The Trump campaign fired Corey Stewart the day the Muckraker was posting a story about the political rationale behind Stewart’s alignment with Trump. Our eventual post promptly elicited comments from people who speculated that Stewart might have been grateful for his dismissal in part because he might have been troubled by the rise of alt-right, anti-Semitic, white nationalists within Trump’s campaign team.
The Muckraker followed up on those reader comments with a post about how the alt-right had, in fact, infiltrated the Trump operation at the highest levels, through Trump campaign CEO Stephen Bannon of Brietbart. Bannon himself has openly acknowledged that Brietbart is “the platform for the alt-right.”
As the Muckraker noted in our posts, the influence on the Trump campaign of the anti-Semitic, white nationalists of the alt-right became more evident as Trump himself began to use historical anti-Semitic tropes in his prepared speeches. Prominent among these were his references to global conspiracies involving banks and the media, which is a long-standing anti-Semitic reference that dates back to, among other sources, anti-Semitic forgeries like the Protocols of the Elders of Zion. In subsequent posts we noted Trump supporters’ attacks on Jewish journalists (both liberal and conservative) on social media, as well as people chanting the historically fraught German term “lügenpresse” toward the media at Trump rallies, egged on by Trump’s own aggressive, factually-challenged attacks on the press.
As we have written on multiple occasions, given Trump’s troubling lack of serious knowledge on many important subjects, we thought (at least initially) that Trump was completely ignorant that these dog-whistles and code words in his prepared speeches were inserted by the Bannonites as clarion calls to the racists of the alt-right movement who we believe are a minority among Trump supporters. It was our view that Trump was being manipulated by the deplorable (that’s right, we used the word) and much smarter Stephen Bannon.
Every day makes it harder to support the view that Trump is simply unaware of the import of what he is saying, particularly given how consistent Trump has been in making lukewarm denunciations of troubling language by supporters, and even then only after being pressed hard by the media. Perhaps Trump is now aware and simply finds it too late in the campaign to substantively distance himself from these fundamentally anti-American views. Or perhaps Trump actually agrees with such views.
Regardless of Trump’s own thinking, however, one of our major concerns has always been that the prominence of alt-right, anti-Semitic, white nationalism in Trump’s campaign would provide air cover for bigots and racists who would then act to normalize their abhorrent views among a broader public. We’ve seen this in Prince William County, unfortunately, on multiple occasions, whether during the struggles of the illegal immigration debates, the prominent place that some local candidates and officials have given to birthers in their campaigns, or the willingness of a local blog affiliated with a local official to participate in the creation and dissemination of fraudulent, forged documents. This sort of cowardly acquiescence to normalization of the abhorrent is what we believed we were seeing with the chants of lügenpresse.
Now it may be getting worse. Increasingly, proponents of the alt-right, anti-Semitic elements of the Trump campaign are taking off their white hoods, forgoing the code words and foreign phrases, and using plain English in support of their nominee’s relentless attacks on the free press. Here is the latest troubling example, with a Trump supporter chanting “Jew S. A.” at the press gallery of a Trump rally in Phoenix, where polls unbelievably show Clinton having a chance at winning the state.
A successful democracy committed to free speech depends not only upon responsible officeholders denouncing such false vitriol, but upon a majority in society itself exerting the peer pressure of identifying such conduct as reprehensible. History has repeatedly shown that the failure by either to do so and the normalization of this type of activity by a major political party or its nominee is how such disastrous social and political movements go from the fringes to positions of power, with devastating consequences.