President Donald Trump blew yet another dog whistle to his support base of racists when he called for the death penalty for drug dealers at a Pennsylvania rally over the weekend.
Trump called the option to pursue the death penalty for drug dealers "a discussion we have to start thinking about."
"Do you think the drug dealers who kill thousands of people during their lifetime, do you think they care who's on a blue-ribbon committee?" he asked the crowd on Saturday night. "The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness. When you catch a drug dealer, you've got to put him away for a long time."
Trump was in Pennsylvania rallying for Rep. Rick Saccone, a Republican seeking a seat in Congress during a special election this week.
According to Trump, drug dealers "kill 5,000 people with drugs because you're smuggling them in and you're making a lot of money and people are dying."
"That's why we have a problem, folks. I don't think we should play games," he went on. "Now, I never did polling on that — I don't know if that's popular, I don't know if that's unpopular. ... But these people are killing our kids and they're killing our families, and we have to do something. We can't just keep setting up blue-ribbon committees with your wife and your wife and your husband, and they meet and they have a meal and they talk, talk talk talk, two hours later, then they write a report."
Trump's attack on Rep. Maxine Waters, who in the same speech he said has a low I.Q., was a much more straightforward to his racist support base. But it doesn't take much to read between the lines on his drug dealer comments, either, as they follow a pattern for the president.
Trump's racist views precede his presidency. He for years has questioned whether former President Barack Obama was born in the United States or not, fueling the unfounded "birther" movement. An archive of Trump's tweets includes at least 85 where he references the "birther movement," dating back to 2011. (In 2012 he chose to tweet about it on the anniversary of Sept. 11 — twice.)
In 1989 Trump publicly called for the death of five Black and Latino teens who were wrongly accused of raping a white woman. The teens, dubbed the Central Park Five, were the subject of four full-page ads Trump placed in New York City's daily newspapers. He spent $85,000 on the ads and wrote, "Muggers and murderers should be forced to suffer and, when they kill, they should be executed for their crimes."
So where do the drug dealer comments fit in? Data has shown that Black people in America are more likely to be arrested for drug-related crimes than white people — even though, statistically, they use drugs at similar rates, and whites are more likely to sell drugs. And this trend is not new. A study from the Brookings Institution in 2014 reported:
"Whites were about 45 percent more likely than blacks to sell drugs in 1980, according to an analysis of the National Longitudinal Survey of Youth by economist Robert Fairlie. This was consistent with a 1989 survey of youth in Boston. My own analysis of data from the 2012 National Survey on Drug Use and Health shows that 6.6 percent of white adolescents and young adults (aged 12 to 25) sold drugs, compared to just 5.0 percent of blacks (a 32 percent difference).
"As for drug use, just 10 percent of blacks report using illegal drugs within the last month, which is not statistically different than the rate for whites."
A report from the National Research Council reached similar findings.
"… the prevalence of drug use is only slightly higher among blacks than whites for some illicit drugs and slightly lower for others; the difference is not substantial. There is also little evidence, when all drug types are considered, that blacks sell drugs more often than whites."
The gap has closed slightly since the 1980s, but not because Black sellers are being arrested less often. There has just been a stronger focus on marijuana arrests, which more often involve white people. "Absolute numbers of blacks arrested for trafficking in cocaine and heroin have not fallen significantly; they simply make up a smaller percentage of overall arrest numbers that are rising," the research states.
A 2016 analysis from Politifact found that Blacks go to prison more often because they're more likely to get caught — for two reasons.
"They're more likely to get caught selling drugs, as Michael Tonry, professor of law at the University of Minnesota, told us back in February. 'Whites are more likely to sell to people they know, and they much more often sell behind closed doors. Blacks sell to people they don't know and in public, which makes them vastly easier to arrest.'
"Blacks arrested for drugs are more likely to be sent to jail because they're more likely to have had a previous run-in with the law. Police tend to patrol high-crime areas more aggressively, which tend to be the poor areas, which have a higher proportion of minorities. Thus, they're more likely to be stopped for something and have a rap sheet once a drug charge comes along."
An earlier investigation found that Blacks tend to have longer prison sentences than whites.
This was not the first time Trump called for the death penalty for drug-related crimes, making a similar claim earlier this month in light of the opioid crisis.