Normally, the question "Do you denounce the Ku Klux Klan?" has one answer: Yes. But not in Donald Trump's world. On CNN's State of the Union on Sunday morning, host Jake Tapper asked the Republican front-runner about the support of white supremacist and former KKK grand wizard David Duke. "Voting against Donald Trump at this point is really treason to your heritage," said Duke. Tapper inquired whether Trump would "unequivocally condemn" Duke's support. Trump dodged.
"Well, just so you understand, I don't know anything about David Duke," replied Trump, "Okay? I don't know anything about what you're even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists." As Tapper continued to press Trump, the latter denied any knowledge of Duke and refused multiple chances to disavow the KKK. A few hours later, Trump tweeted that he does "disavow" Duke's support.
For starters, Trump previously did know who David Duke was. He knew Duke was a Klansman in 2000, and he initially renounced Duke's support only a few days ago. Either Trump was lying to Tapper or he's lying about having "the world's greatest memory."
But regardless of what he said about Duke, the GOP front-runner for president simply refused to denounce the KKK. This comes after Trump blamed trouble in the lawsuit over his controversial Trump University on a "Hispanic" judge, and after he defended retweeting a Benito Mussolini quote from a Gawker-created parody account with the words, "What difference does it make whether it's Mussolini or somebody else?" (Answer: When the person you're quoting is a fascist, it makes a difference.) Every day it is less surprising that Trump does best in the areas of the country with the most racist Google searches. There is no way to look at Trump's record and not conclude he is perfectly happy to ride nativists and racists as far as they will take him.
More explicitly than ever, the Republican Party is at a crossroads. Like any presidential election, there will be tremendous pressure for the GOP to coalesce behind Trump. Some conservatives have said they will never vote for Trump but many others, such as radio host Hugh Hewitt, argue that the conservative lean of the Supreme Court must be preserved even at the cost of whatever else a Trump presidency would bring. Others say that regardless of what Trump believes, a Democratic presidency would be worse.
On the other hand, the Republican National Committee's Sean Spicer told my colleague Jennifer Rubin, "Of course the GOP has and does denounce these hate groups/people." Yet if the GOP embraces a Trump nomination, any denouncement of hate groups will be proved to be empty gestures, those groups will be further bolstered, and the party will be tarnished for generations. Is that worth preventing four more years of a Democrat in the White House? One would hope that Trump's non-denouncement would lead to more Republicans reconsidering the answer to that question.
Editorial on 03/02/2016
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