The United States is in a dark place at the moment: Rising gun violence. Mass shootings. Astonishingly vivid deaths of minorities at the hands of law enforcement officers. Targeted killings of police officers in Dallas.
At the same time, we are in the midst of a Presidential campaign with a presumptive Republican nominee in Donald Trump who is often accused of being blatantly racist and appears, at best, to be almost indifferent to the racial and class tensions that are straining virtually every community in America.
“Donald Trump is running a Nationalist campaign.”
— Steve House
As the Republican National Convention in Cleveland approaches next week, there remain vocal dissenters within the Party who are still trying to prevent Trump from claiming the GOP Presidential nomination. Colorado delegates such as Kendal Unruh are feverishly trying to figure out a way to stop Trump; at the same time, an increasing number of Republican establishment figures are lining up in support of Trump and actually praising the divisive, racially-tinged rhetoric spewing from their Great Orange Hope.
Colorado GOP chairman Steve House.
On Wednesday, Colorado Republican Party Chairman Steve House spoke with Ryan Warner of Colorado Public Radio from the RNC convention site in Cleveland, and his comments were, frankly, stunning. House was effusive in his praise of a Presidential campaign that he repeatedly called “Nationalist.” You can listen to House’s comments in the links below, but here’s the transcription (all emphasis per Colorado Pols):
STEVE HOUSE: One of the things that he’s doing that I think a lot of Republicans haven’t completely grasped yet – including Kendal [Unruh] and her conversation about Party platform…
Donald Trump is running a Nationalist campaign. He’s not running a campaign based on ideology.
A Nationalist campaign starts with, “How do you restore pride in America?” And what do you do about peace through strength and military, and how do you create prosperity? Those things don’t necessarily, talking-points wise, align with what you would describe as a specific ideology, then I think there’s some confusion about that.
When people get confused and say, hey, you know, he’s not talking about limited government. He’s not talking about things that we normally talk about in the Party. The reason why is that he is running a Nationalist campaign. And I think that works for a guy like Donald Trump.
RYAN WARNER: You say “Nationalist.” Some might say “racist.” How do you respond?
STEVE HOUSE: Well, I haven’t seen anything that I would categorize specifically as racist. People bring up the issue of, you know, banning Muslims. I mean, I’ve talked to Donald Trump and I’ve talked to his team about this. What he’s really trying to tell us – and he’ll continue to detail it – is, as President, he would be responsible for our property rights. For our life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness and our protection of those rights.
And I think what you have to do…when you let people immigrate into the country, you’ve got to know, what’s their background, what’s their intention, what are they capable of? Because in those three questions, you’re going to determine who should come – because we need workforce enhancements continuously in this country – and you also should determine who is not coming. And I think if he was a little bit inarticulate about how he said it up front, so be it. But I think his intention is, how do I protect you and your property rights and your right to life? And that’s what he’s all about. He’s not about racism.
Now, let’s be VERY clear about what we’re talking about here regarding “Nationalism.” The definition of the word “Nationalism” relates to a feeling of national pride and exceptionalism, but also:
“a desire by a large group of people (such as people who share the same culture, history, language, etc.) to form a separate and independent nation of their own.”
There is another, more sinister side to the idea of “Nationalism,” however, and it’s difficult to separate the racial undertones of Trump’s Presidential campaign with the form of “Nationalism” that was a driving ideal behind the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany.
Take a look at what Nicholas Confessore wrote in The New York Times on Tuesday, under the headline For Whites Sensing Decline, Donald Trump Unleashes Words of Resistance:
In countless collisions of color and creed, Donald J. Trump’s name evokes an easily understood message of racial hostility. Defying modern conventions of political civility and language, Mr. Trump has breached the boundaries that have long constrained Americans’ public discussion of race.
Mr. Trump has attacked Mexicans as criminals. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. He has wondered aloud why the United States is not “letting people in from Europe.”
His rallies vibrate with grievances that might otherwise be expressed in private: about “political correctness,” about the ranch house down the street overcrowded with day laborers, and about who is really to blame for the death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. In a country where the wealthiest and most influential citizens are still mostly white, Mr. Trump is voicing the bewilderment and anger of whites who do not feel at all powerful or privileged.
But in doing so, Mr. Trump has also opened the door to assertions of white identity and resentment in a way not seen so broadly in American culture in over half a century, according to those who track patterns of racial tension and antagonism in American life.
Now, let’s go back to more of what Steve House said on Wednesday. House had just finished talking about the aftermath of the Colorado State Republican Convention in April — during which Texas Sen. Ted Cruz swept the delegate field and shut out Trump completely — and was sharing anecdotes of receiving “5,000 phone calls” and several death threats from Trump supporters:
RYAN WARNER: You don’t see that as reflective of the kinds of folks who support Trump?
STEVE HOUSE: I do not. There’s a mix of people out there who are very, very angry about the status of America right now. They’re tired of 7 and a half years of a guy [Obama] apologizing for who we are. And I think that’s ridiculous. We should be proud of what we do for the world and for ourselves, and I think there’s a group of people that are just dissatisfied with low wages and health care costs…they’re very, very angry, and sometimes they take that anger out in ways that is a little bit [sic] abrupt and unexpected, but in general I think you’re going to see the mainstream Republican Party support Trump very well.
Go ahead and try to hide your comments behind some sort of make-believe shield of anti-political correctness if you’d like, but there’s really no way around the racial undertones in what Steve House is saying about Donald Trump and his campaign for President. This is the CHAIRMAN OF THE COLORADO REPUBLICAN PARTY explicitly endorsing a racially-tinged definition of “Nationalism” as a political campaign strategy for his Party’s presumptive Presidential nominee.
For Steve House and supporters of Donald Trump who embrace these ideas, there are only two explanations: Ignorance or Acceptance. Either House truly doesn’t understand what he’s saying in espousing a strategy of “Nationalism” — which is terrifying enough in itself — or the State GOP Chair is completely supportive of this movement.
[Listen to the audio clips of the Steve House interview after the jump]…