In a year of divisive rhetoric, Republican candidates around the country are taking up Trump’s call and digging in their polarizing stances on race and history. From the Deep South to the Midwest, dozens of candidates in midterm races have embraced the president’s stance on immigration, Confederate monuments, and voter ID laws.
In Georgia, Republican gubernatorial candidate Brian Kemp has made headlines for his stance on a bill that would remove the Confederate battle emblem from the state flag. Kemp defended his position, stating that “It takes the discussion of race out of the public square and fosters a stronger and more inclusive environment.” He and other GOP nominees have also proposed tightening voter ID laws, a move that Democrats and civil rights groups worry will suppress the African American vote in the state.
In Missouri, Senate candidate Josh Hawley, a former attorney general, is championing a similar stance. He has spoken out in favor of statute that would make it harder for employers and landlords to discriminate against those with racially diverse backgrounds. Hawley has called the measure “the moral thing to do” but some civil rights activists have pointed out that the new rule may have a disproportionate effect on minority groups due to their greater likelihood of being monitored on social media.
In Texas, the country’s second most populated state, Attorney General Ken Paxton has argued that deporting those in the U.S. illegally is essential for the “protection of citizens and national security.” In addition, Paxton has opposed so-called “sanctuary cities,” saying that they are a threat to public safety.
Not all Republicans flesh out these positions, however. Some in the GOP are signaling that they’re open to consensus-building on immigration and other issues. In Arizona, for example, Senate candidate Martha McSally recently tacked away from hard-line immigration rhetoric, and stated that she would work for comprehensive immigration reform.
The midterm elections this November will be a barometer of where voters are on these issues. Will they vote in favor of candidates who seek to divide? Or will they back those who seek to build bridges and embrace compromise across political and social divides? It’s a question that many are asking, and one that will likely have lasting implications for years to come.