Do congressional Republicans in Washington, Republican elites, the Republican ‘establishment’ and the 2016 Republican presidential candidates really represent how the majority of the Republican electorate feels about race and class in politics and life in general? And if they do, why do people feel this way?
I pose this question mainly as a result of reflection on the Democratic presidential debate held in Flint, Michigan on March 6, 2016. During that debate, Don Lemon of CNN asked a thought provoking question on race. The question that he posed to both Secretary Hillary Clinton and Senator Bernie Sanders was; as a white person, where is your ‘blind spot’ when it comes to race?
In addition, I watched Wolf Blitzer interview Senator Lindsey Graham on his show that aired on March 7th in which Senator Graham lamented the possibility of having Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s 2016 nominee. In that interview Senator Graham cited a long list of Donald Trump’s baggage and said that it would be better for the Republican Party to lose without Mr. Trump than to try to win with him.
Among the negative things that Senator Graham cited about Mr. Trump were his misogynistic rhetoric, antagonistic rhetoric toward Muslims and Mexicans and his racist attitude in general. As I watched the interview I was taken aback by the fact that he seemed to be more concerned that Mr. Trump’s rhetoric and views were recklessly overt rather than that he espoused these feelings period.
As I reflected on this, I could not help but to call to mind how miserably the Republican Party had failed on its proclamation and in its efforts to build a larger more inclusive tent. As I thought about this and reflected more on Mr. Lemon’s question and the response that each candidate gave I thought that as Democrats, we – as a party, struggle with the race and class issues too but just in a less controversial way. That is why I have chosen in this article to focus on the Republican Party instead of both parties.
To expound very briefly about each Party’s dilemma in an effort to help the reader better follow my thinking, from my perspective, the Democratic Party is fighting a human nature battle and the Republican Party, while although fighting a human nature battle, is mainly fighting an ideological battle. Democrats also fight ideological battles but when this ideology involves race, the problem is far less prominent and contentious in the Democratic Party than it is in the Republican Party.
The human nature part of the battle is something that we as humans have been dealing with since the beginning of time. Inside, we want to treat everyone the same in every way but there is something constantly fighting to imprison those feelings, keep them imprisoned and prevent them from breaking free and getting outside. That same something fights just as hard to prevent them from remaining on the outside should they somehow manage to break free of our human shell. From time-to-time when they manage to break free that something keeps fighting until it again imprisons them. Freedom for those feelings at times may last for a long period of time but most of the time it is likely very brief.
I have yearned for a long time now for people to relate and interact with one another – in the words of the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., based on the content of their character rather than the color of their skin. Although far too often that seems like a pipedream and something that exists only in the misty world of fairy tales, I still long for people to see me based on the content of my character.
And I have longed to see them based on that same premise; but too many times that same something – at the slightest provocation, which plagues all humans and fights to imprison those feelings inside of us that want to treat everyone the same in every way and prevent them from escaping to the outside, crops up in me. No matter how brief the period of its appearance I know that it is there and all I can do is suppress it and continue to fight to completely rid myself of it.
Although to rid ourselves of it might be a lifetime process, the quicker we suppress it each time the better off we are as a person and the greater is our opportunity help others to suppress it and, hopefully, rid themselves of it. When all is said and done, perhaps the cumulative affect will have been that we have made America better and stronger for everyone.
Even if we cannot eliminate the proliferation of hatred and divisiveness we certainly should not encourage it by electing leaders, especially someone who will lead our country, who regularly spout words of hatred and divisiveness. To shout from the rooftops that people should not openly discriminate against anyone yet condone it if it remains in the shadows makes the messenger nothing better than a hypocrite.
We should adhere to the words of the late author, poet and civil rights activist Maya Angelou; “When someone shows you who they are, believe them.” If the 2016 presidential candidates are conducting themselves in the manner that they are because they are pandering for votes by playing politics, they should not be. They are showing us and the rest of the world who they are and we should believe them. And as voters, any of those candidates that we consider to not be the kind of people we want to lead us we should not vote for them.
Finally, always remember, your vote is the most important one of all…unless you don’t use it!
Eulus Dennis – author, Operation Rubik’s Cube and Living Between The Line