We need to talk about Trump
Christian Turner is undergraduate coordinator at the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) at Canterbury Christ Church University.
At the time of writing, Donald J. Trump has been president of the United States for 204 days, 4 hours, 33 minutes and 13 seconds. Wars such as as the Six-Day War, the Slovenian Independence War and the Norman Conquest lasted far shorter than Trump’s Presidency. Over the last week, the idea of war and death has been prominent as the rhetoric between the USA and North Korea reached dangerous heights, whilst even Venezuela has found itself identified as a potential military target due to ongoing tension regarding the recently elected ‘constituent assembly’. However, both states were pushed to the periphery in the media due to the scenes in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend. For whatever we decide to call them: white supremacists, nationalists, far-right, alt-right, fascists, Nazis, terrorists, white (mostly middle-aged) men and some women have been taking part in ‘Unite the Right’ marches. Their views are simple: the supremacy of the white race and Christianity over everything and anything else in the United States.
The reason for the gathering was following a decision to rename Lee Park to Emancipation Park and the removal of a statue dedicated to Confederate General Robert E. Lee, who led the Southern States during the Civil War over the battle of slavery. But let us not fool ourselves, these supremacists have been airing their ugly views after being buoyed by the victory of Trump. For regardless of what the president says, he is the leader of this movement. After spending the majority of Barack Obama’s tenure questioning his legitimacy to be president, he was nominated and subsequently elected to the highest office in the land after stoking fear and bigotry against Mexicans and the Islamic faith. Since being sworn-in at the end of January, he has proposed and signed legislation targeting people based on their religion, nationality and sexuality. He is advocating the supremacy of one identity over all others in a manner which has not been seen for decades.
If you need any further case that links this abhorrent gathering of abhorrent people, than look no further than the comments made by David Duke, former grand wizard of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK), who said the following on Saturday morning as people gathered:
“We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfil the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in. That’s why we voted for Donald Trump, because he said he’s going to take our country back.”
The first person to condemn the violence and hatred in Charlottesville was not Mr Trump. Nor was it Vice-President Mike Pence, his cabinet or any senior House or Senate GOP member. It was Melania Trump, the first lady who has gained a reputation for steering clear of political issues, who realised on this occasion she had to use her voice to intervene.
As things stand, it is difficult to see how Trump would win a second term. He is currently the oldest US president in his first term, whilst the investigation by special council Robert Mueller into possible collusion with Russia during the electoral campaign is heating up. His own vice-president has already started a PAC that is looking to raise money, and has already made multiple speeches and visits in the crucial primary state of Idaho, a testing ground for his own presidential run. As such, Trump needs to start thinking about legacy, and as what kind of president he wants to be remembered. He can be remembered as the daring candidate who spoke his mind and became the first ever US president not to have held public office or served in the military. Or, he can be remembered as the person who divided America unlike any other, as the man who stoked fear and hatred inspired by an outdated, previously defeated ideology. Ultimately, the choice is his, but he will do well to remember that his highest obligation is not to himself, but to the office which he is currently unworthy of holding.