Tuesday, September 29, 2020

Illinois, Michigan, Minnesota, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Vermont, Virginia, and Wyoming

What did Donald Trump do today? 

He literally told a violent white nationalist group to "stand by."

Tonight's presidential debate was almost universally panned, as much for its unwatchability—"shitshow" was the word a CNN anchor used—as for the torrent of lies and exaggerations Trump helped put forward. 

But Trump made one statement in particular that seems to have made more of an impression than most. Moderator Chris Wallace challenged Trump to condemn white supremacists and militia groups, such as those targeting anti-racism protests in Kenosha and Portland. Trump demanded a specific name, and Joe Biden mentioned the Proud Boys, a violent white nationalist group that openly supports him. 

Trump responded, "Proud Boys, stand back and stand by, but I'll tell you what, somebody's gotta do something about antifa and the left because this is not a right-wing problem. This is a left-wing problem."

The Proud Boys are an all-male, openly racist organization that the FBI declared an extremist group in 2018. It teaches that white Americans are at risk of genocide by immigrants, and has tried to provoke violence at otherwise peaceful protests against racism. It was involved in the deadly 2017 Charlottesville "Unite the Right" rally, where Trump memorably declared that the Proud Boys' side of the conflict contained "very fine people."

Members of the group were ecstatic with Trump's deputizing them for future actions. One of their leaders posted on social media, "Trump basically said to go fuck them up! This makes me so happy." He later wrote, "President Trump told the proud boys to stand by because someone needs to deal with ANTIFA... well sir! we're ready!!" 

Within an hour of Trump's remark, the group had incorporated it into its logo.

In a related question, Wallace asked Trump if he would ask his supporters—in general, not just the white supremacist ones—to respect the outcome of the election, and to wait for the count to be concluded without resorting to violence. Trump responded that he wanted his supporters to physically go to polling places and "watch very carefully."

Why is this a bad thing?

  • A president who can't bring himself to denounce a violent white nationalist gang is unfit for office.