A CNN panel erupted on Tuesday after a journalist claimed Republicans voters, including parents concerned about curricula on race and gender, were on a “continuum” with White nationalists.
According to a new CNN poll, 61% of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents say the country’s diversity enriches American culture, while 38% consider increased diversity a “threat.”
78% of Republican Americans also said that the country’s values on sexual orientation and gender identity were changing for the worse.
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Speaking to the poll, “CNN Newsroom” host Brianna Keilar asked CNN Senior Political Commentator Scott Jennings whether these numbers would continue to “shoehorn” Republicans into playing “footsie” with White nationalism.
“I totally reject the idea that the Republican Party is based on or playing footsie with or has anything to do with White nationalism. I think that’s completely wrong and you do not have to do anything with it in order to be the Republican nominee,” Jennings responded.
Jennings added that there are “legitimate concerns” raised by Republicans about corporate endeavors and cultural touchstones and rejected the idea that those who oppose aspects of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) are in bed with White nationalism.
“I don’t really accept the premise of that idea,” he said.
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Later in the discussion, The Atlantic Senior Editor Ron Brownstein said that it is a “continuum” and that while most Americans do not accept the tenants of “outright White nationalism,” the Republican coalition is focused on voters who are most “uneasy” about how the country is changing.
Citing statistics on Republican concerns about discrimination against White Americans and men “being punished” for acting masculine, Brownstein said DeSantis is appealing to those anxieties and offering “Trumpism without Trump.”
“The dividing lines between the parties now is not so much economic as it is how you feel about the way the country is changing,” Brownstein added. “That is the fundamental fault line in our politics and it is clear the energy in the Republican Party is for candidates that will express resistance to that in all sorts of ways, from classroom censorship to book bans, to what is happening with LGTQ rights in the red states.”
Brownstein and Jennings then began talking over one another. Jennings said it was “not right” to compare Republican parents with concerns about what is happening in the classroom with White nationalists.
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“It’s just not correct to say, well, I think schools ought to have this kind of curriculum. That doesn’t make you a White nationalist to be concerned about what’s being taught in a school,” he said. “I see you’re trying to link them together but it’s not true.”
Brownstein then insisted they are not the same thing, but it is on a “continuum of concerns” about changes happening in the U.S.
According to several polls, most Americans are concerned about what schools are teaching kids in the classroom.
A Fox News poll from late October found 73% of registered voters were “extremely” or “very” concerned about public school curricula, only outpaced by inflation, political division and healthcare.
A New York Times/Siena poll from a month earlier noted 70% of registered voters strongly or somewhat oppose instruction on sexual orientation and gender identity in elementary school.
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More voters favored the topic being taught to middle schoolers, but still 54 percent opposed public schools teaching grades 6-8 about gender identity and sexual orientation. Even among high schoolers, 42 percent of registered voters opposed instruction about sexual orientation and gender identity.