It’s scary when the Republican front-runner can’t bring himself to clearly articulate that the Ku Klux Klan and other racist and white supremacist groups are evil.
On Feb. 28 Donald Trump declined to condemn support from David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the odious Ku Klux Klan. That next day, saying he didn’t hear the question clearly because of a bad earpiece, Trump “disavowed” support from Duke and the KKK. Then he began criticizing the media for continuing to press him on the issue.
“David Duke is a bad person, who I disavowed on numerous occasions over the years,” Trump said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” on March 3. “I disavowed him. I disavowed the KKK. Do you want me to do it again for the 12th time?”
But Trump is a smart man, an Ivy League graduate, and surely knows that the dictionary definition of “disavow” is to “deny responsibility for.” He’s not criticizing the underlying racism, only denying responsibility for the people and groups promoting it. This is a little too disingenuous.
Compare Trump’s measured disavowal with what his leading opponent Sen. Ted Cruz said: “We should all agree, racism is wrong, KKK is abhorrent.”
Or Speaker of the House Paul Ryan: “If a person wants to be the nominee of the Republican Party, there can be no evasion and no games. They must reject any group or cause that is built on bigotry.”
Or Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell: “Let me make it perfectly clear: Senate Republicans condemn David Duke, the KKK, and his racism,”
When you combine Trump’s high-profile role in the “birther” movement, his labeling of Mexican immigrants as “rapists” and “murders,” and his ambivalent disavowal of the KKK, it’s clear the billionaire real estate developer is carefully building his appeal at least in part on racial prejudice.
At a rally in Florida on Saturday, Trump said to his typical nearly all-white audience, “We have a terrible president who happens to be African-American.” The underlying racist message in that statement is hard to miss.
Republicans frequently refer to themselves as the “Party of Lincoln,” arguably the greatest American President. Lincoln ended slavery and defended both democracy and the Union from the rebellion by the slave-owning Confederate states.
But if Donald Trump becomes the Republican Presidential nominee, the GOP could look a lot more like the party of Confederate President Jefferson Davis.
Chris Jennewein is editor and publisher of Times of San Diego.