Once again, harkening back to the days of the Willie Horton ads used by the George H.W. Bush campaign for president in 1988, the GOP stands ready to use race, specifically critical race theory (CRT), as the new bogeyman in the 2022 mid-term elections.
Over the past several years, we’ve learned that the GOP will use social issues such as race, gay marriage, and transgender rights to piss off as many people as possible to win elections.
Rather than put forward a platform of ideas and policies that would benefit the American people, they’d rather divide and conquer. The party lacks any meaningful policy proposals, which was reflected in its 2020 convention. For the first time in memory, the party didn’t even bother to put forth a platform of any kind — instead basically reiterating the goals of their 2016 proclamation.
And while that proclamation reflected the usual GOP talking points including support for the 2nd Amendment, less regulation, and getting tough on immigration, the real reason for forgoing a platform in 2020 was easily explained.
The omission reflected the wishes of its de facto leader, Donald Trump. It didn’t matter what policies the party believed in because allegiance and loyalty to him mattered most.
As we fast approach the 2022 mid-term elections, Trump is not on the ballot, although his ideology, Trumpism, most certainly will be in some form or the other. Trump, himself, has endorsed several candidates in various state primaries, so we shall see how successful those endorsements will ultimately be in those races.
But indeed, the playbook of many of the GOP candidates in the fall will focus on societal issues, especially those that concern race. And why would a political party do something so divisive? Because it works. When people are riled up, and nothing like a bit of racial animus does that, they will come out and vote.
And nothing seems to galvanize their base more than does CRT. We saw it used to perfection in the Virginia Gubernatorial contest by Glenn Youngkin, who narrowly won.
The irony, of course, is that CRT is not taught in our public schools. Youngkin knew this, yet he managed to make his constituents think it was. Or, at the very least, that it’s sure to be taught eventually — if nothing is done.
It was all BS, but in our present atmosphere of massive disinformation and conspiracy theories, it doesn’t take much for a narrative to gain a foothold on a sizable group of the voting public.
And what exactly is CRT? What’s freaking out white people to the point that school board meetings are becoming unpleasant and even dangerous places to attend?
According to Reuters, CRT:
is an approach to studying U.S. policies and institutions that is most often taught in law schools. Its foundations date back to the 1970s when law professors began exploring how race and racism have shaped American law and society.
But what pushes the buttons of so many in the GOP base is this:
The theory rests on the premise that racial bias — intentional or not — is baked into U.S. laws and institutions.
For the most part, CRT wasn’t even a thing before 2020. What changed that was the murder of George Floyd, a Black man, by a white Minneapolis police officer and the subsequent protests and narrative about race that ensued in its aftermath.
Fox News and other right-wing outlets quickly began to use CRT as a talking point on their platforms. According to Media Matters, a left-leaning non-profit that tracks what Fox and the others are discussing, put out the following tweet in June 2021:
That particular tweet was nearly a year ago, and mentions of CRT have done nothing but gone up exponentially since then. When Fox wants their viewers angry about something, they know exactly what to do: Keep repeating it over and over, whether it’s true or not.
And the gist of it all — that which goes to the heart of why CRT is being used as a sledgehammer against Democrats is pretty basic. According to the GOP, the Left wants to make white people feel guilty about it all. If the horrors of slavery are taught to our kids, they will feel uncomfortable. Indeed, some legislatures have already introduced legislation banning discussions about discrimination in the nation’s past.
So rather than teach school children about slavery, reconstruction, and the Civil War, it’s far better to paper over things that show white people in a bad light. We shouldn’t talk about the lynchings, voter suppression, Jim Crow, or anything of the like. Because if we do, the resentment from people of color towards white people will worsen. And hurt their feelings in the process.
Again, though, CRT is not being taught in our schools. There’s no evidence reporting anything different. But Youngkin and the radical Right will pound it into the heads of the base regardless. And, unfortunately, many of them believe every word of it.
Democrats must be ready to respond. We’ll hear GOP candidates talking about parental rights and how they have every right to voice concerns over school curriculums. It’s not something Democrats can ignore — ask Youngkin’s opponent, Terry McCauliffe, how that worked out for him.
To be sure, inflation, COVID mandates, and our painful withdrawal from Afghanistan will be part of the equation for GOP candidates to use against Democrats in the fall. But let’s be honest, even those volatile subjects will pale in comparison to the emotional and visceral issue of race.
Many white Americans are in a dour mood these days, especially those who voted for Trump. Trump, for his part, ditched the dog whistle used by most GOP politicians before him and substituted that for the loudest megaphone he could find.
No longer did white folks need to tiptoe around what’s been bothering them since the Black guy won in 2008. Trump gave them the wink and nod they needed to magnify their grievances. No longer did they need to be silent. What’s the big deal about putting Confederate flags on pickups or paraded around the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th? Now, it’s like a badge of honor for many of them.
The GOP knows this and will do everything in their power to gaslight and stir up the masses. It’s what they do best, and since this is also an off-year election, traditionally a bad one for the party in the White House, Democrats will need to defend their seats rigorously.
It’s not clear whether they will be up for the challenge. Yes, the GOP smells blood in the water. And while they’ve shown no propensity to govern the country in any meaningful way in recent years, it does not matter. Because power is what they covet the most. So sowing the seeds of discontent and pitting Americans against one another remains their most potent and destructive tactic.
Please make no mistake; whether we like it or not, CRT will be coming to a political campaign near you in the fall. The real question is, how many unsuspecting folks are going to fall for it?