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Opinion: Racism, bigotry charges take presidential race to new low

Donald+Trump+and+Hillary+Clinton.+%28TNS%29
Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (TNS)

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (TNS)

Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. (TNS)

By Lewis Diuguid | The Kansas City Star

An unspoken rule among many African American professionals is to never use the R-word on the job or in integrated settings, because those who do instantly lose whatever argument they’re embroiled in and immediately sacrifice any credibility they might have had. That’s even if the charge of racism is true.

So presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump trading accusations of hate, bigotry and racism signals a new low for each candidate’s campaign.

Clinton, the Democratic Party’s nominee for the White House, charged this week that Republican presidential nominee Trump has made racially inflammatory remarks and by pulling Breitbart News head Steve Bannon into his campaign has provided a “platform for the alt-right.”

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More: Trump shakes up campaign by hiring executive from Breitbart News to top post

“The defacto merger between Breitbart and the Trump campaign represents a landmark achievement for the ‘alt-right'” Clinton said.

She cited recent Breitbart headlines, including “Hoist It High And Proud: The Confederate Flag Proclaims a Glorious Heritage,” which appeared shortly after nine African Americans were gunned down June 17, 2015, at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, S.C.

Dylann Roof, who had a history of racial hatred against blacks and has been in photographs holding the Confederate battle flag, has been charged in the slayings and could face the death penalty. The slayings prompted South Carolina to at long last remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state Capitol last year, acknowledging the racial hatred embedded in the Stars and Bars.

“Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters,” Clinton said in a speech in Reno, Nev. “It’s a disturbing preview of what kind of president he’d be.”

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a campaign rally Aug. 10, 2016 in Sunrise, Fla. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/TNS)

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump holds a campaign rally Aug. 10, 2016 in Sunrise, Fla. (Patrick Farrell/Miami Herald/TNS)

Trump has provided plenty of ammunition of hatred and bigotry throughout his campaign, accusing Mexicans in the U.S. of being criminals, saying he would block Muslim refugees from entering the U.S. and advocating registering Muslims who are here as a way of fighting terrorism, building a wall on the Mexican border to combat illegal immigration and questioning the impartiality of a judge of Mexican heritage hearing lawsuits against Trump University.

But Clinton should have learned from her “vast right wing conspiracy” charge in 1998 against those going after her husband, then-President Bill Clinton involving Monica Lewinsky, that such broad-brush statements only backfire, making the accuser look paranoid and desperate.

A spirited Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, joins Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, during a campaign rally at the Parkway Ballroom on Chicago's South Side in March. (Chicago Tribune)

A spirited Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton, left, joins Geneva Reed-Veal, the mother of Sandra Bland, during a campaign rally at the Parkway Ballroom on Chicago’s South Side in March. (Chicago Tribune)

Trump pounced on Clinton’s strategy, saying: “It’s the oldest play in the Democratic playbook. When Democratic policies fail, they are left with only this one tired argument: You’re racist, you’re racist, you’re racist. They keep saying it: You’re racist. It’s a tired disgusting argument, and it’s so totally predictable.”

This presidential race, which has no floor, keeps falling to new lows.

Trump also charges that Hillary Clinton is the bigot. The back and forth accusations between the two candidates has caught people of color as objects, being batted around in the political banter.

More: Column: We need candidates who will offer real change to African-Americans

A quote from humorist Mark Twain comes to mind here: “Never argue with stupid people, they will drag you down to their level and beat you with experience.” But it’s hard to know at this point which candidate has the most experience.

Either way, people of color lose, and their credibility in even being able to speak for themselves is shot.

Trump, talking to largely white audiences, has tried to appeal to African Americans, pointing to Democratic leaders’ failure on jobs, housing, policing, education, urban neighborhood safety, commerce and other policies in America’s cities asking: “What do you have to lose? It cannot get any worse. And believe me, I’m going to fix it.”

Most African Americans and other people of color aren’t buying what Trump’s selling. But denigrating Democrats is Trump’s way to discredit Clinton and woo moderate white voters — many of them white women — into voting for him in November.

Lost in the name-calling and ugly accusations are discussions the candidates should be having on key issues facing the country such as creating more jobs, getting black lives to truly matter, opening new markets to the U.S. overseas and bringing a peaceful end to the wars the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria.

If this is how the presidential campaign is going right now, the upcoming debates between Clinton and Trump will make “The Jerry Springer Show” look tame in comparison.

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(c)2016 The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.)

Visit The Kansas City Star (Kansas City, Mo.) at www.kansascity.com

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