Nazis, Trump and the Risks of Losing Perspective – Toni Michel

Why labelling is counter-productive in response to Trump’s Charlottesville disaster.

The feet-dragging of President Donald Trump to condemn a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville that ended in violent clashes and one counter-demonstrator being murdered has had emotions running high in recent weeks. And understandably so.

The mood has been caught by magazine covers in the US and Europe, depicting Trump in a close embrace of white supremacy or even Nazi poses.

And sure enough, Trump has displayed a disturbing pattern of racist behaviour at many instances in his life as well as during his Presidential campaign last year, all of which has been well documented by the excellent Mehdi Hasan.

However, despite this clear pattern, there is something off about describing Trump as a full-blown racist. His do-it-all son-in-law is Jewish, minorities are represented in his cabinet and most importantly, he does not seem to show any discomfort in being around and interacting with people of colour.

Another explanation is more likely: Trump’s worldview is binary. It is divided into winners – those who support him – and losers – those who fight him. Consider his frequent rebuttal to journalistic criticism along the lines of “I’m President and you’re not.”

Within this binary framework it simply does not matter to Trump who the people are that praise him – as long as they do. Trump’s well-documented craving for confirmation and incredibly thin-skinned response to criticism has him ignore traditional notions of morality and values.

It does not matter if you are a centrist, a ruthless dictator or, well, a neonazi. When you praise Trump, Trump will not disavow you.

It has been clear for a long time that Donald Trump is not fit to serve as President of the United States. His miniscule attention span, vindictiveness, unpredictability and proud ignorance are objective dangers to the world’s security.

However, the best and safest way to remove Trump is not by invoking the 25th Amendment or impeaching him out of office when he still has a staggering approval rate among Republicans in the 70s. The consequence would certainly be a radicalisation of this core group with great potential for escalation, given the proliferation of guns among the more right-wing sections of society.

No, the best way to get rid of Trump is to have his supporters turn on him themselves. Like many of his previous business parters, his voters will notice at some point that they have been played. When Republian support for Trump falls into the lower 40s, removal is safe.

Until then, labelling Trump a Nazi and ideological KKK-leader is counter-productive as it stigmatises his supporters as well – including those who are not white supremacists – and closes the ranks. Call Trump out on racist behaviour and his childishness but don’t feed into his endless tales of victimhood.

Societies are made up of immensely complicated social strata. Trump’s support is not a monolithic, unwaivering block. Hard-hitting reporting and Trump’s own clumsiness will eventually wash it away – labelling, on the other hand, won’t.


Follow Toni Michel on Twitter @villageescape.

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