Many celebrated the election of Donald Trump last November as the “revenge of the white man.” This vengeful sentiment continues today, and is more toxic than ever.
A certain category of Americans never truly accepted Barack Obama’s presidential victory, nor the current changes that have been shaping U.S. society since the 1960s. Feminism, ethnic diversity, priority for minorities in universities and public-sector jobs, and same-sex marriage are all thorns in the side of the superior vision the white man holds of himself. This view is also coupled with a nostalgia for a time when he reigned supreme over his family and community. Refusing to be relegated to a handful of people among the vast number of Americans is obviously rooted in the slavery era and the denial of black emancipation. But we should also remember that Asian people were long forbidden from entering the United States. And yet we assume that the secret meetings held by the Ku Klux Klan were no longer anything more than southern folklore.
We have recently witnessed nationalistic demonstrations that led to violent clashes and more than 30 victims in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend. It is now clear that the white supremacists have hardly disappeared; if anything, they have been reenergized by Trump’s reign. During his campaign, the president constantly glorified the “values” of white America, as well as the right to bear arms and defend oneself against attacks — including those by the government. During his rallies, he positioned himself as a preacher of violence and settling scores. Trump’s vocabulary, his attitude, and his taste for slander all fit perfectly into the folklore upheld by white supremacists. After all, they voted for him.
We should therefore not be surprised by the violence in Charlottesville, nor by Trump’s reluctance to condemn the white supremacists — his immediate reaction was to blame both the racist and anti-racist groups. This equal treatment even surprised his own entourage. The most conservative Republicans, the attorney general, and his own daughter and advisor were all quick to condemn the white supremacists. Many commentators also used the events to point out that supremacists were responsible for more murders than all Islamist terrorists combined. How are we to interpret Trump’s strategy in this affair? Does he even believe what he is saying? What presidents think is of course less important in reality than what they say.
It is becoming increasingly evident that Trump is not really the president of all Americans; he isn’t even an actual president, of anyone, but rather a candidate on a permanent electoral campaign, focused solely on being voted back into office. And he’s not even hiding it. He seems to be considering that the white supremacist shock troops could be as useful to him in three years as they were last November. However, it seems more likely that Trump will not be re-elected, and perhaps will not even finish his term as his own party will abandon him beforehand. His Republican support is waning with every red line he crosses — whether his attempts to take away health insurance from 30 million Americans, risking a pointless war in Korea, or supporting white supremacists. Even the conservative press is urging Trump the denounce “white nationalism,” but he continues to refuse, despite being more than happy to attack Muslims or Mexicans. Yet in a political system where Congress counts for just as much as the presidency, no leader can survive without the support of their party. Congress can get rid of a president, but not the other way around, and Trump is digging his own grave a little more each day.
Cartoon: © Carlos Latuff