I did not know it was even going on. I should have been paying attention to social media. But I woke up on Saturday to news of skirmishes in Charlottesville. White nationalists gathered for a “Unite the Right” march in Charlottesville, ostensibly choosing that town because of the statute of Robert E. Lee, which was going to be taken down. It had little to do with Robert E. Lee.
As an aside, I would note that many of these racists are being identified, outed and facing the consequences.
A friend of mine suggested this was McCarthyism. It’s not. McCarthyism used the government to destroy people who were communists (and his political enemies). This is citizen action. And I argued that it could not lead to wide-spread firing of people for their political views (on ANY topic), because white supremacy is not simply a position on a single TOPIC; it is an ideology on the relative value of PEOPLE.
Day 2 was the schedule white nationalist protest in Charlottesville at noon. But the trouble started before then. The white nationalists were met by counterprotesters. Taunting led to shoving, which escalated into brawling. Police allowed much of it to happen, and the planned whitey bigot rally was order cancelled. Everyone dispersed, and the events of the day, troubling as they were, seemed over.
Then, around 1:45 p.m., a car plowed into another vehicle near a group of counterprotesters, creating a chain reaction that sent people flying. (Initial reports said the car had run directly into the crowd.)
Officials identified the driver of the car as James Alex Fields Jr., 20, of Maumee, Ohio, a city near Toledo. One of Mr. Fields’s former history teachers called him “a very bright kid, but very misguided and disillusioned,” noting that he had written a report that was “very much along the party lines of the neo-Nazi movement.”
Nineteen people were hospitalized. One was dead, 32 year old Heather D. Heyer, of Charlottesville.
Then came what may be the most egregious thing of the whole weekend: the opffensivle tepid response from the President. On Saturday afternoon, he condemned the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides” but, conspicuously, did not single out white nationalists or neo-Nazis. Pressed on whom Mr. Trump was blaming, an unnamed White House spokesman told reporters on Saturday: “The president was condemning hatred, bigotry and violence from all sources and all sides. There was violence between protesters and counterprotesters today.”
WaPo editorial board:
HERE IS what President Trump said Saturday about the violence in Charlottesville sparked by a demonstration of white nationalists, neo-Nazis and Ku Klux Klan members:
We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides. On many sides.
Here is what a presidential president would have said:
“The violence Friday and Saturday in Charlottesville, Va., is a tragedy and an unacceptable, impermissible assault on American values. It is an assault, specifically, on the ideals we cherish most in a pluralistic democracy — tolerance, peaceable coexistence and diversity.
“The events were triggered by individuals who embrace and extol hatred. Racists, neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan members and their sympathizers — these are the extremists who fomented the violence in Charlottesville, and whose views all Americans must condemn and reject.
“To wink at racism or to condone it through silence, or false moral equivalence, or elision, as some do, is no better and no more acceptable than racism itself. Just as we can justly identify radical Islamic terrorism when we see it, and call it out, so can we all see the racists in Charlottesville, and understand that they are anathema in our society, which depends so centrally on mutual respect.
“Under whatever labels and using whatever code words — ‘heritage,’ ‘tradition,’ ‘nationalism’ — the idea that whites or any other ethnic, national or racial group is superior to another is not acceptable. Americans should not excuse, and I as president will not countenance, fringe elements in our society who peddle such anti-American ideas. While they have deep and noxious roots in our history, they must not be given any quarter nor any license today.
“Nor will we accept acts of domestic terrorism perpetrated by such elements. If, as appears to be the case, the vehicle that plowed into the counterprotesters on Saturday in Charlottesville did so intentionally, the driver should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The American system of justice must and will treat a terrorist who is Christian or Buddhist or Hindu or anything else just as it treats a terrorist who is Muslim — just as it treated those who perpetrated the Boston Marathon bombing in 2013.
“We may all have pressing and legitimate questions about how the violence in Charlottesville unfolded — and whether it could have been prevented. There will be time in coming days to delve further into those matters, and demand answers. In the meantime, I stand ready to provide any and all resources from the federal government to ensure there will be no recurrence of such violence in Virginia or elsewhere. Let us keep the victims of this terrible tragedy in our thoughts and prayers, and keep faith that the values enshrined in our Constitution and laws will prevail against those who would desecrate our democracy.”
The President was wrong, but he’s never been interested in facts. There was not “many sides” there. There was the Nazi side, and the anti-Nazi side, and it is not hard to pick a side, even with the 140 character limit of Twitter.
Let’s examine this more closely:
The right-wing protesters were relatively homogenous — in ideology and appearance — and largely ready for violence. They ranged from old-line racists like the Ku Klux Klan to the ones who wear polo shirts instead of hoods who try to brand themselves “alt-right.” There was no ambiguity about their cause — they demand the nation become whiter, and they are emboldened by a White House administration they believe makes that promise when the president yells “America first.”
The counterprotesters, in contrast, represented a far broader spectrum of the American center and left. There were self-identified “anti-fascists”; Black Lives Matter activists from around the country; religious leaders, including around 100 Christian ministers wearing their clerical collars; furious Charlottesville residents; and garden-variety liberals from as far away as Seattle. A handful of the “anti-fascists” wore Black Bloc garb — black shirt, black pants, black balaclava — to conceal their identities from police, though most did not.
The right-wingers were more prepared for violence. Most white supremacist and Nazi groups arrived armed like a paramilitary force — carrying shields, protective gear, rods, and yes, lots of guns, utilizing Virginia’s loose firearm laws. They used militarized defensive maneuvers, shouting commands at one another to “move forward” or “retreat,” and would form a line of shields or a phalanx — it’s like they watched 300 a few times — to gain ground or shepherd someone through projectiles. It seemed that they had practiced for this. Virginia’s governor said that the right’s weaponry was better than that of the state police. The opposition was largely winging it, preferring to establish bases in other parks with water, coffee, food, first aid, and comfort. Conflict would start much the same as it has at other alt-right rallies: two people, one from each side, screaming, goading each other into throwing the first punch.
By Sunday, even among the most radical voices on the left, there was incredulity at attempts — from various swaths of the mainstream to pro-Trump media, and of course, the president himself — to compare them to their enemies. This is Trump’s “many sides.”
A no-brainer on which side came to fight and suppress.
Pressure on the President is huge. But so far, he and VP Pence have doubled down. Pence, for example, has issued statements condemning violence from the far-right and far-left — again with the false equivalence.
The fallout? It means white supremacists will feel emboldened by the events of this weekend. This cannot be disputed. They say it, others say it of them, and the evidence is right before our eyes. If you see a conservative online saying this isn’t so, that person is lying. They felt and feel emboldened. It’s simply a fact.
During the campaign, Donald Trump needed to distance himself very publicly from the “alt-right,” a movement which is just a glorified white supremacist movement. This was due in no small part to his ties to Bannon-bart, but also just his own personality cult. His campaign talking points and promises were dog-whistles to these self-identified white nationalists, who have not been mainstream for decades.
However, now they feel like they are mainstream, and yes, to a certain extent, that is on the President. His hesitation to call their movement by name this weekend, something many GOP lawmakers criticized him over, is an utter failure on his part and the part of those attempting to advise and guide him. When David Duke says a rally of racist neo-Nazis is a “fulfillment” of your campaign’s promise, your immediate reaction should be to publicly state that, as a matter of fact, it is not. This is not me or us. He didn’t do that.
Calls for the ouster of Trump adviser Steve Bannon, as well as Stephen Miller and neo-Nazi Alexander Gorka, are approaching fever pitch. The rift on the right is stronger than it has ever been. The Bannon supporters seem to be pushing hard on National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster.
This, on top of everything, is going to dog Trump (as it should)
“Do you condemn the actions of neo-Nazis? Do you condemn the actions of white supremacists,” reporters just asked Trump. He did not answer.
— Perry Bacon Jr. (@perrybaconjr) August 14, 2017
Trump’s tweets this morning?
And then the chief executive of Merck said this morning in a tweet that he was resigning from President Trump’s American Manufacturing Council, saying he was doing so “as CEO of Merck and as a matter of personal conscience” and that “America’s leaders must honor our fundamental values by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal.”
Within an hour after the statement was first issued, Trump tweeted his response. “Now that Ken Frazier of Merck Pharma has resigned from President’s Manufacturing Council, he will have more time to LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES!”
UPDATE 1 pm – Under pressure, Trump gave a 5 minute statement – no questions – condemning racism (“Racism is evil”). It’s not enough. He did it under pressure and everyone (including his neo-Nazi fans) know it. Even then, he denounced hate groups “including” white nationalists, implying there were others (BLM)
Oh, it was of course read from a teleprompter. He couldn’t speak from the heart.