GOP Rhetoric Makes 2016 the New 1964

Lauren Victoria Burke
Rep. Sean Duffy (R-Wis.), Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) and GOP presidential hopeful Donald Trump have all said some questionable things about race.
Win McNamee/Getty Images; Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images; Sean Rayford/Getty Images

Spend time with “young thugs,” not CNN.

That was one of the recommendations Rep. John Mica (R-Fla.) had for President Barack Obama in a memo Wednesday on gun violence that he posted to Facebook.


Wrote Mica: “Conduct town hall meetings, not on CNN, but rather with young thugs in homicide-prone cities like Chicago, Baltimore, Detroit and New Orleans … ”

These are the words many members of the modern GOP use to impress “their base.” That the words aren’t even surprising or big news is telling. This talk from some Republican politicians is becoming standard. And it’s hard to believe that this is any sort of an attempt to have a useful conversation on race or anything else.


Who was Mica talking to? He was talking to his constituents in Florida. Next year, Mica’s district will be more Hispanic, yet this is his GOP messaging as Hispanics gain political power and influence. But Mica, 72, is old. He’s been in Congress for 23 years. Perhaps he can’t (or won’t) adjust to changing demographics.

But what’s Rep. Sean Duffy’s (R-Wis.) excuse? He’s 44. The former MTV Real World star has been in Congress for only five years. Yet this is what he said on the floor of the U.S. House Thursday:

I have heard many of my liberal friends and a lot of friends from the Congressional Black Caucus talk about how there is targeting and unfair treatment of African Americans in the criminal-justice system. I have heard them. In Financial Services, I hear them talk about how big financial corporations target African Americans and minorities. As I turn on my TV, I listen to Black Lives Matter talk about how police and law enforcement are targeting African Americans and minority communities. I hear a lot in this institution from minority leaders about how their communities are targeted. But what I don’t hear them talk about is how their communities are targeted in abortion.


You see, Duffy is tired of hearing talk about blacks being disproportionately prosecuted—even though it’s the hard truth. He’s tired of stories of lenders targeting blacks for subprime loans—even though that’s true. On Thursday, he fancied himself an authority on the lives of 45 million Americans on the topic of abortion—but only black abortions.

“There is a targeting going on in a lot of spaces and a lot of places, and it is going on in the abortion industry,” Duffy said. “And my liberal friends, Congressional Black Caucus members, talk about fighting for the defenseless, the hopeless and the downtrodden. There is no one more hopeless and voiceless than an unborn baby, but their silence is deafening. I can’t hear them. Where are they standing up for their communities, advocating and fighting for their right to life?”


Things didn’t sound much better when Maine Republican Gov. Paul LePage opened his mouth to talk about drugs in the same way.

Last week, at a town hall, LePage launched into a racist rant as he spoke on the heroin epidemic in terms of “out of state” drug dealers as “guys with the name D-Money, Smoothie, Shifty.” He added, “Half the time, they impregnate a young white girl before they leave.” LePage framed the heroin epidemic as something coming in from the outside to invade Maine, a state where the black population is 1.4 percent.


LePage’s Maine and Duffy’s congressional district in Wisconsin are 98 percent white. For them, blacks are not spoken to, they’re spoken about. Blacks are a setup to a heard-a-trillion-times Southern strategy punch line. Not since Barry Goldwater and George Wallace have we heard white-identity politics within the Republican Party so clearly. From Donald Trump wanting to ban Muslims and bar Hispanic immigrants to Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) doing his best to pander to a “traditional” base that is “often described as bigots and haters,” the harmful rhetoric goes on and on.

This is the Republican Party that has learned nothing from losing in 2008 and 2012. Sadly, last week’s showcase of race-baiting lectures pointed at African Americans is nothing new. With the GOP’s leading contender for the White House tossing a silent hijab-wearing protester from a recent rally to the approval of the mob, will Republican primary voters agree with this return to the Goldwater-Wallace years of over 50 years ago? 


We’ll know in less than a month.

Lauren Victoria Burke is a Washington, D.C.-based political reporter who writes the Crew of 42 blog. She appears regularly on NewsOne Now with Roland Martin on TV One. Follow her on Twitter

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