You don't have to be a political scholar to know that presidential candidates don't come in pieces. Come this November, you won't get to cast your vote to elect only those portions of your chosen candidate that appeal to you most. You get them as a package, hairy warts and all.
I'd think that, of all people, House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) would know that. Yet even as he criticized Trump's racist comments against Judge Gonzalo Curiel because of his heritage this past week, calling Trump's comments an example of "textbook racism," Ryan says he still supports Donald Trump.
In my mind, that means that Paul Ryan supports Trump's racism.
Republican Senator Kelly Ayotte has said much the same thing as Ryan, that Trump's "comments are offensive and wrong." Newt Gingrich further said Trump's "description of the judge in terms of his parentage is completely unacceptable." Yet they and many other Trump supporters are not withdrawing their support.
Too many politicians are operating under the delusional belief that they can have their cake and eat it, too. By publicly condemning Trump's racism, they are attempting to make their support seem more palatable, more justifiable to the all-consuming public. They, after all, make themselves appear anti-racist by condemning Trump's remarks.
My worry is that many of Trump's supporters have fallen prey to the same delusions. The overarching logic seems to be that anything goes, that they can and will give a pass to anyone, so long as they're not a liberal democrat. This faulty logic is supported by the mistaken belief that a person can support a racist so long as they make themselves appear opposed to racism by distancing themselves publicly from the racist, all the while maintaining their support.
This logic flies in the face of how the real world works. It is a weak rationalization to say that a person can support a racist but not support their racism, especially when that racism has proven to be an integral part of who they are. It is also a dodge that diverts attention and responsibility. By supporting Trump despite his racism, Ryan and other supporters are enabling Trump to continue making those same discriminatory remarks--and, potentially, to make them a reality should he find himself in the White House.
Ryan and other members of the GOP are dead wrong if they think they can use their support of Trump to rein him in when he goes, time and time again, off the deep end with his discriminatory remarks. Trump seems to pride himself on being "anti-establishment" and being a candidate who cannot be reined-in. And his followers love him for it.
All of this raises questions that are far-reaching and deeply disturbing. Why, for example, is flagrant racism acceptable to so many people so long as they share party affiliation, and doesn't that open a backdoor to supporting racism--even being racist--while clothing oneself as an anti-racist?
For too long we have given a pass to racists like Trump. It is self-affirming, comforting even, to believe that one can support a racist like Trump but not support his racism. It hurts to admit that you're supporting a racist, enabling him to potentially turn those racist values and beliefs into public policy. Better to say you support the man but not his beliefs. But are political campaigns not first and foremost about a candidate's values and beliefs?
It would be foolish to think that Trump's values and beliefs can be overlooked because values and beliefs give rise to concrete action. And we have already been given a horrific glimpse of what those actions might be. Trump has already proposed banning Muslims from entering the United States and he has condoned physical assault on Black Lives Matter protesters.
It would be a folly to think that Trump couldn't be cooking up more, and far worse, should he be elected president. It would be even more foolish to think that Trump can be reined-in when giving him the keys to the White House would set him loose upon the world.
If you support Trump, you support his racism. And if he wins this election, you won't be able to claim ignorance or innocence.
DaShanne Stokes, Ph.D., is a sociologist, writer, and television and radio commentator. He writes and speaks about politics, culture, and civil rights.