Donald Trump and David Duke

Just when you think that his statements couldn’t get any more unpalatable, Donald Trump refused to condemn David Duke, a former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, for calling on his supporters to volunteer for Donald Trump’s presidential campaign. This is not going to be a piece encouraging people to be outraged because people already get outraged over stupid shit all the time, but this is going to be a call to action. If Donald Trump is the Republican nominee for President, the electorate must vote for the Democrat, irrespective of which candidate is chosen.

On Sunday morning Donald Trump was on CNN and the presenter Jake Tapper asked him quite possibly the easiest question in the world of politics: “Will you unequivocally condemn David Duke and say that you don’t want his vote or the vote of other white supremacists in this election?”. Such questions are fodder for political candidates because they have the opportunity to illustrate that they have some principles and many often score well with voters by actively saying that they don’t want these people’s votes. It always plays well because the audience at home is aware that politicians only care about winning votes and therefore candidates asking people not to vote for them grabs people’s attention.
Despite the fact that this question is in the most clear and plain language that it could have been phrased in, Trump’s response was characteristically incoherent: “Well just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay. I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists so I don’t know. I don’t know, did he endorse me? What’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke. I know nothing about white supremacists, and so when you’re asking me a question that I’m supposed to be talking about people that I know nothing about”. Trump’s response, if we put aside that it makes no grammatical sense, either shows total ignorance of one of the most famous racists of recent political history or is simply another of his many lies.
Nonetheless Tapper tried to ask the question again: “But I guess the question from the Anti-Defamation League is ‘even if you don’t know about their endorsement, there are these groups and individuals endorsing you, would you say unequivocally that you condemn them and you don’t want their support?'”. This is actually a well phrased question because, although not exactly penetrative or especially difficult to answer, the premise is solid: ‘given that I’ve just told you that David Duke and his supporters are white supremacists, will you condemn them now?’.
David Duke Trump
Looking at Jake Tapper’s face foreshadows how everyone felt by the end of the interview. (CNN)
Here’s Trump’s response to that: “Well I have to look at the group. I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that i know nothing about, I’d have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. But there may be groups in there that are totally fine so give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.” Tapper’s response was an excellent swipe back at Trump’s nonsense: “Well I was only talking about David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan”; and this was swiftly followed by Trump essentially rehashing his answer to Tapper’s first question.
The interesting thing about this is that at the rally in which Chris Christie endorsed Trump earlier in the week, a reporter asked about Duke’s endorsement and responded with “I disavow”. Indeed a clip of this exchange was later retweeted by Trump in order to prove that he wasn’t happy with the support of a white supremacist, but personally I think this raises two important things.
First off is asking why Trump didn’t use such definite language on Sunday when asked on CNN. Trump has said that he couldn’t hear what Tapper was asking because of a malfunctioning earpiece, but I automatically think this is a lie because he essentially repeated the entire wording of Tapper’s questions back to him. The real reason is that he is pitching to different crowds. When he’s being flanked by Chris Christie he is desperately trying to seem legitimate in the eyes of the Republican establishment in order to get votes from Marco Rubio or John Kasich supporters. It is easy to disavow an extremist when your whole act in front of that crowd is ‘look at me, I’m not an extremist’.
The second thing is also related to the earpiece. Trump was able to decipher what the topic of Tapper’s question was, and we know this because he kept saying that he didn’t know who David Duke was; if he didn’t know what the question was, my follow up would be: “if you couldn’t hear what I was asking, why did you bring up David Duke?”. The other aspect is that how stupid is this man if he is asked a question at a rally about David Duke, in which he is correctly hostile to his endorsement, and then says that he couldn’t hear what Tapper’s question was even though he knew the general gist? Could he not work out that the question would be about Duke’s endorsement, and not Tapper asking for Donald Trump’s take on another news story about David Duke? It’s clearly bullshit, and the fact that Trump didn’t respond immediately shows that he is trying to get the support of people that no presidential candidate should want the support of.
By the way it’s worth pointing out that David Duke has since said that he hasn’t endorsed Donald Trump, and has stated that all he’s asked for his supporters to do is vote for, volunteer for, and support Trump. I hate to be the barer of bad news for Mr Duke but asking people who support you to vote, support, volunteer for a candidate is an endorsement. I don’t care if you didn’t use the word ‘endorse’, what else can you ask your supporters to do in support of a presidential candidate, that isn’t to literally take a bullet for them.


KKK modern day
Oh look a Donald Trump rally (Spencer Platt/Getty)
Incidentally I call this man Mr Duke deliberately and not because I am ignorant of the fact that he claims to have a PhD. In my mind he does not have a PhD because in order to get one you need to have one given to you by a recognised university after years of intense study. David Duke received an honorary PhD from Interregoional Academy of Personnel Management, a private institution in Ukraine that the US State Department described as “one of the most persistent anti-Semitic institutions in Eastern Europe” and was stripped of its accreditation in 2006. Even if you say that Duke received his honorary doctorate before it lost its accreditation, it is intellectually dishonest to say that you have a PhD when somebody randomly gave you a piece of paper one day after you did no work for it.
Back to the issue at hand, I have to ask one simple question: what was going through his mind when he answered Tapper’s questions about the KKK? Surely he didn’t think that doing anything other than condemning the KKK would be electorally beneficial because even a significant number of Trump supporters don’t want to be put in the same camp as members of the KKK. These people might still be racist but they don’t want to associate with the Klan. If Trump is willing to be so blasé about being endorsed by a former Grand Wizard of the KKK, then that should automatically disqualified from the Presidency.
Don’t get me wrong I’m fine with people that hold intolerant views that then change their minds and become more open-minded. I often think that George Wallace gets a rough deal from history for the very reason. History teaches people about George Wallace, the former Governor of Alabama, who, standing on the very spot where Jefferson Davis was sworn in as the Provisional President of the Confederate States of America, said in his inaugural speech: “I say segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever”. Indeed Wallace later went on to run for President against Lyndon Johnson in 1968 on a segregationist ticket. However very rarely do people know that Wallace publicly recanted his racist views and begged for the forgiveness of the African American community.
In my mind, Wallace should be forgiven by history, however this is because he changed his mind. David Duke has the same views as he did when he was in the KKK, and he claims, in his defence, that his membership in the Klan was fine because the chapter he was a part of was a non-violent one. So fucking what? If you join a political organisation that has a long and well-documented history of lynching people because they were of a different religion or ethnicity, don’t complain later in life when people in the media keep bringing that up.
David Duke
Duke has the same views as when he was in the Klan. This is why he shouldn’t be tolerated by political candidates. (Al Jazeera)
Donald Trump has said so much stuff that is offensive and angers people like me, but you could always use twisted logic to rationalise it. He said that he would build a wall because the Republican base is scared of immigrants taking their jobs. He said that he would ban Muslims because the Republican base thinks that ISIS are going to infiltrate groups of Syrian refugees. He wants to essentially carpet bomb the Middle East because the Republican base thinks that that will end terrorism. All of these beliefs are inane but you can see what Trump is doing. There is no logic behind this decision, and what is depressing is that it will not dent his success on Super Tuesday.
If I was an American that lived in a safe state I would probably vote for presidential candidate that was the most left-wing on offer, which would probably be Jill Stein of the Green Party, or Gloria La Riva of the Party of Socialism and Liberation. If I were ever to vote for a Democratic candidate I have publicly said that it would be a Democrat who was ideologically similar to Bernie Sanders, and in the past I have made incredibly harsh, and I believe accurate, criticisms of Hillary Clinton for being too centrist.
However if in a general election I lived in a swing state and it was Clinton versus Trump I would take a steaming pile of Clinton’s bullshit, powerfully inhale, and claim it smelt of roses if it would mean that somebody would be prevented from supporting Trump. We have got to do whatever we can to prevent this bigoted, and probable sociopathic, man from becoming the most powerful political figure in the world; if we don’t then our children will look back on us as the generation that failed to stop the rise of fascism in America.

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