The Next Trump | Opinion

From the moment President Donald Trump descended the escalator to announce his campaign and referred to Mexicans coming to the U.S. as "rapists" and "drug dealers," America has seen a rise in race-baiting bigotry and violence, as well as an emboldened and growing community that proudly promotes hate. This administration has numbed us to offenses that once grabbed headlines and ended political careers, and many people seem to believe that when it ends, the problem will go away, or at least significantly recede.

There is mounting evidence that this is far from the truth.

The FBI reported last November that hate-crime violence had hit a 16-year high, with a significant rise in violence against Latinos, and in May the Anti-Defamation League reported the highest level of anti-Semitic activity it had ever recorded, with a 56 percent increase in assaults, in 2019. These numbers reflect not only how white nationalists are emboldened by Trump's words but also the acceptance of these beliefs at the highest levels of local and national politics.

More than 80 candidates who support or have supported the pro-Trump conspiracy theory QAnon ran for Congress in the 2020 election cycle, according to Media Matters. Twenty-seven of those candidates will be on the ballot in November. While that number is chilling, it doesn't even include people like Mark Cole, the GOP congressional candidate in Virginia, who sold racist, anti-Asian masks to support his campaign. Or people like Senator Kelly Loeffler and Representative Barry Loudermilk of Georgia, who are proudly standing with their state's Marjorie Taylor Greene, the congressional candidate who openly and adamantly supports QAnon and made a series of videos expressing racist, anti-Semitic and anti-Muslim views.

Loeffler accepted Greene's endorsement for her Senate race this month, and Loudermilk has been campaigning with her throughout the fall. Yet their comfort associating with Greene is troubling for different reasons.

Loeffler, who denounced Black Lives Matter and blamed China for Trump's coronavirus diagnosis, is part of the loud Trump-style signaling that is emboldening hate groups. The fact that she believes, like the president, that embracing bigotry is the way to win over the GOP base proves that it has taken root.

Loudermilk, however, may be the more insidious problem. He is a three-term Republican incumbent who appears to have held bigoted views for decades without repercussion. "This idea of America being a multicultural community has served only to dilute our sovereignty and our national identity," he wrote in an article shortly after 9/11. "We are happy with our culture and have no desire to change, and we really don't care how you did things where you came from. We are Americans."

Although Loudermilk's recently resurfaced article drew a fair amount of outrage on social media, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution's politics writers deemed his comments "relatively tame." It seems that compared with QAnon's assertion that Democrats are a "cabal of Satan-worshiping pedophiles," the congressman's bigotry isn't newsworthy.

It makes you wonder: How many more like him are already serving in our government unnoticed?

The media cannot treat these lawmakers and their hateful ideologies like they are no big deal or will be defeated by a presidential election. This is a big deal, whether Trump wins or loses. Loudermilk is a sitting congressman. Loeffler is a sitting senator. Greene will likely be sworn into Congress in January. Twenty-seven QAnon supporters are on the ballot this November.

We cannot turn a blind eye to their bigotry. If we just shrug when our leaders espouse this kind of divisive othering, we will see more hate groups emboldened, more violent acts against racial and religious minorities and perhaps the rise of the next Trump.

Amanda A. Farahany is a civil rights attorney representing individuals in employment cases focused on discrimination and women's issues. Farahany is a fellow in the College of Labor and Employment Lawyers, has been adjunct faculty at Emory School of Law and was a law clerk to the Honorable John Ruffin of the Georgia Court of Appeals.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own.