By former Assemblyman Steven Sanders
Say this about Donald Trump, he knows his base… and they evidently know him.
During his campaign rallies, he would preen and strut around the stage and insult his opponents with childish name-calling. On occasions, he would arouse his supporters by saying he’d like to punch demonstrators and see them carried out on stretchers. Music to the ears of the unstable.
As president, he urges police to rough up persons they arrest. He calls transgender individuals unfit to serve in the military in any capacity. He makes up facts and lies constantly. Is it any wonder that violent irrational groups previously relegated to the shadowy fringes of society now feel emboldened to take to the streets?
He labels the press as “enemies of the people.” But when Neo-Nazis and assorted white supremacy hate groups gathered in an incendiary demonstration in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend, spewing racist and anti-Semitic slogans while parading as the Ku Klux Klan once did, our self-styled “tell it like it is” president had very little to say. He demurred from confronting the gaggle of haters who use Nazi symbols and KKK imagery to intimidate. Instead, he offered muted opposition to bigotry “from many places.” His initial statement refused to identify or condemn the instigators of this violence or single them out in any way.
His virtual silence for three days was deafening, but also spoke volumes. His first impulse was to side step the question of rightwing extremists who were fomenting violence. Facing withering criticism from all quarters, including his own party, President Trump emerged after the weekend and belatedly condemned the deadly riot in Charlottesville as instigated by white nationalist thugs. But Trump’s uncharacteristic impulse to delay any direct response stands in sharp contrast to his famously lightning fast tweets whenever he feels an injustice has been done to him. The question is why?
Why is this president so slow to condemn these particular extremists? Where is the outrage that he so freely levels against others? Why did this president refuse to even acknowledge who David Duke was when the former Imperial Wizard of the Klan endorsed him a year ago and again just days ago? Trump feigned ignorance of Mr. Duke and his connection to the Klan. And this from a guy who consumes TV news voraciously. Are his denials really believable?
Why did so many of the demonstrators in Charlottesville carry pro-Trump signs along with their vile swasti kas? What is it that they see in Donald Trump that would cause them to make common alliance? Does this president forget that hundreds of thousands of American soldiers lost their lives fighting the evil Nazi ideology? What is this nation coming to when these modern day Brown Shirts cannot be swiftly denounced by the president of the United States without his having to think about it for three days? Why was such an obvious moral imperative the subject of days of political calculation by the White House?
It is now abundantly clear that Donald Trump was willing to collaborate with anyone foreign or domestic who would promote his campaign. As president he clearly recognizes his most ardent supporters. He appears reluctant to jeopardize their favor by distancing himself from even the most repugnant of them unless he must. Donald Trump has made a career of playing to the crowd, the people who will lavish him with adulation and feed his insatiable ego.
To be sure many Trump voters are good and decent people who yearned for change and reform in Washington D.C. They saw in Donald Trump that agent of change. The problem is that too many have proven to be despicable and dangerous individuals who condone violence and odious views towards minorities, non-whites, and immigrants. Do they have reason to believe that Donald Trump is a kindred spirit?
Hillary Clinton called these Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables.” Watching the disgusting events in Virginia, it is clear that she was at least right about that.