Nazis in Virginia: “Fulfilling the promises of Donald Trump”
A demonstrator marching in solidarity with the Charlottesville anti-racist activists holds a sign recalling the Woody Guthrie song, "All You Fascists Bound to Lose," in Chicago on August 13. | Micah Uetricht / DSA Chicago

Usually when David Duke opens his mouth, you can count on the words that come out to be a lie. The former KKK imperial wizard, Holocaust denier, and white nationalist typically peddles trash about supposed white genocide or the benefits of racial segregation. But this weekend in Charlottesville, Duke did something unexpected: He told the truth. Or, at least he told one little piece of truth.

Speaking at the neo-Nazi confab in Virginia, Duke proclaimed he and his fellow racists were there “to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.”

Duke is right.

The fascist terror that took the life of one woman, Heather Heyer, and sent many more people to the hospital is precisely the “promise” that has been latent in Trump’s rhetoric ever since the start of his campaign for the presidency.

Trump’s dark and coded rhetoric has emboldened white supremacists and segregationists. | John Bazemore / AP

When Trump said during the election last year that it was time “to take our country back,” he was speaking in words that Duke and his cohort understood perfectly. It wasn’t hard; the message was hardly concealed.

It started years ago, most infamously with the racist “birther” controversy aimed at undermining President Barack Obama. It ramped up dramatically once Trump started running for the White House himself.

There was of course the denunciation of Mexican immigrants as criminals, drug dealers, and rapists in his very first speech of the campaign. That was followed up with candidate Trump’s pledge to build a wall along the southern border, sending the signal that certain people—brown-skinned people—were not welcome.

He closed out the election with an ad that was packed full of anti-Semitic tropes about “global special interests,” bolstered by the faces of prominent Jewish personalities flashed across the screen. It was a work of television dog-whistling that would have made Jesse Helms proud.

Promptly announcing a ban on Muslims entering the United States upon taking office, the president gave another nod to the racists and their notion of a war between civilizations.

In May this year, Trump dismissively responded to the concerns about police brutality raised by Black Lives Matter and other movements by saying that “our police have been subject to unfair defamation and vilification.”

Heather Heyer, martyred by the Nazis in Charlottesville.

At the beginning of this month, there was the roll-out of a new Republican immigration plan which has been roundly criticized as a project for a whiter America.

The pattern is plain to see for anyone whose been paying attention.

Many of the words and policies of Trump, both before and since taking office, have been a calculated effort to mobilize a hard-core base of supporters motivated by racial resentments and hatred.

His condemnation on Saturday of the “hatred, bigotry and violence from many sides” was another case of his pandering. The truth is that the hatred, bigotry, and violence that were on display in Charlottesville did not come from “many sides.” It came from one side.

But to only single out Trump for emboldening the neo-Nazis that were on the march this weekend would be to deny the credit due to so many others in his administration.

There is Steve Bannon, the “alt-right” ideologue who brought white nationalism right into the Oval Office. Responsible for writing many of Trump’s most inflammatory speeches and sprinkling them with references to white nationalist vocabulary is Stephen Miller. And of course, we can’t forget Trump advisor Sebastian Gorka, who has been linked to a Nazi group in Hungary and just last Wednesday said on Breitbart Radio that white supremacists are not a problem.

Several Republican senators—such as Orrin Hatch of Utah, Marco Rubio of Florida, Chuck Grassley of Iowa, and others— took strong positions calling out this weekend’s racist terror for what it was. Some of them even urged President Trump to do so as well.

But where will these same senators be when Trump starts pushing another effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act? Where will they stand when an anti-immigrant bill comes up for a vote? Will they denounce the racism behind the next iteration of Trump’s Muslim ban?

Trump, the white nationalists around him in the White House, and the Nazis in Charlottesville are all attempting to sell white Americans, especially working class white Americans, a false bill of goods. As the Rev. William Barber said Saturday: “White nationalists don’t care about white America. They don’t support living wages for the working poor. They don’t support health care for the poor and the working poor… They support the kind of policies that would take those things from people.”

Barber’s call for a non-violent mass movement of all people to challenge the ideologies that foster racism and the wedge attacks that are used to divide working people points the way forward.

From the start, Trump and his promises to “Make America Great Again” have been backward-looking. They have encouraged racist sentimentality for a segregationist past when minorities knew their place and multiculturalism was unheard of. His manipulative political rhetoric and reactionary policies have emboldened white supremacist forces and led us to this moment.

If his efforts to strip millions of health care, his bombing of Syria and Iraq, his demonization of an entire religion, his plans to build a border wall, or his threat of nuclear war did not make clear how dangerous the continuation of this presidency is, perhaps Charlottesville will.

It was already obvious, but now perhaps more so. It’s time for President Trump to go.


C.J. Atkins
C.J. Atkins

C.J. Atkins is the managing editor at People's World. He holds a Ph.D. in political science from York University in Toronto and has a research and teaching background in political economy and the politics and ideas of the American left.