Doubling Down

Yesterday, Trump gave a defensive and defiant press conference, where he doubled down on his previous statements about Charlottesville. He said that not everybody at the rally was a Nazi. There were equally evil people there who attacked the protesters. The protesters had a permit. And he questioned whether or not we were going to start taking down George Washington and Thomas Jefferson statues next.

A lot of pundits said that Trump made a major misstep. He should have simply said that Nazi’s were evil and moved on to talk about his infrastructure plans.

I’m not entirely sure that it was a misstep. I think Trump knows his base a lot better than we do. They want to honor Thomas Jefferson. They were unsettled by the Black Lives Matter movement and the attacks on police. They fear the restrictions on freedom of speech.

They are also dealing with major disruptions in their communities. That’s why Trump also talks a lot about the opioid crisis. I saw a whole lotta white junkies in Asheville last week. I saw horrific numbers of twenty years olds passed out on the sidewalk and smoking cigarettes outside methadone clinics. I haven’t seen scenes like that since New York City in the 1980s. The local news featured the mayor of Nashville who talked about losing her son to drugs.

Trump is purposefully bringing it all together. He doesn’t need John McCain or Mitch McConnell. He’s building his own party. And a scary one it is.

39 thoughts on “Doubling Down

  1. I would disagree that it’s Trump bringing it all together. I think it’s Bannon. Bannon is the only one in that place, save the “adults,” who has smarts.

    I think we also need to have a discussion about the police in a country where there are armed Nazis. I’m alarmed by the underwhelming police response to the Nazis in Charlottesville.


  2. The people who were going to come town to protest google are fast to take their cues from Trump. They backed citing “due to credible Alt Left terrorist threats for the safety of our citizen participants.” The “terrorist threat” was basically my neighbors standing there with signs calling them shitheads. One the whole, you can apparently shoot an unarmed black child with less outrage that you can fire somebody for insulting his co-workers and employers. I don’t know what to do about the junkies, but the aggrieved, middle-class white male needs to be learn that the name for somebody who shares a platform and a lingo with fascists is “fascist.”


  3. I’m usually not interested in talking about “political missteps” as a game (though I know it as an actual field of study). But, I think if what you say is correct, that he’s playing to a disaffected base (and, no, I don’t think he’s really talking about the opioid crisis, nor that his solutions will play to the portions of his base who are addicted or love addicts*), it is all the more reason why those waffling on the edge of “pro business” or other reasons to support Trump have to distance themselves from him with not only words but actions.

    Yesterday, a white, suburban mom in my FB feed, whose political views I didn’t know, or if I had, vaguely with concern about how the conversation about race was being broached with her white boys, posted saying “if you voted for Trump, unfriend me now.” Now, we can have that conversation about how to talk about race, because I don’t have to worry that she’s willing to stand alongside white separatists, the klan, and neo-nazis.


    1. It’s not just that Trump isn’t making a misstep because he’s playing to a disaffected base. He’s trying to get all Republican elected officials to support an openly Nazi march. It’s the political equivalent of Caesar burning his ships on landing in Britain. Anybody who does that has no choice but to stick with Trump until the end because they have no political future in a world in which he has lost.


  4. I was amused, in a dark, black comedy sort of way, of the Mike Godwin interview in the Telegraph, saying that calling the nazis in Charlottesville nazis is OK, since they apparently are nazis.

    I’m kind of surprised by myself that I can still be surprised by anything Trump does. I guess I thought that openly espousing nazi ideology was still a third rail in America, one that would get you excluded from polite company, a position you could neither espouse nor stand alongside.


  5. 62 million people voted for Donald Trump. While the numberr of hate groups have risen in recent years, it’s not clear how many members are in these groups. My guess is that a lot of those groups have less than twenty members. They are certainly not 62 million Nazis in this country.

    So, who are the other Trump voters? Pro-Lifers (like my parents), white working class, people who hate the Clintons, and even some socially liberal Wall Streeters who live in my town. That’s a formidable coalition. We can’t win elections without peeling away a few of those groups. We can’t win elections by shaming them. We have to figure out a way to bring at least some of them back into the fold.


    1. If somebody won’t leave Trump’s fold after Trump’s equivocation on openly Nazi marchers, I don’t know what to do about it. I’m much more concerned that black people (primarily) aren’t kept from the polls by legal or extra-legal impediments. Aside from simple justice, I think it would be easier to find 60,000 votes in PA or 20,000 votes in Wisconsin by bringing black turnout back to where it was in 2012 instead of where it was in 2016.


      1. Well, right. If we want to win elections, it’s a lot more fruitful to protect the rights of decent Americans to get to the polls rather than worrying too much about how to sweet-talk Nazis.


    2. I am hoping that we can win elections by shaming them, because accepting those who are willing to stand alongside bigotry is not an option for me.

      Yesterday, my kids were saying that they were so lucky, because their grandparents, in addition to being really nice to them and cutting up apples and making french toast and generally thinking that the world revolves around them are also on the right side of political history.

      So, I know that rejecting those who will compromise with the support of bigotry being shown by Trump (which is also clearly encouraging the coalition of hate) is easy for me. I’d have to go a pretty large number of steps to find Trump supporters in my circle. And, even I am not hunting down the political leanings of those I share pictures of the night sky or advice on photographing the eclipse with and rejecting their photos of the Milky Way on that basis.


    3. “So, who are the other Trump voters? Pro-Lifers (like my parents)”

      I also know some of these anti-abortion one-issue voters, and I will never understand them. Are your parents having any second thoughts?

      I sometimes wonder about the women in my dentist’s office, who had a big lunch celebration the day after Trump won. (I was there because I’d broke a tooth, probably grinding them in my sleep from the stress.) These women are all children of Portuguese immigrants and grew up in a Massachusetts where Portuguese were looked down upon (think the social milieu in Mystic Pizza). I couldn’t bring myself to say anything to them, partially because I was too shocked and partially because they had control over my mouth. 🙂 But now I just want to go to them and say Really? This is what you celebrated? A supporter of white supremacists?


      1. Interestingly, though, there were Fascist movements in the Slavic countries, who collaborated with the Germans. I’m not sure how they dealt with the untermensch status to which Nazism assigned them. But obviously the Slavs had a different relationship to Fascism than, say, the Jews. Then again, there were Turks and Arabs who embraced Fascism, even though they aren’t Aryans at all, which the Slavs are. People are strange. But I don’t know much about the Fascist movements outside Germany.


      2. There were large numbers of Croatian fascists. They (I had to look this up to be sure) claimed they had mostly Germanic roots, but I’m pretty sure they didn’t care as they were perfectly willing to accept Bosnians who were willing to convert to Catholicism. I think that mostly just proves the Balkans are incomprehensible and deeply violent. But, it is a good point. Plenty of people immigrated here during the collapse of Yugoslavia and I bet none of them forgot what grandpa did during the war whether grandpa could have said it publicly or not.

        I think the other Slavs who worked with the Nazis mostly fall into the category of people trying to not get shot or starved or people who wanted to kill Soviets.


      3. The Nazis did treat Slavs better than Jews, but the long term plan was extermination of 90% of all Slavic peoples with the remaining 10% kept as an illiterate slave class for their Germanic masters. The Holocaust was considered by Hitler to be a “dress rehearsal” with Jews to see if killing on a mass scale could be done efficiently, with the second phase a ramping up to start in on the Slavs.

        The Nazis’ reason for targeting Jews was clearly irrational hatred of Jewish people, but the official justification for killing Jews over Slavs was that Jews were clever and evil and thus an existential threat to German society, whereas Slavs were too stupid to be evil. I’m not sure an ideology where I was considered to be not as pressing a threat because I’m too stupid is something I’d find all that flattering, but apparently it is because Russia is a hotbed of Neo-Nazism.*

        *I always wonder, don’t any of these young men have grandparents who survived the siege of Leningrad? Do Russians not hear stories about German atrocities from their elderly relatives?


  6. We can’t win elections by shaming them.

    Maybe. If they’re not capable of being ashamed of associating with Nazis, they’re lost to all sense of decency.

    I hope that at least some Trump voters have the tiny vestige of decency and humanity necessary to find associating with Nazis shameful, and to stop doing it on that basis. If shaming them doesn’t work, it doesn’t work, but I’m not comfortable assuming that they’re completely irredeemably evil. Don’t we have to give them a chance to recognize that what they’re doing is wrong, rather than giving up on them as essentially mindless and amoral?


  7. And, substantively, what are Trump’s incipient mumblings on the opioid crisis?

    xenophobia against chinese & mexicans (who are blamed for exporting drugs), the number of drug prosecutions and how long people are imprisoned, telling young people to say “no” to drugs. Maybe the first will play to his base, but the next one is about imprisoning the addicts and their loved ones in rural West Virginia, his base, not African American crack addicts in the inner city.

    Are they going to go for that solution?


  8. I do have Trump voters in my circle, and I put on Fox News for a while yesterday to see what they were saying. The non-racist Trump voters/pundits just kept their mouths shut and tried to change the subject yesterday. They want to steer Trump away from this nonsense, but they aren’t disavowing him, because what are they going to do? Vote for a Pelosi or a Clinton? Nah. They would rather die. They are just biding their time for President Pence. And you all should keep an eye on Pence. He goes in turtle mode when Trump is being an asshole. Nowhere to be seen. None of this is going to stick to him.


    1. Yes. Pence is coming back early from a trip aboard, allegedly to consult with Trump on national security issues.

      But, it isn’t just a question of this stuff not sticking to Pence (or other Republicans). I don’t think Trump could have won without white supremacist voters who would have otherwise stayed home without Trump courting them with a degree of openness no other candidate has dared since Wallace. Trump brought something new into American politics. Drive it back out, go back to sucking no worse than usual. That’s important.


    2. Yes, threading the needle with silence. I am going to do everything I personally can to make that not work for people.

      And, as I said, it’s easy for me to believe, even with my own limits, that everyone who voted for Trump should be socially shunned. But, it’s might also be easy for a white christian to look the other way when the president of the United States says that the people marching along with Nazi flags or “good people.”


      1. Apologies for not having read the whole thread.

        bj said:

        “And, as I said, it’s easy for me to believe, even with my own limits, that everyone who voted for Trump should be socially shunned.”

        How about people who didn’t vote at all?

        (I did that accidentally, myself. I went in planning to vote for random Republican spoiler, but my voter registration wasn’t in order.)

        How does 25% of the country go about socially shunning and shaming 75% of the country?

        It only works where the group attempting to shame is in the majority, and then isn’t it a rather cowardly thing to do?


      2. AmyP: If the 25% is richer than the 75%, and controls the greatest of all worldly prizes, Ivy League admissions, then they can do their social shunning. Just as those with Norman blood, or Anglican beliefs, were able to do in centuries past.

        For myself, I only shun those who are personally rude to me.


      3. I agree that there are real issues with what sorts of behavior deserves shunning, but being neutral when a literal torch-wielding mob shouts “Jews will not replace us” and beats people with clubs is a really fucking low bar to clear.


      4. That is, not being neutral. And not actively supporting the torch-wielding mob, which I would hope goes without saying.


      5. y81 said:

        “AmyP: If the 25% is richer than the 75%, and controls the greatest of all worldly prizes, Ivy League admissions, then they can do their social shunning. Just as those with Norman blood, or Anglican beliefs, were able to do in centuries past.”

        So, it’s even worse than I was thinking–if social shunning from a minority position has a prayer of working, it means that you are more privileged than the person you are shunning.

        And that would seem to be the case with all these wretches getting fired from hot dog stands and pizzerias after Charlottesville. I can’t even imagine the frame of mind of someone trying to get a guy fired from a hot dog stand for non-public health reasons. If white supremacism is supposed to be largely socioeconomically triggered–why deprive a white supremacist of his pitiful job and put him in a position where he’s got nothing to lose anymore?

        “For myself, I only shun those who are personally rude to me.”

        Years ago, there was a couple in our community with a large family that suddenly broke up. There were some wild rumors, and people we knew started administering the full Baptist shunning to the guy. Husband and I didn’t know what to do (not being sure what was going on and being new to the community), so we went to our old pastor. He pointed out that the truth was going to come out soon enough, that a couple with that many children would not divorce without serious problems, and that Catholics don’t traditionally do shunning. It was all very good advice.

        I’d add that shunning seems to be most effective in small, insular communities where people can’t escape (for example Hester in The Scarlet Letter).


      6. It’s not 25% shunning 75%. Most of the 50% who didn’t vote will follow along with whatever the rest decide. Frankly, most of the 50% who did vote don’t pay much attention.

        Also, it’s not really shunning that I think is the key. It’s not letting people either be ignorant of or equivocate on Nazis marching in armed groups through the streets of an American city. My strategy is to make them shun me if they don’t want me to point this out.


      7. The issue about firing the Charlottesville Nazis reminds me of a story I teach by Daniel Oroszco:

        “Kevin Howard sits in that cubicle over there. He is a serial killer, the one they call the Carpet Cutter, responsible for the mutilations across town. We’re not supposed to know that, so do not let on. Don’t worry. His compulsion inflicts itself on strangers only, and the routine established is elaborate and unwavering. The victim must be a white male, a young adult no older than thirty, heavyset, with dark hair and eyes, and the like. The victim must be chosen at random before sunset, from a public place; the victim is followed home and must put up a struggle; et cetera. The carnage inflicted is precise: the angle and direction of the incisions, the layering of skin and muscle tissue, the rearrangement of visceral organs, and so on. Kevin Howard does not let any of this interfere with his work. He is, in fact, our fastest typist. He types as if he were on fire….
        In any case, when Kevin Howard gets caught, act surprised. Say that he seemed like a nice person, a bit of a loner, perhaps, but always quiet and polite.”


      8. Wendy said:

        ““Kevin Howard sits in that cubicle over there. He is a serial killer, the one they call the Carpet Cutter, responsible for the mutilations across town.”

        But, what’s the likely outcome of all of these guys (who are already disaffected) being fired en masse? Isn’t it likely to make things worse?

        The analogy is more like, they’re Kevin Howard who isn’t yet a serial killer, but he’s really interested in serial killing, corresponds with serial killers in prison, and has done a lot of research on how to get away with it, but hasn’t committed any crimes yet. Would it be a good idea to cut that guy’s few remaining threads that connect him to normal life and basic decency? As we’ve discovered, anybody with access to a car (basically 99% of us) can commit mayhem.

        If they’ve committed crimes, great, prosecute them. But if they haven’t committed crimes, why deprive them of their miserable livelihoods? It may feel good, but it’s socially irresponsible.


    1. There were also antifa people assaulting journalists to prevent them filming–and in fact putting one in the hospital.

      Some antifa people have really bad media manners–they need to get it straight that people have the right to film them in public and they need to keep their hands to themselves.

      (I’ve taken a media law class, and as I recall, the law is that if something is happening in public, you have the right to photograph or video it.)


      1. Yes, the left isn’t perfect. But if the difference between that and an armed mass chanting Nazi slogans while wielding clubs escapes many more people than just the president, the United States descends to civil war or fascism.


      2. Actual violence is worse than either carrying clubs or chanting Nazi slogans. The knock on the Charlottesville demonstrators is that they actually killed someone, not that they chanted offensive slogans. If the left-wing demonstrators also engaged in violence, then they also deserve condemnation.


      3. No. They Nazis were literally beating unarmed people with those clubs. The antifa people were in a fight and some of them didn’t recognize or recognize the rights of non-combatants. It happens very often, even with trained soldiers.


      4. I see this minimization of what happened in many places and I’m pushing back every chance I get. Even Kevin Williamson at NR (I read things in Laura’s twitter bar), in an article very strongly denouncing the Nazis, still can’t help minimize that they are Nazis. He, or his editors, mention that they were shouting “You will not replace us” like it was strictly anti-immigrant with no mention of the Nazi slogans they shouted, including the one that went with “You will not replace us,” “Jews will not replace us.”


      5. In case this sounds like I am paying far too much attention to antifa’s sins, I wrote and lost a mega-comment last night about distinctions between conventional conservative and alt-right ideology, with a discussion of alt-right harassment of Jewish conservative Trump critics during the election.

        The list of most targeted journalists is in a chart here (Ben Shapiro is first by a mile while it looks like my guy Jonah Goldberg at National Review is #6):

        Click to access CR_4862_Journalism-Task-Force_v2.pdf

        I’ve quoted it before here, but just for completeness, here’s a description from before last year’s election of what it looks like to wind up on the receiving end of an alt-right harassment campaign:

        The title of that article is “The price I’ve paid for opposing Donald Trump.”

        But it’s not just one guy’s story–the article also offers a pretty good primer on the harassment methods that Trump’s alt-right supporters have used over the last two years.

        (I do have to note that there is a possibility that some online activity may be coming from overseas–for example Russia.)

        I am not an expert on alt-right ideology (I’ve never really been able to get a handle on it), but here are some distinctions that I have noted. As opposed to conventional conservatives, the alt-right:

        –is very quick to treat conventional conservatives as the enemy (hence the love of using the term “cuck”–in fact its primary use is to insult conventional conservatives)
        –does not play well with others
        –is suspicious of the free market
        –does not have a strong libertarian streak
        –places personal loyalty to Trump above any particular policy or principle (I’m not being insulting, I’m just describing actual behaviors)
        –does not have the typical conservative reverence for America’s founding documents and philosophies
        –does not believe in Enlightenment values of freedom and tolerance
        –is not particularly American (see previous)
        –does not value checks and balances (again, not being insulting, just describing behaviors)
        –is not very interested in policy details
        –is not interested in understanding the actual processes of the US government (much like Trump himself)
        –likes Putin’s Russia (like Trump)
        –dislikes Israel/suspicious of Jews
        –has what has to be described as an overdeveloped will to power/worships power (hence the Trump adulation and love of violence)
        –reverence for strength, force and violence (hence love of Putin)

        You’ll notice that Trump himself checks many of those boxes, too.

        For a person like me who is familiar with more conventional conservative thought, it’s very difficult to find much to relate to there. Interestingly, there are a number of points of contact with the far left/antifa (suspicion of the free market, lack of reverence for America’s founding Enlightenment principles, and dislike of Israel, love of violence)–arguably just as many points of contact as there are with conventional conservative thought.

        I would say that conventional conservative thought is pretty philosophically distinct from the alt-right. However, a lot of people who think of themselves as conservatives have not noticed the key philosophical differences. I think that would be very easy to do if, for example, one were an older person whose main political information comes from Fox or Sean Hannity or a younger person whose ideological education has come via social media and who has not had a lot of exposure to conventional conservative thought.

        The war mentality has been very harmful to the right (as to the left). Basically, the idea is–I need to partner with this unsavory dude (be he a white supremacist beating counter-demonstrators or an antifa guy punching a journalist) because the political enemy is SO EVIL and if my political enemy gets into office it will be the END OF LIFE AS WE KNOW IT.

        That unprincipled panic is probably the most dangerous feature of modern American life and a big factor in the success of the alt-right. I would encourage people to look at the methods, rather than the ideology, when figuring out who to punish and who to turn a blind eye to, rather than looking at ideology first.

        What a lot of people are forgetting is that antifa and the alt-right are not the only two choices. One doesn’t need to pick one.


  9. Per Ann Althouse: “One side wanted to exercise its free speech rights to express bad, ugly ideas. The other side wanted to interfere with the exercise of free speech rights and was motivated by hostility to ideas that deserved hostility.” I haven’t followed the story closely enough to know if that is an accurate summary.


    1. Yes. That’s a lie. The Nazi side attacked counterprotestors who were also exercising their right to free speech. This includes clergy in clerical garb who were trying to form a peaceful barrier, not block anybody. People were beaten, there was no police response (because the ‘free speech’ group included an armed ‘militia’) and the antifa stopped it.


  10. I wonder if the NFL season won’t be the first hint of how the shunning will go. They’ve basically blackballed a quarterback over the national anthem. Trump is “friends” with many owners. While the fans are mostly white and conservative, there are large numbers of who are not and many of the players are not really replaceable in the short term.


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