Seismic shifts on race leave Trump in the dust

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George Floyd’s murder on May 25 has been the catalyst for profound changes in public opinion and shifts in popular culture in a short period of time.

So far, the most dramatic cultural changes have included dramatic growth in support for Black Lives Matters and the dramatic decision by NASCAR to ban Confederate flags at the races. To top things off, HBO initially booted the classic movie “Gone with the Wind” off its schedule for its racist content. 

Back in 2018, there were more Americans who opposed BLM than there were who supported the movement. Shortly before Floyd’s death, support outweighed opposition by 17 percentage points. Two weeks later, net support grew to 28 percent. The approval for the movement surged with blacks, Hispanics, millennials and Democrats. 

With a fan base anchored deep in Dixie, Confederate flags are as common at NASCAR races as angry tweets out of the White House. But last week in a classic “when hell freezes over” moment, the car racing league announced a ban on the rebel flags. In a statement, the league declared “The presence of the Confederate flag at NASCAR events runs contrary to our commitment to providing a welcoming and inclusive climate for all fans.”  

The public shock at Floyd’s murder and rampant police brutality has quickly prompted many jurisdictions to take action to reduce the level of violence. Last week, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) signed laws passed by the state legislature that will make police records transparent and end the use of chokeholds. The Louisville City Council passed an ordinance that would ban “no knock” search warrants that led to the death of Breonna Taylor, a city EMT who was killed by police during a search of her home. The District of Columbia City Council voted to ban police chokeholds, tear gas and rubber bullets. A majority of members on the Minneapolis City Council announced that they hoped to eliminate the police department completely.

Donald Trump’s ineffective fight against racism and COVID-19 have crippled his re-election campaign. Last week, the Real Clear Politics average for polls on the presidential race had Joe Biden with a solid 8.1 percent lead over the president. 

The president’s political descent has sent his campaign team scrambling for a message since it’s laughable to argue that America is in great shape after more than 115,00 thousand Americans have lost their lives and millions of people have lost their jobs in the last few months. Last week a national poll by the Wall Street Journal and NBC News showed that 80 percent of the public thought things were out of control in this country.

Trump’s fall from grace is predictable since he has failed to win the battle against the racial and health pandemics facing the nation. Plus, he has been on the wrong side of public opinion on both fronts. Trump pushed aggressively to reopen the economy while most Americans adopted a cautious attitude

Most Americans see the demonstrations in the aftermath of George Floyd’s murder as protests while the president has derided them as riots. 

Changes in attitudes on race have left the president and his party behind in the dust. But some Republicans are starting to jump ship.

Even with a GOP majority, the Senate Armed Services Committee voted to rename bases named after Confederate military figures. Conservative Sen. James Lankford (R-Okla.) called for a stop to naming military bases after Confederate generals Sunday on ABC’s This Week. 

The chokehold that killed Floyd may become a thing of the past. Some GOP members of Congress including Lankford and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R.-Calif) have called for an end to the deadly police tactic. 

The changes in the racial culture of our nation are encouraging but the real question is whether the recent changes in attitude and culture translate into long term behavior. Friday, an Atlanta police officer shot and killed an unarmed black man at a Wendy’s drive-thru. The next day, protesters torched the place.

Only time will tell if these seismic shifts in public opinion lead to real shifts in behavior. Until then, the carnage will continue, the body count will grow and Donald Trump will likely drag his heels in the dirt. 

Brad Bannon is a Democratic pollster and CEO of Bannon Communications Research. He is also the host of a radio podcast “Dateline D.C. With Brad Bannon” that airs on the Progressive Voices Network. Follow him on Twitter @BradBannon.

Tags 2020 election Andrew Cuomo anti-racism protests Black Lives Matter Black Lives Matter protests BLM Breonna Taylor campaign 2020 Confederate flag removal Confederate generals Donald Trump George Floyd protests James Lankford Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy NASCAR police brutality presidential election racial justice

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