August 16, 2016
The White House
President Donald Trump’s inauguration promise that “the American carnage stops right here and stops right now” has proven to be horribly misguided. In fact, after this weekend’s events, it seems impossible to disassociate the president from the violence he claimed was so rampant.
This weekend, white supremacists descended upon Charlottesville, Virginia to protest the removal of a statue of Robert E. Lee. Their violent protest ended in the death of Heather Heyer, an activist involved with the weekend’s counterprotest. Heyer was killed after James Fields rammed his car into a group of counterprotestors in an act that can only be described as an act of domestic terror.
President Trump garnered criticism over the weekend, as his slow and lukewarm response to the events in Charlottesville did not condemn the extremists in strong enough language. He condemned violence on “many sides,” refusing to commit to denouncing the cause and action of openly white supremacists, white nationalists and neo Nazi groups.
He attempted to reverse course this past Monday, saying “Racism is evil—and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists.” But this stance was short-lived. During a press conference outside Trump Tower on Tuesday, Trump returned to his initial statement that violence came from many sides.
“You had a group on one side that was bad and you had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say it, but I will say it right now,” the president said, after he was questioned about why it took him so long to explicitly condemn the white supremacist groups responsible for Charlottesville.
The president went on to claim that he was sure there were “very fine people” in the ranks with the hate groups protesting the statue removal, and even expressed tacit support for their cause. “Where does it stop?” the president asked about the removal of statues dedicated to the confederacy.
Whether or not he knows it, the president on Tuesday has aligned himself with these fringe groups of white supremacist extremists. The KKK’s former grand wizard David Duke thanked the president on Twitter on Tuesday for his apparent support. “Thank you President Trump,” he wrote, “for your honesty and courage to tell the truth about #Charlottesville & condemn the leftist terrorists.”
Duke was present at Saturday’s march, along with another major white supremacist, the National Policy Institute’s Richard Spencer. Spencer also expressed support of the President’s unhinged remarks on Tuesday. “Trump’s statement was down to Earth and fair,” he said.
The president is no stranger to strong language and remarks. He’s continuously lambasted members of Congress, daytime television hosts, and disabled reporters.
Trump’s campaign was run on xenophobic rhetoric and racial fear. He attacked Mexican immigrants. He’s consistently referred to Chicago’s African American communities as war zones. Throughout his campaign, Trump portrayed America as lawless and on the verge of slipping into anarchy, but he was surprisingly at a loss for strong words, when his vision came close to encroaching on the White House doorsteps.
On Pod Save the People, Governor McAuliffe mentioned that some of the militia groups involved with the Unite the Right protest had stored weapons caches throughout the city, had “battering rams and we [Virginia officials] had picked up different weapons that they had stashed around the city.”
This is a frightening new reality, one that a president who has spoken in such jeremiad language is silent on. Trump’s slow condemnation of white supremacists, and his eventual retraction, then reversal to his original stand on the white nationalists as victims, solidifies an image of Trump that has been present since the beginning of the campaign. However, in the wake of the protest and domestic terrorism and murder of a young woman, Trump has made it clear that his loyalties lies with xenophobic and racist groups that even members of his Republican party have quickly and loudly denounced as shameful and un-American.