Everyone Is Giving Donald Trump Too Much Credit for Ignorance. Including You.
The year is 2017, and we are at a crossroads. We’re experiencing the advent of Nazis. Actual Nazis. The paths ahead for the people of the United States fork in the directions of World War II Germany or something less tragic — if we are honest about what is happening here and now, if we know our history, if we do what is right.
Everyone is giving Donald Trump too much credit for ignorance and not enough credit for wickedness.
This weekend on the Sunday morning political talk shows, much of the talk was dedicated to Stephen Bannon, Stephen Miller and Sebastian Gorka. All of them, the pundits argued, are known white supremacists. (Some called them white nationalists, which isn’t severe enough of a term.)
There’s been a lot of arguing about this unholy trinity on television for a while.
The common wisdom is that they are bad influences on Donald Trump. Trump needs their counsel to appease his base, which includes a broad spectrum of racists, from the type who follow black people around shops to the ones who run over crowds of people at a protest.
This commonly held and now-constantly repeated wisdom is the wisdom of the ignorant. All we have to do is look at the evidence.
- Donald Trump referred to Mexican people as “rapists” and “murderers” immediately upon announcing his campaign for President of the United States. He consistently refers to Muslim people as killers. He personally advanced and was the figurehead of the “birther” movement, suggesting then-President Barack Obama is not American by birthright. The Justice Department sued him twice for refusing to rent to black people. He — a man whose children have married Jewish people — reportedly even said that “the only kind of people I want counting my money are little short guys that wear yarmulkes.” Verdict: Donald Trump himself is inherently aggressively racist, not due to the influences of others.
- Donald Trump personally selected and hired Steve Bannon, Steve Miller, Seb Gorka and the rest. Verdict: Donald Trump chose to employ these men, and with so many white supremacists working for him, it is unreasonable to deduce that he is swayed by them against his inherent better judgment.
- Donald Trump refused not only to condemn David Duke and his fellow white supremacists, but he refused to reject their endorsement of his candidacy.
- Donald Trump’s campaign hired Milo Yiannopoulos, a British man who founded a white-men-only college scholarship, to run a Gays for Trump rally at the 2016 GOP convention. After Trump was declared the winner of the election, Milo Yiannopoulos wrote “WELCOME TO THE TRUMPENREICH” on his social media accounts, a dog whistle to neo-Nazis and a correct prediction of what would follow in the coming months too obvious to ignore, and yet observed by none.
- Following the joint Nazi-KKK display, violence and murders in Charlottesville, Yiannopoulos wrote on Facebook: “The Left is getting what it asked for and what it started: political violence on the streets. Hard to muster sympathy, if I cam completely honest.” Make no mistake. This is the sentiment of the Trump regime, put on proud display the day after Charlottesville:
- The day after white supremacists who chanted “Hail Trump!” on the streets of Charlottesville, Donald J. Trump’s reelection campaign released a new television ad calling Democrats and the media his enemies — and calling for Republicans to unite.
- The event held in Charlottesville over the weekend was not a KKK rally or a neo-Nazi rally. The event was called Unite the Right — it was a call from members of the Republican party to members of the Republican party to unite as one under the auspices of white supremacy. That is the intention of the event, and this intention was underscored by the Trump campaign ad that immediately followed the Charlottesville hate crimes.
- Shortly after Trump was elected President of the United States, Richard Spencer convened a rally at the federally owned Ronald Reagan government building in Washington, D.C. There, he led a cohort of white supremacists who were caught on videotape by The Atlantic raising their arms in a Nazi salute, calling out “Hail Trump, Hail Victory.” The iconic Nazi chant of “Sieg heil” means “Hail victory.” These American Nazis have stated persistently that Donald Trump supports their ideals and is working to advance their movement. Yet reporters and all other continue to focus exclusively on Bannon, Miller and Gorka.
- Spencer shortly thereafter told ABC News reporter Juju Chang that Donald Trump’s election is a “dream come true” for white supremacists. He told Chang that Trump supports his agenda, and he told Chang that there will be an “ethnic cleansing” of the United States, leaving only European-descended Americans intact.
- After Donald Trump made racist comments about a United States judge of Mexican descent, Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) called Trump’s words “the textbook definition of a racist comment.” Moments later, in the same speech, he confirmed his endorsement of Donald Trump. He has continued to support Donald Trump, as have the vast majority of Republican elected officials, despite Trump’s overt racism, support of white supremacists, and threats of nuclear destruction.
- Donald Trump has retweeted comments from many known white supremacists. His son has done the same. This means, if nothing else, that both are in tune with white supremacists enough to read their comments on Twitter.
- White supremacist David Duke said in Charlottesville that “this represents a turning point…we are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
- The Daily Stormer Nazi website issued a statement following Trump’s remarks: “He didn’t attack us. He just said the nation should come together. Nothing specific against us,” wrote Andrew Anglin, the website’s founder. “No condemnation at all,” Anglin continued. “When asked to condemn, he just walked out of the room. Really, really good. God bless him.”
- Trump got some credit for supposedly denouncing the white supremacists who endorsed him during his campaign. In February of 2016, CNN anchor Jake Tapper asked Trump if he would disavow David Duke’s endorsement. This was Trump’s response: “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know. I don’t know — did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.” In a press conference that followed, Trump finally said, “ “David Duke endorsed me? OK, all right. I disavow, OK?” He got credit for this. Note that he never explicitly stated what he supposedly disavowed. This may seem like a minor point. It’s not. Trump never seems to be careful with language — but he is when it matters to him. In November, when the New York Times challenged him to criticize the alt-right, the best Trump could muster was: “It’s not a group I want to energize, and if they are energized, I want to look into it and find out why.” He got a lot of credit for this: headlines the world over read that Trump “disavows” and “doesn’t want to energize” white supremacists. And yet he hired white supremacists, and he is their figurehead, their leader, the one whom they hail with the same words and the same reverence with which they hail Adolf Hitler. No one seems to be asking why they would be doing this, or why they could claim that Trump has promised to give the United States “back” to them, much less demanding that the president respond to these charges. As long as Trump keeps looking ignorant, no one will.
All of this has revealed something spectacular: That Donald Trump’s apparent intellectual limitations are serving him exceedingly well. We assume he doesn’t know what he is doing. We assume that he is doing the bidding of darker forces, only semi-wittingly, and only in the interest of poll numbers. That’s not right. All evidence points to Donald Trump sharing the values of the alt-right and white supremacists. No evidence to date — none; I challenge anyone to find any evidence — suggests that Donald Trump opposes or even has ever criticized Naziism or white supremacy.
All of Trump’s most antagonistic words to date have been Donald Trump’s own words, from his racist comments about Mexican people to his threatening a nuclear showdown with North Korea. He reads from statements only when something great is at stake, when he cannot risk speaking his mind. That happened after the events at Charlottesville. When people hear Trump’s equivocation of Nazis with anti-Nazis, they assume it is the doing of his staff. It may be — but if it is, those staff members are doing so to keep him from speaking his true beliefs. His true beliefs are evident in his own words of hatred, in his selection of cabinet appointees and advisers, and in the people who celebrate him most.
It must not be overlooked that people who are advocating for ethnic cleansing and genocide in the United States equate Donald John Trump with Adolf Hitler as they raise their arms in salute and assign him the same chants of encouragement that their forebears assigned to Hitler in the 1930s and 40s.
America needs to wake up and to open our eyes. We need to realize that Donald Trump is not merely a puppet. He knows what he is doing.
There is no question that the Bannon, Miller and Gorka have important and influential roles in Trump’s White House. Likewise, Heinrich Himmler and Joseph Goebbels both played extraordinarily significant roles in the German SS. But Adolf Hitler was the charismatic personality who rattled his saber onstage. Hitler was the one who rallied the people of his nation to reclaim its former greatness, to display its superiority over all other people of the world at any cost. Hitler is the icon, the one to whom people looked up and chanted, hail, hail Hitler, Hail victory.