The president doesn’t pretend to represent all citizens—just his most hardcore supporters.
.. Trump has carved out for himself a uniquely agonistic and tribalistic persona. He’s polarizing, and proud of it.
.. To win the presidency, you first need to win the support of a major political party, which means having a partisan identity. But once in power, the commander in chief is supposed to preside over the whole nation, not just those who voted for him.
.. But Trump has decided to forgo any attempt at conciliation. Instead, he’s run a bluntly partisan presidency, where his rhetoric is geared toward pleasing fanatical Fox News viewers more than creating a broad coalition. It’s a peculiarity of Trump’s behavior that he talks openly about his base, not even pretending to be the president of all Americans.
.. “The ugly truth is that white nationalists, the KKK, neo-Nazis and other bigots are indeed part of the Trump base,” columnist Brent Budowsky argued at The Hill. “Trump should throw these bigots out of his base. He should say he does not want their support. He should name names and name hate groups, loudly and repeatedly, and say he does not want their votes, their support, their praise and that he believes they are a stain on America.”
.. Rather than heeding such advice, Trump is moving in the opposite direction—and paying a political price for it.
.. As the president is increasingly criticized from outside his base, he’ll increasingly use his passionate fans as a political shield. And as Charlottesville proves, if those fans end up killing someone, the president will defend them. Caught in the closed loop of fan-servicing, Trump is setting the nation on a path toward further radicalization and further violence.
1. The President of the United States cannot control himself. I know, this isn’t really news, but good grief, it is hard to imagine a president who does more damage to himself by not being able to handle his own temper. Even if he 100 percent believed the things he said today, he ought to have enough sense than to say them publicly. If I worked for this administration, I would send my resume out tonight — if not out of a sense of self-respect, then out of a sense of self-preservation. Trump’s temperament is going to bring his presidency crashing down. It has already started.
2. Trump is openly trying to legitimize people who should never be legitimized. Look at this exchange from today’s press conference
.. Now, let me be clear: there really are very fine people who are opposed to taking down Confederate statues. I know some of them. Their kind would not have gone anywhere near that far-right event in Charlottesville.
Among the far-right groups engaged in organizing the march were the
- clubs of the neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer,
- the neo-Confederate League of the South,
- the National Policy Institute [Richard Spencer’s think tank],
- and the National Socialist Movement.
Other groups involved in the rally were
- the Ku Klux Klan,
- the Fraternal Order of Alt-Knights,
- the 3 Percenters,
- the Traditionalist Workers Party,
- Identity Evropa,
- the Oath Keepers,
- Vanguard America,
- the American Guard,
- the Pennsylvania Light Foot Militia,
- the New York Light Foot Militia,
- the Virginia Minutemen Militia,
- the Nationalist Front,
- the Rise Above Movement,
- True Cascadia,
- and Anti-Communist Action.
Prominent far-right figures in attendance included
- Richard B. Spencer,
- Baked Alaska,
- Augustus Invictus [an occultist, by the way — RD],
- David Duke,
- Nathan Damigo,
- Matthew Heimbach,
- Faith Goldy,
- Mike Enoch,
- League of the South founder Michael Hill,
- AltRight.com editor Daniel Friberg,
- former Business Insider CTO Pax Dickinson,
- Daily Stormer writers Johnny Monoxide,
- self-described “white activist” and organizer Jason Kessler, and
- radio host Christopher Cantwell.
.. Who among this crew is a “very fine” person? The rally was called “Unite The Right,” so named by organizers because they wanted to bring together all the far-right groups. If you went down to that protest this weekend and marched alongside neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klansmen, you deserve to be condemned in the strongest possible terms.
3. Trump was right about the role of the antifa provocateurs, and he was right about this:
It is perfectly legitimate to raise the question of where this ends. Once the anti-Confederate crusaders remove all those statues, they’re going to turn on the Founding Fathers who owned slaves. Why wouldn’t they? And on what principle will they be stopped?
.. Christine Emba in the Washington Post. “It’s privileged status, not history, that’s being protected.” If this is a war on symbols of “privileged status,” it can never end.
.. Trump’s point is perfectly legitimate, and an important one. But the aftermath of Charlottesville is not the time or the context in which to discuss it. It is also perfectly legitimate to discuss the role of violent antifa provocateurs — but not when you are the President of the United States, and you are under fire for being unable to straightforwardly condemn neo-Nazis and Klansmen.
.. The Left is emboldened now, and fired up. Trump is an accelerant. They will get nastier and more confrontational.
.. People on the Right — ordinary people, not far-right activists or people who identify with the far right in any way — will become angrier and more afraid of what the Left in power means for them.
.. watch the reaction to Mark Lilla’s book The Once And Future Liberal, which exhorts the left to abandon identity politics so they can start winning elections.) The radicalized Left will overreach, and we will see even angrier, more conservative Republicans elected to Congress.
.. 5. The Left — including in the media — will now despise all Trump voters equally, without qualification.
.. The liberal journalist Chris Arnade has been doing incredible work actually traveling the country and visiting Trump voters among the down and out. He’s made the point over and over again that a lot of people voted for Trump not because they’re bigots, but because they are in desperate straits, and have concluded that they have been forgotten by elites.
6. Trump has definitively made his brand pure poison. Anybody who stands by him going forward is going to suffer for it. Look at this:
7. The nation is at an extraordinarily weak moment. Nearly two out of three Americans disapprove of the president. That’s bad news for any president, but in Trump’s case, it’s worse, because he’s so polarizing. If this country were to face a serious crisis — a war, in the worst case — do you really see the nation uniting around Donald Trump? If I were an enemy of America, I would see this as an opportunity.
UPDATE: Here is a link to a 22-minute VICE report on the weekend’s events in Charlottesville. Warning: it is not safe for work, because of language. But you need to see it if you have time. These far-right provocateurs are demonic. At the end, Christopher Cantwell, one of the leaders (and a heavily armed dude from New Hampshire) tells the reporter that the killing of the female protester by the fascist kid driving a car was justified — and that by the time they’re done, there will be a lot more dead. Watch it. It’s chilling.