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OPINION: Racist attacks will be a core component of the 2022 GOP midterm strategy, and we should all brace ourselves for what’s to come.

Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.

Republicans truly hate Black women, and there’s no shortage of evidence. Every Black woman who watched the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for incoming Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson could relate to each and every pause, deep sigh, head tilt and adjustment she made to her eyeglasses as Republican senators turned red in the face from taking turns berating and screaming over her for 20-plus hours as she tried to respond to their ill-intentioned lines of questioning. Black women felt all of this disrespect deeply, and the general public even disapproved of Republicans’ racist clown show, with 52 percent of the country giving Republicans negative reviews. But sadly, this display was simply a warm-up act for the GOP’s 2022 midterm strategy. 

Now, Republicans are pivoting to slandering and disparaging Black women candidates as a core part of their 2022 platform. Most recently, Governor Ron DeSantis chose to compare Stacey Abrams to Castro during a recent press conference near the Florida-Georgia border. 

“If Stacey Abrams is elected governor of Georgia, I just want to be honest, that will be a cold war between Florida and Georgia at that point. I mean, I can’t have Castro to my south and Abrams to my north, that’d be a disaster. So I hope you guys take care of that, and we’ll end up in good shape,” Governor DeSantis said.

This ignorant statement from Governor DeSantis only emphasizes his racist, crass perspective and inept leadership, so much so that I had to do a double take while reading the transcript from the press event. And what came next was straight out of the weak playbook of, “But it was only a light-hearted joke,” as DeSantis’ press secretary downplayed the comments, saying, “The governor was simply making an analogy to the stark ideological differences that underpinned the Cold War.”

But we all know what is actually happening here. By attempting to connect Stacey Abrams to any Castro—even though there is not a Castro currently in power in Cuba—DeSantis is doing his best to appeal to right-wing extremists and Cuban-American communities—one segment of the broader Latino population that has been trending more Republican in recent elections. DeSantis is also leaning into derogatory attacks on a Black woman that rely on the age-old racist GOP tactic of painting Black women in the complex role of being threatening while also being less than, simply because we exist in our bodies with our Black skin. 

Georgia gubernatorial Democratic candidate Stacey Abrams speaks during a campaign rally on March 14, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images)

Some of the best-known classics from Republicans include the mammy trope, the welfare queen stereotype, and, of course, the entire Southern Strategy that was built on white supremacy. More recent hits from the Grand Old Party include Trump’s direct attacks on Congresswomen like Ayanna Pressley and Ilhan Omar and Republican efforts to categorize Maxine Waters as an angry Black woman. And we can’t forget the full-scale racist and misogynistic propaganda and misinformation campaign against Vice President Kamala Harris throughout the 2020 presidential campaign, where Republicans pumped out lie after lie about her prosecutorial record, her family history and her identity as a Black and South Asian woman. 

Considering that Republicans typically reserve these attacks for the most effective and effervescent Black women, there is no denying that DeSantis is threatened by Abrams, just as Senate Republicans were threatened by the first Black woman who will ascend to the highest court in the land. Their disgusting behavior merely reiterates their collective fear of powerful Black women who will not be deterred by white supremacy. Moreover, DeSantis is also emphasizing his fear of being compared to Abrams as potential governors of neighboring states where she will undoubtedly eclipse him with her competent, responsive and people-driven leadership style if she is elected in November.  

Racist attacks are a core component of the 2022 Republican midterm strategy, and we should all brace ourselves for more of these attacks as the margins continue to close in the Georgia gubernatorial race, and I assure you these attacks won’t be isolated to Abrams in Georgia. DeSantis and Florida Republicans will absolutely try this same approach with Rep. Val Demings, a Democratic candidate who is looking to unseat Republican Senator Marco Rubio. And get ready for more of the same from Republicans in North Carolina against Former North Carolina Supreme Court Justice Cheri Beasley in her own U.S. Senate bid. As the unofficial Republican campaign platform consists of anti-Black, anti-American history and cultural attacks, they’ve created the perfect runway for their candidates—and their supporters—to continue to spew hatred towards Black women.

Juanita Tolliver

Juanita Tolliver is a veteran political strategist and MSNBC Political Analyst who previously served as National Political Director at Supermajority and Director of Campaigns at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter: @juanitatolliver.

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