Dems increase calls of racism against Trump

Democrats are increasingly signaling they will make race a central issue of the 2020 election against President Trump, with some candidates even calling Trump a racist in the very early stages of the Democratic race. 

At a prayer service on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in South Carolina, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Monday called Trump a racist and said the country needs to go forward to a “non-discriminatory society.” 

“Today we talked about justice and today we talked about racism,” Sanders said. “And I must tell you it gives me no pleasure to tell you that we now have a President of the United States who is a racist. We have a president intentionally, purposefully trying to divide us up by the color of our skin, by our gender, by the country we came from, by our religion.”

{mosads}The remarks from Sanders came a year after Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), at another MLK event, called Trump a “racist bully.” 

Warren is running for president and Sanders is eyeing the race. 

The 2020 presidential contest is widely expected to be the most ugly and contentious fight the American electorate has seen, and a competitive Democratic primary may also be nasty.

There is no clear-cut favorite in the Democratic race, which is likely to pit at least a dozen candidates against one another, with most competing for liberal primary voters.

Democrats are signaling that they are anxious to call out Trump not only for his policies but his character as they compete for those votes.

“They’re going to kick the living s*** out of him,” Democratic strategist Chris Kofinis predicted of the 2020 field. “‘Racist’ is going to be the tip of the iceberg. It’s only going to get more direct and more brutal.”

Race will influence strategy within the primary as well. 

Democrats will be competing for the support of black and Hispanic voters in early-voting states such as Nevada and South Carolina after contests in Iowa and New Hampshire, which are less diverse states.

Sanders — who struggled to win black voters and lost to Hillary Clinton handily in the South Carolina primary — doubled down on his comments in an interview with the Washington Post on Wednesday. 

“If white people commit terrible crimes, not a lot of discussion. But if you’re a Latino, a lot of focus. That’s racist.”

The remarks are notable coming a few weeks after newly elected Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) — who has instantly become a prominent face in the Democratic Party — called Trump a racist.

“Yeah. Yeah. No question,” she said in response to a question from Anderson Cooper of “60 Minutes.”

Pressed by Cooper on her answer, Ocasio-Cortez highlighted “the words that he uses, which are historic dog whistles of white supremacy.”  

Trump immediately brushed off the comments. 

“Who cares?” he said—a preview of how he might handle such remarks going forward in what is sure to be a bruising campaign.  

In an e-mail Wednesday, Republican National Committee spokesman Steve Guest added that, “Sadly, it comes as no surprise that Democrats would lob disgusting and false attacks at President Trump in an attempt to smear his name because they have no record of accomplishments to run on.” 

There are some risks to the attacks. 

Democratic strategist Brad Bannon said while it might motivate some voters, candidates “must be careful not to call Trump supporters racists because some of them voted for Obama.” 

At the same South Carolina event where Sanders spoke on Monday, Sen. Cory Booker (D-N.J.) who is black, used the moment to honor King instead of blasting the president for his language and policies. 

“What is important is that we apply the ideals of Martin Luther King,” he said. “Our dissatisfaction has to turn in action.”

At another event honoring King, former Vice President Joe Biden took a shot at Trump but didn’t call him a racist. 

“It doesn’t take much to awaken hate,” Biden said.  “We saw it in Charlottesville as Klansmen and white supremacists, literally, and neo-Nazis, literally, slunked out of their dark rooms, their digital hideaways, their crazed and vicious faces literally contorted, illuminated by torchlight.”

Trump’s equivocal remarks in August 2017 blaming both sides for violence in Charlottesville, Va., where self-proclaimed white supremacists battled counter-demonstrators, were rebuked by figures in both political parties and have continued to shadow the president. 

Strategists predict that Democrats, bolstered by a Quinnipiac University poll in July which showed that 49 percent of voters see Trump as a racist, will not back down from the comments.

The Quinnipiac poll also indicated that 22 percent of Republicans and 55 percent of voters believe Trump “has emboldened people who hold racist beliefs to express those beliefs publicly.”

Eddie Vale, a Democratic strategist and partner at New Paradigm Strategy Group, said it’s not even controversial to Democrats to describe Trump as a racist.

“I expect most if not all of the candidates will as well because this isn’t just something that the Democratic base is thinking but isn’t really controversial among independents and some Republicans as well,” he said. “And for anyone that isn’t quite sure yet, he provides a new example nearly every week.”

At the same time, Kofinis cautioned that pummeling Trump won’t be enough for independents and some Republicans in the general election. 

“Democrats still need to provide a vision that resonates,” Kofinis said. “It’s not enough to simply attack Trump.”

Tags 2020 presidential race Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Bernie Sanders Cory Booker Donald Trump Elizabeth Warren Hillary Clinton Joe Biden
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