The violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend was a horror and a stain on the United States. It was not, however, Donald Trump’s fault.
An estimated 6,000 white supremacists and professional racists converged on the city and marched Friday night with Tiki torches through the campus of the University of Virginia – the institution founded by Thomas Jefferson. They shouted anti-Semitic and anti-black chants. They carried Nazi flags. They said horrific things. On Saturday, clashes between “White Nationalists” and “Antifa” protesters led to rampant violence and the death of at least one young woman when a monstrous person plowed his car into the crowd.
There is and there can be no justification for such violence. This is the type of thing ISIS-allied “domestic terrorists” have done in France and England. This was the type of crime true lovers of freedom denounce.
From his too-long “working vacation” at his mansion in New Jersey, President Trump issued a statement of condemnation – a weak one. When I got home late on Saturday afternoon, I turned on cable news. Unsurprisingly, perhaps, the talking heads were all focused on what the president had said and not said. He hadn’t been strong enough in condemning hate groups, they said, and they were right. He hadn’t acknowledged the death of the young woman, but had only focused on the two Virginia State Troopers who died in a related helicopter crash, and they were right. His campaign rhetoric last year had contributed to the rise of “White Nationalists.” Eh. Maybe.
I’m no fan of this POTUS. I’m a longtime Republican and conservative, and I didn’t vote for this president – not because of rhetoric, race, misogyny, or any of his other obvious foibles – including, arguably, narcissistic personality disorder. I voted against him because I’m a conservative and we have no idea what his ideology is. I voted against him because he lacks any legitimate understanding of domestic or global affairs, and because foreign policy is paramount right now. He’s ignorant, largely by choice, but he is NOT responsible for the actions of the lunatic fringe who engage in violent hatred. Conservatives believe in individual freedom AND responsibility. Those fools choose their own path. That they are falsely led by demagogues does not absolve them.
Perhaps the biggest problem with blaming Trump for Charlottesville and other race- or religion-based crimes is this: It alienates ALL Trump voters. Most of my Republican friends voted for Trump. My Republican friends are not racists or anti-Semites or even Islamophobes – and the ones that reveal themselves to be are quickly banished from my orbit. When the Left – and the media – blame Trump for violent “white nationalist” evil, they inadvertently alienate the mainstream Republicans (which is most of us). They inadvertently slap the “racist” label on all who voted for Trump, even those who had their own legitimate reasons for doing so. They alienate, in fact, potential allies.
I don’t like President Trump. I don’t think he’s a conservative and he’s certainly not of the Republican Party to which I’ve belonged for 27 years. But he is not responsible for what happened last weekend in Virginia. His response was milquetoast, but so what? Yes, words matter. I’ve built my life and career around that fact. But I’ve also built my conservative worldview around the fact that individuals are responsible for their own actions.
Donald Trump is responsible for what he says and does, and both God and History will judge him harshly, I think. He is not responsible for reprehensible thugs on the streets on Charlottesville.