Senate Majority Leader Sanctions Racism as Campaign Strategy

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell may not like the things that presumed Republican presidential nominee Donald J. Trump is saying about Mexicans and Muslims, but he’s apparently not willing to make a big fuss about it.


In a stunning bit of punditry television, McConnell was confronted on Sunday by Chuck Todd of Meet the Press about Trump’s declaration that Gonzalo Curiel, the federal judge presiding over a case against the now-defunct Trump University, should be disqualified because of the judge’s Mexican heritage, seeing as how the Republican standard-bearer has called for the building of a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

Todd read McConnell words recently penned by the right-wing blogger and Red State website founder Erick Erickson, who on June 4 at The Resurgent wrote the following about Trump’s repeated claims regarding Judge Curiel:

The attacks are racist. To claim someone is unable to objectively and professionally perform his job because of his race is racism. And damn the GOP for its unwillingness to speak up on this. ... [T]he party of Lincoln intends to circle the wagons around a racist. Damn them for that.

“What do you say to Mr. Erickson?” asked Todd.

“I think the party of Lincoln wants to win the White House,” replied McConnell, who has endorsed Trump.

To be fair to McConnell, the senior senator from Kentucky, also said on the show of Trump’s claim regarding Curiel: “I couldn’t disagree more with a statement like that.” McConnell went on to say said that Curiel “is a man who is born in Indiana. All of us came here from somewhere else.” And the majority leader went on to note that his own wife immigrated to the United States at the age of eight, “not speaking a word of English.”

But asked twice by Todd if Trump’s remarks were “racist,” McConnell declined to characterize them as such.

“[T]he right-of-center world needs to respect the fact that the primary voters have spoken,” McConnell said. “Donald Trump has won the nomination the old fashioned way, he got more votes than anybody else.” The bottom line, he said, was that Hillary Clinton would be bad for the country because she would continue the policies of President Barack Obama. To McConnell, it seems, for a woman president to continue the policies of the nation’s first black president would be worse that having a president who goes around the nation and the world impugning people for their race and religion—stopping barely short of hanging a sign that reads “For White Christians Only” on the more than 80-foot-high wall he promises to build around Fortress America.

House Speaker Paul Ryan, who endorsed Trump on June 2 after playing hard to get for the last two months, issued one of his characteristic tsk-tsk remarks (didn’t I tell you he would?) regarding Trump’s comments about the judge, telling a Wisconsin radio station, "It's reasoning I don't relate to, I completely disagree with the thinking behind that."

Not exactly a resounding condemnation.

By Sunday morning, not only had Trump doubled down on his characterization of a Mexican-American federal judge as preternaturally unfit to be fair to the European-American nominee by dint of the judge’s ethnic heritage—he told John Dickersonof Face the Nation that he would expect the same level of unfairness from a Muslim judge. (Trump has said he would bar the entry of Muslims to the U.S. until authorities “know what the hell is going on.”)

At a rally last week, Trump also referred to a black Republican congressional candidate in attendance—Gregory Cheadle, who is running for California’s 1st congressional district—as “my African American.”

While some Republican pundits and operatives bellowed their disapproval of Trump’s remarks about Curiel, the party elders did not. After all, the party of Lincoln wants to win the White House. If what it takes to do that is to affirm the racism and xenophobia of too many white Americans, then so be it.

Win or lose, Trump has unleashed, in a howling toxic wind, the same poison that has so long tainted the groundwater of the American political landscape. The storm will not soon subside.

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