It’s been morbidly fascinating to watch Republicans come to terms with the fact that they’ve nominated a flatly racist, misogynistic, and bigoted candidate for president. But they shouldn’t be surprised, either, at Trump’s comments or at Trump’s success in the primary. Republicans have stoked racism, sexism, and unfounded anti-government paranoia for years. They’ve just been marginally less explicit when doing so than Trump.
I’m not talking about policies, although one could argue that GOP policies have disproportionately negative impacts for women and minorities. I’m talking about the GOP’s tacit or explicit endorsement of bigotry itself — and specifically, the consistent refusal of Republican officials to condemn bigotry within its ranks. Every time something like that happened, Trump’s path to the Republican nomination became a bit more inevitable.
When Trump claimed that a Mexican judge couldn’t possible rule in an impartial manner, Trump supporter Paul Ryan was aghast, claiming the comment was “out of left field.” But it wasn’t out of left field. Not for Trump, who has been saying this kind of thing for years, and not for the Republican Party, which has been courting bigotry and hatred for just as long.
The Donald, for all of his bombast, is nothing more than the GOP’s bigoted chicken coming home to roost. Let’s look at all of the times elected Republicans paved the way for Trump’s rise.
Steve King’s Cantaloupe Comment
When citing his opposition to immigration reform, Rep. Steve King of Iowa denied that immigrants deserve our sympathy, claiming that “For every [immigrant] who’s a valedictorian, there’s another 100 out there who weigh 130 pounds and they’ve got calves the size of cantaloupes because they’re hauling 75 pounds of marijuana across the desert.” After the subsequent outrage, King stood by the comment.
The Sandra Fluke Controversy
In 2012, the House GOP banned any women from testifying during a hearing about contraception policy. Then, Rush Limbaugh said that the law student who was set to testify, Sandra Fluke, was a “slut.” Neither Mitt Romney nor Rick Santorum, the two leading Republican presidential candidates at the time, denounced Limbaugh’s misogyny, or even acknowledged that it was misogynistic.
James Inhofe's Climate Change Remarks
Donald Trump famously and preposterously claimed that climate change was a hoax perpetrated by China to make the United States less competitive. He may have taken a hint from Sen. James Inhofe, who claimed in 2010 that global warming was “the greatest hoax ever perpetrated on the American people.”
Mosques And "Homegrown" Terrorism
New York Rep. Peter King has long stoked fears of “homegrown terrorism” in American Muslim communities. In 2004, he claimed without evidence that “80% to 85% of the mosques in this country are controlled by Islamic fundamentalists.” He stood by the remark in 2010, at which point he was already planning House hearings on the “radicalization” of American Muslims.
The “Subhuman Mongrel”
When Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was running for governor in 2014, one of his most prominent surrogates was musician Ted Nugent. At one point, Nugent called President Obama a “subhuman mongrel,” an astonishingly racist comment even by Republican standards. However, Abbott didn’t condemn Nugent, but rather called him “a forceful advocate for individual liberty.” Ted Cruz and Sarah Palin also refused to denounce Nugent’s flat bigotry.
Michele Bachmann’s Anti-Muslim Witch Hunt
In 2012, four Congressional Republicans signed a letter to the State Department alleging that the Muslim Brotherhood, an Islamic political party in Egypt and elsewhere, had infiltrated the U.S. government. The group included former presidential candidate Michele Bachmann, and suggested that longtime Hillary Clinton aide Huma Abedin may have been a double agent.
Though many denounced the witch hunt, then-Republican Minority Leader Eric Cantor refused to do so, instead saying that Bachmann’s “concern was about the security of the country.”
Slurs Hurled At John Lewis
When Congress was debating the bill that would become Obamacare, protesters at the capital hurled racist and anti-gay slurs against Democratic lawmakers Barney Frank and John Lewis. When asked for a reaction, Republican Rep. Devin Nunes defended the protesters, explaining that “there’s people that have every right to say what they want.”
The lesson is clear: When you spend years courting the most hateful, bigoted impulses in your party, your party's nominee will be a hateful bigot. Congratulations, Republicans!