Horowitz: Trump Turns Celebration of MLK Into Surreal Occasion

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

 

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Rob Horowitz

It was simply surreal to watch President Trump perfunctorily read a statement praising Martin Luther King on Friday and then leave the podium without answering the shouted questions of reporters about whether or not he is a racist--legitimate questions generated by the president’s own words in a meeting about immigration the day before. If Trump was determined to rise to the moment and fully embrace the spirit and legacy of Martin Luther King, he would have straightforwardly addressed the controversy, apologized for creating the impression that he thought immigrants from Africa and Haiti of  black and brown skin were by definition inferior to white immigrants from Norway, and made crystal clear that he actually does believe that “all men are created equal.”  

Given President Trump’s demonstrated track record of making racially-tinged remarks, doing what he actually did-- waiting a couple of days and then telling reporters on Sunday that “he is the least racist person you will ever meet”-- was woefully inadequate at best.  This is especially the case, when it has been widely reported that he has been telling his friends that he thinks his racially incendiary remarks will probably help with his base. 

Mitt Romney’s rebuke of the president for his attempt in the wake of Charlottesville to create false equivalency between White Supremacists and those that oppose them apply to this latest racial controversy as well:  Romney said that Trump's words blaming "many sides" for the violence "caused racists to rejoice" and "minorities to weep."  The former Republican Presidential candidate and Massachusetts Governor went on to say, "His apologists strain to explain that he didn't mean what we heard. But what we heard is now the reality, and unless it is addressed by the president as such, with unprecedented candor and strength, there may commence an unraveling of our national fabric.”

Through his words and actions, President Trump continues to sow racial division, so when his defenders came out once again to say that is not the president’s intent or his real feelings, as some did this past weekend on the Sunday shows, it rings all the more hollow.   

The inescapable conclusion as we approach the 50th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s death is we have a president who does not share this heroic civil rights leader's all-encompassing vision of the promise of America as expressed in its founding documents. In King’s famous "I have a Dream" Speech, he remarked, “I say to you today, my friends, though, even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream. I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up, live out the true meaning of its creed: "'we hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal."

In words that continue to echo throughout our nation, King continued, “I have a dream that my four little chi1dren will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”     

The good news is that the overwhelming majority of Americans share King’s vision and while much remains to be done, we have made tremendous progress over the past 50 years.  The bad news, however, is that President Trump has put his political energy into reigniting racial divisions and seeking advantage from racial resentments.  This has emboldened racists who are proclaiming their hatred in numbers and ways we have not seen in more than 50 years.

And by his words and deeds, even when giving President Trump a benefit of the doubt he has not earned, there is an open question about whether our president truly does judge people by the content of their character, rather than the color of their skin.   That is why as we think about Martin Luther King during this time of year when we celebrate the MLK holiday, it is incumbent on the rest of us, whether we are citizens, elected officials, or leaders of businesses or non-profits, to speak up forcefully and clearly for the enduring idea of equality of opportunity—to stand up against President Trump’s attempts to turn back the clock.

 

Rob Horowitz is a strategic and communications consultant who provides general consulting, public relations, direct mail services and polling for national and state issue organizations, various non-profits, businesses, and elected officials and candidates. He is also an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at the University of Rhode Island.

 

Related Slideshow: GoLocal: Benchmark Poll, October 2017

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Sponsor: GoLocalProv

Sample: N=403

Rhode Island General Election Voters Margin of Error: +/- 4.9% at 95% Confidence Level

Interviewing Period: October 9-11, 2017

Mode: Landline (61%) and Mobile (39%)

Telephone Directed by: John Della Volpe, SocialSphere, Inc.

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Are you registered to vote at this address?

Yes: 100%

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When it comes to voting, do you consider yourself to be affiliated with the Democratic Party, the Republican Party, Moderate, or Unaffiliated with a major party?

Unaffiliated: 49%

Democrat: 32%

Republican: 15%

Moderate: .4%

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Next year, in November of 2018, there will be a statewide general election for Governor and many other state offices. How likely is it that you will vote in this election?

Will you definitely be voting, will you probably be voting, are you 50-50...

Definitely be voting: 78%

Probably be voting: 13%

50-50: 9%

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In general, would you say things in Rhode Island are headed in the right direction or are they off on the wrong track?

Right track: 39%

Wrong track: 45%

Mixed: 10%

Don't know/Refused: .6%

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What would you say is the number one problem facing Rhode Island that you would like the Governor to address?

Jobs and economy:  21%

Education: 12%

Taxes: 12%

Roads: 12%

State budget: 9%

Corruption/Public integrity: .8%

Healthcare: 3%

Governor: 3%

Homelessness: 2%

Immigration: 2%

Other: 7%

Don’t know: .9%

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Over the past three years or so, would you say the economy in Rhode Island has improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 35%

Changed for the worse: 16%

Not changed at all: 43%

Don't know/Refused: 5%

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Over the same time, has your family's financial situation improved, gotten worse, or not changed at all?

Changed for the better: 26%

Changed for the worse: 19%

Not changed at all: 54%

Don't know/Refused: 1%

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Recently, a proposal has been made to permit the issuance of $81 million in bonds by the State to build a new stadium for the Pawtucket Red Sox. If there was an election today on this issue, would you vote to approve or reject issuing $81 million in financing supported moral obligation bonds to build the stadium?

Net: Approve: 28%

Definitely approve: 15%

Probably approve: 14%

Net: Reject: 67%

Probably reject: 19%

Definitely reject: 48%

Don't know: 4%

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Could you please tell me your age?

18-24: 7%

25-34: 15%

35-44: 15%

45-54: 20%

55-64: 17%

65+: 25%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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What was the last grade you completed in school?

0-11: 2%

High school grad: 16%

Technical/Vocational school: 1%

Some college: 23%

College grad: 34%

Graduate degree: 24%

Don't know/refused: 1%

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The next question is about the total income of YOUR HOUSEHOLD for the PAST 12 MONTHS. Please include your income PLUS the income of all members living in your household (including cohabiting partners and armed forces members living at home).

$50,000 or less: 27%

More $50,000 but less than $75,000: 13%

More $75,000 but less than $100,000: 13%

More $100,000 but less than $150,000: 17%

$150,000 or more: 13%

Don't know/refused: 17%

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What particular ethnic group or nationality - such as English, French, Italian, Irish, Latino, Jewish, African American, and so forth - do you consider yourself a part of or feel closest to?

American/None: 21%

English: 13%

Italian: 13%

Irish: 12%

Black or African American: 6%

Latino/Hispanic: 6%

French: 6%

Portuguese: 3%

Jewish: 3%

German: 1%

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Would you say that Donald Trump has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as President?


Excellent: 13%
Good: 12%
Fair: 14%
Poor: 57%
Never heard of:  0%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Jack Reed has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 22%
Good: 29%
Fair: 23%
Poor: 15%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 6%

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Would you say that Sheldon Whitehouse has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a United States Senator?

Excellent: 17%
Good: 22%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 28%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate: 7%

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Would you say that David Cicilline has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 9%
Good: 29%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 27%
Never heard of: 6%
Cannot rate:  8%

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Would you say that James Langevin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as a Member of Congress?

Excellent: 7%
Good: 30%
Fair: 20%
Poor: 18%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 11%

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Would you say that Gina Raimondo has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Governor?

Excellent: 6%
Good: 28%
Fair: 30%
Poor: 31%
Never heard of: 1%
Cannot rate: 3%

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Would you say that Daniel McKee has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Lieutenant Governor?


Excellent: 3%
Good: 16%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 8%
Never heard of: 26%
Cannot rate: 25%

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Would you say that Peter Kilmartin has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Attorney General?


Excellent: 3%
Good: 20%
Fair: 28%
Poor: 17%
Never heard of: 13%
Cannot rate: 19%

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Would you say that Seth Magaziner has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as General Treasurer?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 18%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 13%
Never heard of: 21%
Cannot rate: 21%

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Would you say that Nellie Gorbea has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Secretary of State?

Excellent: 5%
Good: 21%
Fair: 21%
Poor: 10%
Never heard of: 20%
Cannot rate: 23%

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Would you say that Jorge Elorza has done an excellent good, fair or poor job as Mayor of Providence?

Excellent: 4%
Good: 24%
Fair: 24%
Poor: 22%
Never heard of: 9%
Cannot rate: 15%

 
 

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