Summit Daily editorial: On Trump’s sympathy for the devil of white nationalism
August 15, 2017
Who would ever predict that an American President in 2017 would shy away from denouncing self-proclaimed neo-Nazis and white supremacists? Who could imagine that the leader of the free world wouldn't even mention the name of a brave woman who was murdered for standing up to pure evil? And yet, here we are — in a warped, alternate reality of Donald Trump's making.
The "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend marked a new nadir for our country. Disturbing imagery of angry white men with Hitler Youth haircuts, swastika-emblazoned clothing and tiki torches foreshadowed the deadly, nihilistic violence that was to follow. An Ohio man deranged by the poisonous ideology of white exceptionalism rammed his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, killing Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
In a shameful and cowardly statement following the attack, Trump assigned blame for the tragedy to hate and bigotry "on many sides." On Monday, under pressure from fellow Republicans such as Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, who rightly called the act "domestic terrorism," Trump half-heartedly attempted a do-over. It didn't take, as with most attempts to get Trump to act presidential.
At a press conference yesterday, the president doubled down on his initial statements and further clarified his bizarre views on the incident: The "alt-left" played a big role in bringing violence to an otherwise peaceful protest that was simply about preventing the removal of a Civil War monument. "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?" Trump said on Tuesday in defense of the marchers.
As far as sides and slippery slopes go, perhaps Trump should first look to his own culpability in cynically emboldening hate groups that have previously stayed out of the spotlight. Comedian John Oliver put it this way on his HBO show "Last Week Tonight": "Nazis are a lot like cats; if they like you, you're probably feeding them."
In the past, these kinds of racist thugs were largely ignored. Media outlets, both large and small, often declined to cover events like "Unite the Right." Groups such as the Ku Klux Klan certainly had the constitutional right to assemble and express their views, the thinking went with many newspaper and TV editors, but that doesn't mean we're going to give them a platform to spread their poison.
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Trump changed all that when he courted the so-called alt-right during his campaign. That a 21st century politician would countenance the most virulent strains of hatred in our democracy to win a few votes is deeply sad. That he continues to handle these groups with kid gloves is beyond alarming.
To be clear, half the country voted for Trump; it would be wrong to suggest that the bulk of his supporters are aligned with white nationalism, or that our country is deeply and irrevocably bigoted just because Trump won.
We believe the far-left is often too quick to see racism in everything from district attorneys to Dr. Seuss books. However, most Americans, conservatives and liberals alike, can acknowledge that militant hate groups are beneath contempt.
Why is our tweet-first-ask-questions-later president so slow to join us in that view?
The Summit Daily News editorial board includes editor Ben Trollinger, publisher Meg Boyer, reporter Kevin Fixler and two citizen members: Jennifer Schenk and Jonathan Knopf.