By Jonathan Martin, Maggie Haberman, and Katie Rogers
Washington – NASCAR is demanding that its fans no longer wave Confederate state flags at races. The Pentagon and some Republican senators are willing to rename military bases named after soldiers from the Confederate States. American corporations are taking positions against racial injustice. Most Americans say the police show a racial bias in their use of force, and most people who describe themselves as conservative acknowledge that the protesters’ frustrations are at least somewhat justified.
However, with public opinion around racism in the United States changing rapidly, and even now that some of the most cautious leaders and institutions are openly talking about discrimination and reconciliation, there is still a separate case that is evident: the President Donald Trump.RELATED
He has suggested shooting protesters or releasing dogs, has defended in advance the Confederate-related names of military installations, and has argued that his supporters “love blacks.” This is why Trump increasingly sounds like a cultural relic, estranged not only from left-wing protesters on the streets, but also from the country’s political center, and even some Republican allies and their own military leaders.
Although Trump has a long history of making callous and misplaced comments about race, including statements widely considered racist, he has never been more isolated at a dominant social and political moment in the country, hiding in the White House, tweeting theories of conspiracy over injured protesters and describing protesters as “GANGS”.
He frequently uses hostile and violent language that no other American leader employs, and openly supports the views of white nationalists and even advocates of white supremacy, rather than the views expressed by most Americans in the polls.
“It speaks as if this were a country from the 1950s, and not 2020,” said Levar Stoney, mayor of Richmond, Virginia, where a multiracial group of protesters has urged the city and state to tear down statues related to the Confederate States.
At a time when the country is facing three crises at the same time – the coronavirus, an economic collapse and a reckoning in terms of racism and injustice – Trump’s inability to demonstrate empathy illustrates the limitations of his political arsenal. He is well equipped to compete in a campaign where barking negative attacks is the order of the day, and few vendors speak superlatively in the way that the former hotel magnate does. However, when you don’t need boxing or promotion, you have little to say.
On Thursday, Trump made remarks in Dallas and tried to emphasize how unemployment had declined among blacks before the coronavirus, noting his government’s work on criminal justice reforms. However, he also falsely suggested that the protest movement seeking to “eliminate police funding” would lead to the elimination of emergency phone lines.
“I heard they want to shut down all law enforcement,” Trump said. “It is not that they want to give a little money to something else. They actually want to shut down the police forces. I just think about what will happen if, late at night, someone makes a 911 call and no one answers. ” That comment earned him some applause, but the content and tone emphasized how it fuels fear at a time when many Americans are figuring out how to tackle police violence.
The president sounds even more out of place due to comments from some of his Republican contemporaries, who have not focused on racial justice during the era of the Black Lives Matter movement.
“We are still dealing with America’s original sin,” said Senator Mitch McConnell, the Senate Majority Leader, who has praised the peaceful protests that are taking place, as he noted, in cities and small towns. of his state, but he has regretted “the evident racial discrimination that we have seen fully exposed on the screens of our televisions throughout the last two weeks.”
As it faces an increasingly imposing political environment this year, the Republican Party is responding to speedy polls, which indicate that an overwhelming number of independent voters and even almost half of Republican voters believe that the murder of George Floyd represents a widespread problem in the police.
However, almost five years after Trump announced his presidential campaign with the incendiary accusation that Mexico was sending migrant rapists across the border, he is still behaving as if there is a vast audience for an intransigent tone around the race. Furthermore, it is exhausting even some of its steadfast allies.
“We need the president and both parties to say, ‘We feel your pain,'” said Bishop Harry Jackson, a black pastor who is one of Trump’s evangelical advisers. “There must be a dialogue with African Americans and other minorities that loss of life matters in our history. The president must pass that on to everyone. ”
Trump has described the protesters as “terrorists” and extremists while praising most police officers as “great people.” However, in a Monmouth University survey released last week, 57 percent of Americans – including a majority of white people – said the fury that led to the protests was fully justified. Even among people who describe themselves as conservative, 65 percent said the protesters’ frustrations were at least somewhat justified.
The data is even more surprising among younger people. In a new poll by The Washington Post and the Schar School of Politics and Government, 41 percent of Republicans over the age of 55 said they believed Floyd’s murder reflected a more widespread problem. Still, that number rose to 52 percent among Republicans under the age of 55. There is a similar generation gap between independent voters.
Part of the difference is due to the experience of millennial Christians, who grew up in integrated schools and churches, have a more diverse set of friends, and are appalled at the police violence against black men who are watching on their screens.
“Younger Republicans want racial inequalities to be fixed,” said Wesley Donehue, a GOP strategist living in South Carolina. “If Republicans don’t address these issues now, we will lose the next generation of young voters, just as we have lost minorities.”
What is remarkable to some people across the political spectrum is that Trump does not seem to recognize an obvious signal, clear on everything from the diverse makeup of protesters to the legions of people who are putting books opposing racism in the main places. from the sales charts.
“It wasn’t just black people,” said DeJuana Thompson, an activist who lives in Alabama and had just returned home after marching in Minneapolis and Louisville, about her experience. “This is an enlightening moment for our country, and they are asking people to get out of their comfort zone.”
Eleanor Holmes Norton, who represents Washington D.C., in Congress and was active in the civil rights movement of the 1960s, said she had been surprised by how many of the protesters in her city have been white.
“Many white people have embraced this cause,” said Holmes Norton.
Paul Finebaum, host of a popular college football talk show, is spotting him every day on the ESPN show he takes calls on. In recent weeks, Finebaum has had a series of frank and sometimes awkward conversations about race with ordinary callers and coaches, blacks and whites alike.
“This is a watershed,” he said, noting that white people calling his program were watching the protests “with a more open mind than ever before.”
Giovanni Russonello collaborated with this report, and Kitty Bennett and Isabella Grullón Paz collaborated with the investigation.