There’s a good reason that white nationalists rejoice at Steve Bannon’s proximity to power. There’s a good reason that countless Americans look at that man so close to the Oval Office and fear his influence on their president’s mind and heart. How can Trump look the American people in the face and say that he unequivocally condemns the alt-right when one of the men who did more than anyone else to enhance its influence works down the hall?
Whether it works or not, Republicans should join Pelosi. Republicans need to acknowledge an uncomfortable truth: Their party supported and still supports Trump, who feeds the monster of white resentment and who focuses their anger, fear and frustration on minorities.
The memes that immigrants are “stealing our jobs”; Christianity is a persecuted religion in the United States; Mexican immigrants are “murderers”; and millions of illegal immigrants voted in the election have given white nationalists rhetorical cover to propound their even more extreme racist views. Bannon and company have introduced in the Oval Office the “blood and soil” definition of nationalism, the suggestion that the media is the enemy of the people and a nonstop attack on the truth. They refused to abandon a presidential candidate who attacked a federal court judge on the basis of race, for heaven’s sake.
More than a year ago, the New York Times reported:
In countless collisions of color and creed, Donald J. Trump’s name evokes an easily understood message of racial hostility. Defying modern conventions of political civility and language, Mr. Trump has breached the boundaries that have long constrained Americans’ public discussion of race.Mr. Trump has attacked Mexicans as criminals. He has called for a ban on Muslim immigrants. He has wondered aloud why the United States is not “letting people in from Europe.”His rallies vibrate with grievances that might otherwise be expressed in private: about “political correctness,” about the ranch house down the street overcrowded with day laborers, and about who is really to blame for the death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. In a country where the wealthiest and most influential citizens are still mostly white, Mr. Trump is voicing the bewilderment and anger of whites who do not feel at all powerful or privileged.
Trump and his apologists can deny until the cows come home that their intent was to stoke white racism, but in retrospect it’s clear that was to be the means by which Trump won the White House. Trump “opened the door to assertions of white identity and resentment in a way not seen so broadly in American culture in over half a century, according to those who track patterns of racial tension and antagonism in American life,” the Times reported. “Dozens of interviews — with ardent Trump supporters and curious students, avowed white nationalists, and scholars who study the interplay of race and rhetoric — suggest that the passions aroused and channeled by Mr. Trump take many forms, from earnest if muddled rebellion to deeper and more elaborate bigotry.”
This does not mean only racists supported Trump, nor does it mean that some of the positions he has taken have rationales not rooted in racism. But it is no longer deniable that Trump’s campaign and presidency have been fueled by white resentment toward minorities. And now we have unbridled expressions of white nationalism, something about which Trump was warned:
His slow reaction angered his critics even more as they were in the knowledge that a range of authority figures had warned Trump of the threat that white supremacists posed months before James Alex Fields Jr. plowed his car into counter-protesters, killing Heather Heyer. An intelligence bulletin obtained by Foreign Policy, entitled “White Supremacist Extremism Poses Persistent Threat of Lethal Violence” and dated May 10, shows that the FBI and the Department of Homeland Security briefed Trump as recently as May, at least indirectly, about the threat of the white supremacist movement and the threat of further attacks by members of this ultra-conservative group.“We assess lone actors and small cells within the white supremacist extremist movement likely will continue to pose a threat of lethal violence over the next year,” the bulletin reads.The FBI explicitly says in the briefing that white supremacists are to blame for the majority of domestic extremism. They “were responsible for 49 homicides in 26 attacks from 2000 to 2016…more than any other domestic extremist movement,” the document states.Not only have the security services warned Trump about the threat of white supremacists, but so too have his Democratic rivals and predecessors.
What did Trump do in response? Did he ignore a domestic terrorism threat because it undercut his political message?
And so we come to the present. Unless and until Trump is impeached, resigns or loses reelection, he and his brand of politics dominate the GOP. The only means to free itself of the yoke of Trump is to discard the personnel and policies that embody his white racial resentment ploy. With a unified voice, Republicans can denounce the president’s alt-right advisers, the voting fraud commission (which itself is a fraud), the proposed pardon of anti-immigrant hero Joe Arpaio and other symbols of Trump’s identification with white grievance. The GOP either rejects Trump or once and for all it sacrifices the Party of Lincoln to a ragtag band of white nationalists — some more subtle than others but all an anathema to American democracy.