A new NBC/Wall Street Journal poll released Sunday found that “Americans by a 2-to-1 margin are more troubled by the actions of police in the killing of George Floyd than by violence at some protest.” A survey for USA Today last week showed white Americans’ favorable impressions of police declining by double-digits week over week. Most notably, a Monmouth poll released June 2—conducted in the days after Floyd’s killing—showed, for the first time, that a majority of Americans (57 percent) and a plurality of whites (49 percent) believe police are more likely to use excessive force against African Americans. This represents a tectonic shift in public opinion: After Eric Garner was killed by New York City police in the summer of 2014, Monmouth found that 33 percent of Americans believed the black community was more likely to be abused by police; among whites, that number was just 26 percent.

“It’s almost a sea change,” said Republican Tim Scott of South Carolina, one of three black members of the U.S. Senate. For years, Scott explained, “the response from so many well-intended people was to overlook the brutality brought to African Americans at the hands of the police. … But I look at the public’s response to this situation and it feels like the first time in my lifetime that I’ve heard law enforcement agencies coming out with strong rebukes and condemnation of the officers in Minneapolis.”…

But if Scott is right—if the groundswell of outrage and empathy resulting from George Floyd’s death marks an inflection point in the American racial conscience—then something more enduring is upon us. The result is a new fault line in Republican politics. On one side are the reformers who understand that the system is no longer broken only in the eyes of black and brown voters; on the other side are the traditionalists who will go to their political graves insisting that American exceptionalism guarantees American equality.