Analysis |

There's Something Trump's Not Telling Us About Supremacist Hate Crimes

You know Donald Trump: The man who prides himself on straight talk and fast action. Yet there's something he's not telling us. Because he can't.

Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston
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Trump at the White House, February 27, 2017.
Trump at the White House, February 27, 2017.Credit: Pablo Martinez Monsivais/AP
Bradley Burston
Bradley Burston

You know Donald Trump. The man who prides himself on straight talk and fast action.

Yet there's something he's not telling us. Because he can't.

I'm not talking about Vladimir Putin and tax returns. This is something else. Something completely out in the open.

Here is a man who immediately and repeatedly condemns hate crimes when committed by Muslims. Especially if the victims are white Christians. Even if the crimes are committed thousands of miles from the United States.

He condemns them whenever they happen. He condemns them even if they don't. "Take a look at what happened in Sweden," he told the conservative CPAC conference this week. "The people over there understand I'm right. Take a look at what's happening in Sweden. Take a look at what's happening in Germany. Take a look at what's happened in France. Take a look at Nice and Paris."

Now take a look at what happens when hate crimes are committed against Jews, or Muslims, or against legal non-white non-citizen visa holders. He's taught us what to expect.

The deafening silence. Unless and until he's forced to say something. Which, from this master of straight talk, is inevitably lawyered-up and mealy-mouthed.

This is what he's not telling you: He can't afford to have hate crimes be declared hate crimes. Not when they're committed by white supremacist Americans.

After all, if they were, they would be violations of civil rights, punishable by federal law. And that is one road Trump cannot afford to go down.

Here's why.

Politically, he cannot afford to lose ANY of his base. He can't afford to sic law enforcement on the extremists in any meaningful way. Not so long as his approval rating goes nowhere but down.

If the base is to remain, Trump needs the votes of all of his enthusiastic supporters in the "alt-right," American Nazi sympathizers, Klan offshoots, Aryan militias, doomsday preppers, and a host of other white Christian supremacist groupings and extreme right housebound, head-bound loners.

As a number of studies have shown, of all eligible voters in the United States, only 27 percent voted for Trump. Twenty-eight percent voted for Hillary Clinton and 44 percent did not vote.

Behind in the popular vote, Trump needed every white vote he could get to win the electoral college.

Trump's first moves in response to rising anti-Semitism were lauded by the "alt-right." His defiant refusal to mention Jews in connection with the Holocaust, as well as his choosing International Holocaust Remembrance Day to sign his travel ban on non-Christians from seven majority Muslim countries, drew raves on the hard right. And there was more. 

In a less publicized initiative, the administration is said to want to revamp and rename a U.S. government program which was originally designed to counter all violent ideologies, including white supremacy.

If the initiative were implemented, that interagency task force would now focus solely on Islamist terrorism. 

The White House, which is anything but reticent in reply, did not respond to the Reuters report on the task force.

In a similar vein, Trump was said to be considering cutting the government's special envoy position tasked with fighting anti-Semitism, as a part of the budget cuts needed to implement a rise in defense spending.

Recently, when Trump was pressed by reporters to comment on the surging anti-Semitism across America – after Trump had finished berating an ultra-Orthodox reporter – the president pleased "alt-right" supporters even more by suggesting that the wave of anti-Semitism was actually a false-flag campaign by the left.

"Some of the signs and anger is caused by the other side," Trump told a raucous news conference.

"They'll do signs and drawings that are inappropriate. It won't be my people. It will be the people on the other side to anger people like you."

This dovetails nicely with the pro-Nazi, pro-Trump Daily Stormer website, which accuses Jews of desecrating their own cemeteries and threatening their own community centers in order to discredit the supremacists. "But listen closely to the crank caller," writes the Stormer, "and you can hear an inability to pronounce the American English 'R' typical of Hebrew speakers, along with an unmistakable tinge of Brooklyn ('Bay-yag' instead of 'Bag')."

The Trump administration has been similarly reluctant to condemn the Kansas murder of an aviation engineer from India. The suspect is a 51-year-old white man who witnesses said, shouted "terrorist" and "get out of my country," before he pulled out a handgun and killed the engineer, wounding a second Indian engineer as well as a bystander who tried to intervene. The suspect told a witness that he believed the men were from the Middle East.

Trump had nothing to say about the killing. He was too busy addressing an adoring crowd at the CPAC convention of conservatives.

He made it clear – in tone and broad hint – that Western Europe was being ruined by the presence of Muslims, quoting a friend as saying that sadly, Paris is no longer Paris. Then saying: "We have to be smart ... We can't let it happen to us."

Then he said, "We are going to keep radical Islamic terrorists the hell out of our country."

As Trump spoke, authorities were investigating the torching of a mosque in Tampa Florida. Muslim officials called it a hate crime and a heinous act of terror.

Three days before the mosque attack, White House Press Secretary Sean Spicer had been asked about a recent study that showed that the number of anti-Muslim hate groups had tripled over the course of Trump's campaign.

Spicer's answer began in an unusually measured tone. "I think that the president, in terms of his desire to combat radical Islamic terrorism, he understands that people who want to express a peaceful position have every right in our Constitution."

Then came the but.

“But if you come here or want to express views that seek to do our country, or our people, harm, he is going fight it aggressively, whether it’s domestic acts that are going on here or attempts through people abroad to come into this country."

Is Trump likely to shift his policy act to defend non-white, non-Christian Americans from hate crimes?

The answer, I'm afraid, is a function of his popularity. And so long as it's headed down, he may well decide that his base is all he's really got. And maybe, all that he really needs.

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