Tallahassee Mayor Andrew Gillumâ€™s victory in the Democratic primary for Florida governor wasnâ€™t even 12 hours old when his Republican challenger, Rep. Ron DeSantis, hurled a few race cards into the general-election campaign. Of course, he did this during an interview on Fox News, that safe space for conservatives to wallow in demeaning stereotypes and petty grievances.
â€śLetâ€™s build off the success weâ€™ve had on Gov. (Rick) Scott,â€ť DeSantis said. â€śThe last thing we need to do is to monkey this up by trying to embrace a socialist agenda with huge tax increases and bankrupting the state.â€ť
The obvious slur here is â€śmonkey this up.â€ť Likening African-Americans to monkeys, apes and chimps is a racist pastime. Since slavery, blacks were seen as not human or less than human. And lest you think that is a relic of some shameful past, remember that former president Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle Obama, were depicted in this manner throughout their eight years in the White House.
And DeSantis was already dog-whistling mere seconds before he went full bullhorn:
â€ś(Gillum) is an articulate spokesman for those far-left views. And heâ€™s a charismatic candidate. I watched those Democrat debates. None of that was my cup of tea, but, I mean, he performed better than the other people there.â€ť
Ask any African-Americans how they feel about being called â€śarticulate.â€ť I hate it. â€śOh, youâ€™re so articulate!â€ť â€śYouâ€™re so well-spoken!â€ť Iâ€™ve heard it since my days at mostly white schools in New Jersey. It has been said to me in surprised, wondrous tones. The silent finish to what the speaker believes is a compliment â€śfor a black personâ€ť - as if the outward manifestation of my education was some miracle, instead of the same hard work they or their children put in. Most folks probably donâ€™t even realize that what they are saying to us is incredibly offensive. Those who do are deplorable to begin with.
The other ugly DeSantis utterance was â€śperformed.â€ť For certain people, the one thing - maybe the only thing - blacks excel at is performing, entertaining other people. Unless youâ€™re in the same line of work as Beyonce or Jay-Z, the â€ścomplimentâ€ť is as dismissive as it is patronizing.
Bare-knuckled talk is nothing new in politics. But when the president of the United States is a low-brow brawler whose ongoing rhetorical descent started when he kicked off his campaign by calling Mexicans â€śrapists,â€ť brazen is the fitting word to describe Republicans seeking high office these days. Or even radio hosts.
Where Gillum â€śperformedâ€ť well was at the ballot box on Tuesday, which was no accident. That was by design. If you listened to my interview with the mayor back in June, you learned who he was and what he was trying to do. You knew it was a long-shot, but you werenâ€™t nearly as surprised by his victory as the rest of the country. And what has been nearly as offensive as DeSantisâ€™ race-baiting has been the simplistic coverage of Gillumâ€™s victory. Actually, it has been lazy.
Jonathan Capehart is a member of The Post editorial board, writes for the PostPartisan blog and is host of the â€śCape Upâ€ť podcast.