The horrific events that unfolded in Charlottesville this weekend should be condemned by everyone — politicians, business leaders, everyday citizens. Whether your platform is a national cable TV show, a weekly newspaper or a twitter account, the country must hear from the sane majority that these displays of hatred and violence will not be tolerated. For black and Jewish Americans to watch scenes of burning torches and Nazi flags paraded down an American street in 2017 is chilling.
There are a few basic truths that we must now acknowledge. First, this White House is being run by a white supremacist, Steve Bannon, Donald Trump’s chief strategist, a man best known for stoking the fears of angry white men with his Nazi-esque propaganda documentaries and his reign at Breitbart.
Second, nothing that this White House does or says is by accident. The events playing out now — from Charlottesville’s violence to the gutting of federal government agencies to the embrace of Putin — are deliberate and planned. When Trump refuses to call out the Neo-Nazis and KKK and equates their hate and violence with those who showed up to protest against them, it’s deliberate. When Trump vaguely dismisses the “egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides,” he knows exactly what he’s doing, and Bannon probably wrote the words for him. That remark was Trump/Bannon’s attempt to cast Neo-Nazis in the same light as Black Lives Matter. It was a calculated smear and another in a long line of dog whistles to his racist supporters.
And speaking of Trump’s remaining supporters — roughly one-third of the electorate if recent polls are to be trusted — they are a largely uneducated, poor, white bloc. Hillary Clinton dominated Trump among educated voters, winning 48 of 50 of the country’s most educated counties, according to an analysis by Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com, which also found the corollary to be true: Trump dominated Clinton in the 50 least-educated counties. As Silver put it, “The education gap is carving up the American electorate and toppling political coalitions that had been in place for many years.”
Further proof of their stupidity emerges daily. In one recent poll of Trump supporters, half insisted he won the popular vote; in another poll, 58 percent of Republicans and GOP-leaning independent voters said colleges and universities are bad for the country. This tactic of demonizing education as “elitist” gave rise to the empty-headed Sarah Palin and culminated in the election of a cheesy, racist, washed-up reality TV host as president.
And when uneducated white people get their news from Brietbart and other alt-right sources, things get worse. The Daily Stormer site is filled with anti-Semitic rants and ads promoting the “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville. One headline on Daily Stormer after the white supremacist terror attack read, “Kikes pressing Trump to condemn innocent Nazis who were attacked by terrorist cops and leftist terrorists.” The hacktivist group Anonymous claims to have taken over the site and said it plans to shut it down permanently.
These Trump supporters are not swayed by facts or reason. They don’t respect education or the media. They are, thus, ripe for brainwashing and susceptible to propaganda like the kind masterminded by Bannon and spewed by various racist alt-right outlets that now have seats in the White House briefing room.
This is what happens when 40 percent of eligible voters stay home on Election Day. Let’s hope the Trump debacle serves as a wake-up call to those voters. Meanwhile, we must remain vigilant and denounce the Trump/Bannon attacks on our democracy until either Robert Mueller puts an end to this travesty or the voters do it in 2020.
Kevin Naff is editor of the Washington Blade. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.