Hillary Clinton gave a speech today. Patrick Caldwell summarizes:
Democrats haven’t been shy about pointing out the racial undertones in Donald Trump’s campaign, but Hillary Clinton took that message to a new level Thursday, calling out the GOP nominee for purposefully whipping up racist bigotry and resentment….”From the start,” Clinton said, “Donald Trump has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia. He’s taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican Party. His disregard for the values that make our country great is profoundly dangerous.”
Why did she do this? The most popular explanation is that she was giving “permission” for moderate Republicans to stay home in November. Donald Trump, she said, isn’t a traditional Republican. He’s a hate-monger who’s hijacked the party as a vehicle for his loathsome brand of racism and xenophobia. Even if you’re a loyal Republican, you don’t have to support that.
But I’ll propose a different explanation: she was giving the press permission to talk about Donald Trump’s racism. So far, they’ve tiptoed around it. But once the candidate herself calls it out, it invites a thousand think pieces about Breitbart, the alt-right, the GOP’s history of tolerating bigotry, Trump’s troubling background, and dozens of other related topics. Surrogates can blather all they want about this, but it doesn’t truly become a mainstream subject until the actual candidate for president makes it one.
This is part of the agenda-setting power that presidential candidates have. Donald Trump has used it endlessly, and now Hillary Clinton is using it too. Trump has made his bed, and Hillary is making sure he has to lie in it.