Another Act of White Supremacist Terror. When Will GOP Leaders Say Enough?
Posted:Sun, 28 Apr 2019 04:34:10 +0000
Two horrific acts of terrorism were committed this weekend against non-Christians. One by an Islamophobic Christian supremacist terrorist mistakenly targeting Sikhs (again), and one by an anti-Semitic white supremacist terrorist spouting “replacement theory” smears.
In the first case, a man whose father was a pastor and who was suffering mental illness in part due to service in Iraq, drove into a family of Sikhs in Sunnyvale, California, allegedly believing they were Muslims. A 13-year-old girl is now in a coma and fighting for her life as result. The terrorist was allegedly on his way to a Bible study group and praising Jesus when authorities caught him.
In the second, a white supremacist took credit for an arsonist attack against a mosque last month, only after gunning down several people at a synagogue in Poway, California, killing one. He apparently wrote a anti-Semitic manifesto containing many of the same slanders against Jews found ubiquitously on conservative message boards across the internet, and that fueled the rise of Nazism in Weimar Germany: that Jews are intentionally enabling non-white populations to grow in America and Europe in order to replace the white race. That the theory is utterly bogus doesn’t matter: large parts of the conservative movements in the Anglosphere and elsewhere believe in it, and white supremacist terrorists have increasingly begun to act on it.
These are only the latest in a series of escalating terrorist acts against non-Christians and non-whites in the wake of Donald Trump’s ascent to the Republican nomination and the presidency. Donald Trump, of course, doesn’t care: this is his base, as is obvious from even a cursory visit to any heavily pro-Trump forum on Fox News, Reddit, Voat, Gab or elsewhere. White supremacist, anti-Semitic, Islamophobic and misogynist rhetoric runs rampant across the entirety of the conservative movement, and the transformation of the Republican Party into a vehicle of violent white male grievance has rapidly accelerated its longtime trend under Trump. It’s also no surprise that the president is doing less than nothing to stop it.
After all, in the wake of neo-nazi protests in Charlottesville allegedly to protect worshipful monuments to those who turned traitors to the United States in armed defense of race-based chattel slavery, Donald Trump didn’t want to make a statement for several days and then ultimately said that there were “very fine people on both sides.” Among the chants of those very fine people? “Jews will not replace us.” The same conspiracy theory that drove the terrorist attack in Poway today. Trump doesn’t care, though. Today is also the day when he congratulated the white player picked second in the NFL draft, while ignoring the black player picked first. This is what he does. This is who he is. He knows his base, and he doesn’t care about anyone else. Beyond personal graft, enabling them is the core rationale behind his presidency.
The Democratic Party and the nation’s liberals are almost irrelevant to this conversation. Arguments among progressives and liberals persist as to the depth of the bigotry among the least committed portions of Trump’s voters, just how many of them may or may not be persuaded to vote against Republicans on the basis of economic appeals, and how best to energize the infrequent voters among core Democratic constituencies including women, youth and people of color. But functionally speaking, that argument is a strategic one over perhaps a 4-5% slice of the electorate. It’s a tactically crucial question that could make the difference between a Democratic landslide and a devastating narrow loss setting progress back for over a generation. But it doesn’t change all that much when considering the broad partisan direction of 90% of the country.
The more important question now is what the rest of the Republican leadership will do, and what the conservative infotainment complex will do.
As older, whiter, more male and more socially conservative voters decline as a portion of the electorate, the Republican Party has become increasingly hostile to democracy itself. Gerrymandering, census manipulation, poll taxes, power grabs against branches of government they don’t control, voter suppression, and legislative intimidation against voter registration can all be done with little public fanfare to help them delay the inevitable.
But violent acts of terrorism by their own base are much harder to sweep under the rug. And vague statements of general condemnation against violence won’t cut it as these despicable acts continue to increase, and as the Republican Party becomes increasingly associated with it. Whatever remains of the mushy middle of American politics is allergic to conflict, extremism and violence–and as conservative politics are increasingly associated with violent extremism, Republican room for electoral maneuvering decreases.
Conservative infotainment on cable news and the AM radio can maintain their radicalized audiences longer than the Republican Party can sustain its position: after all, a small population can keep conservative media in business much longer than it can continue to deliver majoritarian wins for one of America’s two major political parties, even buoyed by political affirmative action for older, rural white voters. But conservative media has its own problem: advertisers. Corporate America knows where its future customer base is, and it’s not with the Fox News audience. So ultimately even the likes of the Murdoch family, Clear Channel and Sinclair Broadcast Group will feel the hit from the abandonment of advertisers.
And that is all just tactical. Morally, how long can whatever is left of decency among Republican opinion leaders sustain the current trends as its base descends into radical violent extremism? We certainly haven’t hit rock bottom yet. Maybe there isn’t one, but common sense dictates that at least some portions of conservative intelligentsia must have a breaking point.
At what point, either out of moral revulsion, sense of patriotic duty or sheer self-preservation, do Republican leaders start to try to put out the fire instead of fanning the flames? How many more deaths will it take?