There is a long history of race hatred in the United States. Last week added a particularly horrific chapter to that history. Most tragically, the party which was born out of opposition to that history has become its modern home. Paul Krugman writes:
To put it bluntly, the modern Republican Party is in essence a machine designed to deliver high after-tax incomes to the 1 percent. Look at [Paul] Ryan: Has he ever shown any willingness, for any reason, to make the rich pay so much as a dime more in taxes? Comforting the very comfortable is what it’s all about.But not many voters are interested in that goal. So the party has prospered politically by harnessing its fortunes to racial hostility, which it has not-so-discreetly encouraged for decades.
The late Lee Atwater taught Republicans to talk in code -- beginning with the first President Bush:
These days, former President George H.W. Bush is treated as an elder statesman, too gentlemanly to endorse the likes of Donald Trump — but remember, he’s the one who ran the Willie Horton ad. Mitt Romney is also sitting this one out — but he was happy to accept Mr. Trump’s endorsement back when the candidate was best known for his rabid birtherism.
There are those in the party who are not racists. But some of its leaders are -- because they have adopted racist rhetoric to achieve their economic goals:
I’m not saying that all leading Republicans are racists; most of them probably aren’t, although Mr. Trump probably is. It is that in pursuit of their economic — actually, class-interest — goals they were willing to act as enablers, to make their party a safe space for prejudice. And the result is a party base that is strikingly racist, in which a plurality of voters believe that Mr. Obama is a Muslim, and more — a base just waiting for a candidate willing to blurt out what the establishment conveyed by innuendo.
But they are not the party's only enablers. A large number of journalists -- under the banner of "balanced" -- have refused to confront what has happened to the party:
Political analysts who tried to talk about the G.O.P.’s transformation, like Norman Ornstein of the American Enterprise Institute, were effectively ostracized for years. Instead, the respectable, “balanced” thing was to pretend that the parties were symmetric, to turn a blind eye to the cynicism of the modern Republican project.The point is that this kind of false balance does real harm. The Republican establishment directly enabled the forces that led to Trump; but many influential people outside the G.O.P. in effect enabled the enablers. And so here we are.
There is plenty of blame to go around.