South Carolina officials told me the reason no top Republicans dared challenge Tim Scott in his run for U.S. senate in 2014—after Haley had appointed him to the seat in 2012—was because it would have “been unseemly” to have challenged a popular Republican vying to become the first black man elected to the Senate from the Deep South since Reconstruction. I got the same message from several of my white conservative readers, who in one breath said identity politics was awful but in the next emphasized how proud they were to vote for a conservative black man. Though they loudly protested and claimed otherwise, they were desperate to get out from under the cloud and charges of racism that has dogged Republicans in the South for decades, and voting for Scott was one way they believed they could do this.
That same dynamic is at play in the era of Trump—maybe even more so. Concern with party diversity was one of the reasons the all-male GOP caucus in the Senate Judiciary Committee hired a woman to question Christine Blasey Ford during Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh’s contentious confirmation hearing, and why some Republicans are now touting that Kavanaugh, who was credibly accused of sexual assault, has the first all-female clerk team in the court’s history, including a black woman. And the top conservative political pundits and analysts, who have spent years complaining about so-called identity politics on the left, had no problem with any of this. Not only that, Trump himself has been accused of sexual misconduct by nearly two dozen women and was recorded bragging about casually sexually assaulting women. His record of racism and open bigotry is so deep and long and disturbing, most black voters automatically become suspicious of any black person who cozies up to Trump, if not hold them in outright contempt, no matter their black bona fides. Ask Kanye West and the presidents of historically black Colleges and universities if you doubt this.