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National Govt & Politics
2020 Democrats weigh how tough to hit Trump on racism
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2020 Democrats weigh how tough to hit Trump on racism

2020 Democrats weigh how tough to hit Trump on racism
Photo Credit: AP Photo/Susan Walsh
President Donald Trump speaks during a visit to the Pennsylvania Shell ethylene cracker plant on Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019 in Monaca, Pa. The facility, which critics claim will become the largest air polluter in western Pennsylvania, is being built in an area hungry for investment. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)

2020 Democrats weigh how tough to hit Trump on racism

Hillary Clinton took the stage in Reno, Nevada, with an urgent warning about the consequences of a Donald Trump administration: "He's taking hate groups mainstream and helping a radical fringe take over one of America's two major political parties. Trump is reinforcing harmful stereotypes and offering a dog whistle to his most hateful supporters. It's a disturbing preview of what kind of president he'd be."

Seventy-five days later, Trump would be president-elect.

As a new crop of Democrats competes for the chance to take on Trump in 2020, they are going even further than Clinton did, with some saying the president is a white supremacist. But Clinton's experience poses difficult questions for the White House hopefuls. Pointing out then-candidate Trump's racist actions wasn't enough to defeat him in 2016 — and may not help Democrats next year.

"Hillary Clinton took every sling and arrow imaginable when she called out Trump on his courtship of white supremacy in the 2016 race," said Democratic strategist Joel Payne, who worked on Clinton's campaign. "When our campaign named and shamed Trump's behavior, we were accused of playing the race card. Her predictions may have actually understated how much of an existential crisis the Trump presidency would be for minorities in America."

The issue has taken on greater urgency this month following a mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, that's believed to be motivated by racism. The shooting suspect echoed Trump's warnings of a Latino "invasion."

Trump insists he's not a racist and throws the label back at Democrats, accusing them of political correctness and recklessly wielding the term.

Still, Trump gained notoriety in the late 1980s for taking out a newspaper ad calling for the death penalty for five black and Hispanic teenagers who were wrongly convicted of rape. He launched his 2016 campaign with a speech that referred to Mexicans as "rapists" and a pledge to ban Muslims from entering the country. Weeks before the 2016 election, he denigrated cities with large black populations as poor and dangerous, asking black voters, "What the hell do you have to lose?"

In office, he has equated torch-bearing white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia, with peaceful protesters opposing their efforts to preserve a Confederate statue. He referred to African and Caribbean nations as "shithole" countries and told four American congresswomen of color to "go back" to countries "from which they came."

There's near unanimity among Democrats that candidates can't ignore Trump's racist actions. But there is debate over how far to go and whether to focus on more traditional issues like health care, prescription drugs, infrastructure and education.

Candidates including Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke and Pete Buttigieg have agreed that the white supremacist label is appropriate for Trump. Joe Biden accused Trump of "fanning the flames of white supremacy."

But some Democratic voters questioned whether such labeling might prove counterproductive. After all, Trump supporters wore Clinton's denunciation of them as "deplorables" as a badge of honor.

"If every candidate jumps on that same bandwagon, it just throws everybody into the same pot," said Erick McEnaney, 57, of Kansas City, Missouri. "I would refrain from even talking about him, actually. Talk about what's important to the American people."

As nearly two dozen candidates swung through Iowa recently, the issue was prominent. Democrats in the state that kicks off the presidential nomination process still take pride in Barack Obama's 2008 Iowa win. That victory proved that a black candidate could win in a state that's more than 90% white, sealing his status as a viable candidate.

Buttigieg, who has been outspoken on matters of race in the campaign, told a diverse gathering at a house party just outside Des Moines, Iowa, that a "big part of this conversation" regarding race "has to happen with white audiences."

"White nationalism is a white problem," said Buttigieg, who is white. "It has victims of color and is wrecking the whole country. But it is a problem among white people, which is why I think somebody who has some of the benefits and advantages of my own profile needs to be out there as vocal as anybody talking about it."

Karin Derry, a state representative who is white, watched Buttigieg speak from across the room. She questioned whether labeling the president a white supremacist is "particularly helpful," but welcomed the conversation overall, saying it would resonate in Iowa.

"I want to see them talking about it because quite frankly the way President Trump talks, it's unacceptable," said Derry, who hasn't endorsed a candidate. "I think candidates need to call him out on it."

During his swing through Iowa, Biden stopped short of directly calling Trump a white supremacist. But he said the "distinction" isn't as important as how Trump uses the megaphone of the presidency.

That approach was good enough for Vicky Beer, a retired schoolteacher.

"I certainly think you can call him a white supremacist because it might open somebody's eyes to what he is," said Beer, 62, who hasn't yet committed to a candidate for February's caucus. Still, Beer said she's not necessarily caught up in how the candidates assail Trump, if they do so.

"It's a given," she said, that whichever Democrat emerges as the nominee will "have more authority than he does."

___

Associated Press writers Bill Barrow, Alexandra Jaffe and Steven Sloan contributed to this report.

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The Latest News Headlines

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Tickets for both the game and concert/fireworks will cost $15 and go on sale September 3rd.  “It’s always good to have a little anticipation and mystery, so there will be two more acts announced in the weeks ahead”, said Mayor Curry.  There will also be events on the Flex Field at TIAA Bank Field before the football game on Saturday, November 2nd.  “Duval’s Bold City Bash is a signature addition to the Florida-Georgia game and will encompass an entire week of festivities”, said Bill McConnell, General Manager of SMG.  “It will energize Downtown and it will make the Sports Complex the place to be to celebrate the Florida-Georgia tradition before gameday”.  WOKV reported on August 8th that the Mayor’s budget request proposed spending hundreds of thousands of dollars more than prior years, to create a destination in the heart of the Sports Complex. “All the way from RV City, through the [Daily’s Place] Flex Field, in to the parking lots next to the stadium, out to APR [A. Philip Randolph Blvd.], and incorporating the Baseball Grounds and some of the different things on APR, including private businesses that are in the food and entertainment business, to try to connect them all together in a way that offers that whole area of the Sports and Entertainment District as a location for multiple events,” said Jacksonville’s Chief Administrative Officer Brian Hughes. Hughes said the intention is to activate this area for several days leading up to the game for both family-friendly activities and nightlife, with everything from live music to street vendors. WOKV started asking about the enhanced fan experience, after seeing a boost in a special events subfund in Mayor Curry’s proposed $1.4 billion budget. While the City plans to do the same annual events it hosts every year, like the Hall of Fame luncheon, they’re proposing budgeting several hundred thousand dollars more than last year in order to execute this vision. The budget proposal includes an addition over last year of more than $440,000 for miscellaneous Florida/Georgia expenses relating to event services and $75,000 in equipment rentals corresponding with the increase in services, among other areas. The exact price tag for the Bold City Bash was not yet available.  Fans will be encouraged to ‘activate’ during The Block Party along Adams Street and A. Philip Randolph Blvd. Live entertainment, food trucks, a beer garden and free giveaways will be part of the fanfare experience.  Per the game contract, all parties are currently in the first negotiation window, which goes up until a few days prior to this year’s game. The final game under this current contract is in 2021, but Brian Hughes says all parties are having productive talks, and he hopes to be able to work out a deal that extends the game in Jacksonville for many years to come. “We anticipate getting to the finish line,” he says. 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The economic impacts are real, we fill hotel rooms, we have people going to dinner for multiple nights while they’re here, we have people going out to the beach, we have people enjoying our public spaces around Jacksonville, in addition to having game day,” he says. And it’s also about the tradition. “Both UGA and the University of Florida have deep alumni networks here. It’s become a great tradition for a neutral site game, it’s one of the most famous neutral site games and rivalries in college football, and has been for decades,” he says. Now is the time the City wants to build on that tradition, not only through the enhanced fan experience, but the possible permanent changes for the Sports Complex. The Administration is in the process of putting the finishing touches on an economic development agreement that will reflect around $233.3 million in City incentives for the $450 million development of Lot J at the stadium in to a mixed-use site with entertainment, office, hotel, and residential space. While that deal is still pending approval by the Downtown Investment Authority and the City Council, another project that is moving forward is the removal of the Hart Bridge ramps by the stadium. All of this will mean construction likely affecting the next couple of games after the 2019 one, but Hughes says it will be worth the hassle. “Ultimately, a couple of years on the other side of it, I think people will be amazed at how well both Jaguars games and other events in that area and the Florida/Georgia tradition will kind of fit together down there very well,” he says. The Mayor’s budget proposal- and the included funding for this enhanced fan experience complex- is still pending the vetting and approval of the Jacksonville City Council. A final vote will take place ahead of the start of the Fiscal Year October 1st.
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