The anti-racism protests at the University of Missouri and Yale have become a topic of national conversation, which means politicians are also weighing in. As the party of old white cranks who think the only racism that exists in this country is against white men, it’s pretty much the job of the GOP presidential hopefuls to try to outdo each other yelling about how much they are not on board. (Considering that there are anti-racist protests happening at Ithaca, Smith and the University of Kansas, among several others, they’ll probably have more to say in coming days.) Here are some prize reactions from the Republican presidential contenders.
1. Donald Trump
Speaking via phone on Fox Business Network, Donald Trump—who by his own estimation, has “a great relationship with the blacks”— said he thinks the Missouri protests are “disgusting.” The billionaire, apparently taking a breakfrom not reading the Trans-Pacific Partnership trade deal, took a few minutes to scaremonger about the school’s future and boast about how he would have essentially done nothing to deal with charges of racism confronting the campus.
"I think it's disgusting. I think it's disgusting," Trump said about the protests. “I think the two people that resigned are weak, ineffective people. I think that when they resigned, they set something in motion that's going to be a disaster for the next long period of time."
And then, per usual, the billionaire made it about himself. "Trump should have been the chancellor of that university,” he said. “Believe me, there would have been no resignations."
Trump also suggested that student demands are not to be taken seriously.
“Their demands are like crazy. The things that they are asking for, many of those things are like crazy. So it’s just disgraceful."
2. Ben Carson
Oddly, Carson—a Yale alum—began his thoughts on the University of Missouri situation on a sort of reasonable-sounding note, though it does suggest a false equivalence between students and the administration. Then things went really sideways, as you might expect.
"It's part of the problem we have going on in our country right now,” Carson said on The Kelly File. “We have people who get in their respective corners and demonize each other, but there's no conversation. And of course, if you ask people to put on the record what their gripes are and what their solutions are, then perhaps they can see that they're not so far apart and they can come up with some reasonable solutions.”
“But this is just raw emotion. And people being manipulated, I think, in many cases by outside forces who wish to cause disturbances."
That last part sounds a lot like when, in footage from the Civil Rights Movement, you hear white Southerners talking about how everything was fine until “outside agitators” starting coming in and getting the Negroes all riled up. Carson went on to talk about how we should be all be frightened, because anarchy, and also the Constitution and also America.
"Well, we need to recognize that this is a very dangerous trend," Carson said. "When we get to a point where a majority can say, 'I don't like what you're doing, that's offensive, and therefore I have a right to be violent toward you or deprive you of rights, because I don't like what you're doing,' that really goes against the grain of our constitutional rights."
Not sure if Ben Carson knows that the only violence, or threats of violence, during the Yale and Missouri protests have come from two white men who, via social media, said they planned to shoot black protesters. In any case, Carson continued on in the same vein.
“We’re being a little too tolerant, you might say. Accepting infantile behavior....To say that I have a right to violate your civil rights because you’re offending me is un-American. It is unconstitutional. And the officials at these places must recognize that and have the moral courage to stand up to it. Because if they don’t, it will grow, it will exacerbate the situation, and we will move much further toward anarchy than anybody can imagine and much more quickly.”
3. Chris Christie
Because he is still desperate to put that Hurricane Sandy moment—the one when he acted like a reasonable adult who put aside partisan politics for the common good and shook the president's hand—waaay behind him, Chris Christie’s response to the protests could be summed up thusly: “Thanks, Obama!”
“I think part of this is a product of the president’s own unwillingness and inability to bring people together," said Christie, speaking before a crowd in Iowa, not being divisive at all. "...The lawlessness that the president has allowed to exist in this country just absolutely strips people of hope. Our administration would stand for the idea that justice is not just a word, but it’s a way of life. Laws will be applied evenly, fairly, and without bias to everyone."
These latest statements from Christie’s apology tour fit nicely with his campaign’s ongoing efforts to show he is fully opposed to Black Lives Matter.
"I want the Black Lives Matter people to understand: Don't call me for a meeting," Christie said at an Iowa town hall meeting earlier in the day. "You're not getting one."
"I think all lives matter. But let me tell you this: When a movement like that calls for the murder of police officers...no president of the United States should dignify a group like that by saying anything positive about them, and no candidate for president, like Hillary Clinton, should give them any credibility by meeting with them, as she's done."
As the Washington Post points out, Christie’s connection between BLM activists and calls for cop murder is based on one-time chants from a single group out of many during protests following the Eric Garner verdict. Christie knows this, but he also knows his base, so it pays for him to keep lying.
4. Rand Paul
Though it’s setting the bar impossibly low—like, subterranean level—Rand Paul has been the most reasoned voice among the Republican presidential candidates on issues like race, police brutality, mass incarceration and the war on drugs. He hasn’t spoken much on the campus protests in general or the underlying problems that sparked them, but did address the issue of Mizzou students’ refusal, in recent days, to speak to press.
"I think freedom of speech is very, very important,” said Paul. “Does freedom of speech mean there will be boorish people who say things you don't want to associate with? Yes. But really in a free society, there's got to be a place for people to make their argument."
Right-wingers, previously unconcerned about charges of racism at Yale and Mizzou, have been in meltdown mode over free speech and First Amendment Rights in the days since the students’ press blackout. Except, no one’s First Amendment Rights were actually violated. Members of the press have continued to write whatever they want. (The Fiscal Times’ declaration that the students are “proto-fascists”—because clearly, the writer is trying to reestablish civility in discourse—seems like evidence enough.) But it’s easier to take a stand on an issue we all agree on (saying you support the First Amendment is a little like saying you oppose the beating of puppies—yeah, so do we all) than discussing the actual issue at hand of racism on campuses, or why the problem at Yale goes far beyond Halloween costumes, or how capitalism helpsprop up white supremacy, or how the Republican party couldn’t care less about anti-black racism.