As we get underway today, a few thoughts on yesterday. In addition to going out of his way not to denounce the white supremacist and neo-nazi marchers yesterday, for those primed to hear it (which is the point) the President made a point of calling out and valorizing the marchers. In his at length on-camera comments, in addition to bromides and calling for people to love each other, Trump noted that we must “cherish our history.”
Here’s the passage …
Above all else, we must remember this truth: No matter our color, creed, religion or political party, we are all Americans first. We love our country. We love our God. We love our flag. We’re proud of our country. We’re proud of who we are. So we want to get the situation straightened out in Charlottesville, and we want to study it. And we want to see what we’re doing wrong as a country, where things like this can happen.
My administration is restoring the sacred bonds of loyalty between this nation and its citizens, but our citizens must also restore the bonds of trust and loyalty between one another. We must love each other, respect each other, and cherish our history and our future together. So important. We have to respect each other. Ideally, we have to love each other.
I spent the better part of a decade training as an historian. I’m definitely pro-history. But in context, this is an explicit call-out to the white supremacist and neo-Confederate forces at the march whose calling card is celebrating Southern ‘heritage’ and America’s history as a white country. Zero ambiguity or question about that. And they heard the message. White supremacist leaders cheered Trump’s refusal to denounce them and his valorization of their movement.
Where does this come from? Who knows who wrote this text for Trump. But many of Trump’s most important speeches were written by white nationalist aide Stephen Miller, who came from Jeff Sessions’ senate office. Miller literally worked with Alt-Right leader (he coined the phrase) Richard Spencer on racist political activism when he was in college at Duke (Spencer was a grad student at the time). This isn’t some vague guilt by association. He’s one of them.
When Gabriel Sherman asked what he identifies as a ‘senior White House official’ why the White House didn’t denounce the Nazis in Charlottesville, he got this: “What about the leftist mob? Just as violent if not more so.” Maybe I’ve missed some other background comments out of the White House. But I haven’t heard anything that approaches that level of venom about the nazis or white supremacists. When the top ideologues at Trump’s White House look at yesterday’s spectacle, they instinctively see the counter-protestors as enemies.
Was that official Miller? Who knows? It could have been Bannon or Gorka or frankly a number of others. There are plenty to choose from. That’s the point. This wasn’t resistance to making a conspicuous denunciation or being cute. Those were Trump’s supporters. He recognizes them as supporters, indeed as part of his movement. And he supports them. This is probably largely instinctive on Trump’s part. It’s more ideological and articulate on his aides’ part.
He’s one of them. Let’s stop pretending.