Hillary Clinton did everything but call Donald Trump a racist in her speech today in Reno, Nevada.
She said Trump "built his campaign on prejudice" and pushed "race-baiting, anti-Muslim, and anti-immigrant ideas." She accused Trump of unleashing a "steady stream of bigotry." She attacked him for not caring about or understanding black America, for expressing racial invective toward a Latino judge, and for allying with "racists who now call themselves ‘racialists.’"
It all culminated in one brutal paragraph in which Clinton managed to hit on many of the key themes of her address: "A man with a long history of racial discrimination, who traffics in dark conspiracy theories drawn from the pages of supermarket tabloids and the far reaches of the internet, should never run our government or command our military."
This short passage stitched together so many of Clinton’s main attacks today against the Republican nominee — that Trump’s business career involved racial exploitation; that his worldview is rooted in racist fringe ideas; that he takes cues from wholly disreputable sources; and that all of these characteristics make him unsuited to the most important position in the United States.
It also tied together two parts of Trump — his trafficking in racism and his conspiracy theorizing — that are often discussed as distinct phenomena.
Reporters, including myself, have sometimes written about Trump’s attitudes toward racial and religious minorities as a separate problem from his willingness to imply that Ted Cruz’s father helped assassinate JFK. But one of Clinton’s key contentions today was that these elements of Trumpism are really two sides of the same coin.
The "alt-right" belief that whites are a persecuted minority, she argued, is a conspiracy theory. The idea that Muslims have to be subjected to special treatment and the wild accusation that Hillary Clinton has a secret deadly illness may have entirely different casts. But they ultimately come from the same place — and belong in the same passage.