Republican Speaker of the House Paul Ryan has said that Donald Trump’s comments about the Mexican heritage of a judge presiding over a lawsuit against him were “the textbook definition of a racist comment.”
I agree with Speaker Ryan. Maybe the judge has an ideological bias which would preclude him from presiding objectively over a suit involving Trump – and based on some of what we’ve learned about the judge that could be a valid, if debatable, point – but Trump didn’t reference the man’s politics. He referenced his ethnicity. And judging someone based on their ethnicity is, in fact, an act of racism.
It’s clear and obvious, but there is also a problem for those on the left and the right hoping Trump’s comments are a sort of silver bullet in the head of his rise in politics: The public has become inured to accusations of racism.
As data supporting this, consider this YouGov poll showing a majority – but only a slim majority – of Americans finding Trump’s comments racist:
If Trump is guilty of “textbook” racism, then you would expect more than 51 percent of poll respondents to answer that way when asked, especially when prominent members of Trump’s own political party have said as much. Sure, self-identified Democrats and Republicans retreating to their partisan corners on Trump, but only a plurality of independents would say that Trump’s were racist.
Why is this happening?
[mks_pullquote align=”right” width=”300″ size=”24″ bg_color=”#ffffff” txt_color=”#000000″]Maybe when you accuse everyone you disagree with of being racist you shouldn’t be surprised when people stop taking your accusations of racism seriously.[/mks_pullquote]
Part of it could be an unwillingness to condemn Trump when the alternative to him is someone as fundamentally unappealing as Hillary Clinton. Thanks, Democrats, for managing to give us a candidate who makes Trump look almost appealing by contrast.
A larger part, though, is that many Americans are so used to hearing “racism” deployed as an epithet to describe something the speaker doesn’t like, but which very often isn’t actually racist, that the accusation has lost some of its power.
To put it another way, when everything is racist it kind of starts to seem as though nothing is really all that racist.
Maybe when you accuse everyone you disagree with of being racist you shouldn’t be surprised when people stop taking your accusations of racism seriously. Even when, in Trump’s case, they’re warranted.
I’m hardly the first person to point out that Trump’s decision to eschew the rote political correctness of modern politics is a cornerstone of his appeal to supporters, but I don’t think it’s a phenomena that can be overstated.
We have been playing this game of political outrage for so long that many have lost their ability to be outraged.
And Trump, unfortunately, is benefitting.