On Monday, during CNN’s OutFront with Erin Burnett, Ohio Senator, and 2002 presidential hopeful, Sherrod Brown was shown a short montage that showed just how much the Senator’s past rhetoric has echoed President Trump’s. In 2006, while running for office, Brown released campaign ads that ended with the tagline “America First.” He also recently argued that a lack of “fair trade” was crippling to American workers. Lastly, he argued that the U.S. “has not done globalization well.” Each one of these points was juxtaposed with a statement from Trump that was almost identical to Brown’s. This poses a significant problem to the Ohio Senator.
Many Democrats have aggressively argued that much of Trump’s rhetoric is a series of “dog whistles” and coded calls for racism. One of the most consistent criticisms is that one of Trump’s most prominent slogans; “America First” is steeped deeply in bigotry and nationalism. Recently, Democrats have also argued that critics of globalization, trade deals and most forms of isolationist rhetoric are inherently xenophobic, bigoted and racist. Even when Senator Bernie Sanders, beloved by the progressive movement, suggested prioritizing American workers, he was pilloried. While Brown may be attempting to take a more nuanced approach to the presidency, his recent comments make this difficult.
In an interview with Chuck Todd on Meet the Press on Sunday, Brown explicitly stated That President Donald Trump is “a racist.” Chuck Todd immediately replied; “Let me pause you there. You believe, in his heart, he’s a racist” to which Brown replied;
…We know the President doesn’t tell the truth frequently. We know he lies frequently. We know of his racist comments and background. That’s not even counting the policies of this administration. We have consent decrees all over this country, including in Cleveland. We have a justice department that has turned its back. We know about voter suppression.
This aggressive approach would be effective if Brown were not attempting to win over many of the moderate voters that voted for Trump in 2018. As the Democratic party careens further to the left, candidates like Brown could quickly find themselves facing the same charges of racism that are currently used against Trump.
Senator Brown is currently in Iowa for his “Dignity of Work” tour that will take him to several key states for the 2020 Democratic primary. He has yet to formally announce his candidacy. Should the tour go well, he is anticipated to do so before its conclusion.
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