The Washington Post’s latest attack piece on President Trump bears the infantile but revealing title: “The brand label that stokes Trump’s fury: ‘Racist, racist, racist.'” Philip Rucker and Ashley Parker begin the Post’s attack this way:
President Trump considers himself a branding wizard, but he is vexed by a branding crisis of his own: how to shed the label of “racist.”
As the campaign takes shape about 15 months before voters render a verdict on his presidency, Trump’s Democratic challengers are marking him a racist, and a few have gone so far as to designate him a white supremacist.
Throughout his career as a real estate magnate, a celebrity provocateur and a politician, Trump has recoiled from being called the r-word, even though some of his actions and words have been plainly racist.
Rucker and Parker are acknowledging that the effort to label Trump a racist is a branding campaign. The Post, of course, is a participant in this campaign.
It made an editorial decision to deem “racist” Trump’s suggestion that four congresswomen leave the country. Since then, its writers have produced a barrage of articles using “Trump” and “racist” in the same headline and/or sentence.
Today’s piece by Rucker and Parker is the latest example of this concerted effort. Its only merit is the clarity it provides regarding the branding campaign and the Post’s participation.
There is no merit to their claim that “some of [Trump’s] actions and words have plainly been racist.” The main examples Rucker and Parker cite are his suggestion that “four congresswomen of color” leave the country, his statement that a majority-black Baltimore district is a “rat and rodent infested mess,” and his “anti-immigrant rhetoric” that was “parroted” by the El Paso mass murderer.
As we have argued, there is nothing racist about suggesting that harsh critics of America go elsewhere. “America, love it or leave it” is a familiar theme that originally was applied to White “yippies” and that never before has been considered racist.
The fact that Trump used it against “four congresswomen of color” is due to the virulence of their attacks on America, and most importantly on Trump, not their race. The Post’s rationale for deeming Trump’s suggestion “racist” is so weak that it looks like a pretext for “branding.”
Trump habitually attacks his critics, be they Black, White, Hispanic, or “other.” He wasn’t anti-Hispanic when he called Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz “little Marco” and “Lyin’ Ted” (respectively). He wasn’t anti-White when he called Jeb Bush and Hillary Clinton “Low energy Jeb” and “crooked Hillary” (respectively). He isn’t anti-women of color when he lashes out at four members of Congress who constantly express their hatred of the president, including, in the case of one member, calling him a “motherf***er.”
Trump’s critique of Elijah Cummings’s congressional district was also motivated by the congressman’s attacks, not his race or the race of his constituents. Moreover, the district in question is in terrible shape. It’s not a sign of racism to make true statements about conditions in an area that happens to be majority black.
The Washington Post frequently criticizes Israel, a Jewish state, in harsh terms. That doesn’t make the Post anti-Semitic.
The “anti-immigrant” rhetoric “parroted” by the El Paso shooter consisted of calling the surge of illegal immigrants into America an “invasion.” That term has frequently been used to describe this phenomenon for the very good reason that, in some respects, it resembles an invasion. There is nothing racist about the metaphor.
But since we’re dealing with a branding campaign, not an attempt at intelligent, thoughtful analysis, the important question is not the merit of the charge of racism. Indeed, debating its merit probably plays into the hands of these doing the branding.
The important question is whether it’s likely to be effective. There is evidence that it might be. Polling tells us that about half the country now thinks Trump is a racist.
On the other hand, it’s quite possible that more than half the country thinks inner-city Baltimore is a mess and that mass immigration across the southern border resembles an invasion. A majority of those familiar with the “four congresswomen of color” may share Trump’s contempt for them, and a great many Americans probably have some sympathy for the the “love it or leave it” idea.
This doesn’t mean that a majority thinks presidents should denigrate congressional districts or should invite Americans to leave the country. I know I don’t think presidents should. But it may mean that a majority will be offended by the notion that holding sentiments it shares is “racist.”
If so, then the Democratic Party and organs like the Washington Post may be overplaying their hand with their concerted “Trump is racist, racist, racist” branding campaign.