I admit that I was intrigued by Donald Trump as a candidate, at first. In fact, I invited him to give his first speech as a potential candidate in 2011 at the Conservative Political Action Conference at the invitation of GOProud, the organization for gay conservatives I co-founded and led. That was before he launched into his cultural division strategy by trying to demonize his potential opponent in that race, President Barack Obama. Trump was the ringleader of the birther movement, the campaign to convince voters that the president was actually born in Kenya, not his native Hawaii. His message was that Obama was not one of “us.”
Trump has taken the politics of demonization and division to a whole new level, but this isn’t the first time Republicans have targeted cultural diversity to pit different groups against each other. The Richard Nixon campaign’s racist “Southern strategy” and George W. Bush’s 2004 anti-gay re-election campaign are other examples in recent history.
And Trump isn’t the only one attacking “them” this year in an effort to attract Republican primary voters. The campaigns of Ben Carson and Ted Cruz have also used that strategy to appeal to their evangelical Christian audience’s discomfort with cultural diversity.