Trump trips when asked to condemn white supremacy: what does this mean if he’s re-elected?
With the United States federal election rapidly approaching in November, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid American politics. On Sept. 29, the first presidential debate between President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden had several highlights which were later shared across social media in the form of clever memes mocking both candidates.
However, a significant number of Twitter users were not joking, but rather were causing an uproar over Trump’s failed “attempt” to condemn white supremacy. Debate moderator Chris Wallace asked Trump if he would condemn white supremacist groups like the Proud Boys, to which Trump told the group to “stand back and stand by,” and tried to shift the light to Biden for not condemning Antifa.
If you’re unfamiliar with these groups, the Proud Boys describe themselves as “a pro-Western fraternal organization for men” who deny being extremists of the far-right. In reality, this group is responsible for hateful rhetoric mainly against people of colour and immigrants, and resorts to violence and hate crimes as a method of preserving American identity and national security. On the other end of the spectrum, there is Antifa, a leftist group seeking to take down the far-right through both nonviolent and violent methods.
While neither Trump nor Biden is overtly tied to these groups, Trump has an extensive history of association with the far-right and white supremacists, both during his initial presidential campaign and during his first term.
During his 2016 presidential campaign, Trump retweeted content from a white supremacist, in response to which he claimed he knew nothing about the groups supporting him. Following this mild scandal, he received an endorsement from former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, and failed to immediately deny Duke’s support.
While these incidents may seem mild, after the 2017 Charlottesville Unite the Right white supremacist and neo-Nazi rally, Trump is famously quoted for stating that there are “fine people on both sides,” referring to white supremacists on the far-right and Antifa supporters on the far-left.
As we saw during the debate, Trump is more adamant about labelling Antifa supporters as the domestic threat to America, perhaps because this demographic tends to be supporters of the Democratic party and thus won’t vote for him regardless of what he says.
On the other hand, Trump is reluctant to criticize any American citizen that supports him and his administration, even if that does mean his support comes from white supremacists. Trump fails to reprimand or even condemn these groups because he doesn’t consider white supremacy to be a national plight.
Trump continues to declare colour blindness on America’s structural racism and, therefore, does not criticize overt racists.
Since the debate, Republicans have been playing clean-up to try and disassociate the president from white supremacists, part of which being Trump claiming he doesn’t know who or what the Proud Boys are. Trump has made these claims several times before, and yet, he consistently stumbles when asked about the support he receives from white supremacists and if he condemns these supporters.
While it’s political suicide to denounce your supporters, this demographic is responsible for the domestic danger and inhuman violence we saw this past summer in the deaths of Americans of colour like George Floyd and harm to protestors with Black Lives Matter and police reform protests.
Trump’s inability to comprehend, condemn and challenge America’s systemic racism and domestic threats will ultimately reinforce white supremacist ideologies embedded in the roots of the “American dream” and destroy any chance of political reform for equality.
Another four years of Trump means that Americans have to endure another four years of social injustice, coupled with the current economic crisis caused by the novel coronavirus.
While Trump is a businessman, he was set up for success in his first term by the Obama administration’s efforts to recover from the 2008 financial crisis. Since April, unemployment rates are gradually dropping from an all-time high, but at the cost of very few, if any, health and safety bylaws to mitigate COVID-19.
If the U.S. president cannot see and accept the current realities of COVID-19, how will he ever address the systemic racism and violence that has littered the nation for hundreds of years.