In the wake of the Charlottesville protests, the equivocations among Republicans are already beginning, starting with President Trump. The president, who seldom fails to speak his mind on Twitter, offered an uncharacteristically judicious tweet in the wake of the violence.
“We ALL must be united & condemn all that hate stands for. There is no place for this kind of violence in America. Lets [sic] come together as one!” the president tweeted.
If ever there was a time for President Trump to issue a strong message that parses no words, this is it. While the message of unity is appropriate, it is also appropriate to condemn the white supremacists who started the whole fracas.
While radicals on both sides deserve to be condemned, it should not be hard to single out neo-Nazis who march under the swastika flag for specific condemnation. The German Nazi flag cannot be considered to be part of our heritage. Far from it. We fought a world war to keep the swastika flag far from our shores.
Neo-Nazi radicals have the right to their opinion. They have the right to peacefully and lawfully assemble. That does not mean that they should not be criticized and condemned for their actions and the violence that they have instigated.
While all the groups involved in the Charlottesville skirmishing are worthy of condemnation, it is especially important for conservatives and Republicans to denounce the alt-right demonstrators for two reasons. First, in the minds of many people, the Republican Party is already associated with racism. Republicans should take every opportunity to distance themselves from that perception.
Second, the demonstrators explicitly claim to be associated with President Trump and the GOP. There are numerous reports of white supremacists wearing “Make America Great Again” hats and other Trump gear. Former Klansman and Republican candidate David Duke said at the rally, “We’re going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump, and that’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back and that’s what we gotta [sic] do.”
Failure to publicly renounce Duke’s words is a trap for conservatives. If Republicans do not rebuke racists claiming to act in the name of the Trump Administration it will be an implicit endorsement of their actions. For once, it would be to President Trump’s advantage to fire off an angry tweet specifically rebuking the Charlottesville Nazis in terms at least as strong as he reprimanded Jeff Sessions.
If President Trump fails to condemn the white supremacists in Charlottesville, it will be a break with the true traditions of the Republican Party. The GOP was founded as an anti-white supremacist party at the dawn of the Civil War with the Great Emancipator, Abraham Lincoln, as its first president. Another Republican president, Dwight Eisenhower, ordered the 101st Airborne to Little Rock to enforce school integration a century later.
More recently, President Reagan specifically excluded bigots from the big tent of the GOP in his second inaugural address. “In the party of Lincoln, there is no room for intolerance and not even a small corner for anti-Semitism or bigotry of any kind,” Reagan said. “Many people are welcome in our house, but not the bigots.”
In modern America, what easier target for condemnation is there than white supremacists rallying under a Nazi banner? If the president cannot find words to denounce American Nazis, it will speak volumes about his Administration and the new Republican Party.