Anti-Trump conservatives’ shallow outrage over KKK endorsements

Over the weekend, Donald Trump finally went too far for some in the Republican Party, leading at least one Republican senator to insist that they would refuse to back him in November should he win the nomination.

What did Trump do? He failed to adequately repudiate an endorsement from David Duke.

As Trump said, upon being told that David Duke had advised his supporters that they would be committing “treason to their heritage” if they voted for anyone other than him:

Well, just so you understand, I don’t anything about David Duke, OK? I don’t even know anything about what you’re talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. Did he endorse me, or what’s going on? I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists.

This was particularly silly on Trump’s part because this isn’t the first time David Duke has said nice things about him, and it isn’t the first time he’s been asked to say on national television that David Duke is bad. Back in August, when asked about praise from Duke, Trump said that “I don’t need his endorsement; I certainly wouldn’t want his endorsement.”

But Trump’s obvious lie wasn’t what sent conservatives into a tizzy. And neither was the simple fact that Trump had earned the endorsement of a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan in the first place. That would implicate quite a few Republican politicians — including the current third-ranking Republican in the House, Steve “David Duke Without the Baggage” Scalise. Instead, Trump’s sin was failing to, once endorsed by Duke, put his foot down and state, unequivocally, that the KKK and its associated racism are bad.

Talk, it appears, is not so cheap after all. It may in fact be the only currency.

Shortly following Trump’s non-repudiation of Duke, anti-Trump conservatives started passing around this quote, representing Ronald Reagan’s reaction to having been endorsed by the Klan in 1984:

Ronald Reagan, via Wikimedia Commons

Ronald Reagan, via Wikimedia Commons

Those of us in public life can only resent the use of our names by those who seek political recognition for the repugnant doctrines of hate they espouse.

The politics of racial hatred and religious bigotry practiced by the Klan and others have no place in this country, and are destructive of the values for which America has always stood.

Ah, now there‘s a disavowal. Why couldn’t Trump do that? When it came to dealing with support from white nationalists, Reagan’s statement was everything it needed to be: emphatic, unequivocal, emotionally satisfying and, at the end of the day, utterly empty.

Absent from this conservative backlash to Trump in Reagan’s name was any thought as to why the Klan endorsed Reagan in the first place. This was a president who launched his first campaign by wink-winking at “states’ rights” in a city famous for the high-profile lynching of civil rights activists. This was a president who coined the term “welfare queen” and linked public assistance to lazy, shiftless people of color. This was a president who signed the Sentencing Reform Act in 1984 and followed it up with mandatory minimums for drug offenses in 1986. Reagan may have rejected the KKK’s endorsement, but only after he earned it. The group clearly felt that Reagan was the candidate who was most likely to represent their interests in office. They were right.

Much in the same way, white nationalists today feel that Trump is the presidential candidate who most closely resembles their politics. Trump is the frontrunner for the Republican nomination overall, but he performs especially well among people who think that the South should have won the Civil War, that the Confederate flag should be flying over South Carolina’s state capitol and who disapprove of President Lincoln’s executive action to free the slaves. There are a number of reasons for this — from railing against “political correctness” to scaremongering over Syrian refugees to retweeting white nationalist propaganda — that have been more or less the hallmarks of Trump’s candidacy.

And Trump weren’t in the race, these voters would be backing another Republican in the race. That Republican would most likely be Ted Cruz, who, despite describing Trump’s non-rejection of David Duke as “really sad,” is promoting his own brand of racial resentment. Cruz is himself to the right of Donald Trump on racialized issues ranging from immigration to the Confederate flag, and has endorsed a radically theocratic plan to “fix” black culture by, among other things, forcibly removing children from parents in homes that the government deems to be “dysfunctional” — seemingly defined as any low-income home with a black single parent.

However, none of these policies are all that far outside the norm in Republican politics — in large part due to the fact that Reagan, following a path laid out by Nixon, made the Republican Party the party of racial resentment. As a Republican it is the rule, not the exception, to support voter ID laws that have been shown to have racially disparate effects. As a Republican it is the rule, not the exception, to link poverty to moral decay in the inner cities. As a Republican it is the rule, not the exception, to insinuate that it’s acceptable to turn three year-old refugee children away because they might actually be terrorists.

This being the case, the idea that Trump’s handling of praise from David Duke represents some kind of last straw for principled and totally-not-racist Republicans is laughable. If you saw Trump curry favor with groups of outwardly racist voters and said nothing, your outrage over his failure to emphatically reject them when they state their support is far from righteous. Especially if you plan on supporting another candidate in the Republican primary that would be more than happy to have those voters choose them instead.

Update: The guy whose immigration platform in 2012 was to make life so difficult for brown people that they’d leave on their own has a take:


Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Your comments are racist. I am half Latino, so I object to the term “illegals” as a descriptor of people. It is a descriptor of acts. I suspect that your real problem with President Johnson is the Equal Rights Act. FDR did many great things, but internment camps weren’t among those great things. They became a precedent for why it is okay to detain an U.S. citizen for no reason.

    I know that manufacturers will take their work to places that can produce their goods at lesser costs. That’s why Trump has his goods produced in China.

  • Tani J

    Perhaps in your young lifetime, you will SEE the “USA” ruled by China. Got any idea what they do to problem people that destroy cities and push drugs? Heh. HAIL CHINA.

  • Tani J

    Don’t you know what happened after Pearl Harbor? HELL yes, the internment camps were necessary – HELL yes. FDR was sane. All’s well and easy to condemn this after the fact, years after, but SPIES HELLO? No, they weren’t illegals for OMG man, don’t you know history? RECENT history? There were Geman spies here too – and they were quite good at it.

    We are at war with ISLAM – MOST of them, even the ones right here under our noses like Sharia law and sympathise with Jihad, even liberal Bill Maher said this, knows this. I guess you don’t see how utterly insane this country has become, even THINKING of letting in Muslims when ISIS SAYS they’ll infiltrate, even letting them STAY HERE, citizens or not. The terrorist in CA was a citizen here – look what he did. It is utterly and completely INSANE. Even Bill Maher says “deport them all, citizens or not.” And don’t give me “oh, we can’t do that” crap. OH YES WE CAN – and we have done REASONABLE things like that in the past when America WAS GREAT.

    What did Johnson do? I guess you weren’t around when ONE WAGE was enough to sustain a family in comfort. I was there. What did LBJ do? OH, he changed the reasonable FDR welfare benefits for WIDOWS with children, into a scam that paid promiscuous women to pop out one baby after another and get PAID for it, more babies, more money – of course, if they were black it worked fine. I well remember all the “borrowed children” in Newark NJ – and how that once wonderful place turned into HELL where everyone else was literally terrorized. It also destroyed the black community and family unit because one husband could not possibly make more money than the welfare paid them. SCAM. So it was highly NOT profitable to keep a husband in the house, or even BE married. It was in the mid 70s when the reality kicked in and the economy started to seriously SUCK. I remember this very well. The wage people made before all that nonsense was GOOD, even at $2.28 an hour it was fine! I remember how the cities turned into shit – basically – AMERICA turned into SHIT due to this nightmare. Of course businesses moved out of the cities – they HAD to, like refugees – anyone that could spent every cent they ever saved and FLED – they HAD to. NO choice.

    Here is the problem. At least I see it with republicans – they are stuck in OLD paradigms where Russia is the enemy and the nice Sunnies are allies. wrong. Turkey was modernizing for awhile and Arabia was our “friend” due to what Eisenhower did with the Suiz Canal, imo, a wrong move with no foresight. Russia SHOULD be our friend these days, NOT so much Europe where INSANE policies have taken root due to PC. NATO? It’s a freaking JOKE – the USA should just leave it behind. It’s long past due. Sunnies are the ones where all that medieval insanity comes from, ALL of it.

    Saddam might have been a dictator, but he was law and order, people had GOOD LIVES there unless they were terrorists or drug dealers – and I know this for a FACT – I have non-Muslim relatives that lived there. The economy was good, it was a nice place before Bush 1 bombed them.

    Bush 2 just set in motion the END of western civilization, Obama and Hillary just put the icing on the cake – just think it out if you know history. THINK. I see no way out of it either. The EU is being overrun – Europeans who made western civ are just not populating their own countries (breeding!) – they are being taken over – and that kind of thing happens FAST in terms of history.

    Going to Assad’s area of Syria you find it’s not much different from New York, it’s MODERN and many different people live there OK. It WAS that way in Iraq.

    Try Jeff Archer – “The Sledgehammer and the Ant” and get your eyes opened. When Bush 1 did this, people that spoke out were shocked – Iraq was the JEWEL of Islam back then. And the loonie neocons wanted Bush 1 to keep going, destroy the whole place. At least he didn’t do it. But Bush 2 DID – and there is just NO hope anymore – it’s over.

    Hell, even Afghanistan was modernizing big time before Reagan decided to trick the USSR into attacking them – and the USSR fell for it. That finished it – and it got left that way, in shambles. The USA ARMED those terrorists back then. All in order to “defeat the USSR” and what the hell – WHAT FOR? USSR was NEVER a threat to us.

    Perhaps Obama has something of a right idea, befriending Russia AND Iran. Iran is ALSO a modern country – GO THERE AND SEE. It’s not medieval like Arabia at all and neither is Assad’s Syria. GO AND SEE. Frontline did a special on Assad’s Syria – watch that – it’s safer than going there. But Iran? It’s a modern country. So was Iraq. And in case nobody knows this, SHIA is threatened by Sunni jihad terrorists as much as anyone else is. Iran is SHIA. China AND Russia have big business interests in Iran, peaceful relations. America is becoming the rogue nation in this mess.

    As for illegals? Eisenhower kicked them out once upon a time. The problem here is that the cost of living is no longer in any way shape or form balanced with the wages anyone makes, not anymore. IT USED TO BE. Unions are useless these days, companies can just move to where business can run better, cheaper and make better profits. Oh yeah, western civ? It’s over. I give it 100 years, maybe less, definitely 200 years from now – GONE.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Trump is a racist, a mysogynist, a union buster and he wants to continue the policies of torture and murder of political and military opponnesnt begun by Bill Clintons.
    Capitalism is in it’s end stage and will soon enough be finished. People like Trump will go to jail for stealing the wages of working people.

  • Mike_in_the_Tundra

    Just what did President Johnson do?

  • Moderator3

    Illegals?!?!

  • Tani J

    Trump wouldn’t do a thing against LGBT people or deny them their rights, nor would he be insane against CHOICE for women. Racist? His daughter is an orthodox Jew so no, he does NOT like the KKK – nor does he know Duke or anyone in the KKK. But the Clintons were pals with BYRD who was in office for ages and in the KKK for ages.

    Trump is not against immigrants. He has immigrants in his own family. He is RIGHTLY against ILLEGALS and you might think back to Eisenhower on that, when America WAS great economically and otherwise. Check out what Mexico does to illegals that enter their country – HA. Check out what China does! Hoooeeeey. As for Muslims, think back to FDR and what HE did when the Japs attacked us. We are either a country or we are not. Right now, and for decades now, we are NOT a country. We are a disaster waiting to be taken over.

    I want Trump to win, as a common sense conserver. Not a typo. I said CONSERVER. Otherwise, LET China just take the stupid experiment called America over and clean house. America is FINISHED.

  • Tani J

    Trump DID go against Duke. Trump can’t stop people from liking him, or voting for him and why should he. NOW – let’s lookey and see:

    1. Byrd, KKK, democrat in office for years, pal of the Clintons and for whom Bill gave a friendly “he’s just a good ol boy” smile and made excuses for his being in the KKK!
    2. President of USA, I forget which one, that praised “Birth of a Nation” as honest and wonderful film!
    3. David Duke DEMOCRAT voted into office by entire state! Duke even went to Iran to speak to Akmedinajid (spelling) as a senator or congressman or whatever Duke was at the time. Nobody made a freaking PEEP at the DEMOCRAT- FORMER KKK leader. Emphasis on FORMER.

    Oooooo. Trump should use that if the Dems try to harm him just because Duke now likes him! Trump can’t stop a person from voting for him. And he shouldn’t.

    Mitt the robot Romney should shut the F up, go play in traffic, and die. Cruz is insane with his xian sharia ideas and idiot-ology – same for Rubio with his “let woman die” garbage.

    Evengalical theocracy lovers destroy the Rep party, just as Johnson destroyed the Dem party – and Johnson was TOLD by other dems he would do just that.

    I want Trump to WIN – yes, he is common sense, not some rigid extremist idiot. As for what he said about illegals and Muslims – think back to FDR and Japanese internment camps after the Japs attacked us – and think back to Eisenhower and how he dealt with illegals. America WAS GREAT back then, truly great. Economy was great back then. BOTH Dems and Reps have destroyed ALL of it.

    Here here, let the Chinese take over – they can just get us on default and clean house.

  • Bill_Perdue

    Both parties have a very recent past characterized by racism, denial of rights to women, wars of aggression, promoting income inequality and homophobia.

    From the Republicans Willie Horton ads to the Clintons attacks on welfare and their own rabid racism, to the Clintons DOMA and Bush Jr’s spate of state DOMAs, to Barney Franks bigoted attacks on trans people and his gutting ENDA, their record is replete with sexism, bigotry, warmongering, union busting , immigrant bashing and other forms of rampant racism.

    Now, as workers, people of color, women, the LGBT communities and immigrants radicalize, they’re both paying the price.

  • Ol’ Hippy

    Ever since Nixon, the GOP has become more and more fascist with each new cycle. Now the party is splitting into two equally far right factions. The ultra religious and the ultra racists, both equally bad for the country. The Democrats are now the liberal version of the old right. I don’t see how America can go any farther to the right without a major realignment of the whole political spectrum. Times are indeed interesting, and scary.

  • nicho

    I fail to see any difference between Trump and Reagan with the exception that Reagan was just a patsy for corporate interests. This is what’s driving the Corporatocracy nuts. They don’t own Trump like they did Reagan.

  • angryspittle

    The sonofabitch announced his fucking run in Philadelphia Mississippi………he was a racist bastard just like Trump but he had to camouflage it a bit more back then.

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  • You’re probably right, Jon, but the thing about the proverbial “last straw” is it’s never obvious until the broken-back camel is already falling to the ground.

    Sure, Trump is popular among the most barbaric of Americans, the most racist and the most filled with hatred and inchoate rage. But he’s horrifying the decent-hearted Republican voters (yes, they do exist and there are a lot of ’em). It’s easy to say, “Oh, well, the so-called moderates will fall in line no matter how monstrous the eventual GOP nominee” — and no doubt some will. Others, like my mother, are saying they’ll either vote Dem or just sit out the election altogether.

    The reasons why the Republican leadership is in such a state of panic are threefold. One is because Trump is clearly beyond their control in any way whatsoever. The second reason is because they know a Trump candidacy might not just lose them the White House, but Congress as well. And the third reason? The party itself is spinning out of their control.

  • Demosthenes

    The backing of White Nationalist and racist people is a feature, not a bug, of The Donald’s candidacy.

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