Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Donald Trump Panders to Racists

Rather than addressing pertinent issues such as the economy, war, poverty and deficit, potential GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump has decided to wallow in the gutter. In addition to peddling debunked, ridiculous birther conspiracies, Mr. Trump is now questioning President Barack Obama’s academic qualifications.

As reported in the Grio,

“Real estate mogul Donald Trump suggested in an interview Monday that President Barack Obama had been a poor student who did not deserve to be admitted to the Ivy League universities he attended. Trump, who is mulling a bid for the Republican presidential nomination, offered no proof for his claim but said he would continue to press the matter as he has the legitimacy of the president's birth certificate.

"I heard he was a terrible student, terrible. How does a bad student go to Columbia and then to Harvard?" Trump said in an interview with The Associated Press. "I'm thinking about it, I'm certainly looking into it. Let him show his records."

“Obama graduated from Columbia University in New York in 1983 with a degree in political science after transferring from Occidental College in California. He went on to Harvard Law School, where he graduated magna cum laude 1991 and was the first black president of the Harvard Law Review.”

“Obama's 2008 campaign did not release his college transcripts, and in his best-selling memoir, "Dreams From My Father," Obama indicated he hadn't always been an academic star. Trump told the AP that Obama's refusal to release his college grades were part of a pattern of concealing information about himself."

Essentially, Donald Trump is pandering to a racist undercurrent of the Tea Party and the Republican Party. No matter how successful a black person becomes, racists will continue to question and doubt that success. Trump is playing to the reactionary base of the Republican Party.  That base believes in the false notion that unqualified minorities are taking jobs and school admissions from well qualified white applicants. Like the late Senator Jesse Helm's racist "Hands" ad, Trump is resorting to race baiting for political self aggrandizement. 

This situation also reminds me of late Geraldine Ferraro’s outrageous assertions during the 2008 Presidential Campaign. Ferraro stated that, “If Obama was a white man, he would not be in this position. And if he was a woman (of any color) he would not be in this position. He happens to be very lucky to be who he is. And the country is caught up in the concept.”

Clearly, Mr. Trump’s arguments about Obama's academic qualifications are simply absurd. President Obama was admitted to the most prestigious law school in the nation, became president of Law Review and graduated magna cum laude. Obviously, President Obama was qualified to be admitted to Columbia and Harvard.

Similarly, the birther conspiracy theories are rooted in Islamophobia, racism, and xenophobia. To prove this point, one only needs to view Republican/Tea Party photos depicting Obama as a chimpanzee, an Arab terrorist, a witchdoctor, etc. The bottom line is this. Many right wing Republicans, and even some Democrats, resent the fact that a black man holds the highest office in the land. So what do they do? They manufacture outright lies to discredit the President. As retired General and Secretary of State Colin Powell stated, Republicans should challenge the President “on substance, not nonsense.”

The fact that Donald Trump is leading the Republican Presidential candidates in the polls speaks volumes about the true nature of the Republican Party.  The Republican Party is becoming a primarily Southern, white male political party that is hostile to African Americans, immigrants, women and Muslims. 

In light of that reality, it is not surprising that Donald Trump would use fear and racial anxiety to gain a political advantage. If the President was not an African American with a Muslim name and a black African father, I doubt that anyone would question his legitimacy or academic qualifications.  I do not recall Mr. Trump ever questioning former President George W. Bush's qualifications for admission to Harvard.

This article is cross-posted on Jack and Jill Politics.

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