It was hilarious and telling to see No. 45 Trump tweet that he condemns “all that hate stands for” following the racial-fomented violence by white nationalists in Charlottesville, Virginia.
The hilarity is that one would have to reach back to presidential candidate George Wallace in 1964, and maybe toss in GOP presidential candidate Barry Goldwater, to find someone who aspired to sit in the Oval Office who so blatantly, nakedly and shamefully pandered to racial bigots to snatch the office as Trump did. His broadsides against Hispanics, Muslims, immigrants, blacks and women are almost the stuff of political legend. They need not be repeated here.
Now, here’s what’s telling about his supposed condemnation of hate. He carefully and calculatingly did not utter the words “white” and “nationalists” or “alt-right” in his phony denunciation. He did not call out and lambaste any one organization or leader that precipitated the racial violence in Virginia ― and that included the KKK, which brazenly said it would be there. He was certainly not tongue tied when it came to pillorying Black Lives Matter for their alleged racism and egging on violence against police. Even more telling, he lumped the counter protesters against the white nationalists in the same hate mongering boat together.
Trump deftly sent yet another clear signal that when it comes to stoking racial hate and fomenting racial violence, there’s no difference between a white nationalist true believer and those who stand against what they stand for. Then again, Trump is just following a well-worn template that the GOP has used for ages when it comes to a racist crack, dig, slur, or in this case a racist ― and very violent ― march by white racists.
The ploy goes like this: Issue a pious, indignant statement denouncing the racist quip or act while at the same time being careful not to make any connection between the racist actions and the GOP. During the campaign, for instance, Trump refused at first to reject former Klan Kleagle David Duke’s endorsement, nor any other support from the Klan. But he then proceeded to stare down a supporter wearing a Klan-lettered t-shirt at a campaign rally. Trump was simply following the “shame on you for being an open racist but not the racism” script.
Trump learned from the GOP masters on this score. In 2010, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell flatly refused several direct, angled and nuanced efforts to discuss racism in the tea party. McConnell’s none-too-subtle refusal to weigh in on the issue was in direct response to the NAACP’s resolution demanding that the tea party speak out ― and speak out loudly ― against the racists among them. Long before the NAACP stirred debate on tea party racism with its resolution, a legion of Democrats, civil rights leaders, and even an online petition from an advocacy group, had begged the GOP to speak out against its naked bigots.
No go. The GOP would cut its throat if it denounced its racists and racism and really meant it. The shouts, taunts, spitting, catcalls, Obama as Joker posters, n-word slurs, Confederate and Texas Lone Star flag waved by some tea party activists ― and the deafening silence from GOP leaders during Obama’s early years in office ― was and still very much is an indispensable political necessity for the party.
GOP leaders have long known that blue collar and a significant percent of college-educated, white male voters who are professionals can be easily aroused to vote and shout loudly on the emotional wedge issues: abortion, family values, anti-gay marriage and tax cuts. They whipped up their hysteria and borderline racism against the Affordable Care Act ― and, by extension, Obama. These are the very voters that GOP presidents and aspiring presidents ― Nixon, Reagan, Bush Sr. and George W. Bush, McCain and Romney ― and an endless line of GOP governors, senators and congresspersons have banked on for victory and to seize and maintain regional and national political dominance. The GOP banks on them again in 2018 to keep congressional and state offices control.
It’s no coincidence that the “alt-right” and white nationalist movement has become, big, bold, and violent in the last few years. It cut its teeth and honed its attacks on Obama. It then quickly found and latched tightly onto the move by some Southern cities and states to remove the insulting and odious, racist Confederate statutes and monuments and other relics that for a century and a half have rubbed slavery in the face of the nation. Trump is no fool. He knows that politically, the loudmouths who spew “alt-right” garbage have the quiet ear of legions, and those are the exact legions that he and the GOP count as their shock troops to maintain their political edge.