“Sieg heil,” “White Lives Matter,” “Jews will not replace us,” and “blood and soil” — a translation of the Nazi slogan “blut und boden” — were among the chants heard from the crowd at the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia over the weekend.
When white nationalist leader Richard Spencer mocked Charlottesville’s Jewish mayor, Mike Signer, calling him a “little creep,” the crowd responded by chanting, “Jew, Jew, Jew.”
White supremacists and neo-Nazis clashed with counter protesters, who were there to stand up to their message of hate. A black man was beaten with poles by a group of white racists in a parking garage. One woman was killed — and 19 more injured — when a young Nazi sympathizer and white supremacist from Ohio plowed his car into a crowd of the counter protesters and then sped away.
And former KKK leader David Duke, speaking to TV reporters, touted his movement’s support for Trump and called the rally a “turning point” in the effort to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”
And that’s what’s really at the heart of all of this — Donald Trump and his emboldening of white supremacists and other bigots throughout both his campaign and his presidency.
White supremacists cheered Trump’s initial response at a press conference to the events in Charlottesville, when he condemned hatred “on many sides” but refused to mention the white supremacists behind the rally, even when repeatedly given the chance by reporters. True to form, he made sure to try to absolve himself of all responsibility by noting that the hatred “has been going on for a long, long time.”
“No condemnation at all,” the neo-Nazi blog Daily Stormer wrote. “When asked to condemn, [Trump] just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
John Oliver hit the nail on the head when on Sunday night he noted, “Nazis are a lot like cats. If they like you, it’s probably because you’re feeding them.”
Some of his most committed and passionate supporters — since early in his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination — have been white supremacists and “Alt-Right” activists. And Trump is better at nothing than feeding the worst instincts of his electoral base.
On Twitter, Sen. Corey Gardner (R-CO) said, “Mr. President — we must call evil by its name. These were white supremacists and this was domestic terrorism.”
And House Speaker Paul Ryan called the views of the neo-Nazi and white nationalists on display in Charlotte “repugnant” and also rightly called their acts of violence “terrorism.”
But many in the Twittersphere were not shy about calling out the rank hypocrisy of the party behind racial gerrymandering and other race-targeted voter suppression … the party that has consistently stood by Trump has he has courted racists, attacked minority communities, and populated his own White House with the likes of his senior adviser Steve Bannon, who famously called his Breitbart website the “platform for the Alt-Right.”
Words matter, but action matters more.
Of course, today Trump buckled to the tremendous public pressure and denounced racism as “evil” and white supremacists and neo-Nazis as “criminals and thugs.” But again, those are just words.
Trump employs white nationalists in his own White House — they’re among his closest advisers. There’s Bannon, but there’s also Sebastian Gorka, who frequently appears on TV as a Trump surrogate and who has been affiliated with actual neo-Nazi groups in Europe. And there’s Stephen Miller, whose meteoric rise to the top of the professional Right was fueled by the politics of extreme white resentment. Miller was also friendly with aforementioned white supremacist leader Richard Spencer, who attended Duke at the same time he did.
If Trump was truly serious about disavowing white supremacists — and, perhaps more importantly, white supremacy — he would end his efforts to ban Muslims from entering the US. He would cease his fear-mongering attacks on Latino and other immigrants. He would dissolve his so-called ‘Election Integrity’ commission and rein in other right-wing voter suppression efforts. He would instruct his Department of Justice to stand up for civil rights instead of actively working to undermine them. And he would fire the white nationalists he has working for him in his administration. Don’t count on any of it.
If Trump was serious about combating the “hate” he has spent the past few days tweeting about, he would also abandon his attacks on transgender Americans — whom, with his attempted military ban and news today that his administration will roll back important protections for trans people in Obamacare, Trump seems to be making his new favorite political punching bag.
And if Republican members of Congress are serious about their own condemnations of hate, it’s time for them to demand these things of Trump immediately — or immediately stop defending and supporting him.
David Duke called Charlottesville a “turning point.” It should be a turning point. But not one that further emboldens and empowers the forces of hate. It should be the opportunity finally taken by Trump and the GOP to end, once and for all, their kowtowing to bigots.
With the escalation in hate crimes since Trump’s election — from sometimes fatal violence towards religious and racial minorities to appalling displays of white nationalism and out-of-control Nazi rallies — it is clear that Steve Bannon, Seb Gorka, and Stephen Miller do not belong in the White House. It’s time for Trump to take real action and fire these men, who bring explicit white nationalist ideologies into the Oval Office. Sign the petition now.