David A. Graham: Trump goes all in on racism
Hurd was labeled a rising star—the future of the Republican Party, even. “I’ve been involved in Republican politics for over 30 years, and Democrats should be worried about Will Hurd,” Texas GOP Chair Tom Mechler told Tim Alberta. “The sky is the limit. This guy is incredible.” And now Hurd is retiring. Though he said he plans to run for office again, he’s not running for anything at the moment. The future is already slipping away.
It’s probably not a coincidence that Hurd’s announcement came after weeks of Donald Trump lambasting minority members of the House of Representatives. There’s practically no room for criticism of President Trump in the Republican Party, but it’s also untenable for African American Republicans such as Hurd to stand by silently while Trump makes these remarks.
Hurd has previously proved willing to break with Trump, criticizing his border-wall plan and repeatedly warning about Russian election interference. Unlike Representative Justin Amash, though, Hurd has been unwilling to make that the prime thing he is known for. But in an interview with The Washington Post yesterday, Hurd criticized Trump for his recent comments.
“When you imply that because someone doesn’t look like you, in telling them to go back to Africa or wherever, you’re implying that they’re not an American and you’re implying that they have less worth than you,” he said.
Unlike Amash, who recently announced that he was leaving the GOP, Hurd says he’ll still vote for Trump if he’s the Republican nominee. But like Amash, his decision not to run again means he will be leaving the House Republican caucus.
Of course, a heavily white male group of elected Republicans isn’t new. Until the election of Tim Scott to the House in 2010, the GOP hadn’t had a single black senator or congressman since J. C. Watts retired in 2003. (Scott is now a senator.) Since the 1964 election, the party has often relied on racism, sometimes veiled and sometimes less so, to turn out supporters. Unsurprisingly, that hasn’t helped it win minority votes.
But not long ago, the Republican Party appeared to have an epiphany—of self-interest if not quite moral enlightenment. The election of Barack Obama, the nation’s first black president, showed the power of minority votes—and raised the specter that demographic change, as the nation became less white, would create a Democratic electoral edge for the foreseeable future. The GOP redoubled its efforts to ensure that the party was running more women and more minorities for office. That reflected the idea that “it’s hard to be what you can’t see.” These efforts sometimes carried a whiff of tokenism, but if Republicans wanted to attract a more diverse array of voters, they had to show those voters that people like them were in the party.