This Is Donald Trump's Legacy

White House
This Is Donald Trump's Legacy
Illustration:Jim Cooke (G/O Media)

“These are sick people,” White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney said in an interview on ABC News this Sunday, after a pair of mass shootings—one perpetrated against Latinx people by a far-right, anti-immigrant extremist with a manifesto—again raised the question of whether or not Donald Trump is to blame for all of this.

“You cannot be a white supremacist and be normal in the head,” Mulvaney said. “These are sick people. You know it, I know it, the president knows it. And this type of thing has to stop. And we have to figure out a way to fix the problem, not figure out a way to lay blame.”

This was the second time in two weeks that Mulvaney had to go on the morning shows to defend his boss from charges of racism; last week, it was about Trump’s attack on Rep. Elijah Cummings and the city of Baltimore. On Monday, after blaming the fake news media for the shootings, Trump gave a speech at the White House on the shootings in which he said that “in one voice, our nation must condemn racism, bigotry, and white supremacy,” with all of the enthusiasm of a hostage forced to give a video statement.

The problem is white supremacy itself. It is what the economy and social hierarchy of this country was founded on. It has been here since even before there was an official United States. It is a global issue, one manifesting itself in events like Brexit, the election of far-right xenophobes (including Trump) across the Western world. And it has always, since the beginning, been fueled by mass violence—from slavery, colonialism, and genocide through to the mass terror of Jim Crow and the KKK and onward to the killings of the last decades: Christchurch, the Tree of Life shooting, Anders Breivik’s mass murder of 77 people in Norway, and the Oklahoma City bombing, and countless other massacres, as well as all of the near misses.

White supremacy isn’t a problem that can be “fixed,” only mitigated. Donald Trump has been the opposite of mitigation. He confirmed at his very first campaign event that his presidency would be rooted in a racist scapegoating of immigrants for all of America’s ills, and that’s been the running theme ever since. It’s manifested itself not just in his rhetoric, which has included giving cover to people waving the flag of white supremacy in Charlottesville, but also in policy, as his administration has rather pointedly abandoned fighting domestic terrorism and instead focused on keeping Muslims and immigrants from Mexico and Central America out of the country. Those who are in American custody right now are locked away in cages in violation of their human rights.

The El Paso shooter wrote in his manifesto that his views “on automation, immigration, and the rest predate Trump and his campaign for president.” That may be true, but he carried this attack out during Trump’s presidency. That distinction matters.

These problems have always existed, but Trump has exacerbated them. What’s more is that this emboldening is going to be the lasting effect of his presidency. Trump could lose next November. Democrats could undo his tax cuts, his attacks on poor and vulnerable people everywhere. They could pack the courts to offset Trump and Mitch McConnell’s attempts to remake the federal judiciary. They could not only ditch Trump’s racist immigration policy, but remake the immigration process into something more closely resembling a system worthy of human dignity. They could finally take some kind of action on gun control to make these sorts of massacres less common, or at least more difficult to carry out.

They could do all of these things, and have popular support for all of them, and it wouldn’t scratch the surface of dealing with this Pandora’s box that Trump has opened. In fact, it would likely provoke an even stronger reaction from the far-right. When you take into account the coming effects of climate change, and automation, and the fact that Latinx population growth is going to keep happening in some form despite the administration’s best efforts, and that a remaking of the American and global economy is the only adequate way to deal with any of these problems, it’s hard to imagine a world in which fascist and white supremacist rage is not perpetually boiling over.

Trump or no Trump, 8chan or no 8chan, this is just how it’s going to be from now on: an increasing number of young, white American (or European) men encouraged to exercise their fury at the idea that they might be “replaced.” This is Donald Trump’s legacy, and every indication thus far is that he’s perfectly fine with that.

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