Will Republicans finally disown Trump’s incendiary racism?

Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Vice President Mike Pence listens as President Donald Trump speaks about the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio, in the Diplomatic Reception Room of the White House, Monday, Aug. 5, 2019, in Washington. (Evan Vucci/AP Photo)

Amidst the latest bloodshed — the worst of it triggered by a white racist domestic terrorist whose El Paso manifesto echoes Trump’s racist rhetoric — I bet you’re jonesing for some good news. I’m happy to share what I have. Admittedly it isn’t much, but at this point we should probably be grateful whenever a few Republicans wake up and smell their party’s white supremacist stench.

Granted, the dominant GOP reaction this weekend, to the targeted shooting of Hispanics shopping in Walmart, featured four predictable components: (1) thoughts n’ prayers, (2) bring back prayer in schools, (3) fight mental illness, and (4) ban video games. But there were some shafts of sunlight in the darkening clouds.

John McCollister is a senator in the red-state Nebraska legislature. He posted a series of tweets last night: “The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country.  As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s the truth…the Republican Party is COMPLICIT to obvious racist and immoral activity inside our party. We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base. He calls certain countries ‘sh*tholes,’ tells women of color to ‘go back’ to where they came from and lies more than he tells the truth.”

“We have Republican senators and representatives who look the other way and say nothing for fear that it will negatively affect their elections. No more. When the history books are written, I refuse to be someone who said nothing. The time is now for us Republicans to be honest with what is happening inside our party. We are better than this and I implore my Republican colleagues to stand up and do the right thing.”

Senator Ted Cruz — yes, Cruz — said this on Sunday: “What we saw yesterday was a heinous act of terrorism and white supremacy. There is no place for this in El Paso, in Texas, or anywhere across our nation.”

Texas Land Office Commissioner George P. Bush, son of Jeb and nephew of George W., tweeted this on Saturday: “I proudly served in Afghanistan as a Naval officer where our mission was to fight and kill terrorists. I believe fighting terrorism remains a national priority. And that should include standing firm against white terrorism here in the U.S. There have now been multiple attacks from self-declared white terrorists here in the U.S. in the last several months. This is a real and present threat that we must denounce and defeat.”

And early this morning, the conservative, pro-GOP Washington Examiner posted an editorial that assailed El Paso’s “white nationalist terrorist,” and declared: “Trump ought to use the bully pulpit to become a leading crusader against white nationalism and racism. These mindsets are immoral and they threaten everything that makes America great. Some conservatives and Republicans have hesitated to acknowledge that this a growing scourge, but after El Paso any such reluctance is unacceptable … Trump needs to make clear that he hates white nationalism as something un-American and evil.”

So at least some on the right are finally speaking out — which is long overdue, given the fact that the rising threat of white racist domestic terrorism has been well-documented since 2009 — but, rest assured, they won’t get much help from Trump. On a tarmac yesterday, he said nothing about the white supremacy threat or the shooter’s manifesto; instead, he floated an exquisite lie. On the issue of gun violence, he said, “we have done much more than most administrations. That’s not talked about very much. But we’ve done actually a lot.” Then, on Twitter this morning, he blamed the slaughter of Hispanics on guess who: “The Media has a big responsibility to life and safety in our Country … News coverage has got to start being fair, balanced and unbiased, or these terrible problems will only get worse!”

But the problem, for Trump, is that “The Media” accurately showed him at a May 8 Florida rally railing about immigrants crossing the border, and when he asked, “How do we stop these people?” somebody yelled, “Shoot them!” — and when his cultists laughed, cheered, and applauded, the cameras caught him smirking. He didn’t admonish the crowd, he indulged it: “That’s only in the Panhandle you can get away with that statement.”

“The Media” has given him ample opportunity to renounce his incendiary bigotry. On the White House lawn last Thursday, as he prepared to leave for another rally, he was asked how he’d respond if the crowd chanted that four Democratic congresswomen of color should go back to where they came from. Instead of saying that the chant was racist, that the four women were Americans, he said this: “I don’t know if you can stop people (from chanting). You know what my message is? I love them, and I think they really love me.”

Trump didn’t order the El Paso shooter onto the killing field. But ever since he descended his escalator in June 2015 to attack Mexico for sending “criminals” and “rapists,” he has given verbal aid and comfort to aspiring white domestic terrorists. The shooter’s manifesto assails an Hispanic “invasion,” echoing a word that surfaces in a number of Trump tweets; the shooter at one point retweeted a photo of the word “Trump” spelled out in firearms. Trump himself has long winked at the potential for violence. Meanwhile, his regime has cut off funding to a national terrorism database that has charted the rise of right-wing domestic terrorism. You have to be willfully dense, or deep in denial, to not connect the dots – case in point, acting Trump chief of staff Mick Mulvaney, who said yesterday, “No politician is to blame” for El Paso.

David French, a conservative lawyer who writes for the conservative National Review, has connected those dots. Earlier today, he pointed out that the rise of the violent right is “directly related to (Trump’s) rhetoric … Most Americans remember the Tree of Life synagogue massacre in Pittsburgh. Do you remember the white supremacist who killed a black man in New York with a sword? Do you remember the attempted church massacre in Kentucky, where a white supremacist who couldn’t gain access to the church gunned down two black victims at a Kroger grocery story instead? Do you remember that a member of an ‘alt-Reich’ Facebook group stabbed a black Maryland college student to death without provocation, or that a white man in Kansas shouted ethnic slurs before shooting two Indian engineers in a bar, killing one? Substitute ‘jihadist’ for ‘white supremacist’ or ‘white nationalist’ and then imagine how we’d act.”

French writes that “it’s time for American leaders to respond with unequivocal, relentless messages not just of condemnation for racists but also with their own words of reconciliation and national unity … and if they are not up to that most basic and fundamental aspect of their job, then they must be replaced.”

One person in particular. This morning, he read from his TelePrompTer and said that white supremacy is bad. We’ll soon find out whether he has the gravitas to say that to his rally fans.

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