Donald Trump has criticized the Ku Klux Klan and white supremacist, David Duke, numerous times over the years and, in fact, refused to run for president in 2000 with the backing of the Reform Party because Duke was tied to it.
However, there was huge uproar two weeks ago when CNN’s Jake Tapper questioned the GOP frontrunner about whether he wanted votes from various racist groups. Rather than say, “I don’t want any bigots to vote for me,” Trump asked Tapper to send him a list of the questionable groups so he could check them out. Then Tapper asked Trump specifically to disavow the KKK and Duke, but the candidate seemed to dodge the question, later complaining that his earpiece was faulty. He said he could not hear the full question. Pundits and politicians believed Trump did not want to alienate voters in the South who were prepped to vote on Super Tuesday.
“Disavow” is the word Tapper and most reporters use. Do you disavow these voters? Translated this means, “Do you want these people to vote for you?” The politically correct answer is “No. I don’t want these disgusting people’s support.” However, if politicians are being honest, they would say, “I want every vote I can get, even when I loathe the voter’s ideology.” It is one thing to condemn hatred and bigotry, which all of the 2016 candidates including Trump can easily and honestly do. It is altogether different to say “I don’t want the support of anyone who is prejudiced” and actually mean it.
The perception is that America is a tolerant, “shining city on a hill,” but studies show that a majority of the electorate is bigoted. Intolerance permeates the political spectrum from Democrats to Independents and Republicans. USA Today states that 56 percent of Americans harbor anti-African American sentiments, and 57 percent of whites have attitudes that are decidedly anti-Hispanic. The Washington Post claims that prejudice is especially pronounced in the South where 20 percent of Republicans oppose interracial dating. Roger Ransom, an economic historian and expert on this subject, confirms that a lot of Southerners still believe that “blacks are simply inferior to whites.”
If a presidential candidate, such as Hillary Clinton, could successfully convince all bigots to vote for her opponent, she would not get elected. It is as simple as that. She would lose 56 or 57 percent of the vote off the top, a move not so very different from Mitt Romney’s foolish dismissal of 47 percent of the electorate just prior to the 2012 election.
Now, what about non-bigots who are “objectionable”? Should they be disavowed as well? There are drug dealers, pornographers, sociopaths, thieves, flag burners, adulterers, Satan-worshipers and child molesters. In addition, some behavior and ideals are “candidate specific.” What Ted Cruz finds repugnant might differ radically from that which disturbs Bernie Sanders. Should Tapper go beyond the KKK and ask Cruz to disavow “Christianity-haters” and “baby killers” (a term Cruz might use to describe the 28 percent of women in the U.S. who have had abortions)?
Finally, it should be noted that gaining votes from the “morally questionable” can lead to an America of harmony and tolerance. A whole bunch of negatives can equal a positive presidency. Bigots might vote for a candidate who will then use his or her victory to promote unity and love—something I believe Trump would do if elected. The White House can be the ultimate bully pulpit.
Candidates should firmly criticize bigots, but to reject their votes—well, that is simply not an intellectually honest move.
Published in the Huffington Post on March 11, 2017