On many sides
By now, most have recognized the egregiously offensive statement President Trump made yesterday about the Charlottesville melee and subsequent vehicle attack. He said:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides. It’s been going on for a long time in our country. Not Donald Trump, not Barack Obama. This has been going on for a long, long time.
This equated white supremacists and Fascist sympathizers with the counter-protesters. The neo-Nazi Daily Stormer commented:
Trump comments were good. He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us.
He said that we need to study why people are so angry, and implied that there was hate… on both sides!
So he implied the antifa are haters.
There was virtually no counter-signaling of us at all.
He said he loves us all.
Also refused to answer a question about White Nationalists supporting him.
No condemnation at all.
When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room.
Really, really good.
God bless him.
Unfortunately, some are attributing Trump’s obtuse statement to ignorance. They suggest he just doesn’t understand enough American history to appreciate that white supremacists are racists and Nazi sympathizers are authoritarians and anti-Semites.
This is profoundly wrong. Trump knows who the people carrying those flags are, and he personally sympathizes with their views. His dog whistle appeals to racism during the campaign–“where is my black guy?” “what have you got to lose?”–and his behavior since taking office are unequivocal. He is trying to reduce the number of disadvantaged minorities voting, getting into college, and entering the US. He wants to increase taxes on them and deprive them of health insurance. He wants to reduce government benefits that go disproportionately to minorities. Nothing of consequence that Trump has done since gaining office is focused on responding to minority grievances or ensuring them equal protection of the law.
Some will counter by asking how he can be an anti-Semite and at the same time be so protective and trusting of his Jewish daughter and son-in-law? Not to mention his coterie of Jewish lawyers. After all, Stephen Miller of “cosmopolitan” fame is Jewish. My short answer is this: many anti-Semites have favorite Jews and are not above using them to serve their own interests. Some even think Jews smarter than other people, or at least cleverer. What is more useful to Trump than Jews who do not object to his white supremacist supporters? Besides, Trump knows that so long as he stays on the good side of the neo-Nazis, they won’t target his family or his loyal Jewish advisers.
Trump’s effort to appear objective and balanced by referring to “many sides” failed miserably. But we shouldn’t imagine that if only he knew a bit more history he would not make such a mistake. It was not a mistake, but a reflection of where this president locates himself on the political spectrum: he is way over to the white supremacist wing, which most of us thought no longer capable of flapping. We were wrong.