Over at the Federalist, a writer named Daniel Payne has a piece titled “Trump Spoke Truth About ‘Both Sides’ In Charlottesville, And The Media Lost Their Minds.” As the title suggests, this piece defends Trump’s remarks on Tuesday and seems to have no problem with his attempt to put the white supremacists in Charlottesville on equal moral footing with the counter-protesters.
Read it here.
I should also add, using Payne’s words, that American manufacturing leaders and an ever-growing number of GOP leaders have also “lost their minds.”
I understand the defense of Trump’s comments. Yes, there were problems on “both sides.” The counter-protesters engaged in violence. It takes two to tango. I condemn the violence on all sides.
But when the President of the United States takes to the bully pulpit in response to the arrival of white supremacists in an American city and says that “all sides were to blame” he misses the point. He fails to see what happened in Charlottesville–the arrival of a group of white supremacists denouncing African Americans and Jews– as part of the larger context of race in America. When one takes a longer view of what happened on Friday night and Saturday, it seems clear that the white supremacists represent something–racism–that has plagued this country from its birth. Yes, in the past those who have protested against American racists were violent at times. During the 1850s there was a big debate over how to effectively oppose slavery. Many condemned violent approaches. But the anti-slavery forces of that era all believed that the greatest moral issue was the ending of this immoral institution. Any wrong-headed or destructive violence in the cause of abolitionism was always understood in this larger moral context.
Trump, Payne, and other defenders seem incapable of moral nuance here. Perhaps this kind of black and white thinking and the failure to grasp any degree of moral context and complexity explains why so many court evangelicals and writers like Payne are still defending Trump’s comments. Or maybe its’ just politics.