It shouldn't be news that a president of the United States condemns white supremacists, but it was news when President Trump uttered such words Monday more clearly and emphatically than he had ever done before.
"In one voice our nation must condemn racism, bigotry and white supremacy," the president said at the White House in the wake of a Saturday shooting at an El Paso, Texas Walmart. As of Monday afternoon, the rampage had left 22 people dead and dozens injured.
"These sinister ideologies must be defeated," Trump added.
If they are not followed with a change of demeanor by the president — if he doesn't stop the inflammatory rhetoric that creates an us-against-them ugliness on the issues of immigration, asylum seekers at the southern border, and policy disagreements — his words will be exposed as nothing but empty, politically expedient rhetoric.
Given this president's track record, that's our expectation. Please prove us wrong, President Trump.
In declaring that "this attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas," a manifesto left behind by the 21-year-old killer, now in custody, mimicked some of the president's own rhetoric. Trump has likewise labeled the increase in immigrants seeking asylum at the southern border, largely Central Americans, as an invasion.
The manifesto cites the "great replacement" theory prevalent among white supremacists, alleging a campaign to replace Europeans and descendants of Europeans in Europe and the United States with immigrants from the Middle East, North Africa and, in the U.S., Latino countries — somehow for the benefit of a liberal elite.
In an April tweet, President Trump came uncomfortably close to such racist rantings by referencing the "breeding concept" in California's "sanctuary cities."
Trump, then, can start by acknowledging his politics of division — his suggestions that a demographically changing America is somehow less American, his statements that those who hold differing views should go back where they come from — is dangerous and can encourage bad actors.
In March the Washington Post referenced a study documenting that in 2016, counties that had hosted political rallies with Trump as the main speaker saw a 226 percent increase in hate crimes over comparable counties that did not host rallies. Political Science researchers at the University of North Texas analyzed data from the Anti-Defamation League.
And, according to the Anti-Defamation League, "Right-wing extremists were linked to at least 50 extremist-related murders in the United States in 2018, making them responsible for more deaths than in any year since 1995 . the year of Timothy McVeigh's bomb attack on the Oklahoma City federal building."
Words matter. Tone it down, Mr. President, argue your points on tougher immigration policy without demonizing groups of individuals. Unfortunately, dividing seems to be the Trump strategy to keep his base fired up and supporting him.
Terrorism linked to white nationalism is a growing threat domestically and internationally, and the United States must deal with it as aggressively as it has terrorism tied to radical Islam. If Trump truly wants to defeat this emerging enemy, he must direct our intelligence and law enforcement services to use all resources available, obtaining the warrants necessary to root out those behind the threatening, racist garbage found on fringe, alt-right websites and prosecute them accordingly.
As for the fact mass shootings have become commonplace in this country — on the same day of the El Paso murders, nine people were fatally shot in a Dayton, Ohio nightclub — continued congressional inaction is not acceptable.
The killer in El Paso was armed with an AK-47-style assault rifle, the Dayton mass murderer with a similar weapon, the AR-15. Both had large-capacity magazines. Both these weapons, designed for the purpose of killing many people with relative ease, are illegal to purchase in Connecticut, a result of laws passed after the Sandy Hook Elementary School killings that left 20 first graders and six educators dead in 2012.
There should be a national ban on these weapons.
Knowing, politically, that is not going to happen, can this president and the Republicans at least work with Democrats to enact some basic gun-reform legislation by requiring background checks before the purchase of a gun, regardless of how the purchase is made, and by allowing a reasonable time for the checks, ending the practice of allowing a gun sale to go forward simply because time runs out.
"Why run for Congress if you aren't prepared to pass laws that make people safer?" asked Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., in the wake of the latest shootings.
Why indeed. To appease the gun lobby, apparently.
-- The Day (New London, Conn.)