Andrew Johnson, who deliberately destroyed the possibility of holding white supremacists accountable for their actions, looks down from heaven and smiles on today’s GOP.
In light of Trump’s failure in Charlottesville, my comments are brief and less kind than yours.
Charlottesville is not a surprise or even a revelation. It is exactly what many of us who opposed Trump said would happen when he was elected because it is exactly what his supporters wanted. He was elected by people who wanted this, for the purpose of achieving it.
You are careful not to put every Trump voter into the “basket of deplorables,” but the same spirit that animates “Make America Great Again” rallies animates the violence in Charlottesville. Not every Republican likes it when violence erupts, but everyone who voted for Donald Trump is responsible for contributing to the climate where such violence will inevitably happen. You saw it as he advocated violence against peaceful protesters at his rallies. You saw it when he failed to immediately and with revulsion reject David Duke’s endorsement. This is just another expression of allegiance to the white supremacy that Trump has eagerly embraced. There is a reason why the mother of the young man who plowed his car into a crowd, killing one peaceful protester and injuring 19 more, thought her son was at a Trump rally: it’s because this white supremacist violence, which has always been there, was emboldened by Trump’s administration.
Does Trump, who has Jewish grandchildren those protesters would kill in gas chambers, believe in the white supremacy that had the protesters chanting Nazi slogans? That does not matter. Look: the man cannot denounce the Nazis who would kill his own grandchildren because he cannot bear to lose their adoration. With narcissism like that, you don’t need to feel racist to produce evil.
Trump can’t say “no” to this violence because this is his base: white men who see the threat to their unearned privilege as a cause worth killing for.
And he can’t say “no” to this because, even if he did, he would be a liar, and we now have more than a year of his flirtation with Nazis and Klansmen as evidence of it.
This is the culmination of Nixon’s Southern Strategy: to win the South by fostering white and resentment. Do not let Republicans be embarrassed by it now. It’s what they’ve chosen, year and year. Every Republican who does not want to own this should, right now, speak against not just the violence in Virginia but a party, not just a president, who prefer Andrew Johnson over Abraham Lincoln.
Why would they? In the absence of solutions to our common problems, a politics of white resentment is all they have.
*Thanks to my friend Todd for the language here.