In the 1980 presidential election, Jimmy Carter tried unsuccessfully to paint Ronald Reagan as a racist. At one point, Carter claimed that Reagan was pandering to racists during Reagan’s Neshoba County Fair Speech — only to later retract the claim after the press excoriated him for it.
Pulling a play directly from Carter, in a speech built largely on fear-mongering and half-truths, Hillary Clinton this week accused Donald Trump of racism, seeking to change the narrative of the presidential race from a focus on the report of anemic GDP growth of 1.1 percent and Hillary’s corrupt dealing at the State Department. After all, Trump consistently outperforms Clinton on the economy and national security in polls, so indulging in fantasy to change the narrative is in her interest.
The hackneyed race-baiting attack on Trump should fail as it did in 1980: Voters have more important issues to consider, like national security and the economy.
In response to her speech, Trump countered that Clinton’s smear is a play taken from a tired old Democratic playbook. Historically speaking, Trump is right.
Not only are they both similar in trying to paint their opponents as racist, Clinton’s past racism came to light just like Jimmy Carter’s racist statements from 1976. Recall, in 1976, Jimmy Carter said there was nothing wrong with “ethnic purity” in inner-city neighborhoods. Similarly in 1996, Clinton claimed that some young African-Americans were “super predators.”
Even the National Review, lately under a spell of Trump paranoia, published a piece highlighting the perils of a Democrat trying to smear a Republican with charges of racism. Steve Hayward wrote, “The race-baiting attack on Reagan in 1980 backfired badly against Jimmy Carter, and contributed to Carter’s defeat.” The hackneyed race-baiting attack on Trump should fail similarly because voters have more important issues to consider like national security and the economy.
Let’s take a closer look at some of the claims that Clinton made in her speech.
First she claimed that Donald Trump doesn’t understand the vibrancy of “black-owned businesses” or the “strength of the black church.” Trump’s support includes multiple members of the African-American business communities and churches, including Pastors Mark Burns and Darrell Scott. Further, members of the African-American Antioch Road to Glory Church in Charlotte endorsed Trump. Concerning Hillary Clinton, they said, “Supporting Hillary is like being with an abusive ex, one that you already know left you broken and wounded. At this point, give the new guy a chance.”
Second, Clinton claimed that Trump discriminated in housing practices in 1973. That case ended up settling out of court. Lynne Patton, who works for the Trumps, said at the Republican National Convention she was proud to work for them because of her race. Her convention speech was one among many from the convention highlighting Trump’s concern for the African-American community.
Clinton also claimed that Trump led the charge for the birthers, when the claim that President Obama is not a U.S. citizen actually came from her primary campaign against Obama in 2008.
On top of these claims, Clinton insisted that Trump started his campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists and criminals,” and mentioned the comments concerning Judge Curiel. Without getting into the weeds of the statements, because one could argue all day how the media has taken them out of context, they ultimately distract from the two issues most important to voters: the economy and national security.
Finally, Clinton rattled off a list of half-baked instances of Trump’s “racism.” If Jimmy Carter’s failure is any indication of the direction of this race, it’s clear Clinton’s attacks will only hurt her more as Donald Trump prepares to take the White House. Trump has repeatedly offered plans that would raise stagnant incomes for everyone, and offered to return safety to the inner cities while Clinton, like Jimmy Carter, wants to raise taxes on the middle class for the benefit of the wealthy. Her charges of racism are a dog whistle and should be ignored.