Usually when politicians get into trouble for making racially insensitive or divisive comments, they rush to get minority pols to defend them. It is unclear whether Donald Trump even cares about his rapidly deteriorating image (from a pretty low starting point) on matters of racial justice after his recantation of a delayed and tinnily insincere-sounding condemnation of the white rioters of Charlottesville. We don’t know if he’s reached out to any black Republican pols or opinion leaders to get for some backup (though there’s no sign of it so far). But we do know he’s not getting much help from that quarter.
Tim Scott of South Carolina was the seventh African-American ever elected to the Senate, and the first from the South since Reconstruction. As a genuine conservative he is a precious resource for the GOP. And while he was not a red-hot MAGA man in 2016, Scott endorsed Trump before the GOP convention, didn’t withdraw the endorsement when the Access Hollywood video broke (though he did call it “disgusting”), and has voted with the White House well over 90 percent of the time this year. So what’s he saying right now?
In an interview with VICE News on Thursday, he condemned the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who marched in Charlottesville and questioned the president’s moral authority following the tragedy. “I’m not going to defend the indefensible … [Trump’s] comments on Monday were strong. His comments on Tuesday started erasing the comments that were strong. What we want to see from our president is clarity and moral authority. And that moral authority is compromised when Tuesday happened. There’s no question about that.”
And there’s also this: “Scott added that the president hasn’t reached out to him to discuss Charlottesville.”
Whatever else it represents, that is political malpractice.
How about the two African-American Republicans in the House? It doesn’t get any better.
Now to be sure, Will Hurd of Texas un-endorsed Trump over the Access Hollywood remarks, and Mia Love of Utah (like many Utah Republicans) never even said she’d vote for him. But they are bashing him now with abandon. Here’s Hurd:
Rep. Will Hurd called on President Donald Trump to apologize for his latest remarks on recent violence sparked by a white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Hurd, who is African-American, is also one of the most vulnerable House Republicans….
“I don’t think anybody should be looking at getting props from a grand dragon of the KKK as any kind of sign of success,” Hurd said.
Love spoke at an anti-racism event in Salt Lake City where speakers definitely did not view “both sides” as responsible for what happened in Charlottesville.
Even on Fox News, an African-American Republican, Gianno Caldwell, who was called on specifically to defend the president, tearfully denounced him instead:
I come today with a very heavy heart. Last night I couldn’t sleep at all because President Trump, our president, has literally betrayed the conscience of our country …
Mr. President, good people don’t pal around with Nazis and white supremacists. Maybe they don’t consider themselves white supremacists and Nazis, certainly they hold those views. This has become very troubling for anyone to come on any network and defend what President Trump did and said at that press conference yesterday is completely lost and the potential to be morally bankrupt.
A quick look around medialand shows at least one prominent African-American conservative, syndicated columnist Star Parker, willing to go to the mats for Trump with respect to Charlottesville. But it’s unlikely she made many converts for her or Trump’s cause with this argument:
What’s really interesting and really incredible irony here is the same people that are demanding that the Confederate flag comes down are the same people that are insisting that the rainbow flag goes up.
These two flags represent the exact same thing: that certain people groups are not welcome here. So if Nancy Pelosi wants to say that we’re going to start shutting down first amendment rights of a certain group of people, then what what happens next time homosexuals want to walk through an American city and protest and counter-protesters come out?
Yeah, white supremacists and LGBTQ folk, throw ’em in a bag like Skittles, shake ’em up, and dump ’em out, and you can’t tell one from the other.
Perhaps Trump thinks he is his own best defender in this crisis. Lord knows what we’ll see next from his Twitter account. But if he’s going to go out of his way to defend the “very fine people” fighting for the neo-Confederate cause, the small but psychologically important set of African-American Republicans is crucial. He’s not giving them much to work with at the moment.