George Conway’s op-ed published last night by the Washington Post may seem like just another example of an outspoken Trump critic preaching to the choir. But the piece, written by the conservative lawyer and husband of White House Senior Advisor Kellyanne Conway, is significant because it is a candid admission of his changed thinking when it comes to Trump and racism. Many people who have shared Conway’s hesitation to label Trump a racist may now be inspired to follow Conway’s about-face on the subject.
As Trump slobbered his way to the top of the GOP ticket, Democrats and many prominent Republicans tried to warn Americans that Trump was a divisive, bigoted thug. Most notably, in an August 2016 speech in Reno, Hillary Clinton called out Trump’s housing discrimination accusations, birtherism claims, and more as examples of his racist behavior, arguing that Trump “has built his campaign on prejudice and paranoia.” Clinton warned that Trump was “taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America’s two major political parties,” describing Trump’s “disregard” for our nation’s values as “profoundly dangerous.” Clinton summed it up with a quotation from Maya Angelou: “When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.”
These warnings, of course, went largely unheeded, and Trump has continued padding his resume of racism since taking office. Conway admits that he considered Trump to be “boorish, dim-witted, inarticulate, incoherent, narcissistic and insensitive” and so he “gave him the benefit of the doubt about being a racist.” He explains that “[n]o matter how much I came to dislike him, I didn’t want to think that the president of the United States is a racial bigot.” What changed the equation for Conway was Trump’s statement on Sunday telling nonwhite Congresswomen who are all American citizens — all but one of whom was born in the United States—to “go back” to the “countries” where “they originally came from.” Conway remembers hearing such a phrase shouted at his Philippines-born mother in the mid-1970s, and he calls Trump’s latest rant “racist to the core” and “beyond the bounds of human decency.”
Conway’s new perception of Trump as a racist is late, but his admission may speak to many who have been similarly hesitant to ascribe racist motives to Trump’s abhorrent behavior. Like Conway, they may now realize that Trump’s bigoted actions, from his Muslim ban to his family separation policy, are not simply some dirty political strategy but also the vile delight of a proud racist. Republican lawmakers should heed Conway’s words and stand up to Trump if they care about how our country, let alone their party, is being defined. Trump-leaning and independent voters should also read Conway’s op-ed carefully. They might now understand that a reelection win for Trump would mean awarding an unabashed bigot four more years in office. When someone shows us who they are the hundredth time, perhaps it’s time we all finally believe him.