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.
a group called the Direct Action Alliance declared, “Fascists plan to march through the streets,” and warned, “Nazis will not march through Portland unopposed.”
.. “we will have two hundred or more people rush into the parade … and drag and push those people out.” When Portland police said they lacked the resources to provide adequate security, the organizers canceled the parade. It was a sign of things to come.
.. If you believe the president of the United States is leading a racist, fascist movement that threatens the rights, if not the lives, of vulnerable minorities, how far are you willing to go to stop it?
.. For a while, antifa has remained on the fringes of the Left, smashing up storefronts to protest globalism, and things like that. But:
.. According to NYC Antifa, the group’s Twitter following nearly quadrupled in the first three weeks of January alone. (By summer, it exceeded 15,000.)
.. An article in The Nation argued that “to call Trumpism fascist” is to realize that it is “not well combated or contained by standard liberal appeals to reason.” The radical left, it said, offers “practical and serious responses in this political moment.”
.. The legitimization by mainstream people of violent political action is a Rubicon. Mark my words, it will be followed by the same thing on the Right.
.. And, as Beinart notes, these violent attacks on people on the Right, making no distinction between true fascists like Richard Spencer and ordinary Republicans, is being cheered by some on the mainstream Left. Thus, antifa — which reserves to itself the right to determine who is allowed to speak publicly — is growing.
.. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.
.. Mines’s definition of a civil war is large-scale violence that includes a rejection of traditional political authority and requires the National Guard to deal with it.
Mines cited five conditions that support his prediction:
- entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution;
- increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows;
- weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary;
- a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership;
- and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.
Seems to me that the only one of these conditions not in place is the final one. Charlottesville may have changed that. People of goodwill on both sides have to hold the line against the legitimization of political violence. Empathy — the ability to put yourself in the shoes of someone unlike yourself — is a fundamental quality of liberal democracy. Losing the capacity for empathy is a precursor of political violence.
.. This, by the way, is why I am so alarmed by Texas A&M Prof. Tommy Curry’s radical racialist rhetoric, and how he is given a pass by academia.
In African American political thought, integration and the hopes of non-violent progress has become the unquestioned foundation of Black political and legal theory. This author believes that the dogmatic allegiance to non-violence is a price that African descended people in America can no longer afford to pay. Historically, the use of violence has been a serious option in the liberation of African people from the cultural tyranny of whiteness, and should again be investigated as a plausible and in some sense necessary political option.
.. Curry talks about racial violence — about blacks attacking whites — as cleansing, as “anger realized as liberation.”
.. It’s as if the media do not want to see it, or do not want to talk about it for fear of giving fuel to the fire of white racists. The coverage has generally portrayed Dr. Curry as the innocent victim of a right-wing blogger who stirred up the crazies. Never mind that I quoted at length Dr. Curry’s own words. This kind of thing is why so many people on the Right simply do not trust the media.
.. The media should talk about every instance of people on the Left and the Right, especially authority figures (pastors, politicians, academics, and so on) legitimizing violence as a way to solve political disputes. And the rest of us should fight hard to make it taboo, to establish it as a line we as a society will not cross. We have to stop with whataboutism, the habit of responding to revolting things your own side does with “but the other side does it too!” Donald Trump is an accelerant to both the radical Left and the radical Right.
.. Ross Douthat says don’t panic, that we are nowhere near as violent and fraught as we were in 1968. He’s right about that. But if we are going to keep ourselves from going there, it is time for people in authority — whatever authority they have — to speak out forcefully and repeatedly. Not just people on the Right, but people on the Left.
.. It doesn’t matter who’s worse, antifa or the neo-Nazis. Both are capable of doing severe damage to our democracy, because they both hate the political order, and they both love violence.