A number of months ago I was speaking to a friend of mine and they were remarking on how funny the US Presidential race had been, particularly the inane comments of Republican nominee Donald Trump. However I distinctly remember telling this person that it was no longer funny, and it’s now just plain scary. To give a bit of context this anecdote took place in the same week as Donald Trump’s appearance on CNN in which he failed to disavow former imperial wizard of the KKK David Duke. The humour has definitely gone now because David Duke, the white supremacist and horrific anti-Semite, has declared that he will be running for the US Senate on the Republican ticket.
Duke made his announcement in a video in which he said that he wanted to stop “massive immigration and the ethnic cleansing of people whose forefathers created America”. He went on to say that “I am overjoyed to see Donald Trump and most Americans embrace most of the issues that I’ve championed for years”. This language is enough to make normal people’s stomachs turn, but Duke’s political ambitions are not new. In 1990 he ran for Senate and in 1991 he ran for Governor of Louisiana, both unsuccessfully. However I have an ominous feeling about this run.
The mainstream media in the United States has a number of biases and one of the most well known of these is that it creates false comparisons in the name of neutrality. The media also needs to maintain the horse-race aspect of politics because without doing this, people will stop watching and their advertising revenue would decline. These two things have resulted in journalists seeking to normalise this presidential election, and the consequence of this is that hateful rhetoric has become ‘not politically correct’ and stupid policies have become ‘new thinking’. In this election journalists haven’t challenged the rhetoric of Donald Trump and as a result people have become desensitised to this inflammatory language.
Because of the lack of media accountability the Republican Party have been able to create a false reality in which racism is perfectly acceptable, cutting taxes boosts the economy, and terrorism can be solved with crimes against humanity. If in 2012 Mitt Romney had said that the solution to terrorism is to kill the families of terrorists and torture captured terrorists, even if it doesn’t work, Obama would have won a hell of a lot more votes. However because this rhetoric has been normalised, Trump could say anything from here until November and it wouldn’t surprise me, and this is bad because this shouldn’t be the case. If Trump said he wanted to invade six countries in the Middle East, my reaction shouldn’t be ‘I can believe that he wants to do that’.
The media have to take a large portion of the blame for the success of Donald Trump. If journalists had done their jobs and held figures in authority to account, Trump would have been a flash in the pan at the start of the primary. When Trump announced his candidacy he essentially called Mexicans rapists and criminals, and according to the media his comments were ‘controversial’. No they weren’t, they were racist but these people on TV didn’t have the guts to say until it was too late and he’d won a couple of primaries. The Democrats don’t get off scot free, but the raison d’être of the media is to speak truth to power, and a failure to do that is not the Democrats’ fault.
David Duke’s run for Senate may be unsuccessful but consider this. People across the United States are sick to death of establishment politicians and if Duke uses the same type of rhetoric as Trump and plays on rural white voters’ fears of a changing world, he may well be heading to Capitol Hill. If successful Duke would be the first former Klansman to be elected to Congress since (insert fact) and the first since the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.
It would be the statement of a fool to say that Duke had no chance of being the Republican candidate, and given Louisiana is very conservative state, the GOP’s choice is most likely to be sent to Congress. We live in strange times, and it would be deeply troubling to most people knowledgeable of American politics if Duke was elected. Unfortunately, this prospect is a sign of the times that we live in, and if Trump wins the Presidency, down-ballot Republicans may well get a boost that carries Duke all the way to Washington.