A July 13 New York Times article explained how presumptive Republican nominee Donald Trump’s presidential campaign has given voice to white nationalist groups.
Trump has a long and complicated history of white nationalist support that includes endorsements from vocal anti-Semitists and praise from hate groups that laud him for bringing white nationalist viewpoints “firmly into the mainstream.” Specifically, Trump’s anti-immigration policies and racist attacks have been celebrated and reinforced by these groups and Trump has been slow to condemn their support, often failing to disavow it altogether.
As New York Times political correspondent Nicholas Confessore reports, “In making the explicit assertion of white identity and grievance more widespread, the otherwise marginal world of avowed white nationalists and self-described ‘race realists’ [...] hail him as a fellow traveler.” Trump’s attacks, policies, and defense of his racist attacks, Confessore reports, have “opened the door to assertions of white identity and resentment in a way not seen so broadly in American culture in over half a century.” In addition, Confessore notes that Trump’s failure to denounce that white nationalist support is “comfortingly nonspecific” and “reassuring” to those groups. From Confessore’s article:
His rallies vibrate with grievances that might otherwise be expressed in private: about “political correctness,” about the ranch house down the street overcrowded with day laborers, and about who is really to blame for the death of a black teenager in Ferguson, Mo. In a country where the wealthiest and most influential citizens are still mostly white, Mr. Trump is voicing the bewilderment and anger of whites who do not feel at all powerful or privileged.
But in doing so, Mr. Trump has also opened the door to assertions of white identity and resentment in a way not seen so broadly in American culture in over half a century, according to those who track patterns of racial tension and antagonism in American life.
In making the explicit assertion of white identity and grievance more widespread, Mr. Trump has galvanized the otherwise marginal world of avowed white nationalists and self-described “race realists.” They hail him as a fellow traveler who has driven millions of white Americans toward an intuitive embrace of their ideals: that race should matter as much to white people as it does to everyone else. He has freed Americans, those activists say, to say what they really believe.
Mr. Trump’s campaign electrified the world of white nationalists. They had long been absent from mainstream politics, taking refuge at obscure conferences and in largely anonymous havens online. Most believed that the Republican Party had been subverted and captured by liberal racial dictums.
Asked about the [white nationalist-sponsored] robocall, Mr. Trump seemed to sympathize with its message while affecting a vague half-distance. “Nothing in this country shocks me; I would disavow it, but nothing in this country shocks me,” Mr. Trump told a CNN anchor. “People are angry.”
Pressed, Mr. Trump grew irritable, saying: “How many times you want me to say it? I said, ‘I disavow.’”
Asked six weeks later about Mr. Duke’s support, he said he had been unaware of it: “David Duke endorsed me? O.K. All right. I disavow, O.K.?” Later, on Twitter, he repeated the phrase: “I disavow.”
Mr. Trump has often used those words when confronted by reporters. The phrase is comfortingly nonspecific, a disavowal of everything and nothing. And whatever Mr. Trump’s intentions, it has been powerfully reassuring to people on the far right.