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Editorial: Can’t ignore consequences of racist campaign rhetoric

For almost a year now, the mainstream media outlets have been asking themselves how this could have happened; “this,” of course, is the popular wave upon which Donald Trump became president. And it’s not his policies they’re talking about, it’s the racist comments he made on the campaign trail and continues to sprinkle about on Twitter.

Very often, the conclusion is that this is a problem in those great flyover states, as a result of too many opioids, and not enough jobs or education, as a desperate mass of people backed an outsider in hopes of improving their own standing. But after the just-concluded election season here in New Jersey, you can’t make the argument anymore that this isn’t a problem here in the Garden State.

In the gubernatorial election, Kim Guadagno distinguished herself with a campaign commercial implying her opponent would have defended and protected the violent gangsters who shot four college students in Newark. In fact, the footage used in the ad was not related to the triple murder, but it certainly stoked fears that Phil Murphy’s “sanctuary state” would make New Jersey a haven for criminals. Local races were even worse — the Edison race for board of education candidates got national attention when a flyer urged voters to “make Edison great again” and placed stamps reading “deport” over the faces of two Asian candidates. Meanwhile, in Hoboken, a city no stranger to bare-knuckle electoral politics, the mayoral race to succeed Dawn Zimmer has featured some horrific stuff, including fliers denoting a shadowy network between one candidate and a group of unnamed-but-sinister-looking crime boss people, and a repurposed flyer with the words “Don’t let terrorism take over our town” above a photo of the race’s only Sikh candidate.

Who cares, though? Isn’t this just more of the same stuff that pokes its head out every November, only to retreat when the ballots have been cast? Sorry, but no; elections, as CNN and the rest will tell you, have definite consequences. By ignoring this kind of talk, we risk real consequences in our state and in our communities — especially to our businesses, which can ill afford such hostility to minorities in an overwhelmingly diverse region. This is clearly a problem in New Jersey, and until we have a serious dialog about it, residents should be careful about turning their noses up at their neighbors in the Midwest.

The elections may be over, but the problem is not. We hope the victors appreciate the gravity of the situation and work to confront these dreadful attitudes.

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