Lisa Benson cartoon
The campaign rhetoric is being brandished like a flame thrower, scorching the stump with recriminations, incriminations, insinuations and denunciations.
In the wake of the mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton that left 32 dead and dozens more seriously wounded, Democratic presidential candidates unsheathed accusations that President Trump is the prime mover of such lunatic behavior, calling him a racist and a white supremacist.
“In both clear language and in code, this president has fanned the flames of white supremacy in this nation,” former Vice President Joe Biden said in a speech. “Trump offers no moral leadership, no interest in unifying the nation, no evidence the presidency has awakened his conscience in the least.”
Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren, a Massachusetts senator, told The New York Times that Trump is a white supremacist who has “done everything he can to stir up racial conflict and hatred in this country.”
She added, “Donald Trump has a central message. He says to the American people, if there’s anything wrong in your life, blame them — and ‘them’ means people who aren’t the same color as you, weren’t born where you were born, don’t worship the same way you do.”
Meanwhile, candidate and former El Paso Rep. Robert “Beto” O’Rourke said Trump has made it “very clear” that he is a white supremacist who has “dehumanized or sought to dehumanize those who do not look like or pray like the majority here in this country,” according to Salon.
Candidate and New Jersey Sen. Cory Booker noted that both the El Paso shooter and Trump described illegal immigration as an invasion. Booker said, “The character and the culture of who we are hangs in the balance. We can’t let these conversations devolve into the impotent simplicity of who is or isn’t a racist. The real question isn’t who is or isn’t a racist, but who is or isn’t doing something about it.”
Socialist candidate and Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders was quoted as saying, “We have a president who is an overt racist and xenophobe. He should stay away from El Paso. What he should do right now is end his anti-immigrant rhetoric.”
The target of this vitriol, meanwhile, addressed the nation from the White House in a 10-minute speech calling for unity. “In one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy. These sinister ideologies must be defeated. Hate has no place in America. Hatred warps the mind, ravages the heart, and devours the soul,” Trump implored.
The president called for a change in the American culture to “stop the glorification of violence in our society. This includes the gruesome and grisly video games that are now commonplace. It is too easy today for troubled youth to surround themselves with a culture that celebrates violence.”
He concluded, “Now is the time to set destructive partisanship aside — so destructive — and find the courage to answer hatred with unity, devotion, and love. Our future is in our control.”
The parsing of words was so overwrought that when The New York Times accurately reported in a headline in its first edition the next day that “Trump urges unity vs. racism,” the self-styled social justice warriors stampeded online.
Democrat Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York tweeted, “Let this front page serve as a reminder of how white supremacy is aided by — and often relies upon — the cowardice of mainstream institutions.” Many threatened to cancel subscriptions.
In the next edition of the newspaper, the headline read, “Assailing hate but not guns.” All Trump had said was, “Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun.”
As for blaming Trump for the El Paso shooter’s deeds, the shooter himself wrote in his rambling and demented screed posted online by the Drudge Report, “My ideology has not changed for several years. My opinions on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president. I putting this here because some people will blame the President or certain presidential candidates for the attack. This is not the case. I know that the media will probably call me a white supremacist anyway and blame Trump’s rhetoric. The media is infamous for fake news. Their reaction to this attack will likely just confirm that.”
Pay no heed to the fact the Dayton shooter was an avowed socialist supporter of Sanders and Warren.
It is hard to create unity when so many who claim to want to lead this country are so divisive and obdurate. They see calls for unity as divisive. Look in the mirror.
A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.