Monday, March 18, 2019

White supremacy is on the march, and Trump is at least partly to blame

Trump lovers attribute any good news to him. So if he is responsible for everything good that has happened on his watch, he must also be responsible for things like this.

Mon 18 Mar 2019 11.10 EDT
Last modified on Mon 18 Mar 2019 13.21 EDT

Last Friday, after the horrific news had broken that a racist gunman had killed 50 Muslims in Christchurch, New Zealand, a reporter at the White House asked Donald Trump if he believed that white nationalism was a growing threat around the world. “I don’t, really,” Trump responded. “I think it’s a small group of people.”


Well, Trump can deny, Conway can deflect and Mulvaney can repeat his line as often as he likes, but the president’s record speaks louder – much louder – than any of their words. Trump may try to evade the issue, but the fact remains that a dangerous and global white supremacy is on the march, and Trump himself is at least partly to blame.

Consider how, in January 2017, a man stormed a mosque in Quebec City and shot six people dead while they prayed. An ardent Trump supporter, the man said he was afraid that refugees coming to Canada were a threat to him and his family.

The New Zealand shooter scrawled the Quebec City shooter’s name on one of his ammunition cartridges. The New Zealand shooter also directly applauded Trump in his own manifesto. “Were/Are you a supporter of Donald Trump,” the document asks (the two different verb tenses are there presumably because the shooter didn’t know if he would survive his own terrorist attack). “As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure,” he writes. “As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no.” (Because the shooter questioned Trump’s ability to formulate policy doesn’t absolve Trump of anything. It should be clear to anyone that Trump infinitely prefers to play to his base than to govern effectively.)

In fact, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), far-right attacks in Europe have jumped 43% between 2016 and 2017. On the domestic front, the rise is even more disturbing. According to CSIS, the number of terrorist attacks by far-right perpetrators in the United States more than quadrupled between 2016 and 2017.

The intimate connections between the president and white nationalists are well known. I doubt anyone needs to be reminded that the president refused to condemn the white nationalists who marched through the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, in August 2017, screaming such disgusting nonsense as “Jews will not replace us.”


Who can forget that this is the president who stated “I think Islam hates us” during a 2015 CNN interview while on the campaign trail? And who exactly is the “us” in his statement? Using few words, Trump was able to repeat a blatant falsehood about Islam and foment needless and dangerous divisions between peoples. Talk of a Muslim ban (now in effect and routinely tearing families apart) followed, signaling to white nationalists everywhere that Muslims can and ought to be treated differently than everyone else simply for being Muslim. The number of organized anti-Muslim hate groups nearly tripled in 2017, a rise that the Southern Poverty Law Center credited in part to the “incendiary rhetoric” of Trump.


Would anyone then be shocked to learn that hate crimes generally have risen precipitously since Trump appeared on the national political stage? Nationwide, hate crimes across the board rose by 17% in 2017, according to FBI statistics, the third year in a row to see an uptick (2018 numbers are not yet available).

Listing all the winks and nods (and well-paying jobs) that Trump has given to avowed racists would take far too long and be far too depressing an undertaking.


The president – any president – sets the national tone for what is permissible speech and impermissible speech in the political arena. Trump, on the other hand, merely revels in the impermissible.


I often wonder just how stupid these politicians and their cronies think we are (and just as often marvel at how stupid we all too frequently are). Trump, Conway and Mulvaney can deflect, distract and divide us as much as possible, but none of their words can erase the fact that the president is unambiguously connected to this far-right political violence that is sometimes performed with him directly in mind. Let me be clear. Trump is not criminally responsible for these acts. That would be a ludicrous idea. But he is politically responsible, and understanding that distinction will be the first step to rejuvenating our politics.

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