Timing is everything. On a pleasant Thursday, Donald Trump did say this:
I actually think that the people on the right are tougher, but they don’t play it tougher. Okay? I can tell you I have the support of the police, the support of the military, the support of the Bikers for Trump – I have the tough people, but they don’t play it tough – until they go to a certain point, and then it would be very bad, very bad.
That might have been a threat. Don’t tick off “his people” – the police and the military and those bikers. They all love him, and when they find out you don’t love him, they’ll be very angry. You don’t want these people angry at you. You could die. Not that these good people would do anything, but they might. You never know. Perhaps you should be careful. Watch what you say. And this might have been a warning about impeachment. Try that and that would tick off the police and the military and those bikers too – all of them good citizens who own big deadly guns and know how to use them. So watch what you say and what you do. The police and the military and those bikers are going to protect him. No one is going to protect someone who doesn’t like him. So agree with him. There is a deep state plot against him. And the media is the “enemy of the people” too.
That was the message. His people have guns. Don’t mess with them and don’t mess with him. Remember who has the guns. And then there was Friday morning:
President Trump deleted a tweet Friday linking to the conservative Breitbart News featuring an interview in which he suggested his supporters could “play it tough” if need be. The deletion came after the terror attack that left 49 victims dead at mosques in New Zealand.
The tweet was deleted mid-morning, according to analysis using the Internet archiving system Wayback Machine.
President Trump doesn’t delete all that many tweets, but he deleted that one, and Jennifer Rubin notes why:
The horrific massacre in Christchurch, New Zealand, which has taken at least 49 lives, reminds us of the slaughter at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, which reminds us of the murders of innocents in a Charleston, S.C., church. White supremacy. Fear of an invasion. Conspiratorial, apocalyptic thinking. The alleged murderer in New Zealand – as in the other incidents -tells us exactly why the attacks occurred.
That would be this:
The 74-page manifesto left behind after the attack was littered with conspiracy theories about white birthrates and “white genocide.” It is the latest sign that a lethal vision of white nationalism has spread internationally. Its title, “The Great Replacement,” echoes the rallying cry of, among others, the torch-bearing protesters who marched in Charlottesville in 2017.
Yes, he had to delete that tweet, but that didn’t fix much of anything:
President Trump said Friday he does not believe white nationalism is a rising global danger after a suspected gunman who authorities say espoused that ideology killed 49 Muslims in New Zealand.
When asked at the White House whether white nationalists were a growing threat around the world, Trump replied: “I don’t really. I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems. It’s certainly a terrible thing.”
Trump also said he had not seen a manifesto that named him as an inspiration for white identity ideology.
He was saying he couldn’t really comment on something he hadn’t seen yet, and then the commentary started:
The responses Friday by Trump and other U.S. politicians to the New Zealand tragedy divided heavily along partisan lines. While many Republicans de-emphasized the role of white nationalist ideology, some Democrats suggested, either directly or indirectly, that Trump’s history of anti-Muslim remarks and policies contributed to the tragedy.
“Time and time again, this president has embraced and emboldened white supremacists – and instead of condemning racist terrorists, he covers for them,” tweeted Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), who is seeking to challenge Trump in 2020. “This isn’t normal or acceptable. We have to be better than this.”
And this was about us:
Like the suspect accused of killing 11 Jewish synagogue-goers in Pittsburgh last October, the suspected mosque shooter in New Zealand allegedly drew inspiration from the rise of white nationalism in America. The 74-page manifesto posted online hailed Trump as a symbol “of renewed white identity and common purpose.”
And there is context:
Trump’s comments on the attacks came as he vetoed a congressional resolution that sought to block him from declaring a national emergency to build his long-promised wall along the southern border. Trump has repeatedly warned of violent criminals and terrorists coming into the country from Mexico, including claiming without evidence that “Middle Easterners” are sneaking in with asylum seekers over the southern border.
Trump has a long history of derogatory remarks about Muslims, including declaring in 2016 that “Islam hates us.” He formally proposed banning all Muslims from entering the United States during the presidential campaign and since taking office his administration has implemented policies barring citizens of certain Muslim-majority countries from traveling to the United States.
And there’s that one word:
During the veto signing, Trump referred to people trying to invade the United States as a reason for the wall. The manifesto in the New Zealand attack referred to invasions of foreigners as an existential threat to white civilization.
That’s a problem:
John D. Cohen, a former Homeland Security official in the George W. Bush and Barack Obama administrations, said there is concern among law enforcement officials about Trump using such language.
“These white supremacists live in this conspiratorial bizarro world,” Cohen said. “They will draw a connection between the use of that language by the person who wrote the manifesto and statements being made by our government. That is what is concerning law enforcement.”
Trump said he didn’t care, he liked that “invasion” word, and this WAS an invasion, of families with children turning themselves in and asking for asylum – but really rapists and murderers and drugs dealers and Islamic terrorists. And they cannot come in. But he had nothing to do with that guy in New Zealand. And that, in turn, had nothing to do with anything that ever happened in America:
In the document, the man also stated that he was following the example of notorious right-wing extremists, including Dylann Roof, who killed nine black churchgoers in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.
Well, there is that, and Paul Waldman argues this:
The manifesto left by the alleged shooter in the horrific mosque attack in New Zealand contained one mention of Donald Trump, in which the man expresses mixed support for our president. “As a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose? Sure. As a policy maker and leader? Dear god no.”
That’s praise – Trump got the White Nationalist thing right. And that’s scorn. Trump can’t get anything else right. So let’s add this:
Let’s add in this fascinating report by Astead Herndon in the New York Times, about how the Trumpian politics of polarization and racial grievance has come to define Republicans even in the most local races. Herndon visited a district near Scranton, Pa., where a Republican had badly lost a state legislative race after his bigoted and conspiracy-mongering Facebook posts were revealed.
Many of the losing candidate’s supporters saw him and President Trump as victims of the same unfairness.
That’s not good news for the Republican Party:
What is coming to define a good portion of the Republican Party is a sense that white people are not just losing something today but are under the threat of cultural, political and even physical annihilation.
In its extreme form, it’s defined as “white genocide,” a term common among white supremacists who believe that the white race is literally in danger of being wiped out. In a less extreme form, it manifests in people being increasingly drawn to white identity politics.
Waldman says that is where the party is headed:
In her upcoming book, “White Identity Politics,” political scientist Ashley Jardina clarifies that the term should be understood to refer, not just to straightforward racism, but to something more particular. White identity politics is about whiteness becoming an organizing political factor, a group identity that leads people to seek certain things and favor certain policies because of how they will affect white people.
And we finally got there:
The presidency of Barack Obama had a great deal to do with the current white identity politics, and in hindsight we might see it as inevitable that a racist demagogue would emerge to exploit the backlash Obama produced. That’s why Ta-Nehisi Coates referred to Trump as “the first white president,” arguing that his 2016 campaign should be understood as an assertion that whites had to retake power and restore (as they saw it) their rightful place atop the hierarchy.
And this is about fear:
What motivates it isn’t just hostility to minorities but fear that whites will be overrun, oppressed and eventually eliminated, and the solution is, in turn, to banish minorities from wherever white people are feeling this threat, whether it’s the United States, Europe or New Zealand.
This is a key through-line connecting white supremacists, white nationalists, clash-of-civilizations advocates and people who would describe themselves as none of those things but just Trump supporters worried about a changing America no longer having a place for them.
And that explains this:
The neo-Nazis in Charlottesville – the ones Trump called “very fine people” – chant “Jews will not replace us!” On the president’s favorite news network, Tucker Carlson tells viewers that immigrants make America “poorer and dirtier and more divided.” Trump’s national security adviser, John Bolton, used to serve as the chairman of an anti-Muslim organization that published a tract warning of a “Great White Death” in Europe resulting from too much dark-skinned immigration.
Utah Republican Rep. Rob Bishop says that “the ideas behind the Green New Deal are tantamount to genocide,” saying it was dreamed up by people who “judge distance not in miles but in subway stops.” And you know who those people are.
Watch this 2015 video of Trump nodding along as an audience member says, “We have a problem in this country: It’s called Muslims.” When the man asks, “When can we get rid of them?” Trump answers, “We’re going to be looking at a lot of different things.”
And of course, during that campaign, in addition to his unending stream of bigoted statements against a wide variety of minority groups, Trump proposed “a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.”
That’s the party now, even if no one yet believes that:
Many Republicans would protest that their party affiliation is based not on racial fears of extinction but on things such as support for small government and tax cuts, or opposition to abortion rights and marriage equality. And they aren’t lying. But it’s also undeniable that with Trump in charge – and with the party having given itself over to him so completely, at least for now – white identity politics now defines the GOP. But what will they do as it drags them down? What happens if Trump loses in 2020? What if he loses to a person of color?
The choices are to stay and become a white nationalist, or to bail out and quit the party, or to hide from it all. But that won’t work:
As Jardina argues, “one effect of the perceived waning status of white Americans is the activation of white racial identity and white racial consciousness.” As nonwhite Americans become more numerous and gain political, social and cultural influence, whiteness becomes more salient and important to a subset of white people – which means that a Trump defeat would almost certainly intensify feelings of white identity among a significant portion of the Republican base.
That, in turn, will make it harder for the party to break itself away from white identity politics. If it tries to de-emphasize identity issues and create space for those turned off by Trumpian politics to join the party, that core of its base could rebel or just fail to show up at the polls. In states and districts that remain overwhelmingly conservative, white identity politics will become more intense, and the people elected to represent those areas will keep pulling the party back even as it harms their national prospects.
And then what happens to the party? What happens to all of us?