My next newspaper column:
Last Saturday a call for greatness came from Charlottesville. Trump didn’t answer.
The poisonous racism and 1930s anti-Semitism flaunted at that Nazi, KKK, white-whine rally confirmed the self-evident. Likewise Trump’s cowardly first reaction and the gloating words of Klansman David Duke, characterizing the rally as “fulfilling the promises of Donald Trump.” This is what “take our country back” has always meant, and who Trump really is. None can claim they didn’t know.
In his initial remarks, Trump began, as usual, bragging about the beautiful things happening since his tainted victory, because he hasn’t yet bent downward the trajectory of the Obama recovery. Of the vile hatred, the Heil Hitlers and heil trumps, the Nazi slogans and brandished weapons, Trump’s first thoughts were about Trump.
Then came vapid greeting card words about joining together, followed by refusal to name the marchers, who carried torches he might as well have lit himself. The self-pitying white men, filled with hate for everyone else, simulating manliness by packing armaments: about them, Trump was, in effect, silent.
Two days later, he spoke again. At critical junctures, some presidents’ words soar. His were leaden. Recognizing the need for eloquence and moral clarity, any president worthy of the office would have spoken very differently about Charlottesville. In an archive of orators rising to an occasion, Trump’s page would be blank.
“Very fine people on both sides,” he declared a day after that. No, Donald, only one side. White supremacists and Nazis aren’t fine. These are people who speak of killing Jews and Blacks, who consider them “filth” and “vermin,” Donald. But it’s always been clear your amoral sentiments lie with them. Everyone who voted for you bears responsibility; none can feign surprise. The Gold House has become base camp for the Nazis with whom you have surrounded yourself, and Mecca for the ones who love you for it.
Some Republicans (they knew who he was and voted for him anyway) implored Trump to speak against the horribles basketed in Virginia. It’s almost courageous in today’s Republican Party to condemn racism, and it had an effect. The man whose campaign explicitly encouraged violence and unmistakably dog-whistled racism read some words. Nearly in monotone, unconvincingly. And has been taking them back ever since.
After the car ran down those anti-hate marchers, comments on right-wing websites ran from claims of “false flag” and “self-defense” to disappointment that he hadn’t taken out more protesters. And people defend them. People who email me do. Trump does. People claiming racism is dead, who contend it’s whites who are persecuted.
Trump may not have accomplished much for average citizens (his factually deficient claims notwithstanding), but he’s been hugely successful in finding the bottom of the barrel and dragging us all there. To Donald Trump, journalists and educators are America’s enemies, not the white supremacists and Nazis who put him in office.
If any remain, true conservatives, Christian and otherwise, ought to be carrying torches, too; but up and down Pennsylvania Avenue, forswearing further complicity, apologizing, demanding their party cleanse itself of this stain and disavow his clientele. Liberals who didn’t vote (except the several-hundred-thousand prevented from it by red-state legislation) should admit responsibility, too.
More than any from abroad, home-grown Trump-loving terrorists directly threaten our way of life. Watch interviews from Virginia, and hear them say it, proudly. Fine people, indeed. Excused by the president of the United States. From Trump we can expect only lip-service to American ideals, of which he’s functionally ignorant. He shows no desire to elevate himself, nor the intellect, energy, or even the common sense required by his job, preferring twice-a-day folders of flattery over the demands of leadership. Donald Trump, the putative moral voice of the United States, her image in the eyes of the world, passes time watching Fox “news,” golfing, tweeting, and basking in words of praise unctuously, pathetically, delivered by caterers to his needy narcissism.
Racists and anti-Semites are Trump’s truest base. Under pressure, he rebuked them. For a day. Then he equated hate and anti-hate; implied, in fact, the latter were more violent, worse. Everything that happened in and after Charlottesville was predictable. It’s who he’s always been, and those marchers have always been his people. They’re Trump’s America, the America, as David Duke said, he promised.
By now, if you deny it, you’re blind. Or them.