The Republican Party is between a rock and a hard place with Donald Trump, and nothing they have tried so far has made a dent in his campaign. The recent buzz over David Duke’s praise for Trump was made worse by Trump initially refusing to condemn the KKK and saying that he didn’t know anything about David Duke or white supremacy.
David Duke isn’t a former low-level Klan member like late Senator Robert Byrd who repented for his views and became a civil rights supporter. He is an active white supremacist who has followers that embrace the nationalist and authoritarian platform that Donald Trump is running on.
Trump’s popularity isn’t based solely on xenophobia and thinly-veiled racism, there are other factors in play. There is the anger of working class voters towards the status quo in Washington, and they want simple answers for the complex problems the United States faces in the 21st century.
These voters don’t care to carefully analyze the failure of trickle-down economics or recognize that the days of unionized factory jobs are mostly behind us. They don’t want to wake up to the fact that they have been voting against their self-interests for decades, while supporting politicians who preached about traditional values and patriotism.
It’s easier to blame the lack of well-paying jobs on immigrants instead of corporate greed. Rather than look inwards, they’d rather find targets for their anger- which Donald Trump and white supremacists are more than happy to provide.
Since its founding, the KKK and organizations like it have preyed on the fears and economic despair of poor white voters. The success of all of the years of the Jim Crow Era depended on the elite convincing white people that minorities were their enemy, and not the business interests that exploited both sides.
The Republican Party has exploited this same strategy for years since the Civil Rights Era. Conservative white voters, especially in the South, flocked to the party and gave it the political advantage in areas that were traditionally Democrat.
The physical assaults on protesters by Donald Trump supporters are a reminder that white supremacy is alive and well. He doesn’t repudiate violence or the KKK, he tacitly encourages his crowds to attack anyone who disrupts the rallies and then winks at the violence which breaks out.
Donald Trump will not speak out against white supremacy, because he knows that this river of anger is what is propelling his campaign – and the GOP doesn’t have the testicular fortitude to stop it as they did when David Duke was running for office in the 1990s.
For all of the hand-wringing and denial over the racism and violence that are regular incidents at Trump rallies, the GOP knows that they’re equally responsible for it. They’ve quietly courted white supremacists for years, and now Republicans are faced with a destructive monster of their own making.