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Racist professions are rising in the final weeks before the midterms

sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) suggested at a rally in Nevada this month that black people are criminals.

A day later in Arizona, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) appeared to be referring to an immigrant conspiracy associated with white nationalists — a conspiracy that at least two GOP candidates for the U.S. Senate have reiterated.

And in Wisconsin and North Carolina, Democratic Senate candidates have faced a barrage of crime ads featuring photos of black suspects.

As the campaign heats up in the final weeks before the November midterm elections, so do open calls for racial animosity and resentment. And the venomous comments seem to have met with less resistance from Republicans than in years past, suggesting that some candidates in the first post-Trump election cycle have been influenced by the ex-president’s norm-breaking example.

“Anyone titled in the party can say something — senator, governor, anyone,” said Michael Steele, former chairman of the Republican National Committee, who noted a deafening silence in the party following Tuberville’s comment. “Anyone could stand up and say, ‘Can we please stop this?’ But they won’t.”

At the Nevada rally hosted by Trump in Minden last Saturday for the state’s top Republican candidates, Tuberville called Democrats “pro crime.”

“They want crime,” he continued. “They want crime because they want to take over what you have. They want to check what you have. They want reparations because they think the people who committed the crime owe it.”

In the country, there has been a debate for decades over whether or not to provide reparations or compensation to the descendants of people enslaved in the United States. In invoking it, Tuberville seemed to associate black people with crime in a battleground where Republicans are fighting for one Senate seat — and potentially the majority in the chamber.

The comment sparked denunciations from civil rights leaders and Democrats, but most national Republicans remained silent or gave only mild responses.

“I’m not going to say he’s racist,” Representative Don Bacon (R-Neb.) said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” when asked about the comment. “But I wouldn’t use that language, be more polite.”

A Tuberville spokesperson did not respond to a request for comment.

The racist swear words came at a time when Democrats are dealing with their own scandal in Los Angeles, where Democratic city council members and a union leader were made racist statements. Two of them resigned this week after Democrats, including President Biden, called on them to do so.

“This is the difference between Democrats and MAGA Republicans. If a Democrat says something racist or anti-Semitic, we hold the Democrats accountable,” said White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre. “When a MAGA Republican says something racist or anti-Semitic, they are embraced by cheering crowds.”

A day after Tuberville’s comment, Greene appeared to be citing a version of the “replacement” conspiracy theory at a Trump rally in Arizona for GOP Senate candidate Blake Masters and other Republicans.

“Joe Biden’s five million illegal aliens are about to replace you, replace your jobs and replace your children in school and, coming from all over the world, they are also replacing your culture,” she said. , in what seemed to echo a white nationalist conspiracy theory that claims that elites, and sometimes more specifically Jewish people, import immigrants to “replace” white people. “And that’s not great for America.”

Republican Senate candidates, including JD Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona, have used language similar to Greene’s.

Jonathan Greenblatt, the chief executive of the Anti-Defamation League, which fights anti-Semitism, said it was “stunning” to see a concept similar to the one shouted by white supremacists in Charlottesville in 2017: “Jews will don’t replace us!” — making its way into the political mainstream in this election cycle.

“It’s not new to see anti-Semitism or overt racism in politics,” Greenblatt said. “What’s new is after years…where it was clear that in order to be credible in public life, politicians had to reject prejudice, it’s now normalized in ways that are truly breathtaking.”

A Greene spokesperson disputed the veracity of the ADL’s criticism, saying the organization knows nothing about illegal immigration.

Greenblatt has also criticized GOP Pennsylvania governor candidate Doug Mastriano for attacking his Jewish opponent for sending his children to an “elite” Jewish day school and for advertising on the far-right social media site Gab, where the man is accused of killing 11 people at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018 sparked an anti-Semitic diatribe.

Early this month, Trump used racist language when referring to Elaine Chao, the Taiwan-born former Secretary of Transportation in his administration and the wife of Senate Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), who in an angry statement called her “Coco Chow.” . focused on McConnell. The slur was met with relative silence by Republicans who wanted to avoid a fight with the former president ahead of the midterm elections.

“The president likes to give people nicknames,” Senator Rick Scott (R-Fla.) told CNN when asked to comment on the attack. After being pressured, he said it is never acceptable to be racist and that he hoped no one would be. McConnell also declined to comment in a CNN interview this week.

Trump’s use of racist language as a candidate has sometimes led to backlash from other Republicans, such as when former House Speaker Paul D. Ryan (Wis.) referred to Trump’s attacks on a judge because of his Mexican heritage as “textbook” racism. But the former president’s example has inspired other candidates and pushed the boundaries of what is considered acceptable political discourse, observers say.

“Trump has mobilized a constituency that is partly prone to upheaval from racist calls, and politicians are seeing that, especially on the right,” said Richard Fording, a professor of political science at the University of Alabama. “And just like any other kind of competitive environment, you see what works and you copy it.”

Robert C. Smith, a political scientist who has studied race and politics, said racist comments after the civil rights movement in the United States were often condemned by both sides. “Now that seems to be slipping away, and the only thing that matters that has changed since then is the rise of Trumpism,” Smith said.

To some, Tuberville’s comment associating black people with crime felt a confirmation of what they see as the more subtle racial undertones in the crime-focused ads Republican candidates and groups have used to attack Democrats for being gentle on crime. Democrats are vulnerable in this area, given an increase in homicides in many major Democrat-run cities, and Republicans say they are simply highlighting a problem that affects all Americans, regardless of race.

But some ads have been criticized for playing on racial fears. Cheri Beasley, a former North Carolina Supreme Court judge running for the U.S. Senate, has faced at least $2 million in assault ads calling her soft on crime, according to an AdImpact analysis. One of those ads, paid for by the conservative Club for Growth PAC, shows the mugshot of a black sex offender and blames Beasley for not being watched. (In 2019, Beasley joined a majority of the court in ruling that offenders cannot face lifelong GPS monitoring just because they have committed multiple crimes.)

Steele called the spot in Beasley “willie Horton dressed up,” referring to a running ad supporting Republican George HW Bush’s 1988 presidential campaign against Democrat Michael Dukakis. The use of a black offender’s mugshot in that ad became a classic example of racism in politics. Similar ads featuring police photos of black suspects also targeted Democratic Senate candidate Mandela Barnes in Wisconsin. (Beasley and Barnes are black.)

Fording says such ads are designed to subtly activate racial prejudice and provoke anger and fear, which is often more effective than overt racist messages.

“There’s a lot of political science research that suggests those calls will work,” he said.

Club for Growth PAC chairman David McIntosh defended the ad in a statement. “At every political level, liberal Democrats in North Carolina are being called out for being soft on pedophiles,” he said. “If they want to pretend race has anything to do with the police to track down child sex predators, they’re going to be in for quite a surprise on election night.”

Civil rights leaders say they hope the environment will improve after the midterm elections, but worry that each new attack further erodes the norms for how people talk about race and religion in public life.

“I don’t know if it will be very easy to get the genie back in the bottle,” Greenblatt said.

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