The problem is that they can't call Trump racist because they're vulnerable to the same charge—they're white. Sanders comes from the Whitopian state of Vermont, and his base is as white as Trump's is. [Angry White Males Propel Donald Trump–and Bernie Sanders, by Gerald F. Seib, Wall Street Journal, March 8, 2016]As for Hillary, in 2001, in an article making the point that anyone could be called racist, even if they were incredibly liberal, I pointed out that one of the liberals who'd been called racist was Senate candidate Hillary Clinton, because she supported the Clinton Administration's “putatively tough and essentially racist initiatives on criminal justice.”That was a quote from Hillary’s No Liberal, By Wendy Kaminer, The Nation, July 22, 1999. More than fifteen years later, the Nation is saying the same thing, but this time it's black activist Michelle Alexander writing it: Why Hillary Clinton Doesn’t Deserve the Black Vote | From the crime bill to welfare reform, policies Bill Clinton enacted—and Hillary Clinton supported—decimated black America, By Michelle Alexander, February 10, 2016.They're probably afraid to call Trump racist for fear that he'll throw it back at them—he always does.
At tonight’s Democratic debate on Univision, moderator Karen Tumulty asked both candidates—point blank—whether or not they believed that noted racist Donald Trump was, in fact, a racist. The candidates’ collective response: Welllll.......More specifically, Hillary began her answer by declaring that, should she be nominated, there will be plenty of time “to talk about [Trump]. I was the first one to call him out. I called him out when he was calling Mexicans rapists. When he was engaging in rhetoric that I found deeply offensive, I said basta.” (See what she did there?)Except—that’s not exactly what happened. Last summer, when we still had the capacity to be shocked by Trump’s xenophobic and bigoted rhetoric, Hillary noted that she was “very disappointed.” Which while certainly a condemnation, doesn’t pack the same punch as, say, publicly declaring that the objective racist is being racist.Clinton wasn’t alone. Bernie Sanders also demurred at the question, saying, “This is what I think. I think that the American people are never going to elect a president who insults Mexicans, who insults Muslims, who insults women, who insults African-Americans.” Sanders then referred back to Trump’s time pushing the anti-Obama birther narrative, but never actually answered the question.The best reason I can think of for refusing to answer is an attempt at portraying some sense of civility. But the candidates’ refusal to explicitly call out Trump for his dangerous, virulent racism doesn’t make them sound noble by any means. It makes them sound like cowards.