President Trump’s unyielding push to preserve Confederate symbols and the legacy of white domination, crystallized by his harsh denunciation of the racial justice movement Friday night at Mount Rushmore, has unnerved Republicans who have long enabled him but now fear losing power and forever associating their party with his racial animus.
Although amplifying racism and stoking culture wars have been mainstays of Trump’s public identity for decades, they have been particularly pronounced this summer as the president has reacted to the national reckoning over systemic discrimination by seeking to weaponize the anger and resentment of some white Americans for his own political gain.
Trump has left little doubt through his utterances the past few weeks that he sees himself not only as the Republican standard-bearer but as leader of a modern grievance movement animated by civic strife and marked by calls for “white power,” the phrase chanted by one of his supporters in a video the president shared last weekend on Twitter. He later deleted the video but did not disavow its message.
Trump put his strategy to resuscitate his troubled reelection campaign by galvanizing white supporters on display Friday night under the chiseled granite gaze of four past presidents memorialized in the Black Hills of South Dakota. He celebrated Independence Day with a dystopian speech in which he excoriated racial justice protesters as “evil” representatives of a “new far-left fascism” whose ultimate goal is “the end of America.”
“Our nation is witnessing a merciless campaign to wipe out our history, defame our heroes, erase our values, and indoctrinate our children,” Trump said to boos from a packed crowd of supporters. “Angry mobs are trying to tear down statues of our Founders, deface our most sacred memorials, and unleash a wave of violent crime in our cities.”
Over the years, some Republicans have struggled to navigate Trump’s race baiting and, at times, outright racism, while others have rallied behind him. Bursts of indignation and frustration come and go but have never resulted in a complete GOP break with the president. Trump’s recent moves are again putting Republican officeholders onto risky political terrain. [Continue reading…]