By now, I’m sure a petulant President Donald Trump is wondering why most Americans – not just members of the “fake news media” – aren’t more grateful.
He did what everyone wanted, after all. On Monday, he condemned the white supremacists who marched into Charlottesville, Va., over the weekend, bringing their tiki torches and bats and inciting a bunch of brawls that ended in a woman’s death.
“Racism is evil,” Trump said from the White House, reciting a prepared statement that he clearly didn’t want to read. “And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans.”
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Sure, it took three days to state the obvious, but who’s counting? And sure, it only took a day for him to double down on his defense of Nazi sympathizers, instead blaming the “alt-left” counterprotesters for being “very, very violent.”
“Many of those people were there to protest the taking down of the statue of Robert E. Lee,” Trump said on Tuesday. “This week, it is Robert E. Lee and this week, Stonewall Jackson. Is it George Washington next? You have to ask yourself, where does it stop?”
How brave of Trump! How presidential!
In all seriousness, you know things are bad when the job of righting the country’s moral compass has fallen to GoDaddy, a web hosting company known for sexist ads that evicted the far-right website, the Daily Stormer, from its servers; U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions, who is all about investigating “reverse racism” in college admissions, but has vowed to pursue domestic terrorism charges in the “unacceptable evil attack” in Charlottesville; and Kenneth Frazier, the CEO of drug giant Merck, who quit Trump’s American Manufacturing Council over the president’s lukewarm response to the violence. Other CEOs have done the same this week.
They all tried to fill the vacuum that Trump left behind, while he was busy putting out mealy-mouthed statements about “hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides” and weighing whether to to throw his far-right base under the bus.
As if James Alex Fields Jr., an Ohio man charged in the death of Heather D. Heyer after ramming his car into a crowd of people on Saturday, is worth protecting. He’s reportedly obsessed with Nazis.
The United States needs more.
Leadership matters, and the president’s obvious reluctance to call out blatant, racially based hatred when he sees it has left a gaping hole that white supremacists have been all too happy to fill.
You can see it in the rise of hate crimes and incidents of domestic terrorism.
Between 2008 and 2016, 115 violent acts were perpetrated by right-wing extremists, nearly double the number by Islamic extremists, according to the Investigative Fund at The Nation Institute and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting.
Partisan politics aside, this should worry every American – even in California, which ranks No. 1 in the country for hate groups, with 79 of them.
So it’s not surprising that Stanislaus County resident Nathan Damigo, the founder of Identity Evropa, is being credited with helping lead the chaos in Charlottesville. Then there’s the guy, Cole White, who got fired from his job at Top Dog restaurant in Berkeley when word got out about him marching with a tiki torch. And a coalition of neo-Nazis from the Golden State, called the Rise Above Movement, descended on Virginia, too. I assume they’re coming home.
Even in Sacramento, it wasn’t all that long ago that we had our own brawl on the steps of the Capitol. A rally organized by the Traditionalist Worker Party and the Golden State Skinheads in support of then-candidate Trump turned violent after hundreds of anti-fascist counterprotesters showed up. At least people were 14 injured.
In Trump, the country doesn’t have the president with the kind of selfless wherewithal needed to turn down the temperature and avert future violence. Instead, we have a president who is concerned with himself and his grievances.
For proof, just look at his Monday afternoon tweet: “Made additional remarks on Charlottesville and realize once again that the #Fake News Media will never be satisfied...truly bad people!”
Trump doesn’t seem to care that he’s leading a country that’s beginning to look more and more like California, and that some white people are scared and angry about being scared. Or that such emotions, coupled with blind indifference and de facto approval, are sure to result in more bloodshed.
His words about racial harmony and equality mean nothing when his policies only serve to divide Americans. Not to mention that he has two members of the alt-right – the same – among his top advisers. Stephen Miller and Steve Bannon need to go.
Whether anything changes at the White House remains to be seen, but I’m not holding my breath – unless there’s tear gas.