White Supremacists

President Trump should completely denounce not only white supremacists but the claims made by such groups that they were trying to fulfill “Trump’s promise to America”, according to Richard Wagner

Yes, right now!  Four weeks after the Charlottesville march that turned into a riot, Trump should fully denounce the white supremacists of that march on August 11th.  As the events have unfolded, Trump is certainly tempted to stay the course and continue to denounce “both sides”.  After all, it is true that Antifa did show up to the march and was involved in the violence that took place.  It’s also true that not ALL of the “Unite the Right” protesters were white supremacists.  Furthermore, since that march in Charlottesville, other demonstrations have followed, and Antifa has proven itself to be a violent, radical leftist hate group, as though the evidence weren’t there before.  Even Nancy Pelosi has denounced them.  

While mainstream media has been critical of Trump’s response to the Charlottesville march, many of them, particularly at the Washington Post, have covered the violence by Antifa.  It is a credit to WaPo’s journalistic integrity that they have covered this, and they should continue to do so for the sake of intellectual honesty as well as keeping the people informed about this dangerous movement.

We can’t let Antifa cause us to lose focus

WaPo and several others in mainstream media are doing the right thing by honestly reporting on Antifa’s violence.  However, their reporting has the unfortunate consequence of playing into the hands of white supremacists.  This feeds into the “both sides” narrative that helps too if not legitimize white supremacy, at least makes it more palatable to society.  As Americans, we protect freedom of speech, even for neo-Nazis, but that doesn’t mean that we should refrain from denouncing it completely and reminding our fellow Americans and the world of the enormous crimes against humanity committed in the name of Nazi ideology.  I’m sure I don’t need to recount the history of the Holocaust.

As horrible as Antifa is, they do not pose the same threat to humanity as posed by Nazism, and all of its variations.  In America, we all have freedom of speech, even Nazis.  When Antifa attacks Milo Yiannopoulis fans one day, and Nazis the next; they make it very easy to vilify them, and consequently, make the neo-Nazis are little more palatable to the general public.   

Trump will score no political points by calling out white supremacy now

Had we seen a march in Charlottesville resulting in a clash between neo-Nazis and Black Lives Matter demonstrators, the “both sides” narrative would fall apart.  But thanks to Antifa, Trump has nothing to gain, politically, by calling out the white supremacists.  After all, he already did call them out two days after the march, once he had all of the facts.  And since we know that Antifa is also a violent group that does have a history of attacking people simply for giving controversial speeches, why shouldn’t Trump call out “both sides”?  

In the political landscape, anyone offended by the “both sides” narrative is likely someone who would never support Trump anyway.  The 35-40% of the American public that does support Trump at the very least is willing to tolerate the “both sides” narrative.  And if Trump were to now pick up on the speech he gave that Sunday following the march – remind all of America that regardless of Antifa’s violence, we cannot lose focus on the particular danger posed by the genocidal ideology of Nazism – Trump’s critics would be unimpressed.  They’d likely claim that he was just trying to score political points – too little, too late.

So why should Trump denounce them now?

Trump may see himself as the leader of a movement, and a representative of those forgotten Americans, but he is the President of the United States.  He is President of those forgotten Americans, but he is the President of African Americans, Jewish Americans, LGBT Americans, Latino Americans, the list goes on.  

There’s something seriously wrong when Trump gives a speech denouncing “both sides” and earns the praise of white supremacists.  The white supremacists are used to being denounced, but if they can get “the other side” denounced along with them, that is a victory for them.  

The average Trump supporter is not a neo-Nazi, or a Klansman, or even a neo-confederate.  Some time back I had the privilege of interviewing one of Trump’s most passionate middle-class supporters, Ray Reynolds.  He is much more typical of the average Trump supporter.  He didn’t have all his facts straight, and he certainly was angry about many things that have happened to him and his family, but he is not a hateful man.  From the interview, I got the impression that he’d love to see the “Trump movement” full of people of every color and sexual orientation.  He was proud of his pictures showing “gays for Trump” and “black Christian women for Trump”, etc.

I have no idea what Ray thinks of the Charlottesville riot, and I won’t put words into his mouth.  But I do know that he does not trust mainstream media.  But he does trust Trump.  If people like Ray aren’t already convinced of just how dangerous are these neo-Nazis and their ideology, they will be if Trump makes it very clear, bigly.  Therefore, Trump has a moral obligation to make it clear that while even Nazis have freedom of speech, that’s all they have.  The President should make it clear that white supremacy is not what he promised during the campaign, and it is not what he will deliver.  Trump should do this not to score political points, because he won’t, but simply because it’s what a decent human being in his position would do.

The President’s moral obligation to completely denounce white supremacists

If Trump truly does care about all Americans, this is his chance to prove it.  If he does not, he risks our political climate becoming more hospitable to neo-Nazism.  He risks the emergence of an era where a school child might hear a speech from a civil rights organizer one day, and a speech from a neo-Nazi the next; just so that they can hear “both sides”.  

As President of the United States, Trump should use the bully pulpit to make sure that Nazism is never seen as simply the juxtaposition of civil rights.   If President Trump doesn’t denounce white supremacy right now, he should do so the next time Antifa attacks, causing us to wonder if “both sides” are equally the problem.  If he is a decent human being, then unless he is in serious denial about the danger posed by white supremacy, he can do no less.  

Read also: The History And Future Of ANTIFA

Richard Wagner

Richard Wagner is an Adjunct Professor of Political Science at Florida State College at Jacksonville. He conducts independent study on the American conservative movement and foreign policy. When he is...

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