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Both Parties Are to Blame for Donald Trump’s Proximity to the White House

Posted on Mar 3, 2016

By Sonali Kolhatkar

  Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, accompanied by New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, left, takes questions from the media during a news conference in Palm Beach, Fla., on the night of the Super Tuesday primary elections. (Andrew Harnik / AP)

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Every time I think about Donald Trump I want to either laugh or cry. Laugh, because the idea that anyone can take his candidacy (and hair) seriously is a joke. Cry, because plenty of people are indeed envisioning a President Trump. As results roll in from Super Tuesday primary races, this tension between hilarity and fear has grown dire.

This latest example will suffice to illustrate the danger Trump represents. On Sunday, CNN’s “The Lead” host Jake Tapper asked Trump if he would disavow former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke, who recently endorsed him. Trump repeatedly stated that he knew nothing about Duke or the KKK and that he would need to do “more research” on them before commenting.

Trump has not felt the need to do “more research” on Mexican-Americans, about whom he said, “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists.” Nor has he had to “research” members of the Muslim community he insulted by citing the dubious legend of a U.S. general who executed Muslim prisoners in the Philippines with bullets dipped in pig’s blood.


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Trump later blamed a bad earpiece for his response, and said, “I don’t mind disavowing David Duke.” But the damage was done.

At a Ku Klux Klan rally in Anaheim, Calif., over the weekend, not far from Disneyland, a violent confrontation took place, reminiscent of an older era. Klansmen stabbed several counterprotesters—most, if not all of them, people of color—after a brawl broke out. Interestingly, police released all the Klansmen taken into custody, maintaining that the stabbings were done in self-defense.

Trump’s claims that he knows little of Duke or the KKK are facetious at best. Not only has he spoken about Duke previously, but rumors swirl around his father’s connection to white supremacist groups. A 1927 New York Times article, unearthed by BoingBoing, found that a Fred Trump—who shared the same name and address as Trump’s father—was arrested at a brawl between the KKK and police officers. He was represented by the same lawyers who defended Klan members and was later released without charges. Candidate Trump has vehemently denied his father was a member of the Klan.

Regardless, Duke’s exhortation to white voters is telling. On his radio show he declared, “Voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage.”

Plenty of white Americans, even young ones, seem to be taking this seriously. At a recent high school basketball game in Iowa, students from the mostly white school’s team taunted the largely Latino team from an opposing school with chants of “Trump.” The incident is not an isolated one. At another basketball game, between two Catholic schools in Indiana, white students carried a sign bearing a picture of Trump and chanted “Build a Wall” at supporters of their Latino-dominated rival team.

Trump might be able to claim distance from these incidents, because he was not directly involved. But every Trump campaign rally these days provides evidence of intolerance and racial animus. Progressive activists, often people of color, have made it a practice to show up at his events and stand quietly, holding signs or sometimes just wearing ethnic clothing. They have been kicked out roughly, or even beaten. A young black woman in Louisville, Ky., recently was beaten and shoved repeatedly by white male Trump supporters as she tried to leave a rally. Thirty black students at Valdosta State University in Georgia were kicked out of an event on their own campus, apparently at Trump’s behest. Trump has condoned this dangerously fascistic behavior, either through silence or overt support.

A video compilation by television host Jimmy Kimmel of the numerous times Trump has demanded that people be thrown out of his rallies perfectly exemplifies his overall attitude toward nonwhites, and “get ’em outta here” is his favorite call to action. That call is squarely aimed at us: blacks, Muslims, Latinos, Asians and anyone else who falls into the category of “other.”

Clad in his armor of hate, Trump is handily winning state after state in the Republican primary election, prompting many of us to wonder how he can possibly be so popular. A country where a black man won the popular vote two elections in a row now has enough voters either embracing Trump’s racism or so willing to look past it that he is likely to snag the Republican Party’s nomination. It seems unreal.

The GOP does not seem to have much of a game plan to stop Trump, despite repeated and vocal denunciations by some high-profile politicians. While one wing of the party is declaring #NeverTrump on social media, others, like New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, are rewarding Trump with endorsements. Republican Sen. Mike Rounds of South Dakota went as far as saying that he was OK with a KKK-condoning President Trump over a Democrat. Several top Republicans have said they would support whoever becomes the GOP nominee, even Trump.

How to explain Trump’s rise? In some ways, his popularity is a predictable end result of the politics of resentment that the Republican Party has stoked for years in order to win votes. Establishment Republicans are not radical enough for their own base anymore. But Trump is. While it is tempting to dismiss large swaths of the U.S. as simply racist, xenophobic white supremacists or Christian fundamentalists who believe in ending government welfare, it is a bit more complex than that.

Libyan Twitter user Hend Amry posted an eloquent analogy: “If you’re an American confusedly watching the darkest forces of ur nation rally behind a demagogue-maybe u can understand the Mid East now.” She added, “[N]ow imagine if you KNOW it’s because of political frustration, economic stagnation, & social decay but everyone kept calling it jihad. ...”

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