I find it odd that the majority of the people in my party calling Mr. Donald Trump a “racist,” and clamoring for an apology, are a white males. Mr. Trump was not my first choice for the GOP nominee, mostly because I had serious doubts that he could transition from the business world to the political world. The only President, to date, that has managed to do that well was President George W. Bush; however, he came from a family with a strong roots in business and politics.
The jury is still out if Mr. Trump can do the same; however, this business about Mr. Trump’s alleged “racism,” for now, does not ring true. For example, a cursory review of lawsuits brought against Mr. Trump or a Trump-affiliated organizations failed to turn up any pattern of lawsuits that would indicate a racist person or organization. This is, of course, not dispositive. There may have been non-court settlements that we may never know about; however, with his decades-long business history, if there were an issue of “racism” or unlawful discrimination, my guess is we would have known about it a long time ago.
In the political arena, here too, the record is scant. This is partly due to the fact that he’s never been a professional politician. But more telling about Mr. Trump’s character on this point is what he has not done as a professional politician and, I hope, he never does. Up until now he has shunned classical political tools, some racist in my book, that have become the norm in American politics. For example, it is not common practice for both political parties to target voter groups based on race. This is a subcategory of a craft known as identity politics.
Identity politics is one of the most corrosive political weapons ever devised by the Left that has destroyed political discourse in this nation. It is a political cancer that must be removed from the national discourse. While political parties have done this in some form or another since even before the Civil War, it was perfected by the Left and the Democratic Party. Republicans have jumped on this bandwagon too. So when indignant Republican officials, failed candidates, as well fledging publication editors, start to complain and distance themselves from Mr. Trump, all I can say is, cool your political jets because they do not come to this discussion with clean hands.
I should know a thing or two about “identity politics,” because for most of the seven years I worked at the Republican National Committee (RNC), before and during the Republican Revolution in the 1990s, I helped deploy that political voodoo. We targeted minority groups via the media, and politically, based on race. We even helped organize fundraising events based on ethnicity. While it was one of the best political jobs I ever had, I also learned, first-hand, that this form of politicking had no place in the Grand Old Party, or most importantly, in this USA. Race-based talismans do more harm than good.
Whether in the Bronx, San Diego, the southwest, or South Florida, and many other regions I visited during my time at the RNC, and thereafter, any American, of many ethnic backgrounds that I would ask about hyphenated politics would invariably tell me, “cut it all out!” This was true of Americans of Mexican, Cuban, Salvadoran, Guatemalan, Peruvian, Laotian, Chinese, Vietnamese, Dominican, descent and the list goes on and on. After the RNC, I spent another seven years on Capitol Hill where, to my dismay, the Republicans — at the urging of lobbyists and communications experts — were embracing identity politics and I don’t think they realized it. At one point, and this may have come later, they were urging members to take Spanish lessons!
Just like affirmative action has created the perception of a second-class society, identity politics Balkanizes the electorate by focusing on division, not unity. Just because someone’s parents spoke Spanish, for example, does not necessarily mean that their children do. In fact, studies show that second- and third-generation Americans lose, unfortunately, the ability to fluently speak the language of their parents and grandparents. So why does the GOP spend millions trying to, for example, reach voters via Spanish-Language media?
A cottage industry has sprung up within the conservative movement and the GOP that makes millions of dollars in consulting fees trying to convince the party, and the conservative movement, that using Spanish-language media will attract voters. From a national messing stand point, I strongly disagree, but dollar signs can blind commonsense. In 20xx, the RNC spent millions of dollars to just to “study” this issue. Again, it was a colossal waste of money.
While there is some value in very targeted multi-language efforts, political targeting in languages other than English should be used but on a very limited bases. The moment it these campaign bleed with our national messaging and political targeting, it starts to turn off other groups of voters who, frankly, feel left out and see the special treatment toward one voter group over the other as divisive. And they would be right. We are supposed to be working toward building one nation, under God hopefully, not a multicultural hodgepodge of cities under the banner of political correctness.
For new Americans, identity politics can be confusing and downright dangerous to long-term assimilation efforts. Like a master patting his dog on the head after it gets him a bone, identity politics is condescending. Identity politics reminds the target voter that he or she is different from other Americans. That is un-American. It also gives ammunition to a very small, but ugly sector of the population that harbors xenophobic tendencies, leanings that are present in every nation of the world, but that the US of A does a good job ameliorating. Americans are supposed to work toward tempering these emotions, not exacerbating them.
What to do about it? Frankly, I just do not know. It has become so ingrained in both political systems, as well as legal thought, that it requires a major policy and political rethink. One rather step that could impact this debate for generations is to stop asking ethnic questions on the quadrennial census. Bolder moves could include banning all affirmative action programs in academic programs and, even, eliminating similar programs from the federal government contract regulations.
One thing is certain, at least in my mind, the Republican Party should abolish the practice of hyphenated politics or the targeting of a voter based on race. We should embrace a rather aggressive “We are all Americans” messaging platform and challenge the Democratic Party to do the same. If Mr. Trump could make that a permanent part of his new political operation, he would be contributing a net gain to the body politic.