Yesterday, the city council in Charlotte, North Carolina, passed a resolution condemning Donald Trump’s racist comments last week in a 9-2 vote. This is interesting for two reasons. Charlotte is down the road from Greenville, North Carolina, the location of the rally where Donald Trump supporters chanted “Send them back!” But it’s also the location of next year’s Republican National Convention. That’s not going to change, of course, but the good people of Charlotte have sent a message: The man who will accept the Republican nomination next year is a racist.
That may be more important than you might think. Yesterday, a Twitter thread from Tim Wise went viral. Wise is a liberal activist who was instrumental in ensuring the defeat of David Duke as Senator and Governor in Mississippi back in the 1990s. This might or might not be surprising to you, but David Duke was an actual threat to win in the state. In fact, in both races, he won the majority of the white vote. David Duke was the grand wizard of the actual KKK. The thing about Duke was, he tried to normalize the KKK, exchanging white robes for business suits, and that’s how he ran his campaigns: By normalizing racism. “We’re not racist,” he would say. “We’re just pro-white.”
As Tim Wise tells in his Twitter thread, Duke came too close for comfort in winning his Senate race (44 percent of the vote), and so Wise put in a new strategy: Forget talking points. Don’t go after him on policy. Go after him because he’s a racist. Democratic candidates believe that, when going after a racist, they should run on policy, thinking they can peel off a few Republicans and Independents, but debating a racist on policy grounds only normalizes the racism. It puts them on the same level.
9/ I say "sadly" because doing that normalized Duke as a regular candidate. Attacking his generic character or bill paying habits (or even discussing his inadequate plans for job creation, etc) treated him like a normal candidate. But he was/is a NAZI…— Tim Wise (@timjacobwise) July 21, 2019
11/ It allowed people to say "well if he's really this racist, white supremacist, why are they talking about all this other stuff?" It actually undermined our ability to paint him as the extremist he was/is. And as a result, the threat he posed was not clear enough to voters…— Tim Wise (@timjacobwise) July 21, 2019
It also, as Wise tells it, depresses the vote, because — by treating him as any other candidate — voters were basically making a decision between two candidates on their tax policies and their treatment of corporations, and on those issues, people just didn’t care.
For the Governor’s race, however, Wise went after Duke’s moral character.
16/ Because it was wrong, and it was not who we wanted to be, and it was not who were were. We were better than that and needed to show the rest of the country that…— Tim Wise (@timjacobwise) July 21, 2019
It worked. Granted, Duke actually got 65,000 more votes than he did in the Senate race, but it drove up turnout on the other side, because that’s what happens when the choice is not between who has the better tax policy but the choice is between good and evil. Yes, the “evil” will still come out, but the “good” never had a shot with those voters anyway. The key is to get more “good” voters to come out and vote against the evil.
19/ And that is what happened. The concerted effort of the anti-Duke forces (not just us), challenging Duke's "politics of prejudice," and making the election about what kind of state we wanted to be, drove turnout through the roof…— Tim Wise (@timjacobwise) July 21, 2019
21/ When it was over, Duke had gotten 65k more votes than in 90, but his white share went to 55 (from 60) and overall to 39 (from 44) because the anti-Duke turnout swamped him…So what does this have to do with 2020 and Trump? Do I really need to explain it?…— Tim Wise (@timjacobwise) July 21, 2019
Anyway, that’s what the Charlotte City Council did by condemning Trump: They called him a racist. They’re fighting with him not on policy differences, but on moral ones. That’s what the Presidential candidates need to do, as well. God help me, but that’s actually what Biden is doing, maybe because he doesn’t have anything else to run on, but to his credit, he is running a campaign about morality and not about policy.
Trump’s continued racist attacks against these members of Congress cannot be tolerated or excused. This is not who we are. We must hold him accountable for his words.— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) July 22, 2019
Then again, his policies suck:
Biden comes full circle: his criminal justice plan calls for the elimination of mandatory minimums and elimination of crack/powder cocaine sentencing disparity — two measures he helped make law https://t.co/G57RAXKbWB— Steadman™ (@AsteadWesley) July 23, 2019
And he’s still Uncle Joe:
AT IT AGAIN: Joe Biden kisses his granddaughter-turned-staffer on the lips at Las Vegas campaign event on Saturday pic.twitter.com/obFVOlsOTd— Breaking911 (@Breaking911) July 22, 2019
All of which is to say: I hope that Warren or Harris (or even Mayor Pete) can overtake Biden on policy in the primary, but in the general, instead of pivoting to centrist policies that seek to win over Trump voters, attack Trump on moral grounds. Policy aside, if everyone else was as enthusiastically and infuriatingly angry about Trump as a human being as the people on this site are, it wouldn’t even be a close race.