Deadly demonstrations of racism and anti-semitism flooded the streets of Charlottesville as President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters protested the removal of Confederate statues in the South. In response to this, Trump took a side: his supporters. The side that shouted “You will not replace us,” a chant targeted at Jewish Americans, the side that waved Confederate and Nazi flags and the side that blatantly tried to kill anti-protesters.
Even if a president may receive harsh opposition from one half of the country and full support from the other, their job is to represent all Americans, not just their voters. Although there were two sides engaging in violence during the protest, the far left and the “alt-right”, it was clear that the “alt-right” was at fault for the vast majority of the violence.
“Most white supremacist and Nazi groups arrived armed like a paramilitary force,” Buzzfeed News Reporter Blake Montgomery said in an article. “Carrying shields, protective gear, rods and, yes, lots of guns, utilizing Virginia’s loose firearm laws. They used militarized defensive maneuvers, shouting commands at one another to ‘move forward’ or ‘retreat,’ and would form a line of shields.”
In Trump’s first press conference after the event, he immediately diminished the violence caused by his supporters.
“What about the ‘alt-left’ that came charging at, as you say, the ‘alt-right,’ do they have any semblance of guilt?” Trump said. “What about the fact they came charging with clubs in hands, swinging clubs, do they have any problem? I think they do.”
It’s easy to see Trump’s intentions through his first response to this event. Although he later corrected his words and addressed the violence done by the “alt righters,” he shows his immediate bias toward his supporters when he doesn’t have advisors telling him what to say.
It even took Trump two days to denounce the event where an alt-righters car blatantly rammed into counter protesters as an act of violence. The day after the incident, he insensitively retweeted a meme on Twitter showing the “Trump Train” running over “fake news CNN.”
Trump knows that these white supremacists and anti-semites are his loyal voters, and he stays loyal to them to keep them by his side — without care to physical damage or moral damage those racist supporters do to others. And Trump’s failure to condemn violence by his own supporters isn’t new — it traces back to the 2016 campaign trail, where he encouraged violence toward anti-protesters at his rallies.
If Trump continues this loyalty, you can expect violent events like Charlottesville to occur again. His supporters are encouraged to fight alongside their leader while the left is left hopeless and frustrated. He gives his supporters confidence, suggesting that they are allowed to lash out, and that it’s the patriotic thing to do because it’s in favor of the President’s agenda.
If Trump could condemn his supporters at Charlottesville, he would diminish violence and hatred between the two political sides and achieve more peace throughout the country going forward.
After the protests in Ferguson, Missouri due to an instance of police brutality, Obama immediately addressed violence on both sides of the issue. While he said that the protesters had a reason to be mad, he condemned the violence caused by it.
“There are productive ways of responding and expressing those frustrations, and there are destructive ways of responding,” Barack Obama said in a press conference after Ferguson. “Burning buildings, torching cars, destroying property, putting people at risk — that’s destructive and there’s no excuse for it.”
Unlike Trump, Obama is not oblivious to the violence caused by his supporters and denounces it, rather than suggesting more polarization between the two sides. Obama sees everyone as people he represents — that’s what he and presidents before have demonstrated, and it’s an essential trait of a leader.
The U.S. has not seen such a polarized political atmosphere in a long time, due to the fact that we have previously elected presidents who are experienced politicians and leaders, not businessmen. If we don’t learn from these events or find a common ground between the two sides, a second term of this madness is inevitable.