Opinion | Trump’s Populist Agenda Alive and Well in Charlottesville

The incident captured by a cell phone on Saturday afternoon showed a car careening through the crowd of anti-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia. Mr. Trump might as well have been behind the wheel sporting the license plate “WINNING”. The American people are not yet tired of winning, as prognosticated by Mr. Trump, rather they are tired of losing at every single turn and it’s beginning to show in the country and the president. The cracks are obvious. In my mind I see Trump’s small hands wrapped around the base of the Statue of Liberty, not sure if he is protecting it or stealing it. Flip a coin.

The Charlottesville incident has been growing and to say it only began as the result of a City Council’s decision to remove the public statue of Confederate General Robert E. Lee, would be to negate the salient frustration and divisiveness of a nation oppressed by its own democratically elected leader. In spite of Hillary Clinton having won the popular vote, due to the Electoral College, a component of the American electoral system, the Americans are in fact being lead by a man for whom the majority of the country did not cast a single ballot.

“The majority of Americans associate Mr. Trump with hate, either of the man himself or what many see to be his own animus toward anyone not fitting his populist agenda…”

Seven months into his presidency and with only a 34% approval rating, the majority of Americans associate Mr. Trump with hate, either of the man himself, or what many see to be his own animus toward persons not fitting his populist agenda. He is a man for the people, but only a certain type of person. If judged by actions alone, there is no denying the isolationist doctrine he and his administration have espoused. As president, his message to his base supporters is the same as the message that he successfully campaigned on—“Get ‘em outta here!”

The chants continue to haunt the halls of democracy. The data suggests that Trump’s base is working-class, often under educated, and yes, almost exclusively white. Ironically, these recent events took place in a town known mostly for its university, but then again we all know that racism and hate are both moving targets.

Since assuming office in January of this year, Mr. Trump’s policies and legislation have included an attempt to build a physical wall along the U.S. Mexican border to keep out the Mexicans who he has referred to as “killers” and “rapists”. He has cracked down on “illegal immigrants” and sanctuary cities, imposed a travel ban against Muslim majority nations, lifted the policy guidelines on transgender bathrooms, announced that transgender persons will no longer be allowed to serve in the military, reviewed policies on universities and colleges in regard to affirmative action, and proposed an “English-speaking” only immigration system. Looking at these policies in their totality, what other possible message could Mr. Trump be sending to his base other than to hate those who are different and to do so with extreme prejudice? This is the price of making America great again.

“The president has become a justification for further racism and bigotry in America…”

Even on Saturday afternoon when Mr. Trump was given an opportunity to address the state of civil unrest in Charlottesville, an opportunity to become presidential for the first time in his short presidency, he again chose to pander to his base, in this case largely comprised of the persons who were responsible for the civil unrest—the white protesters who opposed the removal of General Lee’s statue and who saluted Swastikas and shouted racial epithets, followed by Nazi salutes.

These groups were not there to protest but rather to hate. David Duke, a long time proponent of white nationalism, proudly proclaimed that they were there to “fulfill the promises of Donald Trump.” Adding, “that’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump.” The president has become a justification for further racism and bigotry in America.

At a Veteran Affairs ceremony held at his resort in Bedminster, New Jersey, Mr. Trump interrupted his celebratory speech to at long last address the tensions that had been brewing for at least 48 hours without comment from the president. Not a single tweet. I’m unsure of the timing of his speech, whether it was before or after the driver decided to plow into the anti-protesters. When finally addressing the violence, Mr. Trump, who is rarely shy about pointing fingers even at those members of his own administration, refused to identify by name the KKK, neo-Nazis and White Supremacists who shouted their message of hate. At the podium, Mr. Trump instead spoke in general terms condemning the “display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides…on many sides.”

The question then becomes, what does the current president stand for? Truth, justice or has racism and nationalism become the American way.

32-year-old anti-protester and paralegal Heather Heyers is now dead. 18 others injured. Trump refuses to disavow publicly his connection with the groups that engineered her death. Not unlike Robespierre, it is obvious that Trump needs to maintain his base in order to continue his reign of terror.

Another statue, that of Thomas Jefferson, remains standing on the university campus in Charlottesville. For now. Americans are not tired of winning, only seven months in they are simply tired of Trump. No winners here.

Editor’s Note: On August 14, President Trump delivered a second speech where he singled out the KKK, White Nationalists, and White Supremacists. 24 hours later the president gave a third speech where he reverted to his original position in regard to blaming all involved.


k.g. Sambrano is a Canadian writer known for his works of literary fiction and poetry, and is an occasional freelance writer.

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