala Harris.

Following up on our coverage from a couple of weeks ago, it would be an exaggeration to say literally no one in the GOP has spoken up. For example, Rep. Liz Cheney, a Republican who has recently begun telling voters to support Democrats in key races, recently agreed that Trump’s rhetoric about Chao was “absolutely despicable” and “racist.”

But the Wyoming congresswoman also conceded that her partisan brethren had effectively nothing to say — and their silence was “unacceptable.”

During an appearance at Syracuse University, Cheney added: “Everybody ought to be asked whether that’s acceptable, and everybody ought to be able to say, ‘No, that is not acceptable.’ They ought to be required to say that.”

Maybe so, but the overwhelming majority of Republican officials and candidates appear content to ignore that requirement.