Two Days in 2017

Maurice responds to President Trump’s comments on Charlottesville.

Demonstrator wearing a T-Shirt with a quotation from Hitler.

Events have overtaken me. Yesterday morning I saved a draft blogpost that was going to talk about the two long days it took Mr Trump to get round to condemning Nazis marching in the streets of an American city in the 21st Century – and indeed killing a counterprotester. Yesterday I was going to write that “we find ourselves in the astonishing position of having watched the President of the United States of America wrestle for two days – two days in 2017 – with the question of whether to come down on the side of democracy or that of fascism”.

But it turns out that he hadn’t finished wrestling yet.

Mr Trump’s original statement on Saturday was bad enough:

“We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence on many sides. On many sides.”

This was around two hours after a car had been driven at speed into a crowd protesting against the white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, killing one and injuring many others.

Mr Trump knew he would be expected to condemn the hatred, bigotry and violence of Fascists, White Supremacists and Nazis – actual American Nazis, nothing ‘alt’ or ‘neo’ about them. But he could not bring himself simply to do that. For his own reasons, he had to blame others too.

At that stage he avoided the phrase ‘both sides’, because it would have been too obvious that he was equating Nazis with those protesting against them. So he said ‘many sides’. Then he repeated it. With a lofty wave from the podium. To make sure you heard without him having to say it.

But it seems he has now given up on such subtleties. He has come right out and equated both sides in the confrontation between the Nazis, the KKK, and open Fascism on the one hand, and at those who oppose them on the other.

The Nazis had thought his original statement ‘good, really good’ and noted gleefully that he had specifically not condemned them.

Today, when he came out clearly equating one side with the other, again the KKK knew how to read this: “Thank you President Trump for your honesty & courage” Tweeted David Duke, “to tell the truth about Charlottesville and condemn the leftist terrorists”.

Mr Trump’s equivocation, and now his withdrawal of a clear condemnation of the Nazis gives them encouragement, and will be taken as some form of permission or authorisation from the top.

This is a decisive moment in Mr Trump’s presidency.

Democracy or fascism Mr Trump? You have to choose. And on the latest evidence, you’ve made the wrong choice.

It has been said many times before, prematurely as it turned out, but surely, surely this really is a turning point!

Maurice Macartney

16 August 2017