If you’re a rich Republican who’s done nothing in the House of Representatives for so long that you’re essentially seen as a piece of furniture, what do you do when faced with a popular, well-organized, grassroots opponent who’s about to overtake you?

Apparently, you unleash your inner racist.

Across the country, endangered Republican incumbents are resorting to a shameful, Jim Crow-era political tactic in a panicky effort to deflect attention from their own records: assailing their challengers as zealots who will let Black, Latino, and other “criminal elements” rampage through white neighborhoods.

Take longtime Texas congressman Michael McCaul. Used to strolling to victory, McCaul has found himself in a dead heat with Democrat Mike Siegel, a former schoolteacher with a progressive-populist program of Medicare for All and worker and environmental protections. Siegel has forged a surging and enthusiastic movement for change.

So here comes McCaul with a last-minute, down and dirty, million-dollar TV blitz, howling that Siegel is a crazed criminal justice radical who’ll shut down the police and empty prisons. McCaul himself doesn’t appear in this ludicrous dog-whistle piece of racist fabrication. Instead, he’s put Joe Trimm, a white Republican constable (wearing his official uniform), on camera to do the dirty work.

The partisan constable cartoonishly tries to gin up voter fear: “Take it from me,” he dramatically intones, “Mike Siegel is a threat to your family.”

Problem is, Trimm is a notorious right-wing race baiter who justifies police violence against peaceful Black Lives Matter protesters, calling them “thugs.” But he’s just the dummy — McCaul is the ventriloquist mouthing fear and hate to save his political hide.

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Jim Hightower

OtherWords columnist Jim Hightower is a radio commentator, writer, and public speaker. Distributed by OtherWords.org.

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