What Happens When You Pander to Racists: Charlottesville

Alan Zendell, August 12, 2017

As the 2016 election campaign began to illuminate the deep divisions in our country, many of us were shocked and horrified. No one was naïve enough to think that racism and bigotry had gone the way of scourges like polio and smallpox, but the fact that it continued to exist in such numbers and with a hate index not seen in decades was a wake-up call.

Trump’s attack on Muslim and Hispanic immigrants was designed to ignite fear, anger, and xenophobia, and it worked. Whatever Trump’s intentions were, it worked over a much broader spectrum than anyone anticipated. Like electricity arcing over a space between two exposed wires, it was an easy leap from hating Muslims and all those alleged Mexican rapists, murderers, and drug dealers to unearthing the hate groups that make up the Alt-Right White Supremacist Movement.

Most observers don’t think Trump is a racist. He’s worse, a shameless, unscrupulous panderer desperately looking for love in all the wrong places, and as everyone who listens to country music knows, that never ends well. Trump loves churning things up, generally not either having a clue or giving a damn about unintended consequences. When everyone’s favorite hatemonger, David Dukes endorsed Trump, and reporters asked if he would accept Dukes’ support, Trump equivocated, unable to make himself condemn backing from hate groups that he might need to win the election. His eventual rejection of Dukes, delivered under enormous pressure, was so lame, only his diehard supporters believed it.

What many have feared since the day Trump came on the scene was that his populist bombast would legitimize every fringe group and nut job to come out from the rocks they were living under. Elevating Steve Bannon to the position of senior presidential adviser was tantamount to providing an incubator for the despicable Alt-Right movement, which has been the driving force of Trump’s first two hundred days in office. The Alt-Right agenda is directly or indirectly responsible for his legislative failures and deteriorating popularity. Everyone outside his rabid base can smell the rancid odor of the maggots eating away at our values.

All this came to a head today in Charlottesville, Virginia. White Supremacists, energized by Trump’s continuing to throw red meat to his base, had been planning their weekend rally there for months, to protest a decision to remove a statue of Robert E. Lee from a city park. This was no spontaneous demonstration, but a carefully organized coming together of dozens of hate groups. Gone were the hoods that hid their faces – with Trump as president they were proud to show themselves on live TV.

And there was none other than David Dukes marching and instigating. If there was any doubt that today’s demonstration was a direct result of Donald Trump’s dysfunction as president, Duke’s words eliminated it. I and many other heard him with our own ears:

“This represents a turning point for the people of this country. We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to ‘take our country back’.”

And how did Trump react? Hours after the White Supremacist rally on and near the University of Virginia campus erupted into violence, causing Governor Terry Mcauliffe to declare the demonstration an illegal assembly, declare a state of emergency, and call out the National Guard to assist police, where was the president who was so fond of tweeting in real time to interviews on cable news? Civic leaders, office holders, even a Republican Congresswoman declared that a statement from the president was absolutely necessary.

At 1:14 pm, Trump finally tweeted: “We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets come together as one!”

Not one mention of the reason for the violence. Not a word about David Dukes. Not even a suggestion that all this was provoked by White Supremacists. I guess he thought it was just a bunch of unruly kids fighting in the school yard.

Two hours later, our president made a televised speech with a brief detour about Charlottesvile. Again he addressed the issue as if it were a brawl among unruly kids. Really? Does he really not understand that it was he who emboldened the White Supremacists who caused all this? He said there was too much hate on all sides. No, Mister President. All the hate was on one side, the side you pandered to, to get elected.

His base claims he was too busy meeting with his advisers over North Korea, though he somehow found the time to threaten Venezuela with sanctions and military action. Seriously, I have to ask. What’s more likely to bring America down, an out of control dictator in North Korea or nurturing the seeds of hate and discord among our own people? If you’re not sure, ask Vladimir Putin. If you’re still not sure, I direct your attention to the Civil War, which nearly destroyed us, for many of the same reasons.

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4 Responses to What Happens When You Pander to Racists: Charlottesville

  1. A. L. Kaplan says:

    I’m glad Trump finally spoke out against hat, but on a Tweet?! He should have been speaking live to all Americans, not just those on Twitter. He should have condemned the violence for all the world to see instead of hiding behind a faceless electronic screen.

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