Race-baiting: A winning political strategy where everybody loses

Written By Lacey Armstrong // AP // Race & Politics // EEW Magazine


Love, civility, tolerance and understanding are out the window this election season, because race-baiting is a winning political strategy in an ugly game where everybody loses.

America is on the brink of implosion as party lines have become battle lines and politicians’ headline-grabbing rhetoric deepens the racial, social and ideological divide in our nation.

On the left, attacking President Donald Trump fuels the party’s agenda. On the right, attacking liberals and socialist democrats riles up the base. Hatred, division and tension are at an all-time high with both sides accusing the other of racism, deception, cruelty and hunger for power.

The tit-for-tat verbal wars don’t accomplish much beyond solidifying each party’s base and effectively making meaningful discourse nearly impossible. When America’s leaders constantly brawl and viciously insult each other, the trickle-down effect to the citizenry is felt intensely.

No wonder hate crimes and racial hostility are on the rise, despite our nation being more diverse now than at any other period in history. The dream of a more perfect union is being destroyed with each passing day.

At a Trump campaign rally Wednesday, the president went after four Democratic congresswomen one by one, lambasting the women of color for their liberal views and what he classifies as extreme positions.

US Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

US Reps. Rashida Tlaib (D-MI), Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) Alex Wroblewski/Getty Images

 “Tonight I have a suggestion for the hate-filled extremists who are constantly trying to tear our country down,” Trump told the crowd in North Carolina, a swing state he won in 2016 and wants to claim again in 2020. “They never have anything good to say. That’s why I say, ‘Hey if you don’t like it, let ‘em leave, let ‘em leave.’”

Trump’s jabs were aimed at four freshmen Democrats who have garnered attention since their arrival in January for their outspoken liberal views and distaste for Trump: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan. All were born in the U.S. except for Omar, who came to the U.S. as a child after fleeing Somalia with her family.

President Donald Trump (Getty)

President Donald Trump (Getty)

Omar came under the harshest criticism as Trump played to voters’ grievances, drawing a chant from the crowd of “Send her back! Send her back!”

Before he left Washington, Trump said he has no regrets about his ongoing spat with the four. Trump told reporters he thinks he’s “winning the political argument” and “winning it by a lot.”

That is what politics is all about: winning by any means necessary.

Last month, Democratic presidential hopeful, Kamala Harris, put race issues front and center also.

Harris, the daughter of an Indian American mother and Jamaican American father, entered the 2020 race with seemingly boundless potential: a compelling personal story and polished political pedigree; a prosecutor's skill at taking on Trump's record; and the prospect of drawing significant voting support from black women, who are the backbone of the party.

Senator Kamala Harris (Getty)

Senator Kamala Harris (Getty)

But the opening months of Harris' campaign have been uneven. She's faced questions from liberals about her record as a prosecutor in California and has been criticized for appearing cautious and guarded. Her fundraising in the second quarter significantly lagged.

However, Harris has gained ground recently due to her debate performance, particularly her exchange over race with Biden. She condemned Biden for his comments about working with segregationists in his early years as a Delaware senator and for opposing federally mandated school busing in the 1970s, explaining that she was bused as a child. Biden, who endorsed her in 2016, appeared taken aback, and later said he wasn't prepared for Harris' attack.

Harris’s spike in the polls after masterfully race-baiting shows it is a winning strategy for 2020, but at what cost?

The Associated Press contributed to this report.