How Donald Trump is poisoning conservative politics - Macleans.ca
 

How Donald Trump is poisoning conservative politics

Evan Solomon: An extreme off-shoot needs to be excised from the conservative movement. If the U.S. president won’t draw the line, who will?


 
Marchers at a white-supremacy rally encircle counter protestors at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., USA on August 11, 2017. (Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Marchers at a white-supremacy rally encircle counter protestors at the base of a statue of Thomas Jefferson after marching through the University of Virginia campus with torches in Charlottesville, Va., on Aug. 11, 2017. (Shay Horse/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

It’s gut-check time for conservatives in the U.S. The obscene trifecta of neo-Nazis, White Supremacists and the KKK used the Charlottesville violence to re-vivify their putrid ideas, feeding like a parasitic oxpecker on the host body of the Republican elephant.

It should be the most obvious ploy to condemn—there is no more basic political rule than “see a Nazi, denounce a Nazi,” but the current president has so far failed this fundamental moral litmus test by continuing to draw false moral equivalences between Nazis and protest groups like Black Lives Matter. In doing so, Trump has enflamed a culture war not only within his own country, but one that risks, among many thing things, doing long-term damage to legitimate conservative thinking all over the world.

To be fair, conservatives of all kinds, whether Republicans in the U.S. or here in Canada, have done the right thing. From Republican senators like Orin Hatch, whose brother was killed fighting the Nazis, to Bob Corker, all but the most mealy-mouthed enablers of the far right have openly and clearly denounced the horrible racism seen in Charlottesville and elsewhere. This is as expected, even if it’s sad that it has to be done in 2017.

READ MORE: How the alt-right weaponized free speech

So we should be careful not to draw sloppy comparisons between the racists in Charlottesville or the conspiracy-minded hate-mongers on sites like InfoWars with legitimate conservative supporters who have spent generations building parties, fighting for causes and accomplishing so much in free societies. This is a radical, extreme and horrible off-shoot that needs to be excised from conservative parties the way, in the 1960s, the John Birch Society with racist and paranoid ideas was purged from the Republican party by the likes of William F. Buckley.

In this debate, words matter. Back in January, I wrote in this magazine that the phrase “alt-right” should be avoided because, I argued then, it was a euphemism to rebrand racists as a new, acceptable element within the movement of legitimate conservatism. It’s disingenuous today to see the same people who had once so opportunistically and openly embraced that title now scatter in mock shock, as if the racist undertones were in any way difficult to detect. What took them so long?

It was clear a long time ago from the crowds chanting luggenpresse at the media (an old Nazi term for the “lying press”) or blandly talking about the “JQ”, the “Jewish Question” as now former Rebel Media contributor Faith Goldy recently did, that Trump, his then-advisor Steve Bannon and many others were playing political footsies with the far right—under the table, high-priced oxfords rubbing up against the metaphoric jackboots on the extreme fringe. It was a dangerous liaison that is now politically costly.

RELATED: Don’t allow the ‘alt-right’ to disguise hate in linguistic semantics

In what has become one of Trump’s worst and most chaotic weeks, CEOs who were once his core value proposition as a candidate turned on him over his leadership failure in Charlottesville. Trump was forced to disband his Manufacturing Council and his Strategy and Policy group after CEOs from Intel, Merck and Under Armour all bolted. When the CEO of Campbell Soup left, the Rubicon was crossed. “Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Campbell CEO Denise Morrison wrote. “I believe the president should have been—and still needs to be—unambiguous on that point.” Call that the “Campbell Soup Test.” When you lose the people who make Campbell Soup, you’ve lost Middle America.

Trump was always a hard sell for Republicans because he was an outsider, but he was also a winner. His very status as political neophyte became his prime asset to Americans who had lost faith in Washington politicians. But just because Trump lacks a coherent ideological framework doesn’t mean he can go without a moral one. But now Republicans are seriously questioning if Trump has any other moral litmus test besides loyalty.

Politicians are not the only ones wondering. Members of police forces have been forced to ask the same thing after Trump told them in a speech to treat suspects roughly when making arrests. “I said, please don’t be too nice,” Trump said. “Like when you guys put somebody in the car and you’re protecting their head, you know, the way you put their hand over, like, don’t hit their head and they’ve just killed somebody. Don’t hit their head. I said, you can take the hand away, okay?” After that the Suffolk County Police Department, where Trump was speaking, had to release a statement saying, “as a department, we do not and will not tolerate ‘roughing’ up prisoners.” Police brutality is an explosive issue and the president was needlessly on the wrong side of the line.

READ MORE: The false equivalency of the criticism of the ‘alt-left’

The military also had to stand against the president when he suddenly and without warning announced that transgender Americans were no longer welcome in the armed forces. “We will continue to treat all of our personnel with respect,” said Joint Chiefs of Staff Chair Joseph Dunford, openly contradicting the president.

Even a terrorist event has turned into a litmus test. The horrific attack in Barcelona illustrated yet again the clear and present danger radical Islamist hatred poses to the world. Again, this requires leaders to clearly name it, condemn it and fight it. Trump initially did that in a tweet and that was laudable. But then, as in the case of Charlottesville, he slid back into the muck of division. “Study what General Pershing of the United States did to terrorists when caught. There was no more Radical Islamic Terror for 35 years!” he tweeted out.

It was an invocation of a false and racist narrative about U.S General John Pershing and how he allegedly dealt with Muslim terrorists in the Philippines over 100 years ago. According to Trump, who told the story in February of 2016 on the campaign trail in South Carolina, Pershing caught 50 terrorists and promptly executed most of them in brutal fashion. This is a transcript of Trump’s story: “He took the 50 terrorists, and he took 50 men and he dipped 50 bullets in pigs’ blood—you heard that, right? He took 50 bullets, and he dipped them in pigs’ blood. And he had his men load his rifles, and he lined up the 50 people, and they shot 49 of those people. And the 50th person, he said: You go back to your people, and you tell them what happened. And for 25 years, there wasn’t a problem.”

Organizations like Snopes have fact-checked this and there is no evidence Pershing ever did this—although some soldiers, without Pershing’s knowledge, did bury bodies with pig’s blood. But as bad as repeating the smear, Trump essentially condoned a war crime in the fight against terror.

His addition of these gruesome and false details is as disturbing as his argument in Charlottesville that there were “fine people” on both sides. Exactly who were the “fine people” marching with Tiki torches chanting “Jews won’t replace us” or standing with people waving swastikas? Were they really just innocent people wanting to defend the history of the southern culture? When David Duke, the former grand wizard of the KKK thanks you for a speech, should a little alarm bell not go off?

RELATED: Charlottesville and the politics of fear

Trump is in danger of fully legitimizing the far right’s pathetic victimization narrative which posits that minority groups have somehow taken over Western democracies, and that this the root problem affecting so many people on the bottom of the socio-economic ladder. His former strategist Steve Bannon, who bolted immediately back to Breitbart, sees the world through this lens. He casts the future as a war against “globalists,” a euphemism for those who champion diversity, multiculturalism and open trade. It’s a shocking distortion of important conservative philosophy that champions personal responsibility, free trade and moral codes, but it fuels a collective anger that links to a poisonous lineage of hate and violence.

The internet is an exacerbating factor. While there is no moral equivalence between, say, neo-Nazis and Black Lives Matter, there is an “availability equivalence” online. Hate literature, which was once confined to badly produced, hard-to-access pamphlets is now readily available. It is as easy to get thousands of pages of conspiracy-minded hate literature and hours of video as it is to get accurate historic facts.

The “Fake News” meme undermines legitimate journalism and facts and offers disaffected people counter-narratives that are often destructive but virtually impossible to fact-check. The world of information now functions as a form of asymmetric warfare and no one understands this more deeply than people like Steve Bannon. What he does outside the White House will be one of the most critical factors in determining how loyal Trump’s base remains.

If there is really a “war” coming, as Breitbart just warned, leaders have to take stock quickly. Which side will they be on? In this battle, distinctions between liberal and conservatives, progressives and libertarians should be put aside in favour of a unified stand against hate, especially in its camouflaged form. But conservatives have to realize that their movement and their brand, especially in the U.S., is under direct assault from the inside, from those using terms like “alt-right.” They are not real conservatives and should not be used for political gain. Many have waited for the president to draw this line. So far he hasn’t. Who in a chaotic White House will do it remains one of the great challenges of this presidency.


 

How Donald Trump is poisoning conservative politics

  1. Conservative politics in Canada was never an issue, until Harper, Manning and Day, decided it was a good way to drive a wedge between the left and right, well used to be right with tolerance before the reform angry guys got into the HOCs and infected it with its toxic poisonous smut talk, trying to split a country in two and drive fear to get votes. This will never change with our conservative oppostion, because they don’t know any other way to run a country, unless it has the smell of fear in it. Andrew Sheer done a meltdown trying to explain his side of why he backed away from the Ezra podcast in an interview with Carol MacNeil yesterday, she Carol Mac made Sheer look like a fool yesterday, she finally hit Sheer with some tuff questions, not fluff questions, or puff questions, and if that is any indication of what a PM in waiting looks like, than i have to say, the conservatives look like a bunch of whiners more than they are policy makers. Sheer looked like a man when the interview started, but by the end of it, he looked like a boy who just crapped his pants. Good interview Carol, you should get a lot of reaction from the voters.

  2. After this week,how the Republicans can without flinching keep on their Kellie Letich is beyond comprehension at this point…..there is so much toxic waste around Donald Trump at this point as he drives the Republican Titanic towards the iceberg those jumping ship in terms of the Intel’s,Under Armour,Campbell’s are as much about distancing thier brands as distancing themselves from Trump where as those Trump has fired now become the worst thing out there for both Trump and the Republicans in that if they start bloodletting the inner workings of the Trump White House and it goes far beyond just Russia,the KKK/White Supremacists/Neo-Nazi/Alt-Right/Far Right or the mob as it’s been reported this week at what point does the lead weight become to heavy around the Republicans become too hard to carry any longer…Trump may be done by Friday ….but if Bannon and others also drag down Mike Pence and anyone and everyone else within not only Trump’s cabinet or in jobs that Trump Picked them for such as the EPA or DOJ as examples plus the chain of command to replace Trump is a poisoned well too,then there is no telling what happens next and Canada and every other country will have to deal with the fallout from this not just for a week or two,a month or two,this could be a century long problem for the Americans which is why Justin Trudeau isolating Trump from the NAFTA negotiations is looking not only brilliant.it also locks the Tories,NDP and Greens into a statis in that they cannot go after Trudeau in anyway on the success or failure of NAFTA especially if Trump does kibosh it before leaving town in that it would just look like another Trump Man-Child moment of if the Americans fully endorse the Trudeau tack-ons to NAFTA such as Gender Equality and Aboriginal Rights then it’s a outright win for Trudeau,any way you look at it Trudeau has kept Canada far from the Trump sideshow as possible which may be a good thing at the end of it all

    • Time for Trump to step down and let Pence get on implementing all of the excellent policies that got Trump elected without all the drama.

      • Pence doesn’t even trust himself to go out without his wife.

      • Pence! I would rather a military coup. Pence is more dangerous than Trump. The guy goes around the country with cross on his back, he is an Ideologist and believes in symbols, and not completely in touch with reality.

        • I understand he wants ‘fetal funerals’

          Another religious nutcase…..the US seems to be full of them.

          • So you nut jobs are against the right in general. Pence would be terrific and CNN would have no B.S. to spew anymore. What a relief that would be!

          • Pence is real reason why, Trump has a base, Pence is the ‘Pope’ of the right.

          • Not true! We are against the right wing nut jobs such as Pence, Limbaugh, Coulter, Hannity etc. etc.

      • Jerome please let us know which are “the excellent policies” you are referring to that Pence is going to implement that would benefit the majority of American people, instead of the rich and supper rich representing 1-3% of US population that own 46% of the US total wealth?

  3. I am not a fan of Evan Solomon, but to be fair, he is bang on the mark with this piece.

    And to go one step further, Canadians need to be vigilant and decisive as we are in grave danger – this type of mindset is here in our country and it is growing.

    • The alt-left-populated by Anti-fa and Black Lives Matter (which has morphed into a black supremacist organization) have been responsible for 90% of the violent protests in the U.S. Looks to me like they are the ones we have to be on the look out for.

      • Sorry Jerome, but there is a huge difference.
        Anti-fa, (which for those who don’t know stands for anti fascist) is fighting fire with fire.
        For you to defend the Nazis and KKK says lots about you.
        You may want to brush up on history, or perhaps you would be more comfortable moving south to join them as Canadians are not inclined to accept those ideologies. Too many of our parents and relatives gave their lives to ensure that that scourge never infects our soil.

        • Yes the anti-fa terrorists in Quebec city were fighting police that were protecting people complaining about allowing in undocumented immigrants from the US.

          Trudeau is tweeting his support!! This is own little violent vigilant gang of Brown shirts.

          Anyone that is in the antifa lead mob has a moral responsibility leave the scene when the bad actors resort to violence or they are basically as guilty as the idiots that hang around at an actual white supremacist rally.

          I hope that there is only a few basically mentally disturbed people on either side that want to physically assault people due to different opinions.

          Attacking a police officer in a protest situation should be a mandatory 2 month jail sentence, $10,000 fine and 5 years on the no-fly list. goes for Nazi’s KKK BLM and Black Bloc/Antifa equally as well

        • Sorry Alex, as a left winged pundit you will never be informed until you view both sides of the news story. Anti-fa and BLM were violently attacking the Trump rallies until after the Huntington Beach incident. They were then warned the right would fight back and the ensuing attack at Berkeley they did and anti-fa by their own admission got their butt kicked.
          At these rallies there are more people posting videos than participants, so if you take the time and do the research you will be better informed. I don’t back the alt-right, KKK or Nazis. Nor do I back the violent BLM or Anti-fa on the alt-left. They are all thugs.
          Ask the following questions:
          1.Who has a permit for the rally and who has no right to be there. In Charlottesville the mayor would not grant a permit and the courts made them issue the permit and supply police for the rally. The mayor ordered them to attend but to stand down until he gave the word to intervene. That order never came. Only the order to leave.
          2.Check the source of the article and the media. If Scott Gilmore writer for the left winged McLeans ever wants to get laid again he won’t write anything bad about his wife Catherine McKenna or the Liberal party of Canada.
          3.Follow both the benefits and the money in the stories. This will provide many surprises.
          4.Learn more about the media outlets and which way they lean. The NYT, WaPo, CNN all lean left while NYPost, Washington Times, lean right.

          As far as who are the violent ones (Republicans or Democrats) look to history.

          Who owned the slaves? Democrats
          Who started the KKK? Democrats
          Who freed the slaves? Republicans (Lincoln)
          Who took the U.S. into WW1? Democrats (Wilson)
          Who took the U.S. into WW2? Democrats (FDR)
          Who took the U.S. into the Korean war? Democrats (Truman)
          Who took the U.S. into Vietnam? Democrats (Kennedy,Johnson)
          How many countries did George Bush bomb? 4
          How many countries did Obama bomb? 7
          Etc., etc., etc..

          All I am saying is do more research before you believe what the media tells you.

          • Not the same Democratic party. Not the same Republican party. Do YOUR research to see when the split and shift occurred (during Nixon).

          • Ken, I am having a hard time figuring out what you are saying with that list. Also, what on earth has the current discussion got to do with what Democrats and Republicans did or did not do over the last 200 years? We are talking about fascism and racism now. The KKK and neo Nazis are openly racist. Anti-fa is clearly a violent bunch of nutbars and according to my newspaper they wrecked the credibility of the people gathering to oppose racism. It seems to me that Antifa is as much a threat to the “Left”, for want of a better term, as the KKK and the neoNazis are to the “Right”, also for want of a better term.

          • Ken: I agree with you regarding the actions of those who were opposing the rally in Quebec.
            They did their cause a disservice.
            Having said all of that the rest of what you are saying (the list) really has nothing to do with the very basic principle involved.
            That principle was at the root of the last world war. It is a no go for most.
            It goes beyond free speech in fact (can you imagine the nazies whining that the allies were impeding their right to free speech?).
            Bottom line. These “movements” are unacceptable. They should be outlawed and wiped out.
            And I imagine that is where we are headed.
            So you go on blathering about “left” and “right” while the rest of us with clear minds continue to focus on the danger of what these groups really present.

  4. The American voters wanted a change. They wanted to get rid of the corruption in D.C. and they decided some two-bit, dotty old racist was the best choice of a bad lot. Well look what happens when you vote in a feeble Archie Bunker armchair quarterback (only without a decent Edith to mitigate his hate-filled spew).

    Pence is a horrible, evil man. He would strip women of their rights, would strip POC of their rights… check out his track record in his home state and you’ll see he’s a bad, bad man.

    45 is not much better, but he doesn’t have a political agenda. He has no filter, no knowledge at all about how countries actually work, and just coasts along, spouting b.s. every 5 seconds. If you look back at his tweets from 2008 – 2015, every thing he accused Obama of he is ACTUALLY doing. The glass is dark indeed.

    This is what happens when people confuse reality tv with reality.