Trump contributed to the scene in Charlottesville

President Trump failed the nation Saturday when he did not explicitly condemn the torch-carrying white supremacists, neo-Nazi, Ku Klux Klan members and other reprobates who gathered in Charlottesville, Va., for their “Unite the Right” rally.

These groups are out of the closet. Trump helped pry open the door. He appears disinclined to try to close it.

Instead of condemning the extremists hate groups who created a volatile situation — culminating with an act of domestic terrorism when a 20-year-old white supremacist drove his car into a crowd of counter-protestors, murdering a 32-year-old woman and injuring two dozen others — Trump presented a troubling moral equivalency.

"We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence on many sides — on many sides," Trump said in his official statement.

This was a pride march. White men marching to declare they are ready to do what they see as necessary to make America great again. The president’s statement did not even attempt to deflate that pride.

“We are determined to take our country back. We are going to fulfill the promises of Donald Trump. That’s what we believed in, that’s why we voted for Donald Trump. Because he said he’s going to take our country back,” David Duke, the former imperial wizard of the KKK, told a journalist at the Charlottesville rally.

On Monday, Trump said what he should have said on Saturday.

"Racism is evil. And those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs, including the KKK, neo-Nazis, white supremacists and other hate groups that are repugnant to everything we hold dear as Americans," said the president.

Given the delay, the sincerity has to be questioned. The timing was certainly wrong. 

Trump transitioned from casino developer/celebrity to presidential candidate by leading the birther movement, trying to challenge the legitimacy of the first black president with baseless claims he was not a U.S. citizen.

He then began his campaign for the presidency with a message that made clear who he felt was keeping America from being great again. Trump vowed to remove all immigrants who came here illegally. In time, he would call for banning Muslims from visiting the country.

"When Mexico sends its people, they're not sending their best. ... They're sending people that have lots of problems, and they're bringing those problems with us. They're bringing drugs. They're bringing crime. They're rapists,” Trump said in announcing his candidacy.

The comments were so outrageously over the top that they would disqualify him as a legitimate candidate, opined the political experts. Instead Trump’s popularity rose. The white nationalists, the denizens of the “alt-right,” concluded that many in the county were closer to sharing their ideals than perhaps they could have dreamed.

In ostensibly reaching out for black voters, Trump presented a stereotype that fit the worldview of white supremacists.

"You're living in poverty, your schools are no good, you have no jobs,” Trump told black America, via his nearly all white audiences. “(You’re) absolutely in the worst shape (you)’ve ever been in before.”

While it is true black Americans disproportionately experience poverty and some black urban areas have troubling levels of violence, it is hardly the worst of times. Homicides among black Americans are at historic lows, more black students are graduating from high school and unemployment has been trending lower.

The excuse for the “Unite the Right” rally was to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. But the real message from these men was that they will not tolerate a white, Christian conservative America being displaced by a country tolerant of diversity and filled with people who do not look like them.

“You will not replace us,” chanted the hundreds of participants in a chilling, torch-light rally Friday night.

Some defended Trump’s “many sides” approach because numbered among the counter-protestors were members of the “AntiFa” movement, demonstrators on the far left who are quick to turn to violent confrontation in opposing what they see as fascism. Largely anarchists, they have intimidated institutions into canceling speakers whose views they oppose.

If the AntiFa were Trump’s target, along with the neo-Nazis, KKK and their like, then he should have called them all out Saturday. Instead, it appeared Trump chose not to be specific for fear of alienating portions of his base.

Fortunately, some of Trump’s fellow Republicans spoke out in condemnation of the hate groups. The more voices the better.

Ugly forces have been unleashed. Good people must oppose them. Yet it is more likely the events in Charlottesville are a foreshadowing than an aberration.

The editorial board is composed of the publisher and four journalists of varied editing and reporting backgrounds. The board's discussions and information gained from its meetings with political, civic, and business leaders drive the institutional voice of The Day, as expressed in its editorials. The editorial department operates separately from the newsroom.

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