The 2016 Presidential election was a referendum on America. All metrics since that fateful night have indicated that race – not economic anxiety, not homeland security, not so-called identity politics – is the reason Donald Trump became president of the United States.
Since the election, Trump has leaned into his racism, insulting Black men and women who challenge him at every turn: calling Black NFL protesters “sons of bitches;” calling African nations “shithole countries;” calling for Jemele Hill to be fired; and making sure to let the world know he thinks Maxine Waters is “low IQ” whenever he mentions her.
All the while, Trump’s party, the GOP, has tried to side with him, trying to maintain a shred of plausible deniability that they are, in fact, a party whose success is built on fanning the flames of white supremacy.
As a result, the last few months of political prognostication has revolved around a “blue wave” of Democrats that will wash away the GOP members of the Senate and House of Representatives. The Republican Party surely feels the pressure as the Democratic Party holds an overall double-digit margin in polls leading up to Nov. 6.
Republicans have responded by looking backward to 2016, their last big electoral victory. The GOP understands that racism gave them their biggest win of the 21st century and have opted to publicly embrace Trump’s racism and turn more inward to a white supremacist sect of American politics that the party seems to feel will carry it to victory. That’s why the last few weeks of GOP politics and publicity has been as racist as ever: The party understands that fully embracing white supremacy is its ticket to success.
Of course, this strategy comes from the top down and Donald Trump has been sounding the drum of racism as loudly as ever. Just a few days ago, while stumping for his good friend Ted Cruz (whose wife he’s called ugly and whose father he’s accused of killing JFK, by the way; but that doesn’t matter because Cruz is in an unexpectedly close fight for his Senate seat), Trump, the president of the United States, proudly declared himself a “nationalist.”
“A globalist is a person that wants the globe to do well, frankly, not caring about our country so much. And you know what? We can’t have that,” he said Monday night. “You know, they have a word. It sort of became old-fashioned. It’s called a nationalist. And I say, really, we’re not supposed to use that word. You know what I am? I’m a nationalist, OK? I’m a nationalist.”
The term ties Trump even closer to the same white nationalism that makes him incapable of criticizing the racists who rioted in Charlottesville, Virginia. He made those comments over the backdrop of a weeklong publicity push to make the midterm elections about a caravan of Hondurans trying to make their way to the U.S. Trump has threatened military action against those families and blatantly lied about the idea that “criminals and an unknown number of Middle Easterners are mixed in” with the group, only fueling the paranoid xenophobia of his supporters. He is lying more than ever (he admitted the caravan quip was a lie), which has seemed like an impossible feat up until now. His lies are serving the purpose of rallying his base of racists to vote.
The GOP is following his lead. In Arkansas, a radio ad ran in support of Republican representative French Hill featured two Black women warning that the Democratic party was going to go back to lynching Black people again. Florida governor hopeful, Ron DeSantis said that electing his Black opponent, Andrew Gillum, would “monkey this up,” while also refusing to return campaign funds for a supporter who made a “mistake” of calling Obama a “f*cking Muslim N****.”
Meanwhile in Georgia, Brian Kemp – the Republican nominee who also oversees the state’s elections – is trying his hardest to turn the election into a revisitation of Jim Crow. He’s purging voters and suppressing as many as he can – namely Black votes. He’s even said in leaked audio that more people voting “continues to concern us, especially if everybody uses and exercises their right to vote.” This is a statement from a state official saying he doesn’t want people voting, which only serves to preserve white elected officials’ positions.
And the list goes on.
The GOP feels its back against the wall with an impending potential blue wave approaching. The party could have used that possibility as a call to self-evaluate and find a way to open itself to a more diverse and representative voting populace. But that’s a pipe dream if there ever was one. Instead, the GOP has embraced the white power message its pretended hasn’t been there all along. The party’s message is clear: voting for us is reaffirming whiteness. We know what this says about the Republican party, but if this strategy proves fruitful for them, then it will be past time to face the truth about what such an outcome means for the country as a whole.
David Dennis, Jr. is a writer and adjunct professor of Journalism at Morehouse College. David’s writing has appeared in The Guardian, The Smoking Section, Uproxx, Playboy, The Atlantic, Complex.com and wherever people argue about things on the Internet.