Amidst the latest bloodshed — the worst of it triggered by a white racist domestic terrorist whose El Paso manifesto echoes Trump’s racist rhetoric — I bet you’re jonesing for some good news. I’m happy to share what I have. Admittedly it isn’t much, but at this point we should probably be grateful whenever a few Republicans wake up and smell their party’s white supremacist stench.
“The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country. As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s the truth,” wrote Nebraska state senator John McCollister. “We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base. He calls certain countries ‘sh*tholes,’ tells women of color to ‘go back’ to where they came from and lies more than he tells the truth.”
Senator Ted Cruz — yes, Cruz — said on Sunday morning, “What we saw yesterday was a heinous act of terrorism and white supremacy. There is no place for this in El Paso, in Texas, or anywhere across our nation.”
And early Monday morning, the conservative, pro-GOP Washington Examiner posted an editorial that assailed El Paso’s “white nationalist terrorist,” and declared: “Some conservatives and Republicans have hesitated to acknowledge that this a growing scourge, but after El Paso any such reluctance is unacceptable … Trump needs to make clear that he hates white nationalism as something un-American and evil.”
So at least some on the right are finally speaking out, but rest assured, they won’t get much help from Trump, who on Monday blamed the slaughter of Hispanics on the media and “fake news.”
The problem for Trump is that “The Media” accurately showed him at a May 8 Florida rally railing about immigrants crossing the border, and when he asked, “How do we stop these people?” somebody yelled, “Shoot them!” — and when his cultists laughed, cheered, and applauded, the cameras caught him smirking. He didn’t admonish the crowd, he indulged it: “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”
“The Media” has given him ample opportunity to renounce his incendiary bigotry. On the White House lawn last Thursday, as he prepared to leave for another rally, he was asked how he’d respond if the crowd chanted that four Democratic congresswomen of color should go back to where they came from. Instead of saying that the chant was racist, that the four women were Americans, he said this: “I don’t know if you can stop people (from chanting). You know what my message is? I love them, and I think they really love me.”
Trump didn’t order the El Paso shooter onto the killing field. But ever since he descended his escalator in June 2015 to attack Mexico for sending “criminals” and “rapists,” he has given verbal aid and comfort to aspiring white domestic terrorists. The shooter’s manifesto assails an Hispanic “invasion,” echoing a word that surfaces in a number of Trump tweets. The shooter also once retweeted a photo of the word “Trump” spelled out in firearms.
Trump himself has long winked at the potential for violence. Meanwhile, his regime has cut off funding to a national terrorism database that has charted the rise of right-wing domestic terrorism. You have to be willfully dense, or deep in denial, to not connect the dots — case in point, acting Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who said “no politician is to blame” for El Paso.
David French, a conservative lawyer who writes for the conservative National Review, has connected those dots. On Monday, he pointed out that the rise of the violent right is “directly related” to Trump’s rhetoric.
“Most Americans remember the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. Do you remember the white supremacist who killed a black man in New York with a sword? Do you remember the attempted church massacre in Kentucky, where a white supremacist who couldn’t gain access to the church gunned down two black victims at a Kroger grocery story instead? Do you remember that a member of an ‘alt-Reich’ Facebook group stabbed a black Maryland college student to death without provocation, or that a white man in Kansas shouted ethnic slurs before shooting two Indian engineers in a bar, killing one?” French wrote. “Substitute ‘jihadist’ for ‘white supremacist’ or ‘white nationalist’ and then imagine how we’d act.”
Monday from the Oval Office, Trump read from his TelePrompTer and said that white supremacy is bad. We’ll soon find out whether he has the gravitas to say that to his rally fans.
Dick Polman is the national political columnist at WHYY in Philadelphia and a “Writer in Residence” at the University of Pennsylvania. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.