In the hours since a horrific shooting claimed the lives of at least 20 people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, and left 26 wounded, we have learned that the shooter is very likely an angry white supremacist. The shooting appears to be an act of racist terrorism. While authorities won’t yet fully confirm it, investigators are “reasonably confident” that the violent white supremacist manifesto that went online moments before the shooting was written and released by the shooter.
If true, the terrorist behind the killings was obsessed with what he ironically viewed as an “invasion” of Hispanics into Texas (apparently ignorant of the state’s history as a Mexican province). He hoped to kill as many non-whites as possible in a pogrom to preserve white power through ethnic cleansing.
While offering the usual thoughts, prayers, and condemnations of the violence , Republicans have, for the most part, been remarkably quiet not only about the crisis of gun violence, but also about the motives of the shooter. Governor Jim Abbott insisted that “we need to focus more on memorials before we start the politics.” Fox News tried to blame video games. The few Republicans who were willing to call out white supremacist violence were those now on the outer edges of conservative power structures, like George P. Bush and former congressman Joe Walsh.
But of course, the only Republican politician who really matters is President Donald Trump. (The shooter apparently liked a tweet that spelled his last name out with firearms.)
And, on that count, what’s old is new again. Just like with after the white supremacist violence in Charlottesville in August 2017, Trump’s reaction has been woeful. His latest tweet (before issuing the usual “thoughts and prayers” pabulum) is as follows:
Today’s shooting in El Paso, Texas, was not only tragic, it was an act of cowardice. I know that I stand with everyone in this Country to condemn today’s hateful act. There are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify killing innocent people….
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 4, 2019
These are not the words of a man disgusted with the terrorist’s motives. These are the words of a man disappointed in his tactics. No one says “there are no reasons or excuses that will ever justify” something, unless they sympathize with the frustrations of the individual.
Except, it’s pretty obvious that these aren’t Trump’s authentic words at all. When Trump actually cares about something, he tweets about it genuinely and spontaneously, usually with bizarre random capitalization, grammar errors, and misspellings. This and his other tweets about the terrorist act seemed carefully crafted and stage managed by his handlers. For Trump and his team, this was not a reckoning, nor an opportunity to dial back the incendiary racist rhetoric of his campaign. Instead, it’s an inconvenience to be managed.
There is an epidemic of white supremacist terrorism in America. The president, his party, and his favored propaganda networks are fueling it with racist and xenophobic rhetoric. All of them refuse to call it what it is—or do anything to stop it.