Americans Find Trump’s Rhetoric Racist, But He Doesn’t Care

Even a Fox News poll finds that the American public finds the President's recent rhetoric to be racist. There's a different picture when you look at his supporters, though.

A new poll from Fox News Channel of all places finds that a large number of Americans believe that President Trump’s attacks on the so-called “squad” are racist:

A majority of voters said in a new poll that telling people of color to “go back” to their countries is racist following President Trump’s comments targeting four minority congresswomen.

The Fox News poll released Wednesday found that 56 percent of respondents believe telling people of color to “go back” is racist, while 23 percent said it is not and 18 percent said it depends.

A majority, 63 percent, also said that Trump’s tweets about the progressive congresswomen crossed the line, while 27 percent found them to be an acceptable political attack. A significant number of Republicans, 33 percent, joined 88 percent of Democrats in saying the tweets crossed the line.

Most voters disapprove of how the president handles race relations, with 32 percent approving and 57 percent disapproving. The 25-point gap is only slightly higher than the 22-point gap on the issue in an October poll.

Fifty-seven percent, including 73 percent of nonwhite respondents, also said they do not believe Trump respects racial minorities

Looking deeper into the poll numbers, we find some interesting results.

For example, on the question of whether or not the President’s tweets about “the squad,” specifically those where he told these women to go back where they came from were acceptable or whether they crossed the line:

  • Overall, 63% of respondents say that the President crossed the line, while 27% thought what he said was acceptable;
  • Among Democrats, 88% thought the attacks crossed the line, while 8% thought they were acceptable;
  • Among Republicans, 53% thought the attacks were acceptable while 33% thought they crossed the line;
  • Among Republican men, 59% thought the attacks were acceptable, while 48% of Republican women felt the same way;
  • Among Independents, 68% thought the attacks crossed the line, while 15% thought they were acceptable.

On the question of whether or not the President respects racial minorities:

  • Overall, 57% say that he does not respect racial minorities, while 34% believe that he does;
  • Among Democrats, 88% said that the President does not respect racial minorities while 8% believe that he does;
  • Among Republicans, 68% said they believe the President respects racial minorities while 20% believe he does not;
  • Among Republican men, 72% said they believe the President respects minorities while 63% of Republican women felt the same way;
  • Among Independents, 62% said they do not believe the President respects minorities while 25% believe that he does;

On the question of whether or not the “go back” tweets were racist:

  • Overall, 56% say that they are racist while 34% said they were not;
  • Among Democrats, 85% said that the comments were racist while just 6% said they were not;
  • Among Republicans, 45% said that the comments were not racist while 21% said that they were;
  • Among Republican men, 47% said that the comments were not racist while 42% said they were not;
  • \Among Independents, 57% said that the comments were racist while 15% said they were not.

Based on the topline numbers alone, you’d think that the President’s comments are going to hurt him. However, as The New York Times notes and as the numbers show, these comments are resonating with one segment of the country:

PORT HURON, Mich. — As President Trump presses his attacks against four women of color in Congress, suggesting they are unpatriotic and should leave the country, many voters in this city on Lake Huron are embracing his “America — Love It or Leave It” message, saying they do not see it as racist.

And though they dismiss Mr. Trump’s Twitter broadsides as excessive or juvenile, they voiced strong support for his re-election and expressed their own misgivings about the four women.

“They happen to be black or colored,” Dennis Kovach, 82, said of the women, as he watered the lawn of his home near the lake this weekend. “But I don’t think that viewpoint is a racist viewpoint. I think it’s — quit the bitching, if you don’t like it, do something different about it.”

Tim Marzolf, 57, sitting on a nearby porch on one of the hottest days of July, had a similar view, saying he had been turned off since Day 1 by Representative Rashida Tlaib, the Palestinian-American lawmaker from Detroit who is one of the women the president has attacked.

“Something struck me wrong,” said Mr. Marzolf, a factory worker, referring to Ms. Tlaib’s call for Mr. Trump’s impeachment. “She got elected and came out with the F-word on Trump.”

As Mr. Trump signaled his intent last week to rely on nationalism and identity politics to propel his re-election campaign — portraying Democrats as out of sync with American values — his message did not appear to be backfiring with the conservative voters he hopes to bring out in force in 2020. In this overwhelmingly white district an hour north of Detroit, where his popularity remains high, his comments left people in the familiar position of having to choose a side in the aftermath of another Trump-instigated outrage. And they chose his.

Mr. Trump carried St. Clair County, an auto parts manufacturing center on the Canadian border, with 63 percent of the vote in 2016, cementing a narrow statewide victory and Michigan’s crucial 16 electoral votes. The margin of victory — less than 11,000 votes — was his slimmest in any state.

Michigan is an important piece of Mr. Trump’s path to re-election and is already the focus of some of the Republican Party’s most extensive get-out-the-vote efforts. On Friday, the state party and the Trump campaign kicked off what one party official described in an email to supporters as “the largest and most robust ground game Michigan has ever seen.”

In truth, Michigan could be one of the purest laboratories to test a central paradox of the president’s re-election strategy: To win while he remains widely unpopular — his approval rating is consistently less than 50 percent in national opinion polls — voters don’t need to like him as much as they need to dislike the Democratic nominee.

And as his actions over the last week have shown, he is trying to ensure that happens, by inflicting as much damage as he possibly can to the Democrats’ brand.

In Port Huron, many residents said they were willing to ignore Mr. Trump’s outbursts, pointing to strong hiring in local factories as evidence he was doing a good job. Some raised fears about a move toward socialism within the Democratic Party, and suggested that Mr. Trump’s remarks might even gain him support by showcasing just how far left the Democratic Party has shifted.

The racial divisiveness of his attacks seemed to be pushed to the side.
Fred Miller, the Democratic clerk of nearby Macomb County, a national bellwether that voted twice for Barack Obama but then flipped to Mr. Trump, attributes the lack of outrage to a cultural disconnect over the way many people define racism.

“When some people rightfully call out Trump for these offensive, disgusting comments, I think a lot of other people see themselves in Trump,” he said. “They may not have a college degree, they might not speak about race in P.C. terms, but they don’t think they’re racists.”
So when the president “turns around and says, ‘I’m not racist,'” Mr. Miller added, “I think there are a lot of people who think they don’t have a racist bone in their body either. And Trump gets that.”

Democrats are seeing clear signs in their own research that the president is not as weak politically as he might appear. Last week, lawmakers were presented with the findings of a new poll that looked at sentiment in counties like Macomb that switched from Mr. Obama to Mr. Trump. The poll, commissioned by the progressive campaign finance reform organization End Citizens United, found that a generic Democratic presidential candidate beats Mr. Trump by only 2 points in these counties, 48 percent to 46 percent.

These voters in rural Michigan are exactly the kind of voters that Trump is aiming at motivating as we head into the 2020 election. They are the voters that helped him win Ohio by 500,000 votes and to win traditionally blue states such as Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania by the slim margin of 77,741 votes. They are the voters that his campaign believes can re-elect him even if he does end up with another popular vote minority nationwide. This why the President keeps pushing these buttons and why he will keep doing so.

Whether or not this theory and this strategy pay off remains to seen, of course, but it seems clear that this is the only viable path to victory that the President has going forward. Ordinarily, of course, a President running for re-election seeks to expand their base heading into a re-election bid. It’s the strategy that Presidents Reagan, Clinton, Bush 41, Bush 43 and Obama attempted to do prior to their respective bids for re-election bids. The main reason for this, of course, is that winning based solely on relying on the hope that the same voters will turn out for your is not a smart way to approach an election. Additionally, most politicians actually want people to like and support them. The opposite appears to be true with Donald Trump. He knows that the majority of people will never like him, and never support, and he doesn’t care. Rather than taking steps to temper his behavior and his rhetoric to appeal to them, his entire strategy for 2020 is aimed entirely at revving up his base and making sure that they and people like them show up in the states that matter toward winning even a slim Electoral College majority. That’s why he’s unlikely to change, while his divisive rhetoric is likely to only become more divisive. It’s what got him elected and what he and his advisers think can get him re-elected.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2020, Donald Trump, Politicians, Public Opinion Polls, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. CSK says:

    Trump has made it explicit that he’s playing only to his base.

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  2. Teve says:

    “But I don’t think that viewpoint is a racist viewpoint. I think it’s — quit the bitching, if you don’t like it, do something different about it.”

    Like run for office, win, and vote for 200 pieces of legislation to fix problems which Mitch McConnell refuses bring to the Senate floor?

    “They happen to be black or colored,” Dennis Kovach, 82, said of the women, as he watered the lawn of his home near the lake this weekend.

    If Trump literally went on tv and said “Colored people are ruining America”, FoxNews, Gateway Pundit, and all of our trolls here would be insisting that it wasn’t racist because ‘Colored isn’t a race’. I would bet my checking account on that, and I would win.

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  3. Kathy says:

    Among Republicans, 68% said they believe the President respects racial minorities while 20% believe he does not;

    Adam Savage: There’s your problem!

    GOP: Yeah, we gotta ditch that 20%

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  4. mattbernius says:

    I think this pretty much nails it on the head:

    “When some people rightfully call out Trump for these offensive, disgusting comments, I think a lot of other people see themselves in Trump,” he said. “They may not have a college degree, they might not speak about race in P.C. terms, but they don’t think they’re racists.”

    So when the president “turns around and says, ‘I’m not racist,’” Mr. Miller added, “I think there are a lot of people who think they don’t have a racist bone in their body either. And Trump gets that.”

    We don’t have a common definition of racism (honestly, we keep finding we have very few common definitions of anything).

    So long as people define racism in the most broad of terms (i.e. direct and explicit animus expressed via a subset of words or violence) they can easily explain away behavior.

    The other key thing to appreciate is that ultimately, there is nothing rational about racism — which also means that we should not expect anyone who engages in racist behavior to be rational (which also explains often the contradictions in their actions that offer counterfactuals that people can latch on to as “proof” that they are not really racist).

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  5. Kathy says:

    The opposite appears to be true with Donald Trump. He knows that the majority of people will never like him, and never support, and he doesn’t care.

    While that is the rational interpretation of the data and observations, it may be El Dennison actually thinks the polls are fake, that people really like him, and so why would he need to change?

    He does,or should, have internal polling, conducted by or for his WH staff and campaign. but then again maybe he does not.

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  6. Modulo Myself says:

    Trump preaches lack of accountability, and his base mainlines that right into their veins. It doesn’t matter what they say in a poll. They’re going to vote for him because he says this and gets away with it. Anyone who thinks that there’s a serious number of Republicans who are going to be wrestling with his racism is an idiot.

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  7. Teve says:

    @Kathy: In June Trump fired a buncha pollsters, probly for telling him he was polling lower than Lyme Disease.

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  8. gVOR08 says:

    @Modulo Myself: In 2018 Ds picked up votes from educated suburban Republicans. Rs used to carefully dogwhistle for fear overt racism would repel the “soccer moms”. They may have been right.

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  9. Joe says:

    many voters in this city on Lake Huron are embracing his “America — Love It or Leave It” message, saying they do not see it as racist.

    Because “America — Love It or Leave It” is not a racist message. It’s a bad message and really means ““America — Love It THE WAY I DO or Leave It,” but it’s not a racist message. White people have been saying that to each other forever. “Go back” is the racist message. Nobody ever tells my white self to “go back” because no one can imagine why I would not be here, no matter what I complain about. Step it up, NYT.

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  10. Modulo Myself says:

    @gVOR08:

    Both parties used to win majorities or pluralities. More importantly, they didn’t plan on losing or being less popular and then hold that lack of popularity up as a positive of the Constitution. For all of Nixon’s anti-elitism he won every state in 72 except for Massachusetts and all of the talk about the EC obscures that it had been taught in high school as a weird relic that was never going to matter. This is the first election where we know that a win for one side will not be a popular win. That’s baked in now with American politics and the people who are defending the EC are just pretending that the popular mood has always been this way. It’s very Orwellian.

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  11. Modulo Myself says:

    @Joe:

    To be honest, most people with intelligence and talent get the hell out of these Love It or Leave It places and situations as fast as they can. Nobody’s moving to Crackers, Alabama or going to hang out with a bunch of white people who have ideas about Sharia Law in some dying Rust Belt exurb. Nobody’s like ‘Hey, this church where a bunch of closeted gay men have extreme views on gay people is my jam.’ They leave if they can.

    That’s why the real elitist slur against America isn’t woke Park Slope elites calling white Midwesterners racist. It’s the Park Slope elites calling them ‘basic’.

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  12. KM says:

    @mattbernius:

    So long as people define racism in the most broad of terms (i.e. direct and explicit animus expressed via a subset of words or violence) they can easily explain away behavior.

    Fred Miller hit it on the head: “I think a lot of other people see themselves in Trump”. This is pure and utter projection. Trump says something his fan likely thinks or given today’s climate, says out loud. Trump gets labeled a racist for, you know, saying something racist. Said fan is now confronted with logic. If Trump says X and is therefore racist, Fan saying X will be racist as well.

    I’ve pointed this out on other threads where people try to be squeamish and use soft language to avoid offending Fans. You cannot point out Trump is being racist without explicitly and implicitly calling his followers such.. This is where the whole “go back to where you came from isn’t racist” tripe is stemming from. They *know* it’s racist. “Go back” never gets tossed white immigrants – legal or not. Nobody’s walking up to Mazie Hirono and telling her to go back. Michael Bennet of CO is the child of a Polish Holocaust survivor and he was born in New Dehli!!
    But that man is white, white, white so I’d bet some serious money haters don’t even have a clue he even exists, let alone that he’s a foreign-born child with US citizenship.

    These people absolutely do NOT want the stigma of being called a racist while still actually doing and saying racist things. They simply don’t consider themselves bad people or are doing something wrong. Pointing out Trump’s faults makes them guilty by association and forcibly reminds them that, yes, they do fit into the negative social category by definition even if they personally object. Of course, they’re going to think it’s acceptable and side with him. They rationalize away their behavior by stigmatizing point out the behavior in the first place. Thus, it’s far ruder to tell someone they’re being gauche then to be gauche themselves.

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  13. Kit says:

    @mattbernius: Here you push it too far:

    The other key thing to appreciate is that ultimately, there is nothing rational about racism — which also means that we should not expect anyone who engages in racist behavior to be rational

    We all suffer from some fear or other, and fear is not rational, but it doesn’t therefore follow that no one is rational. You did, however, put me in mind of something Clive James once said:

    There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.

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  14. michael reynolds says:

    Racists: Trump’s not racist!

    Everyone else: Yeah, he totally is.

    At this point denying Trump is a racist is itself racist.

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  15. Scott F. says:

    @Kathy:

    That Trump believes people really like him and the polls are fake is unquestionably true. No one lies with the proclivity Trump does without being very good at lying to themselves. And he’s created an ecosystem surrounding him that perpetuates his self-delusion – the full stadiums of chanting fans, the lickspittle aides that make up his staff, the state TV that is Fox News, the internal pollsters (hat tip Teve) that know any true numbers that they share with Trump have to be tempered with other data that flatter POTUS if they want to keep their jobs.

    He is certain these inputs are the majority view in the US, because he never allows for contrary views to enter his atmosphere. He’s wrong, but he is no less certain.

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  16. Scott F. says:

    @mattbernius:

    We don’t have a common definition of racism (honestly, we keep finding we have very few common definitions of anything).

    I’m confident you don’t intend it this way, but this idea of “common definition” is large part of the problem facing our society these days. Definitions are not subjective to interpretation – they are objectively set. “Chair” has been defined as a piece of furniture you sit on and any change in that definition over time has come from a substantiated change in understanding and documented usage. A “chair” doesn’t become a different thing because some guy decides to one day use one to hold open a door.

    Racists don’t get to define what racism is. Racists shouldn’t be allowed to think they are not racists and somehow it is so. Instead, they need to be repeatedly and unabashedly called out on their behaviors and rhetoric. If you don’t want to be thought a racist, don’t act and talk in ways that meet the objective definition.

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  17. DrDaveT says:

    @michael reynolds:

    Racists: Trump’s not racist!
    Everyone else: Yeah, he totally is.

    You forgot the inevitable response of “You’re the racist for calling him a racist and making everything about race!”

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  18. DrDaveT says:

    @Scott F.:

    Definitions are not subjective to interpretation – they are objectively set.

    While I agree with your larger point, this is just objectively false. Any linguist would laugh long and hard at this claim.

    The ‘definition’ of a word is the fuzzy cloud of intentions of speakers who use that word to convey an idea. Sometimes the cloud isn’t very fuzzy at all — there is overwhelming consensus about what words like ‘chihuahua’ and ‘thumb’ mean. Sometimes the cloud is so fuzzy it’s hard to find a common core — e.g. words like ‘liberty’ and ‘soul’ and ‘un-American’.

    The most dangerous ones are the words where speakers think there is a lot of consensus, but they’re mistaken about that. Take a word like ‘sandwich’ — I think it’s a pretty objective term, but it turns out that if you travel around the English-speaking word and quiz people on which things do and don’t count as ‘sandwiches’, you’ll get a crazy amount of variation.

    I strongly suspect that ‘racist’ is one of those words where people think everyone agrees on what it means, but they’re mistaken. I’ve been wondering for a week or two now whether saying ‘bigot’ would be any better, but I suspect it wouldn’t be — although it might get around the “I’m not a racist because I hate all Mexicans, whatever color they are” defense.

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  19. Teve says:

    @DrDaveT:

    The most dangerous ones are the words where speakers think there is a lot of consensus, but they’re mistaken about that. Take a word like ‘sandwich’ — I think it’s a pretty objective term, but it turns out that if you travel around the English-speaking word and quiz people on which things do and don’t count as ‘sandwiches’, you’ll get a crazy amount of variation.

    Nonsense. It is objectively true that a hot dog is a sandwich, and a pizza is an unfolded taco. 😛

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  20. charon says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Also, “racist” and “racism” are defined in a situational way, by context. “Racist” compared to what? What I mean by “racist” depends on the context.

    Humans evolved in hunter-gatherer groups, where there was survival value to trust members of the group – people likely to resemble ourselves. Our minds are built with that bias, up to us to choose how to deal with it.

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  21. Scott F. says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I concede the point you are making, but I would think linguists would agree with my central premise, while perhaps poets would not.

    Yes, word ‘meaning’ is a fuzzy cloud and words can be used in multitudinous ways to express ideas to both broaden knowledge and deepen understanding, as centuries of rhetoric and literature proves. The ‘definition’ of a word is researched, the etymology is traced, its usage is tracked, then the results are documented in reference books like dictionaries. You may quibble with my semantics (I’m using language after all), but there are facts concerning words.

    The political crisis we are currently facing comes from a conflation of fact and opinion with each being given equal weight. Evidence (as in the Mueller report), scholarship (as in the scientific consensus on climate change), data (as in the trend lines for income inequality and wage stagnation), etc. can now be successfully countered with points of view, suppositions, or deeply held beliefs.

    A democratic society can not sustain without committing to the premise that there truths and lies where which is which is not so open to interpretation. There has been (and will always be) spin, but that’s not what is happening now. Now there is a full on assault on objective fact, including political/societal terms.

    I appreciate you trying to find a word that might work better than “racist” with the racists you want to counter, but I believe you concede too much ground. “You don’t think you’re racist? – Too bad, you are. Behave differently if you don’t want me to call you what you are.”

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  22. mattbernius says:

    @Kit:

    There is no reasoning someone out of a position he has not reasoned himself into.

    That’s my point. Racism isn’t rational. And the mistake people make is to think that by pointing out the irrationality of a given stance (or the contradictions in a person’s behavior) they will make them suddenly realize the error of their ways.

    It just doesn’t happen that way. Racism is far closer to an emotional response and, to the degree it can be addressed, it needs to happen (for most people) via an emotional intervention.

    @Scott F.:

    Definitions are not subjective to interpretation – they are objectively set.

    That’s a nice story we tell ourselves, but that simply isn’t the case — especially as you move to the fringe. Otherwise there wouldn’t be epic debates as to whether or not a hot dog in a bun is a sandwich or not (I’ve also seen more than a few arguments over the years about — once you get beyond its most common form — if certain objects are chairs).

    Yes, I think there is a lowest common denominator definition of racism (direct open animus through physical violence or hurling racial epithets) that’s more or less agreed upon. But after that things get fuzzy really fast — especially for those of us concerned about systemic racism.

    Frankly, I’m at the point where I think a pretty strong argument can be made that dismissing reparations out of hand is fundamentally racist (especially given the mounting, well documented evidence of the intentional systemic oppression of minorities at the state, federal, and local levels that extends well into the 20th century and arguably the 21st century). I also admit that’s a radical position that most progressives would not buy into.

    What we are seeing here is exactly how little common agreement there is around anything but the lowest common denominator definition of racism.

    I would think linguists would agree with my central premise

    Having studied socio-cultural linguistics at University of Chicago as a graduate student under a MacArthur “Genius” Grant winning linguist, I can tell you that they would *not* back up your central premise. In fact, the very nature of language is that we are always already engaging in subtle negotiations over meaning — especially in points of conflict when those negotiations cease being so subtle.

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  23. Kathy says:

    @Scott F.:

    Word meaning is a kind of broad consensus largely involving usage. This causes problems when one group has specialized meanings not shared, or misinterpreted, by the larger society.

    Consider “theory.” Within science, it means, per Wikipedia, “an explanation of an aspect of the natural world that can be repeatedly tested and verified in accordance with the scientific method, using accepted protocols of observation, measurement, and evaluation of results.” Among the general population it means a guess about, or a possible explanation for, something.

    I choose this word, because it has practical implications. Taking the popular definition, then “the theory of evolution” would mean that’s how scientists guess the various living beings today came to be. so that evolution is “just a theory,” it’s not proven, and very likely it can’t be proven. Which, of course, ignores not just the literal tons of evidence for evolution largely by means of natural selection, but also the meaning of the word “theory” as used by biologists.

    A bigger problem is when one group decides on a definition at odds from the consensus definition found in the dictionary. For example, defining “democracy” as unlimited majority rule. This disqualifies half the political establishment as hostile to the US Constitution, for example.

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  24. mattbernius says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I strongly suspect that ‘racist’ is one of those words where people think everyone agrees on what it means, but they’re mistaken. I’ve been wondering for a week or two now whether saying ‘bigot’ would be any better, but I suspect it wouldn’t be — although it might get around the “I’m not a racist because I hate all Mexicans, whatever color they are” defense.

    This. And really well articulated on all points.

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  25. Gustopher says:

    @DrDaveT:

    I strongly suspect that ‘racist’ is one of those words where people think everyone agrees on what it means, but they’re mistaken.

    There are also people who will agree with the meaning, but will never acknowledge that they do so. And the people who will say “Islam isn’t a race, I don’t hate them because they’re brown, I hate them because they’re Muslims” — the “he’s not a pedophile, he’s an ephebophile” defense (technically accurate, but missing the forest for the trees, and just trying to frustrate rather than make a cogent argument)

    Also, a pizza is an open faced sandwich…

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  26. DrDaveT says:

    @Teve:

    It is objectively true that a hot dog is a sandwich

    Of course. As is a gyro. But the real test of heterodoxy is whether you think “open-face sandwich” is an oxymoron…

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  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    “But the real test of heterodoxy is whether you think “open-face sandwich” is an oxymoron…”

    Doesn’t that depend on what consensus is reached by the participants in the discussion? 😉

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  28. Scott F. says:

    @mattbernius:
    I haven’t studied anything language related since English classes in high school, so I gladly bow to your superior scholarship and expertise in linguistics. That’s okay, because my argument isn’t really about language or words, but facts. My field of expertise is advanced problem solving which depends on an initial agreement on the operational definition of what the problem factually is and is not. If every party were to define the terms to meet their own narrow interests to the extent that our understanding of the problem is limited to some minimal common understanding, then positive change would be simply impossible. Facts matter.

    If Trump isn’t a racist because his supporters haven’t agreed to a shared definition of what a racist is, then Trump isn’t a liar either, because his supporters say he isn’t lying all the time. I’m not willing to concede that and I don’t know why anyone who has paid attention to the last few years would concede it themselves. Evidence matters.

    Or if people get to decide they aren’t racists even when they whole-heartedly support a President with a documented history of racist rhetoric and behavior, just because he hasn’t (yet) reached the most broadly agreed upon racist actions of physical violence and racial epithets, then how do we even begin to solve for systemic racism? If support for reparations is ever to not be a radical position, it starts with standing ground on “send her back” being something only racists would chant.

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  29. DrDaveT says:

    @Scott F.:

    Or if people get to decide they aren’t racists even when they whole-heartedly support a President with a documented history of racist rhetoric and behavior, just because he hasn’t (yet) reached the most broadly agreed upon racist actions of physical violence and racial epithets, then how do we even begin to solve for systemic racism?

    That is the problem, yes. I don’t think any of us disagree with that. When the group in power has committed to a view that words don’t have denotations, only connotations (e.g. ‘socialist’ and ‘communist’ and “hate America”), and any ugly emotion is valid, what do you do? As noted by @Kit, you can’t reason someone out of a position they didn’t reason themselves into.

    Historically, an effective counter to emotional mob evil has been public shaming. That requires a critical mass of people whose opinions matter to the mob to rebuke them for their behavior and shun them if they won’t stop. Is there such a critical mass left in the places where support for Trump is strongest? I fear not — the usual internal sources of authoritative rebuke (the media, the pulpit, the teachers, the mothers) seem to have drunk the kool-aid this time.

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  30. Scott F. says:

    @DrDaveT:

    We are fundamentally in agreement, as you’ve hit upon the gist of what I’m getting at – public shaming.

    I’d only note that public shaming “requires a critical mass of people whose opinions matter to the mob“ only if the objective is to “stop” the emotional mob’s bad behavior. But, I believe (as I think you and Kit make clear) that the emotional mob is beyond the reach of reason and, frankly, beyond hope. My objective instead is to ostracize the emotional mob from enough casual observers and disengaged people to create the space to reason with them.

    I would contend that these people in the middle ground have reasoned themselves there (“I know Bob and he seems like a decent guy except for the chanting”). And I believe that enough of these people can be persuaded that they want no association with an emotional racist mob if a critical mass of people whose opinions mattered to them were to not mince words about who makes up the mob.

    This wouldn’t necessarily mean progress toward ending systemic racism, mind you. But, it could restore the country to the status quo ante before Trumpism tacitly gave permission for the emotional mob to let their freak flag fly.

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  31. Teve says:

    I <3 the comments here.

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  32. DrDaveT says:

    @mattbernius:

    Frankly, I’m at the point where I think a pretty strong argument can be made that dismissing reparations out of hand is fundamentally racist (especially given the mounting, well documented evidence of the intentional systemic oppression of minorities at the state, federal, and local levels that extends well into the 20th century and arguably the 21st century).

    This is a tangent, and maybe best saved for a later discussion, but…

    I think the “well-documented evidence” of ongoing systematic discrimination is still unknown to a large fraction of the population, and the current intellectual and propaganda climate is such that they would not believe any of the credible sources if you showed them the evidence. I think it’s quite possible that there are lots of people out there who admit historical discrimination — slavery, lynching, Jim Crow, poll taxes, all those things we almost learn about in school — but who think that reparations have already been made, in the form of Affirmative Action. They’re wrong, of course, but Affirmative Action is the part they have personal experience of.

    Just a thought. Not trying to defend anyone; just trying to get the diagnosis right.

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