Republican candidates for 2016 are having to adapt to a talking points agenda that is literally being set by Donald Trump. His anti-immigrant rhetoric has mobilized a vocal bloc of voters, leaving his opponents to step up their own usage of inflammation and demagoguery in campaign speeches. And now, some Republican candidates may be drawing nearer to exploiting an even older fault line in American society.
With increasing frequency over the last week, Republican candidates have sallied attacks on Black Lives Matter, the movement born of protests against police killings of African Americans. The Republican candidates have been testing new messages with various subtle edges – and abilities to cut.
Only a small minority of the current Republican field have directly tied the activists to violence. Some have offered rebranding advice – “I think they should change their name maybe – if they were All Lives Matter, or Innocent Lives Matter,” Kentucky Senator Rand Paul said last week. While others have offered a historical perspective; commenting on the network’s name, former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee has said he thinks Martin Luther King Jr would “be appalled by the notion that we’re elevating some lives above others”.
Fredrick C. Harris, director of the center on African American politics and society at Columbia University, said that Republican candidates might be seen as taking a page from Richard Nixon’s 1968 presidential campaign to mobilize white voter resentment – with a dual appeal to “law and order” and to a “silent majority” mistrustful of black empowerment.
The use of coded language makes it harder to identify explicit racial overtones in candidates’ speeches, but they might be seen as taking a page out of Nixon’s or Ronald Reagan’s playbook in this regard, both of whom appealed to an angry white voter bloc without using explicitly racist language. The latest move by Republican candidates is discouraging to those who want to hear the candidates actually talk about the issues that BLM is concerned about, as these candidates do not even acknowledge that police killing of minorities is in any way a problem.
[via The Guardian]