Yesterday, Senator Roy Blunt (R) joined the ranks of Republican luminaries who will support the presumptive GOP presidential nominee, Donald Trump. Of course, “support” in the case of Trump doesn’t alway mean “endorse”; there are many GOP pols , most notably New Hampshire’s Senator Kelly Ayote (R), who are trying to have their cake and eat it too by supporting Trump, but not endorsing him, whatever that means when it comes to what counts. And the brief twitter statement from Blunt fails to make it clear at this time if Blunt is willing to “go all the way” with Trump.
That said, Blunt is very good at looking out for Blunt. It’s likely, as St. Louis Post-Dispatch columnist Tony Messenger, points out today, that Blunt has decided, given the unexpectedly strong challenge he is facing from Secretary of State Jason Kander (D), that he will do better by hitching his wagon to Trump and his angry and fired-up base. Trump, Messenger argues, could do well in Missouri and Blunt seems to want at least one hand on his potential coattails – while keeping the other hand free, if he needs to cut himself loose.
Blunt may be on to something. One can certainly argue that Trump’s appeal to his supporters is based on his overt appeals to racism along with his embrace of the conservative authoritarian tradition that likes to see individuals, ethnic groups, or nations that are perceived as threats forcibly and firmly put down by a Big Daddy enforcer – which means that there are significant numbers of Missourians who will find Trump simpatico when they ender the voting booth.
Why do I think heavy-handed racism will appeal to Missourians? Apart from events like Ferguson and its aftermath, there’s lots of evidence that racial resentment plays a big role in Missouri’s political life. Daniel Marans and Mariah Stewart wrote in the Huffington Post that, “Missouri’s status as a border state between the North and South makes it one of the country’s most fertile breeding grounds for racial strife. The state suffers from some of the worst racial pathologies of both regions.” An 2014 article in Salon observed that:
For decades, Missouri has spawned or attracted many of the nation’s most virulent racists, including neo-Nazis and the remnants of the once-powerful Ku Klux Klan. Associated with violent criminality and crackpot religious extremism, these fringe groups could never wield much influence in the post-civil rights era. Beyond those marginalized outfits, however, exists another white supremacist group whose leaders have long enjoyed the patronage of right-wing Republican politicians.
The Council of Conservative Citizens, headquartered in St. Louis, is a living legacy of Southern “white resistance” to desegregation, with historical roots in the so-called citizens councils that sprang up during the 1950s as a “respectable” adjunct to the Klan. Its website currently proclaims that the CCC is “the only serious nationwide activist group that sticks up for white rights!” What that means, more specifically, is promoting hatred of blacks, Jews, gays and lesbians, and Latino immigrants while extolling the virtues of the “Southern way of life,” the Confederacy and even slavery.
The group’s website goes on to brag that the CCC is the only group promoting “white rights” whose meetings regularly feature “numerous elected officials, important authors, talk-show hosts, active pastors, and other important people” as speakers.
The “elected officials” that the CCC boasts about have included prominent officials like former Senator John Ashcroft (R), who, it’s implied, in common with other Missouri officials, tried to keep his association with the group on the down-low. What about Blunt? The guy’s discreet; we’ll probably never know if he played or plays footsie with CCC types.
It’s certainly true, however, that Blunt has been willing to flirt with bigots. Remember his joke comparing the Obama administration to monkeys? Now it seems that he’s willing to “support” a presidential candidate who’s been endorsed by David Duke and is a favorite of white supremacists nationwide – and, as the public record attests, for very good reason. Shaun King recently asserted that, “if you support Donald Trump, after all he has said and done to offend virtually every ethnic group in America, after he has been blatantly gross and bigoted and inhumane, then you are a bigot as well.
How about it Roy?