Last year’s presidential campaign trail banter was not unlike that of election year’s past, in that it was full of nasty, backhanded, gender-based undercuts aimed at delegitimizing opponents and drawing out emotional responses at the ballot box. Noticeably different from previous year’s strategies, however, was the Trump campaign’s deliberate courting one of America’s oldest and biggest threats to a civil and just world: white supremacists.
To garner votes and stoke anti-establishment flames, Trump latched on to the ideology of white supremacy and incentivized violence on the campaign trail, encouraging his supporters — some of whom carried the banner of Nazism and Klansmanship — to physically harm people, promising at a February 2016 rally to “pay for the legal fees” of anyone who got violent with anti-Trump protesters. He used political dog-whistles to signal a 21st century ideological war, one that has also included hate speech and deadly violence.
This past weekend’s deadly white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, VA, made visible what many organizers and activists have been warning since the 2016 campaign season: Donald Trump promised more death, disenfranchisement and deportations — and now he’s delivering on that promise. The violence he will inflict in office through through policy, and the permission he gives for others to commit acts of violence, is just beginning to emerge.