During the presidential campaign, some Republicans who don’t necessarily self-identify as racists were willing to overlook Donald Trump’s blatant bigotry to support his nationalist message of job growth and American exceptionalism.
It’s an understandable impulse. America-first nationalism might seem appealing on the surface level, but only if you don’t crouch down to look at its racist and xenophobic underpinnings. If you’re white and only associate with other white-minded people, it was an easy thing to avoid.
That’s no longer the case. As Trump turns the United States upside down, everyone can now see the ugly underbelly of his nationalist project. Now there’s no way for anyone to avert their gaze.
People who continue to back Trump after the Charlottesville fiasco are openly endorsing an unreformed racist. His supporters no longer have the privilege of fooling themselves.
Don’t get me wrong. I know a lot of white people were never trying to fool themselves in the first place. They backed Trump precisely because he is a racist. A lot of people heard the racist dog whistles and loved the sound. They were glad that Trump invited self-styled “alt-right” ideologue Steve Bannon into the White House to offer doctrinal support for their nationalist cause.
Still other Trump supporters took more of a cafeteria-style approach. They tried to pick and choose the things they liked about him, while ignoring the grossest stuff.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way. People who wanted a full plate of MAGA without the accompanying sides of racism and xenophobia have discovered that Trump nationalism is a taco salad with all that stuff mixed together in the same bowl. Even though Trump insists he’s defending history, heritage, national security, and the American economy, racism is a main ingredient.
Charlottesville unhooded the president and his supporters. Trump is now publicly putting racism first, not America first. He even sacrificed his administration’s working relationship with the country’s leading CEOs to defend his constituency of white supremacists, neo-Nazis, and Confederate yahoos. Trump is prioritizing Heil! Heil! Heil! over Jobs! Jobs! Jobs!
There are some people in the administration who are trying to hold the line for America. Bannon’s ouster this morning is a clear attempt by Trump’s chief of staff to remove one of the loudest fringe voices from the Oval Office.
But it might not fix anything. Bannon could continue to wield influence over Trump from the pages of Breitbart. Bannon has had success influencing the president in the past, and that’s a skill he’ll carry with him as he tries to push Trump’s buttons from outside the White House.
But even without Bannon’s help, Trump is perfectly capable of being racist on his own. Trump is his own damaged man, with his own fatally flawed political project.
Banning Bannon does not put this government back on a track. Trump has already charged too far in the wrong direction to suddenly reverse course. The path he has chosen will never Make America Great Again because at no time in America’s past was it a nation made great by supporting Nazis and Confederate secessionists. America was made great by defeating those enemies, not encouraging them.
Trump has sided with the racist losers from history. It’s the same group he’ll be remembered with someday.
America, on the other hand, doesn’t need to follow Trump into the trash bin of history.
Watch next Tuesday’s episode of The Feed on Fusion for more.