Day: August 15, 2017

Why Trump can’t dump the alt-right

President Trump in his belated statement yesterday about the events in Charlottesville said:

Racism is evil — and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other hate groups are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans,” Trump said in response to the attacks in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend….Those who spread violence in the name of bigotry strike at the very core of America.
What he didn’t include is critical: he did not denounce the alt-right movement whose platform was Breitbart News, once headed by now White House chief strategist Steve Bannon.

Why did Trump not denounce the alt-right?

He is one of them. Trump is a dyed-in-the-wool white supremacist whose entire career has been committed to preserving white privilege. As a young real estate magnate his company refused to rent to blacks, as a political gadfly he used the “birther” controversy to challenge the first black president’s legitimacy, as a candidate he questioned the ability of a judge to be objective on grounds of supposed national origins, and as president he is now trying to reduce the number of minorities who can immigrate, go to college, get health insurance, and vote. This is a consistent and unequivocal record.

The implications are important. Trump is not afraid of losing alt-right support or offending white supremacists. The number of alt-right voters is irrelevant to him. He is not even afraid of losing Bannon, whom he might well sacrifice in response to building political pressures, as he did Paul Manafort, Michael Flynn, Anthony Scaramucci, and others. What Trump won’t do is abandon the white supremacist program he believes in. It’s not just that the fish rots from the head. The head controls the rest of the body.

This administration is committed to preserving white privilege. The statues of Lee and other Confederates may come down, but the ethnic nationalist ideology will remain.

This has important implications for foreign policy. An administration that won’t defend equal rights at home certainly won’t do it abroad. Nor will it try to protect freedom of speech and the press in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, or the Philippines. It will criticize autocrats only when they are enemies: Venezuela’s Maduro, Iran’s Khamenei, and North Korea’s Kim already know that. Trump’s Secretary of State has been refusing to prepare for a meeting of the Community of Democracies he is supposed to host next month. I wonder why.

Applications for the US Foreign Service have declined precipitously. Many prospective candidates are preferring to go to work for nongovernmental organizations. No doubt the Administration will find sufficient numbers of alt-right sympathizers to fill the reduced numbers required to staff a State Department that Trump has marginalized, correctly fearing that its current staff will find it difficult to implement a foreign policy of alliance with autocrats. Liberals and minorities need not apply. The incoming Foreign Service recruits will no doubt soon look like the White House interns: overwhelmingly white and male.

The first seven months of this administration have been damaging: America’s alliances have weakened, its President is the butt of disrespectful jokes worldwide, and adversaries have grown bolder. I dread what comes next.


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