What happened in Charlottesville this weekend didn’t just randomly occur. It was a very predictable culmination of one of the most disgraceful years in American political history.
When Donald Trump announced his candidacy, his biggest political achievement was leading the Birther movement, which questioned whether President Barack Obama was born in America. Trump launched his campaign by scapegoating Mexican immigrants, even comparing these so-called “bad Hombres” to criminals and rapists.
From Day 1, white supremacists and neo-Nazi groups had found their man and rallied around Trump’s campaign. This was well documented.
Instead of acting responsibly and relegating Trump and his crackpot supporters to the fringe, CNN and MSNBC gave Trump perhaps the largest platform, with the biggest megaphone, in American history. This serial liar with Nazi supporters received three billion dollars in free media, and he was a ubiquitous presence in our homes for nearly two years.
The networks loved Trump because he made them money. People would tune into see his racist rants, and the networks would convert those eyeballs into advertising revenue. To make a short-term profit, the media checked its ethics, surrendered its moral authority, and ignored the unsavory, and often violent, elements that created havoc at Trump rallies.
The warning signs were there. On August 19, 2015, two lowlifes beat a Hispanic man with a pipe in Boston while yelling, “Donald Trump was right,” and “All these illegals need to be deported.” But the corporate media continued to prostitute itself and pretend this was an anomaly, rather than a fixture of Trump’s rhetoric.
Instead of harshly condemning Trump’s frequent attacks on Muslims and Latinos, the media tried to explain away his rougher edges. Trump was a regular on MSNBC’s Morning Joe, which repeatedly allowed the reality star to use that platform to set the day’s news agenda. While Trump often received favorable news coverage, Hillary Clinton was routinely savaged, and Bernie Sanders was mostly ignored.
CNN was the worst of all. They should have dropped most of their Trump coverage for the good of America. Instead, they saturated the airwaves with this bigoted blowhard.
They degraded their news operation by hiring Trump apologists, such as Jeffrey Lord, Kayleigh McEnany, and Corey Lewandowski. These apparatchiks spun Trumps constant lies and excused his overt racism. They normalized his bigotry and turned this hate-mongering millionaire, into an “everyday man of the people, who just wanted to bring back their jobs in the coal mine.”
The media played with fire, and this weekend, America was burned – as the white supremacists and neo-Nazis, inspired by Trump’s victory, felt secure enough to come out of the closet and parade in a liberal college town like Charlottesville.
Republicans are also partially responsible for what happened in Charlottesville. They have long considered racists just another constituency, and Donald Trump knows they are his base. This is why he pathetically failed to condemn the neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville saying, it was an “egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides.
That statement, if you think about it, is the triumph of FOX News, which has perfected the art of false equivalency. With its propaganda slogan “Fair and Balanced,” FOX promotes the Big Lie that there are two legitimate sides to every issue.
So, if have Gay Pride, to be fair and balanced, you must promote Straight Pride. If you interview an advocate for Black Lives Matter, to be fair and balanced, you must promote a racist from Blue Lives Matter or White Lives Matter. This is how FOX promotes bigotry, while giving itself plausible deniability.
I’ve heard many Republicans make the false claim that the racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia displayed in Charlottesville is not real conservatism. I guess that’s true if you conveniently ignore history.
Barry Goldwater, the Godfather of the modern conservative movement, voted against the landmark Civil Rights Act of 1964.
Richard Nixon rolled out the Southern Strategy, stressing the code words “law and order.” What it really did was exploit racial tension so Republicans could take over the south. It was an overwhelming success. Today, we euphemistically call these states that switched parties due to racism, Red States.
Nixon also targeted minorities with a phony War on Drugs. Last year, Nixon’s domestic policy chief John Ehrlichman told Harpers:
“The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying? We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin.
And then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders. Raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.”
When Ronald Reagan won the Republican nomination, he kicked off his presidential campaign at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Mississippi. This town was the site where three civil rights workers were murdered in 1964. During his speech, he unforgivably told the crowd, “I believe in states’ rights.”
George H.W. Bush embraced Family Values Republicans and let the infamous haters Pat Robertson and Pat Buchannan spew bile from the 1992 convention in Houston. He also ran the infamous race baiting Willie Horton ad.
In 2000, the George W. Bush campaign, led by Karl Rove, helped place 11 referendums on ballots to ban gay marriage. The idea was to mobilize conservative voters, mostly in swing states, such as Ohio. All 11 bans passed and George W. Bush was reelected.
Let’s also not forget that Republican presidential candidates lined up for years to speak at Bob Jones University, which banned interracial dating. It wasn’t until George W. Bush took flack for his appearance in 2000, that Republicans stopped bowing down to this racist school.
Modern conservatism is a scam that rich whites perpetrate on poor whites. It’s a bait and switch, where wealthy Republicans stir up the base by creating minority scapegoats. The white rubes then come out to vote Republican. But, once in office, they generally ignore the rubes and give massive tax cuts to themselves.
But these fools never catch on. The latest version is Trump’s refrain, “Drain the Swamp.” When he was elected, however, he filled key positions with swamp dwellers from Goldman Sachs.
The greatest distillation of conservative strategy came from the late political operative Lee Atwater:
And even after all the advances in Civil Rights and the election of Barack Obama, confederate monuments shamefully still dotted the south. This changed on June 17, 2015 when white supremacist Dylan Roof murdered nine African Americans praying at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina.
Those defending confederate monuments call it their heritage. They are correct, but it’s a heritage of hate, in the service of slavery. These monuments are trophies to traitors, who rebelled against the United States of America. They only place for these plaques to prejudice are in a museum, where the hate and bigotry can be put into a historical context, instead of celebrated in the public square.
The fireworks in Charlottesville began over anger about plans to remove a statue of Confederate Gen. Robert E. Lee. I personally think Lee’s monument should be replaced by a statue of Heather Heyer, the counterdemonstrator who was murdered by Nazi, Alex Fields Jr., who he rammed his Dodge Challenger into a crowd, also injuring 19 people.
Donald Trump’s flaccid reaction to this Nazi violence is a pockmark on his presidency. By not standing up to his base, he has debased the office.
Indeed, former KKK Grand Wizard David Duke said:
“We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump.”
Since 2001, there is an average of more than 300 violent attacks a year in the United States linked to right wing extremists, according to a study by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. Since 9/11 jihadists have murdered 95 people in the U.S, while right wing extremists have killed 68 people.
What happened in Charlottesville was an act of terrorism. Where the hell is Trump’s “War on Terror” now? We don’t need a brown war on terror – we need a war on all terrorism, and that includes his base.
Trump also needs to clean house, with the stain on his legacy extending to staff. His chief strategist, Steve Bannon, is a white nationalist. Another key advisor, Sebastian Gorka, is tied to neo-Nazi groups in Hungary. This is completely unacceptable, and if the president doesn’t want to get blamed for right wing violence, he needs to begin by firing these extremists.
It’s time the conservative movement stops tolerating those who spread intolerance. They need to be crystal clear and remove these haters from their base. And the media should stop giving coverage to politicians who pander to undesirable right wing elements. Enough is enough, already.
This is Wayne Besen for today’s daily Reality Check.
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