A common refrain throughout last year gave credence to the Republican Party and its ostensible morals, which Donald Trump had circumvented and adulterated. He was a virus that had engulfed his host, with an ideology distinct from his newfound adopted party. Those who reluctantly endorsed him were Vichy collaborators, whereas the resistors were seen as the true Republicans.
This theory, of course, was laughably false. Trump is not an aberration: He is the logical conclusion of the Republicans’ southern strategy, which transformed racial resentment from a cynical sideshow of the party in the late 1960s to the nexus of the party at which it currently stands today.
Nowhere is this more apparent than in this country’s ongoing elections that do not have Trump’s name on their ballots. In Alabama, conservative firebrand — nay, scratch that, theocratic fascist — Roy Moore defeated incumbent Sen. Luther Strange in a Republican primary for the Alabama senate seat. Strange had been supported by virtually the entire Republican Party, including somewhat vociferously by Trump himself, yet he still fell in a landslide to Moore — a former jurist who had twice been removed from his seat as the chief justice of the Alabama Supreme Court for defying direct orders of the U.S. Supreme Court.
Moore, despite his apparent disdain for the legal system and proving that irony is, in fact, dead, is campaigning on themes of protecting the Constitution and restoring the rule of law. Despite the fact he has engaged in mostly racial resentment tactics. Moore has suggested that Muslims are prohibited from holding public office in the United States and most recently intimated that declining to stand for the Pledge of Allegiance at a football game could be criminally prosecuted. Both are lies.
And then there’s Virginia. In a Republican gubernatorial primary this year, Ed Gillespie, a former chairman of the Republican National Committee, barely defeated Corey Stewart, a county official and neo-Confederate apologist. Gillespie has since appropriated Stewart’s campaign tactics and is now running a surprisingly effective campaign against the Democrat, Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam.
In a campaign ad that ranks among one of the most blatantly racist political commercials in history, Gillespie showed photos of crowds of Latin American prisoners, covered in tattoos and looking menacing. The words “Kill, rape, control” flashed across the screen as Gillespie accused Northam, a former Army doctor and neurosurgeon, of being some type of sympathizer for the gang MS-13. Gillespie has also attacked Northam for opposing statues honoring Confederates. At one point the Virginia Republican candidate GOP accused Northam, a descendant of slave owners, of betraying his “heritage.”
A few of the conservative Trump critics so dependable that they effectively left the Republican Party have been rightly critiquing what are unabashed appeals to race. But the more casual have not. The National Review did not run an editorial against Moore. There weren’t even the limp-wristed snips of yesteryear from Reek — I mean Paul Ryan — on bridges too far.
This is because of what I have said for some time of Trumpism. It is fueled by the base desire of the #CheerfulWhiteFolk to isolate, persecute and hurt people who are different. That is now true of the national Republican Party. Trump is not the ailment; he is merely a symptom.
Make no mistake, the main platform of the Republican Party of the United States, the party of Lincoln, Roosevelt and Eisenhower before it, is white nationalism. That’s it. The tax cuts, the aversion to regulation, the commitment to balanced budgets, a strong national defense and even opposition to abortion; it all takes a backseat to white nationalism, which is why it is so hard to defeat in a primary or general election.
Trump may have been the first ship out of the bottle, but I fear there won’t be any more going back in any time soon.
Horwitz is a second-year law student from Houston. He is a senior columnist.