Donald Trump went after Hillary Clinton in Baltimore on Monday and in a new ad for her "basket of deplorables" comment. But unless your Twitter avatar is an egg, you follow "white genocide" handles and are afraid of taco trucks, she's not talking about you. The only thing more laughable than Mr. Trump whining about name-calling is the pundit pearl-clutching over Ms. Clinton calling the Trump Movement exactly what it is. This episode once again vindicates Eric Holder's point: On race, we behave as a nation of cowards.
There are racists in every party. There are racists among every candidate's supporters. The difference between candidates is how they respond to this fact. "He's an Arab," one woman said of Barack Obama in 2008. John McCain took the microphone from her and chided, "No, ma'am. He's a decent family man [and] citizen that I just happen to have disagreements with on fundamental issues, and that's what this campaign's all about. He's not [an Arab]." At the 1996 convention Bob Dole told racists: "the exits, which are clearly marked, are for you to walk out of." Ronald Reagan told the 1984 GOP convention: "Many people are welcome in our house, but not the bigots."
Unlike the current GOP nominee who feigns ignorance about the Ku Klux Klan, in 1992 President George H.W. Bush denied David Duke the ability to run under the GOP label, and the party blocked him from getting on the ballot. Then-Wisconsin GOP Chair Scott Walker debated Mr. Duke, defending the GOP's decision.
In 2008, AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called out racism at the heart of the Democrats' coalition — organized labor. "We can't tap dance around the fact," he said, "that's there's a lot of … union people [who] just can't get past the idea that there's something wrong with voting for a black man."
No other major candidate since the passage of the Civil Rights Act has done as Mr. Trump has and so gleefully luxuriated in his racist support. Which is why it is a false equivalence to pretend racists are equally distributed across all candidates' supporters. Primary polling shows:
•1 in 3 Trump voters thinks World War II Japanese internment was a good idea, three times more than Marco Rubio's and John Kasich's supporters.
•1 in 5 Trump voters thinks Abraham Lincoln was wrong to issue the Emancipation Proclamation, four times more than supporters of Messrs Rubio or Kasich.
What predicts support of Mr. Trump, even more than being a Republican, is belief that President Obama is a Muslim.
Voters who scored highest on the Rand Corporation's Presidential Election Panel Survey's measure of "Racial Resentment" were 44 percent more likely to support Mr. Trump than any of his GOP rivals.
To see how these numbers creep up toward the "half" Hillary referenced, we need a more sophisticated lens. There exists a "kind of gentle, good-natured racism, but racism none-the-less," George Will reminds, such as the kind that called Willie Mays a "natural," rather than intelligent player. "30 years on, we can hear — with our better trained ears — the racism in that," Mr. Will cautions. The 2016 election requires we summon those better-trained ears. Birtherism is code. The Star of David on a pile of cash is code.
What commands a still higher number of adherents than the explicitly racist views — internment, slavery, etc. — are beliefs about the causes of racial inequality in our country. This is why, sociologist Tressie McMillan Cotton explains, "Every conversation about resources in the United States is also a conversation about race."
Exhibits A, B, and C: Public opinion overestimates the number of minorities on welfare, and public support for government programs depends substantially "on who its beneficiaries are perceived to be." And far larger numbers of Trump voters, than Clinton, Kasich and Cruz voters, think black people are "lazier" and "more violent" than white people.
Race also explains why Mr. Trump talks very differently about drugs — compassionate vs. Draconian — depending on whether he's in Detroit, on the border, or in New Hampshire. To wit, Robert George quips, "If only Hillary had said of Trump supporters: 'Some, I assume, are good people.' #BasketOfDeplorables"
Where the math gets imperceptible is: It's unclear where those who think, "I don't want my taxes going to undeserving ends" stops and the group who thinks "to be black is, ipso facto, to be undeserving" begins.
Past GOP nominees cared to ask voters to belong to the first group, even if they tacitly depended — however reluctantly — on voters of group two, as well. Mr. Trump, by contrast, displays an amoralism which merrily beds all suitors, be they Nazi-hashtag followers, cross-burners, or Russian bagmen. His cynicism — as Joe Biden said — knows no bounds.
Charles Badger is an adviser to R4C16.org, a grassroots organization of Republicans for Clinton in 2016. He was formerly director of coalitions for Gov. Jeb Bush's 2016 campaign, where he oversaw African-American and Asian-American outreach. Twitter: @CharlesBadger.