The Republicans have a race problem

26 August 2020

3:39 AM

26 August 2020

3:39 AM

Congratulations to Sen. Tim Scott for delivering one of the best speeches on the opening night of the Republican meta-convention, and combining an inspiring personal story with a dog whistle louder than Kimberly Guilfoyle.

Guilfoyle merely bellowed a passing slur at ‘cosmopolitan elites’. As the daughter of a Puerto Rican ‘immigrant’, a cable news star, the ex-wife of a governor and the girlfriend of the President’s son, she knows a member of the cosmopolitan elite when she sees one — for instance, when she looks in the mirror.

Scott went beyond hypocrisy. ‘They want to take more money from your pocket and give it to Manhattan elites and Hollywood moguls, so they get tax breaks,’ he said of the Democrats.

Who might the ‘they’ be that want to pick your pockets? Any particular group of Americans come to mind when you hear the words ‘Manhattan elites and Hollywood moguls’?

Jews, of course. But don’t confuse them with the other ‘they’ that threatens the future of the country. The ‘they’ that the McCloskeys of St Louis told us are coming for the ‘quiet neighborhoods’. Those are black people.

If you think that these comments aren’t loaded with racial implication, you’re either deceiving yourself or suffering from more cognitive confusion than Joe Biden facing an unscripted question. The latter, probably, because the Republicans themselves are in two minds about what they’re about.

There are two Republican parties at this convention. One is a white, Christian identity party that, barely bothering to hide its intellectual and moral decay, speaks in barely coded racist terms and conspiracy theories. The other is the party of Reagan, business and the respectable suburbs, speaking the traditional language of rights and opportunities as it makes a belated pitch to non-white voters.

These two parties are of course the same party when it comes to the vote. This in part is what made Scott’s speech so interesting, and so disturbing. For most of his speech, Scott appealed to sanity, reason and normality — to the better Republican party — and he did it without shouting. His ‘cotton to Congress’ line was a snappy summary of the highest common denominator of American ideals. Yet he also felt compelled to nod to the lowest common denominator and degrade himself by genuflecting to the other party, the party of Pizzagate, race ‘replacement’ and QAnon, the party that will run Laura Loomer and Marjorie Taylor Greene for Congress.

Republicans will argue that the Democrats are also two parties — the party of socialist revolution and the party of technocratic managerialism — and that last week, the Democratic convention also spoke of out both sides of its mouth at the same time. This is true, but it misses the point.

This election will be won by the party that both maximizes turnout among its base while winning floating votes on the center ground and in America’s increasingly diverse suburbs. For both parties, the strategy for base turnout undermines the strategy for winning the center.

If I were a Jewish voter in, say, a swing state like Florida, or a non-white suburban homeowner anywhere, I’d suspect that Nikki Haley and Tim Scott are window-dressing. It would be hard not to conclude that, depending how you look at it, the Trump-era Republican party has either regressed to the era of Jim Crow or, in a mirror-image of the Democrats, thrown itself forward, down the rabbit hole of white identity.

I’d also conclude that a party that promotes its ideas through nonentities like the President’s children has no ideas at all. That Trumpism has no goals beyond franchising itself as personality cult, an imperial family for post-Republic reality TV. That in a time when the liberal consensus has shattered, neither party will condescend to speak to the voters as adults.

Still, if I were that hypothetical Florida Jew, I’d also recognize that Donald Trump, in sharp contrast to Barack Obama, has been a lifelong friend to the Jews and the most pro-Israel president in modern American history. If I were a black homeowner, I’d note that while the Democrats act like they own my vote, have trashed our schools and turned our cities into disaster zones, some Republicans are at least trying to think differently.

If I were either of these people, I probably wouldn’t watch conventions: no decent person would want to put themselves through this kind of spectacle. But I’d consider holding my nose with one hand and pulling the lever for Trump with the other. That vote would not be a positive endorsement. It would be a double negative. Conventions are all about affirmations, but this year, they’re a big no-no.

Dominic Green is Life & Arts editor of The Spectator US.

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