Trump’s Dance With White Supremacists

President Trump chose to hold his first campaign rally since the COVID-19 lock down in Tulsa on Juneteenth.

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The Daily Stormer Ad for the Charlottesville Unite The Right Rally

Tulsa is the city where the largest single act of American racial violence took place: the Greenwood massacre in 1921 that left 300 dead and 8,000 homeless. For decades the massacre was scrubbed from the public records and kept out of history books.

Juneteenth is the commemoration of the end of slavery. After an outcry, the campaign moved the rally by one day. But still on Juneteenth weekend, and still in Tulsa.

This followed weeks of Black Lives Matter protests and civil unrest, and it came in the same week that Facebook banned a number of Trump campaign ads that included a Nazi image.

It is unlikely that the Trump campaign’s decision of where and when to hold the rally is an accident: Trump has a history of appealing to white supremacists. He follows a predictable pattern. And now is the time for civic leaders, engaged citizens, and public officials to name the pattern and to hold him accountable. Otherwise he will intensify his racially divisive language as the presidential campaign moves into full swing.

White Supremacists Took Credit for Trump’s Win

I am a communication and leadership professor at New York University and Columbia University, and have spent the last two years studying Trump’s language for a forthcoming book. In , I document what I call Trump’s dance with white supremacists.

Trump’s dance began with his revival of the “birther” conspiracy that President Obama was secretly Kenyan and Muslim. Private citizen and candidate Trump pounded that theme for five years. Under pressure just before the 2016 election he half-heartedly admitted that Obama was born in the U.S. but blamed Hillary Clinton for the birther rumors.

In 2016 Trump was endorsed by former Ku Klux Klan leader David.

He was also supported by prominent white nationalist Richard Spencer, who had coined the phrase “alt-right” as a more palatable name for white nationalism. The phrase was popularized on the conservative media site . co-founder Stephen Bannon called his news organization the “platform for the alt-right” before he left to lead the Trump campaign in August 2016. He later became chief strategist in the White House. In this way, the alt-right had a direct channel into the White House.

On the day Trump was declared the winner in the 2016 presidential election David Duke tweeted:

Richard Spencer tweeted:

Several days later Spencer said in a speech to fellow white nationalists:

The neo-Nazi website The Daily Stormer wrote:

Dancing with White Supremacists

Throughout his campaign and presidency, Trump has followed a recognizable pattern: He signals to white supremacists, and they signal back. Andrew Anglin, editor of The Daily Stormer, has frequently referred to it as a “wink-wink-wink” relationship.

For example, although Trump and others insisted that the 2017 Charlottesville protest was about the removal of a statue of General Robert E. Lee, it was much more.

One of the organizers, Michael Hill, president of the white nationalist group League of the South, tweeted to his followers:

The Daily Stormer posted on its Facebook page:

On its website The Daily Stormer admitted that the Charlottesville protest was much more:

“Battle cry” is not a casual reference. The Daily Stormer live-posted during the protest, including this:

After counter-protester Heather Heyer was killed by a neo-Nazi, President Trump said that there was hatred and bigotry on many sides. The Daily Stormer wrote:

Two days later President Trump said there were “very fine people, on both sides,” David Duke tweeted a thank-you note to the President.

magazine described the pattern this way:

Trump: I am a Nationalist!

Following that pattern, just over a year after Charlottesville, in the run-up to the 2018 mid-term elections, Trump declared himself to be a nationalist:

After a journalist asked whether calling himself was a nationalist was coded language for white nationalist, Trump feigned ignorance:

But note that he had initially admitted that “we’re not permitted to use that word,” and he did not reverse course. Wink-wink-wink.

The following year, when Trump called for four congresswomen of color to “go back to where you came from,” The Daily Stormer wrote,

The pattern is there to see. And part of the pattern is that Trump intensifies his language if he isn’t forcefully called on it. Tulsa is the beginning of the rally phase of Trump’s re-election campaign. White nationalists say that they elected him. And maybe they did. But clearly he needs to energize them to assure his re-election.

Written by

Helio Fred Garcia is the author, most recently, of Words on Fire: The Power of Incendiary Language and How to Confront It.

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