Donald Trump and the KKK | Arkansas Blog

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Donald Trump and the KKK

Posted By on Tue, Mar 1, 2016 at 6:39 AM

TRUMP: "I know nothing."
  • TRUMP: "I know nothing."
Evan Osnos of the New Yorker, who has written at length about the popularity of Donald Trump among white supremacist groups, offers up a history of Trump's winking and nodding (and notes that his strategy of blowing past questions about the KKK is not new):  

For months, as Donald Trump developed his political repertoire, he adopted an uncharacteristic reply for questions about fascism and the Ku Klux Klan: silence, or something close to it.

He used the technique as early as last August, when his opponents, and the press, still generally regarded him as a summer amusement. On August 26th, Bloomberg Television anchor John Heilemann brought up David Duke, the former Klan Grand Wizard, who had said that Trump was “the best of the lot” in the 2016 campaign. Trump replied that he had no idea who Duke was. Heilemann asked if Trump would repudiate Duke’s endorsement. “Sure,” Trump said, “if that would make you feel better, I would certainly repudiate. I don’t know anything about him.” Changing tack, Heilemann pressed Trump about an article in this magazine, which described Trump’s broad support among neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and other members of the far right who were drawn in by his comments about Mexicans. Trump maintained a posture of indifference. “Honestly, John, I’d have to read the story. A lot of people like me.” The interview moved on to other topics.

As Jonathan Chait at New York points out, Trump's strategy to say that he simply knows nothing about Duke or the KKK feels like a sick historical allusion to the Know-Nothing Party of the nineteenth century: 

Four times in the interview, he repeats the phrase “I know nothing.” That is the exact wording used by 19th-century nativists. The “Know-Nothing Party” is sometimes misremembered in the popular imagination today as signifying ignorance. In fact, the phrase was used by nativists who belonged to secret societies pledged to support only native-born Protestants for public office. When questioned about the groups, members were instructed to state “I know nothing.” It is striking to see modern nativist Donald Trump repeat this precise formulation as an answer to an analogous question (his subterranean support from a politically radioactive secret society).

On the one hand, you might say that as much as Trump is trying to inch toward the mainstream, he's trying to tread carefully and not offend a key constituency, some of his most loyal supporters: white voters with racial animus who fall somewhere along the white identity politics line (white populist/nationalist/supremacist).   

But I think Trump is also cleverly playing to another subset of loyal support: white voters who might be relatively mainstream in their day-to-day attitudes on race — folks who would immediately tell you that the KKK is evil — but who think that "political correctness" is one of the country's biggest problems and feel energized when Trump thumbs his nose at PC. It's shocking how often I hear frustrations with "political correctness" when Trump supporters are interviewed. Trump's refusal to engage the media when asked easy, cupcake questions, like will you disavow the KKK? — seems outright bizarre in 2016, in America, in public life. But that strangeness feels refreshing to people who believe that social mores around race are an oppressive feature of modern life. And do you know who has been feeding that attitude for some time? Those elements within the conservative movement that treat it is an article of faith that overzealous identification of racism is a bigger problem in this country than racism itself. The real victims are the victims of PC. If you swallow that business, Trump starts to look like the last honest man instead of an oily opportunist playing footsie with evil. 

From my perspective, much of what people call "PC" simply amounts to being a decent human being, and the fact that social mores have driven most (not all!) overt racism out of public life is a good thing. But many Americans, people who would never think to call themselves white nationalists, believe that "PC" is everything that's wrong with this country. And when Trump drops the dog whistle for the bullhorn, when he refuses to follow the modern norms of respectable, decent politics on race — they don't look away in horror. They like it. 

Tags: , , , , , ,

Sign up for the Daily Update email

Comments (4)

Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

Subscribe to this thread:
Showing 1-4 of 4

Add a comment

More by David Ramsey

  • Authorities investigate accusation against Dean Elliott

    An accusation has been lodged against Dean Elliott, the Dillard's lobbyist and former state representative who is running for the District 15 seat in the state Senate, by a woman who claims that he was involved in a 2016 hit and run incident on Tennyson Drive in Conway that left her with severe injuries. Through a lawyer, Elliott says the allegation is false and politically motivated.
    • May 17, 2018
  • Rep. Jana Della Rosa disputes that Randell Shelton's Paradigm Consulting was a "bogus company"

    During the trial of former state Sen. Jon Woods and consultant Randell Shelton, the prosecution described Shelton's Paradigm Strategic Consulting as a "bogus company." But Rep. Jana Della Rosa, who paid Paradigm in 2014 for help with campaign messaging, said that Shelton did legitimate work for her.
    • May 16, 2018
  • A senator's vanity

    Spotted in Little Rock...
    • May 16, 2018
  • More »

Readers also liked…

  • A response to police arrests becomes a tutorial on race, class and policing in Little Rock

    John Walker, the 79-year-old civil rights lawyer, and his associate, Omavi Shukur, 29, a young lawyer devoted to criminal justice reform, talked to press this afternoon about their arrests Monday by Little Rock police for supposedly obstructing governmental operations in observing and attempting to film a routine police traffic stop. It was a tutorial on sharp views of race, class and governance in Little Rock.
    • Sep 29, 2016
  • Trump administration approves Medicaid waiver for Kentucky, including work requirements

    The Trump administration today approved Kentucky's request for a waiver of Medicaid rules to implement certain changes to its Medicaid expansion program, including work requirements. Next up, Arkansas?
    • Jan 12, 2018
  • Donald Trump declares war on Hillary Clinton's marriage

    Donald Trump gave a remarkable interview to the New York Times yesterday in which he declared open season on the marriage of Bill and Hillary Clinton and Bill Clinton's past infidelity. Seems like a loser, but I've been wrong before.
    • Oct 1, 2016

Most Viewed

Most Recent Comments



© 2018 Arkansas Times | 201 East Markham, Suite 200, Little Rock, AR 72201
Powered by Foundation