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The Audacity of Hate

Aug. 22, 2017
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Photo credit: Elvert Barnes

The audacity of hope under Barack Obama has been replaced by the audacity of hate under Donald Trump. The U.S. has never had a president before who would publicly insist that many “very fine people” had joined a violent and deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va., organized by the Ku Klux Klan and neo-Nazis.

That appalling presidential statement immediately followed unprecedented danger to the entire world threatened by Trump’s reckless promise to launch World War III by unleashing nuclear “fire and fury… unlike anything the world has ever known” if North Korea’s own childlike leader didn’t stop acting up. Any American who wasn’t disgusted by the second statement from their president and terrified by the first should have been.

Dangerous, unacceptable presidential behavior requires leaders of both parties to take action to prevent further destruction of their country by the totally unfit occupant of its highest political office. The effort needs to be bipartisan, but the heaviest responsibility falls upon Republicans—especially House Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Trump’s vocal support for participants in a white hate rally doesn’t just make it difficult for Republicans to pass their agenda, it exposes just how much of the Republican agenda is intentionally designed precisely to appeal to those un-American hate groups. Republicans have aggressively sought support from white supremacists ever since Democratic passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act caused racist Southern Democrats to switch parties and become racist Southern Republicans.

Sure, Ryan and McConnell are sincerely embarrassed that Trump is standing behind those who marched with neo-Nazis carrying flaming torches through Thomas Jefferson’s University of Virginia campus chanting “Jews Will Not Replace Us!” and “Heil Trump!” Republicans loudly honor as America’s “Greatest Generation” all those who fought, sacrificed and died fighting Nazis and Adolf Hitler’s murderous policies of racial purity. But there’s little difference in Trump supporting those who march with Nazis and his support for those who worship graven images of Confederate generals who also fought a war against the United States to defend slavery and racial atrocities. Blow in Trump’s ear and he’ll follow you anywhere. The not-so-secret affair Trump has been carrying on with Klansmen and neo-Nazis is now right out in the open.

 

GOP Speaks in Code

When Ryan kept pirouetting back and forth between supporting candidate Trump and objecting to his openly racist rhetoric, the crudeness of Trump’s racism seemed to bother Ryan the most. Modern-day Republicans are supposed to subtly appeal to racists with coded messages and winks, not blaring bullhorns. Everyone except for the third of Republican voters who really would support Trump for shooting someone in the middle of Fifth Avenue in New York City now know he’s a clear and present danger to our country and to the world at large. An occasional “tut, tut” from Republican lawmakers isn’t nearly enough anymore.

Even though Trump’s threat to launch a nuclear war was knocked out of the news by his cheerleading for domestic terrorists, the danger to the world adds even more urgency for responsible Republicans to permanently break with Trump. They now know that Trump’s emotional immaturity and what Tennessee Republican Sen. Bob Corker accurately described as Trump’s lack of “stability” make him the most dangerous man in history ever to control the world’s largest nuclear arsenal.

During campaign security briefings as a candidate, Trump wondered aloud why the U.S. even bothered developing nuclear weapons if it was never going to use them. Less than three months into his presidency, Trump dropped the MOAB (“Mother of All Bombs”)—the largest non-nuclear bomb the U.S. military possesses. Does anyone even remember now what country Trump bombed? (It was that old standby, Afghanistan.) 

So what’s left for a blustering tough guy like Trump to threaten other than nuclear war? Because the last Republican president got two major wars going, Trump recently tossed out the possibility of a U.S. military attack on Venezuela as well. Nothing boosts a Republican president’s plummeting approval ratings like war.

So, what are Republican leaders to do if their party’s president is a dangerously unstable, embarrassing apologist for violent racist and anti-Semitic hate groups?

First, they simply write off Trump as an ignorant incompetent with neither the ability nor character to govern, which is true. But they also need to develop a positive conservative agenda of their own that abandons the racist subtext of their party’s long, ugly history of opposition to civil rights, voting rights, affirmative action, immigration, food stamps and other forms of assistance to those in poverty.

This would deliver a much-needed shock to the Republican system, but it’s been done before in this country. Democrats did it when they drove Southern racists out of their party under Southern Democratic President Lyndon Johnson. If neither major political party provided a home for white supremacists and neo-Nazis, violent, un-American hate groups would return to the lunatic fringe of society where they belong.

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