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In a new essay in The Atlantic, Adam Serwer examines the rise of white nationalism and the need for a firm, clear response, led mostly by conservatives to increasing violence – coupled with a law enforcement response – in order to counter the hate that is poisoning our society.
The Trump administration’s worldview — which has been met with either agreement or silence by the Republican Party — is that the politics of grievance, xenophobia and racism is the path forward for the nation, even as this has led to acts of extreme violence and murder sprees on multiple occasions. As President Trump and Stephen Miller continue to demonize immigrants and propose and enact policies pulled from the wishlists of the anti-immigrant and white nationalist movements – such as their plans to indefinitely detain migrant kids or their plan to restrict immigration along racial and income lines – the overlap between the Trump worldview and the anti-immigrant and white nationalist movements are hard to distinguish.
Yet, just as we call on Imams and leaders in Muslim communities to denounce violence carried out in the name of a misguided interpretation of Islam, we are seeing barely a peep from Republicans when violence is committed in the name of xenophobic and nationalist philosophy that now are central to the Republican Party.
Indeed, just the opposite is happening. For example, as the Washington Post and other outlets are highlighting that Trump’s Department of Justice this week sent to federal immigration judges and other DoJ immigration employees a link to an anti-Semitic blogs from the virulently racist website Vdare.com – a notorious gathering place for hate mongers of the anti-immigration movement.
According to Douglas Rivlin, Director of Communication for America’s Voice: “When it comes to the hate-filled rhetoric and xenophobic policies of Stephen Miller and Donald Trump, none of this is normal or okay. Trump will never change, but will the GOP ever stand up? Unless and until the Republican Party and the conservative movement go beyond their current approach of complicity or acquiescence – and the occasional carefully-crafted tweet expressing discomfort – white nationalism will continue its disturbing ascendance, erupting all too often in spectacularly murderous acts of violence. The most virulent and indefensible version of Trump-ism will keep taking over the GOP, which is a stain that will not soon come out, if ever. As we have seen during the past weeks, this exacts a real toll of fear in the United States and endangers American lives. Even if you believe Trump is teaching a master class in political strategy – and 2018 election results and current polling indicates that is absurd to believe – the silence of conservatives and Republicans in the face of Trump’s actions and their consequences is unjustifiable.”
Find excerpts from Adam Serwer’s essay, “Only the Right Can Defeat White Nationalism,” below:
The massacre in El Paso, Texas, has, for the moment, reminded Americans of the danger posed by far-right terrorists. Former national-security officials have demanded that the U.S. government ‘make addressing this form of terrorism as high a priority as countering international terrorism has become since 9/11.’
…But there are actually two challenges posed by white nationalism: One is the threat posed to American communities by attacks like the one in El Paso, which law enforcement can and should prevent. The other is the threat the ideology the attackers support poses to American democracy, which can be defeated only through politics, and only by the American people themselves.
… ‘I believe the primary challenge posed by white nationalism is political, not law-enforcement related,’ David Gomez, a former FBI counterterrorism supervisor, told me. ‘That is because, like fascism of the 1930s, white nationalism has begun to enter the mainstream political arena, which tends to make their extremism palatable to disenfranchised political minorities who fear the rise of ‘the other.’’
The spike in white-nationalist terrorism is emerging from the extremist fringe of the American right, giving conservatives a special responsibility to use their authority to deprive white nationalists of their claim to represent America’s authentic heritage.
…The president’s own white-nationalist beliefs raise a distinct, but related, policy issue, beyond the prevention of terrorism. Trump has publicly praised acts of torture, police brutality, and lethal violence against religious and ethnic minorities. Those statements not only bolster white nationalists in their beliefs; they send the message to those with the responsibility to protect Americans from terrorism that extrajudicial violence against the very groups targeted by white nationalism is acceptable. This not only affects law enforcement’s ability to prevent such attacks; it legitimizes illicit state violence against minorities.
…The factors fueling violent white nationalism can be neutralized only by Americans themselves—by reaffirming that the United States is a multiracial democracy where no citizen inherits a greater claim to Americanness than any other. That will require enough of both left and right to unify in opposition to the bigotries that have plagued America since even before its founding, and rejecting the proposition that those bigotries are the only true, authentic expression of American heritage. That heritage includes not just John Calhoun but also Frederick Douglass, not just Madison Grant but also Emma Lazarus, not merely Jim Crow but also James Meredith.
It will also require those on the American right to turn from the path they have been walking, since even before Trump demanded that the first black president show his papers. Few of them seem prepared to do so.