WASHINGTON – A couple of weeks ago, I wrote: “Let’s not mince words, Donald Trump is a bigot and a racist.”
I cited a long list of incidents in which he targeted women, Latinos, African-Americans, Muslims, Asians and the disabled. Here’s what I heard back from Trump’s defenders:
“Let’s not mince words,” somebody tweeted under the name Helios Megistos. “Milbank is an anti-white parasite and a bigoted kike supremacist.”
Trump “may well be a bigot and a racist,” one Michael Banfield wrote me via email. “But one thing is certain: The only thing missing from your photo is a [vulgar word for penis] in your mouth, gay bastard.”
Various Trump defenders derided Muslims as “Muzzies” and “Mo-slimes.” One reader informed me that “Muslims worship a man who f––- a 9-year-old.” They spoke of the “sociopath Hussein” – President Obama – and his “Islamic butt buddies.” But mostly they zeroed in on my Judaism, which they discovered from Internet searches. “You are a kike communist,” one informed me. Another called my girlfriend, who has a common Jewish surname, a “Gross Jewess.”
One of the Trump defenders declared that I am “loyal to a foreign state”; he linked to a column I wrote about a Jewish ritual I undertook with my infant daughter. Wrote still another: “Jews are 2 percent of the population, but 60 percent of the people calling whites ‘racist.’ Once you notice it, you can’t unsee it.”
The Twitterverse, and social media generally, can be dark places, as can the comments section of Washington Post articles, and my email inbox. This is the seventh presidential campaign I’ve covered in some form over 25 years, and harsh criticism comes with the territory. But the Trump backers’ venom is without precedent. His supporters surely aren’t all bigots – but he is bringing the bigoted in from the cold.
There is an obvious truth to what white nationalist publisher Jared Taylor told The New Yorker this summer: Trump’s “support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.”
I write this not out of any hope of changing the minds of Trump backers, nor to reinforce the prevailing view among liberals that Trump has unleashed ugliness. I write this to conservatives of conscience: Is this what you want conservatism, the Republican Party and America to be?
My Post colleagues Carol Leonnig and David Nakamura and others have documented the racial violence at Trump rallies, including the video of Trump’s personal bodyguard punching an immigration demonstrator in the head. At a Trump event in Las Vegas last week, a Black Lives Matter demonstrator was dragged from the rally as Trump supporters shouted at him: “Kick his ass!” “Shoot him!” and “Sieg Heil!” As one black protester was being removed by security guards, one of those in the crowd shouted: “Light the mother-f–-er” on fire.” As another protester was dragged away, a man screamed: “He’s a Muslim!”
The Post’s Stephanie McCrummen wrote a powerful piece the other day about a Trump rally near Phoenix where a young man shouted “mother-f–-ing tacos – go back to Mexico” at two Latino protesters – and a 70-year-old retiree sucker-punched a demonstrator.
And where is the condemnation of this behavior? At last week’s Las Vegas debate, Trump’s rivals all but ignored the front-runner, who previously said of a black protestor at his event: “Maybe he should have been roughed up.” Trump is burning down the Republican house, and the American house, yet his rivals are on a march of the narcissists.
If Marco Rubio, Chris Christie, Jeb Bush, John Kasich and other sensible candidates were to unite behind any one of them, that person could likely beat Trump, and Ted Cruz. Instead, enabled by new campaign-finance rules that keep even weak candidates flush, they fight only for themselves.
It’s easy to mock the Trump backers. They write “your a damn lier” and complain that I use “the words bigot and raciest” and am “striping the context out of every statement” in my “New York Times” column. One Keith Terry Diggs called me “Dana FAGGETT Milbank.”
Of more concern are the allegations that, because I’ve condemned Trump, I’m an “Israel first” believer with a “one-inch deep” loyalty to America; that I’m “a mentally ill anti-white pariah & American traitor”; and that as a Jew I think “Christians are to be destroyed as idolators” and that Jews want to “wipe out the Christians and get control of their gold.”
Is this what Republicans stand for? Is this conservatism?
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.