When Donald Trump entered the presidential race in 2015, I described him as a racist who would run a campaign reminiscent of George Corley Wallace in 1968 and 1972. I wrote a column that proved to be prophetic. In both the 2016 and 2020 elections, Trump ran flagrantly racist campaigns.
The racism of Trump actually worsened over time, both in his campaign activities and his governmental actions. Throughout, he has been supportive of police brutality and voter suppression. And he has found new and creative ways to harm people of color in this year of 2020, as set forth in the next five paragraphs.
- Trump resurrected the birther movement in a foolhardy attempt to discredit the citizenship credentials of Democratic Vice Presidential nominee Kamala Harris.
- He has appealed to the worst white prejudices against people of color in seeking to resegregate American housing and bar Blacks and other people of color from the suburbs.
- He defamed the Black Lives Matter movement, a cause which in the wake of the murder of George Floyd, Jr won the goodwill of Black and White Americans.
- He endorsed in Florida the Congressional candidacy of Laura Loomer, a far-out right-wing social media extremist who specializes in smearing Black Lives Matter and calls herself an Islamophobe.
- Finally, he has attempted to destroy the US Postal Service in an abortive effort to prevent African-Americans from exercising their right to vote by mail (VBM), a vital life-and-death need in the year of the Coronavirus.
Yet there is one new factor that entered the political discourse of New Jersey this past week that I never anticipated. The New Jersey Republican State Committee made an absolutely contemptible effort to impinge upon the right of voters of color to cast in unfettered fashion votes by mail.
The option of voting by mail is essential to citizens of color since they have been the constituency of the New Jersey electorate most constrained in travel and other activities by the Coronavirus. The VBM process is absolutely critical to allow citizens of color access to the voting process.
Furthermore, it places an undue burden upon citizens of color to require them to request either in writing or verbally a mail ballot from the office of their county clerk or board of elections. The mail ballot is something that should be provided to voters automatically in order that they do not have to worry whether they will receive a response to their legitimate VBM request.
Yet there are voters who feel insecure about the VBM process due to their fears as to whether their cast mail ballots will arrive in timely fashion to their required destination. To meet this concern, New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy formulated a solution that can only be described as utterly fair and brilliantly Solomonic.
Specifically, the Governor created by Executive Order 177 a modified hybrid VBM election for the November 3rd General Election. The order suspends the sending of sample ballots and requires that each county’s elections officials send VBM ballots with pre-paid postage to all active registered voters for the General Election. Additionally, every voter will have the option to either return their ballot through a secure drop box or turn in their ballot at a polling location on Election Day. The ballots so personally returned will have the status of provisional ballots – they will definitely be counted once election officials verify that the voter in question has not otherwise sent in a mail ballot.
Yet in a despicable act of blatant attempted racial voter suppression, the NJGOP on Tuesday joined Trump for President, Inc. and the Republican National Committee in filing suit to invalidate the Governor’s VBM plan as set forth in the aforesaid Executive Order 177. NJGOP Chair Doug Steinhardt announced that State Senator Michael Testa, Jr. will be representing the NJGOP in this litigation.
This is the third major litigation against Governor Murphy in which Testa, at the behest of Steinhardt, has represented the NJGOP, the first being a suit to invalidate the Governor’s Executive Order closing certain small businesses, the second being a litigation to set aside Murphy’s state budget borrowing plan.
Testa lost the first two litigations, and he is certain to lose this one as well. He is well on his way to a perfect 0-3 record. Yet the consequences for the NJGOP will prove to be far worse than the loss of the litigation itself.
In a nutshell, Steinhardt and Testa have sown a racist wind. They will reap from the New Jersey African-American community a hurricane-force anti-racism whirlwind.
I cannot say whether Steinhardt and Testa are racists. I do not know Steinhardt personally and do not know Testa well enough to make any sweeping judgment. I can say with absolute certainty, however, that the participation of Steinhardt and Testa in this litigation constitutes a shameless, vile and despicable act of racial insensitivity in a year when the Coronavirus has a most deleterious impact on the health of Black New Jerseyans.
From the days of the Underground Railroad, Black New Jerseyans have contributed to our state with an unsurpassed degree of heroism and nobility. For-the next decade, New Jerseyans of color will most understandably react to the Steinhardt-Testa led effort to suppress their vote with a total refusal to vote for any white GOP candidates.
African-Americans constitute approximately 16 per cent of the population of New Jersey. The racially insensitive lawsuit of Trump, Steinhardt and Testa in suppression of the Black vote will certainly result in any statewide white GOP candidate receiving no more than five percent of the African-American vote. Such low support from voters of color will definitely make it impossible for any White Republican to win any statewide election for Governor or Senator.
Both Steinhardt and Testa appear to have ambitions of running for Governor. They can forget it now.
When Mike Testa, Jr. first won election to the New Jersey State Senate in 2018, I wrote various pieces lauding him as a credible future statewide candidate. He can forget it now. His racial insensitivity in this case is an absolute bar to my endorsing him for anything, even reelection to his state Senate seat.
And if I learn of any other Republicans who played a supporting role in this vile lawsuit, my lifetime ban of support applies to you as well.
Alan Steinberg served as Regional Administrator of Region 2 EPA during the administration of former President George W. Bush and as Executive Director of the New Jersey Meadowlands Commission.