The Party of Trump, er, GOP Playbook: Fear-monger, Lie, Suppress the Vote

The Party of Trump

The Party of Trump, formerly known as the Republican Party, no longer plays by the rules that long have governed American politics. The Party of Trump — which controls all branches of the Federal government — has achieved little and what it has enacted in the two years since President Donald Trump’s election — corporate tax cuts — is not popular. So, with no record to take to the voters, the GOP has resorted to fear-mongering, lying, and suppressing the vote.

As this is written — the day before the midterm elections — the election results are unknown. But, what is known, is that the once-“Grand Old Party” has taken the nation into its darkest corners, reviving some of the worst instincts of an unsavory past. The racial attacks marking the last days of this election cycle are more blatant than anything seen since the 1960s.

Oprah Winfrey campaigning for Stacey Abrams, the Democratic candidate for governor of Georgia.

In Georgia, where Oprah Winfrey recently campaigned for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams — who, if elected, would be the nation’s first female African American governor — a robo-call spews out a minute of the vilest racism. “This is the magical Negro Oprah Winfrey asking you to make my fellow Negress Stacey Abrams the governor of Georgia,” the voice on the call says. Then, the call pivots to another traditional hate, anti-Semitism: “Years ago, the Jews who own the American media saw something in me — the ability to trick dumb white women into thinking I was like them, and to do, read, and think what I told them to. I see the same potential in Stacey Abrams. Where others see a poor man’s Aunt Jemima, I see someone white women can be tricked into voting for, especially the fat ones.” The message was made by an anti-Semitic video podcasting website called TheRoadToPower.com. 

Representative Ron DeSantis, right, and Andrew Gillum, Republican and Democratic candidates for governor of Florida.

The Georgia robo-call is the work of a fringe white nationalist group. But, the racism it represents has infected what now passes for mainstream politics. In Florida, Sonny Perdue, Trump’s secretary of agriculture, used a racist colloquialism in urging voters to reject Andrew Gillum, an African American running for governor. “This election is so cotton-pickin’ important,”  Perdue said. And, Gillum’s opponent, Representative Ron DeSantis, launched his campaign by telling voters, “The last thing we need to do is monkey this up” by electing the Democratic candidate. Of course, no one can exceed the vileness of Iowa Representative Steve King who has augmented his history of racist comments by endorsing a Toronto mayoral candidate with ties to Nazism and meeting members of Austria’s extreme right-wing party. 

Part of the “caravan” headed for the U.S. border,

Trump proved in 2016 that stoking racist fears works in a presidential election. Now, in the closing days of the midterms, the entire Republican Party is betting that such tactics will work up and down the ballot. The president is using racism and nationalism as he campaigns for Republicans in mainly red states. He refers to a “caravan” of Central American immigrants — men, women, and children seeking the internationally recognized right to asylum — as an imminent “invasion” of dangerous “illegal aliens.” Never mind that the “caravan” will not be near the United States for several weeks, if ever. He has called immigrants “the worst scum in the world” and claims Democrats welcome all comers by saying, “Fly right in, folks. Come on in. We don’t care who the hell you are, come on in!” 

Many of Trump’s lies are blatant. He claimed Abrams in Georgia would take away the right to bear arms, though governors lack the authority to rescind the Second Amendment. He has promised a 10-percent tax cut for the middle class, though there is no such legislation in the works. And, like all Republicans, he promises to maintain the Obamacare guarantee of coverage for people with preexisting conditions. Republicans, who have always opposed all parts of the Affordable Care Act, have discovered that it is now very popular, so they are ignoring their 70 prior attempts to repeal the law, lying about their past record of weakening its provisions, and covering up their lack of a plan to cover preexisting conditions without a mechanism to drive buyers to insurance marketplaces.

Stacey Abrams, right, and Brian Kemp, Democratic and Republican candidates for governor of Georgia.

When fear-mongering and lying are not sufficient, Republicans are willing to resort to voter suppression and fraud to maintain their hold on power. In Georgia, Secretary of State Brian Kemp, who is the Republican candidate for governor against Stacey Abrams, controls the state’s election process in a clear conflict of interest. Kemp has placed 53,000 voter registration applications on hold because the applications show slight discrepancies — sometimes a missing hyphen — with driver’s licenses. An investigation reveals that most of the applications belong to minority voters, who tend to vote Democratic. Now, Kemp accuses Democrats of possessing software that could be used to hack the state’s voter registration system, though he offers no evidence to support the allegation. His campaign called Democrats “power-hungry radicals” engaged in “criminal behavior” and “abuse of power.”  

Elsewhere, inactive voters have been removed from the rolls in a move voting rights activists label improper “purges.” A recently tightened North Dakota law requires voters to have a street address, which makes it harder for Native Americans, who commonly maintain a Post Office box, to qualify. In Dodge City, Kansas, which is 60-percent Latino, election officials moved the city’s only polling location from downtown to a location a mile from the nearest bus stop. Kansas, of course, is the state where Kris Kobach, the Republican candidate for governor, has built a reputation by alleging that foreigners vote illegally, even though there is no evidence of massive in-person voter fraud in American elections. But, claims of voter fraud by foreigners tie into the anti-immigrant hysteria Trump and his cohorts are inciting.

Voter suppression, fear-mongering, and lying: The modern Republican playbook in the age of Trump. These are the tactics employed by a party bereft of ideas and fearful of change. Trump has taught Republicans that lack of a program does not matter if candidates appeal to voters’ worst instincts, lie about their records, and restrict the ballot. It is up to the American electorate to reject such cynical ploys. 

Posted November 6, 2018

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