Donald Trump's xenophobic genius: The GOP frontrunner will never give up racist pandering — because it's working

Trump continues to appeal to the lowest and most vile common denominator with zero repercussions

Published September 18, 2015 8:34PM (EDT)

  (Reuters/Nancy Wiechec)
(Reuters/Nancy Wiechec)

I'm old enough to remember when, in 2008, a rather nervous and disheveled-looking woman stood up at a John McCain town hall meeting and told the Republican nominee that she didn't trust then-Senator Obama because he's "an Arab." Even though it would've been politically expedient for McCain to follow the advice of author and MSNBC analyst Mark Halperin who suggested McCain present Obama's "unusual name and exotic background through a 'Manchurian Candidate' prism," McCain immediately debunked the woman's unfounded accusation, saying, "No ma'am. No ma'am. He's a decent family man citizen who I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues and that's what this campaign is all about."

When a similar exchange happened this week involving Donald Trump and one of his rabid supporters, no such decency or rationality was displayed by the Republican frontrunner. Because of course it wasn't. Instead, Trump continued to act as a principal architect in perpetuating the myth that President Obama was born in Kenya (he wasn't) and is a Muslim (he isn't). In fact, it's easy to forget that back in 2011, Trump dispatched investigators to Honolulu to unsuccessfully track down evidence indicating that Obama wasn't born in Hawaii and that his birth certificate was a fake.

In keeping with his past, and contra McCain, Trump did nothing to invalidate his supporter’s racist observations about the president or the man’s insistence that we get rid of all Muslims. Were it not for Trump's personal wealth and success, he'd really be nothing more than another Birther sleazebag like Jerome Corsi or Orly Taitz.

(By the way, while we're talking about ridiculous conspiracy theories, someone should seriously ask Trump about chemtrails and shapeshifting lizard people from outer space, too. We deserve to know where Trump stands on Bigfoot and Area 51.)

For Trump's disciples, it simply doesn't matter that there's no evidence whatsoever to prove that Obama wasn't born where he and official documents say he was born. (Jesus, I can't believe we're actually talking about this again.) And Trump is nothing if not completely savvy when it comes to knowing his audience.

Strategically speaking, there's simply no way Trump will ever disavow his supporter's remarks or his own reaction to them. By now, it ought to be completely evident that he doesn't apologize for anything. Sure, he might try to candy coat the issue like he did with Carly Fiorina, perhaps by saying, "Obama's a good man personally. He's a terrific Dad. But he's a terrible president and I don't apologize for anything."

And he won't. Not just because it's not his style, but also because the numbers show that birther views are still quite popular among Republicans. Rewinding a few weeks, the latest PPP poll revealed the following brain-melting facts:

Our new poll finds that Trump is benefiting from a GOP electorate that thinks Barack Obama is a Muslim and was born in another country, and that immigrant children should be deported. 66% of Trump's supporters believe that Obama is a Muslim to just 12% that grant he's a Christian. 61% think Obama was not born in the United States to only 21% who accept that he was. And 63% want to amend the Constitution to eliminate birthright citizenship, to only 20% who want to keep things the way they are.

Trump's beliefs represent the consensus among the GOP electorate. 51% overall want to eliminate birthright citizenship. 54% think President Obama is a Muslim. And only 29% grant that President Obama was born in the United States. That's less than the 40% who think Canadian born Ted Cruz was born in the United States.

That's right, 61 percent of Trump supporters think Obama was born in Kenya, while 66 percent believe he's a Muslim. And these people vote. They've been so completely misinformed by this overpaid carnival goon and the other conspiracy theorists that they still believe after all these years that the birth certificate is fake and that Obama's parents perpetrated a hoax -- somehow knowing he'd one day run for president. Worse yet, only 29 percent of Republicans overall think Obama was born inside the United States.

Conversely, and this is a salient point, 40 percent believe Ted Cruz was born here, even though he was born in Canada.

Yet the black guy with an "exotic" name who was absolutely born in the United States really wasn't born here and is lying, according to the same nincompoops. If you need any further proof of virulent racism on the right, especially among Trump people, there it is.

As long as it's politically advantageous for Trump to pander to this nonsense, he'll absolutely keep doing it. It doesn't matter to him how badly he's flamed on Twitter or how brutally he's excoriated on MSNBC. As long as the vast majority of Republicans wrongly question Obama's origins, he'll stand by all of it. His entire campaign is built upon telling Republicans exactly what they want to hear regardless of how horrendous it sounds to everyone else. And as of right now, it's working.

By Bob Cesca

Bob Cesca is a regular contributor to Salon. He's also the host of "The Bob Cesca Show" podcast, and a weekly guest on both the "Stephanie Miller Show" and "Tell Me Everything with John Fugelsang." Follow him on Facebook and Twitter. Contribute through LaterPay to support Bob's Salon articles -- all money donated goes directly to the writer.


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