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“His Campaign Is In Line With Their Beliefs”: Former KKK Grand Dragon Explains Why Racists Like Trump

Donald Trump will never own up to just why racists and white supremacists are flocking to his presidential campaign, or why his rallies are increasingly marred by ugly outbursts of racially fueled violence.

One outspoken anti-racist has an explanation: Trump speaks to the issues that America’s white supremacists care about.

Scott Shepherd, a former Grand Dragon in the Ku Klux Klan—who once called ex-KKK leader David Duke a good friend—sees strong similarities between Duke’s campaigns for public office and Trump’s GOP Presidential bid.

“Their campaigns are pretty much parallel when I look at it,” Shepherd told The Daily Beast in Austin, Texas, where he appeared in the new documentary Accidental Courtesy, about R&B musician Daryl Davis’s crusade to convert Klansmen by befriending them.

“Trump won’t take a direct stand in Israel, and these are the things white supremacists are looking at,” said the soft-spoken Shepherd. “They’re latching onto him because his campaign is pretty much in line with their beliefs.”

Shepherd grew up in Indianola, Mississippi, the birthplace of the White Citizens Council; he was 17 when he pledged himself to the Ku Klux Klan. By the age of 19, he’d reached Grand Dragon status, leading the KKK’s operations across the state of Tennessee.

“I was a very shy, unhappy child with low self-esteem,” he’d explain years later to the IB Times. “I was looking to fill a void.”

There was a time when the college-educated Shepherd was chosen to act as one of the KKK’s public faces. Nowadays he incurs the Klan’s wrath as one of its most visible detractors. He left the group in 1992 after a court-mandated rehab stint stemming from a DUI and gun possession arrest led him to a life-changing epiphany, and devoted himself to making amends for the hate and trauma he’d long perpetuated.

Shepherd shares his story in Accidental Courtesy, which also depicts his friendship with African-American activist Davis, who refers to Shepherd as his “brother.” Decades ago he ran for public office in Tennessee, twice campaigning on a white supremacist platform, and served as the spokesperson and recruiter for onetime KKK leader David Duke’s National Association for the Advancement of White People. His business cards now read: “Scott Shepherd, Reformed Racist.”

The Duke-Trump connection resurfaced again last week when the former KKK Grand Wizard drew favorable comparisons between Trump’s messaging and that of Adolf Hitler.

“The truth is, by the way, they might be rehabilitating that fellow with the mustache back there in Germany, because I saw a commercial against Donald Trump, a really vicious commercial, comparing what Donald Trump said about preserving America and making America great again to Hitler in Germany preserving Germany and making Germany great again and free again and not beholden to these Communists on one side, politically who were trying to destroy their land and their freedom, and the Jewish capitalists on the other, who were ripping off the nation through the banking system,” Duke, who endorsed Trump for president, said on his radio show last week.

Shepherd offered an explanation for why the kind of people attracted to the KKK are also drawn to candidates like Trump. Duke, after all, successfully won one term as a Republican Louisiana House Representative before going on to wage several other campaigns for state governor, U.S. Senate, and the White House.

“They all feel like they’ve not been given a fair handshake, and that their rights have been taken and priority has been given to people of color,” said Shepherd. “But what attracted me to [KKK Imperial Wizard] Bill Wilkinson was a self-emptiness within myself… I was introduced to the Klan and I felt part of something, in a way.”

 

By: Jen Yamato, The Daily Beast, March 19, 2016

March 21, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Ku Klux Klan, Racists, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“From A Pipe Dream To A Train Wreck”: How Donald Trump Sparked An Unprecedented Crisis Among Jewish Republicans

The Republican Party has a serious Jewish problem.

With the party failing to foresee and later oppose Donald Trump’s rise, Republican Jewish outreach faces an unprecedented crisis. The party could end up with a nominee who alienates both Jewish conservatives by breaking with Republican orthodoxy on Israel and Jewish liberals by promoting authoritarianism, racism, and xenophobia.

Jewish Republicans have rested their case for drawing Jewish voters away from the Democratic Party on what they portray as stronger Republican support for Israel. They play to Jewish affection for Israel by disingenuously depicting President Obama as undermining the historic U.S.-Israeli alliance and snubbing the Israeli prime minister. They claim Obama has posed a dangerous threat to Israel itself, both through the Iran nuclear deal and the administration’s efforts to forge an Israeli-Palestinian peace agreement.

Because American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal, multi-issue voters, this strategy was always a bit of a fool’s errand. But it could be subverted completely if the party nominates Trump.

It could have been easy to anticipate this predicament. At the Republican Jewish Coalition Presidential Forum in December, Trump drew criticism for promoting anti-Semitic stereotypes while speaking to an audience of Jewish activists, many of them wealthy donors to the party. He suggested that they might not support him because he wouldn’t take their campaign contributions. He called himself a “negotiator, like you.” He said they were, like him, great dealmakers.

The speech, a characteristic Trump mash-up of insult and purported flattery, at the time provoked a nervous discomfort in the audience, but little tangible opposition.

Even Trump’s promise to use his negotiating skills to reach a “great” peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians — a heresy in conservative pro-Israel circles — failed to produce a coherent anti-Trump strategy from Republicans. The reception he receives at his scheduled speech before the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) next week will be telling.

As his campaign has marched on, Trump has become more brazen with his Islamophobia, his scapegoating of immigrants, and his promotion of “roughing up” protesters at his rallies, who are frequently black.

The Trump campaign also has failed to explain how it gave press credentials to a white supremacist radio host to broadcast live from a rally in Tennessee. When confronted by his refusal to disavow support from the anti-Semitic former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke, Trump said, “I don’t like to disavow groups if I don’t know who they are. I mean, you could have Federation of Jewish Philanthropies in groups.” The Anti-Defamation League called Trump’s statement apparently likening neo-Nazi groups and Jewish charities “obscene.”

Jews do not make Hitler comparisons lightly, but increasingly Trump’s rallies, at which he has deployed strongmen and incited followers to violence, are inviting them.

Rather than acknowledge these echoes, though, Trump has derisively dismissed them. After video of Trump supporters raising their arms in a gesture reminiscent of the Nazi salute went viral in Jewish and Israeli media, Trump trivialized his detractors. At last week’s debate in Miami, he called the criticism “a total disgrace.”

In that same debate, in a crucial state in which Jewish support can be pivotal, Trump defended himself with a word salad of some-of-my-best-friends-are-Jewish rhetoric. “I’ve made massive contributions to Israel,” he said, because — don’t you know? — Jews value money over everything else. “I have tremendous love for Israel. I happen to have a son-in-law and a daughter that are Jewish, okay? And two grandchildren that are Jewish.”

Trump’s Republican opponents appear helpless to defend themselves or their party against Trump’s assault on their standing among Jewish voters. The second place contender, Ted Cruz, has strained to portray himself as the most dedicated friend of Israel. Leading a campaign that depends on the support of evangelicals, he has touted his endorsements from supposedly pro-Israel evangelicals. But that comes with its own pitfalls. Cruz has singled out the support of Mike Bickle, a controversial Missouri preacher who claims Jews are “spiritually blind” and must be brought to Christ in order for Israel to be “restored” for Jesus’ return.

The GOP’s 2016 Jewish outreach may have started as pipe dream. It has turned into a train wreck.

 

By: Sarah Posner, The Week, March 14, 2016

March 16, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Israel, Jewish Republicans | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The American Fascist”: Why Donald Trump Presents Such A Profound Danger To The Future Of America And The World

I’ve been reluctant to use the  “f” word to describe Donald Trump because it’s especially harsh, and it’s too often used carelessly.

But Trump has finally reached a point where parallels between his presidential campaign and the fascists of the first half of the 20th century – lurid figures such as Benito Mussolini, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Oswald Mosley, and Francisco Franco – are too evident to overlook.

It’s not just that Trump recently quoted Mussolini (he now calls that tweet inadvertent) or that he’s begun inviting followers at his rallies to raise their right hands in a manner chillingly similar to the Nazi “Heil” solute (he dismisses such comparison as “ridiculous.”)

The parallels go deeper.

As did the early twentieth-century fascists, Trump is focusing his campaign on the angers of white working people who have been losing economic ground for years, and who are easy prey for demagogues seeking to build their own power by scapegoating others.

Trump’s electoral gains have been largest in counties with lower than average incomes, and among those who report their personal finances have worsened. As the Washington Post’s Jeff Guo has pointed out, Trump performs best in places where middle-aged whites are dying the fastest.

The economic stresses almost a century ago that culminated in the Great Depression were far worse than most of Trump’s followers have experienced, but they’ve suffered something that in some respects is more painful – failed expectations.

Many grew up during the 1950s and 1960s, during a postwar prosperity that lifted all boats. That prosperity gave their parents a better life. Trump’s followers naturally expected that they and their children would also experience economic gains. They have not.

Add fears and uncertainties about terrorists who may be living among us, or may want to sneak through our borders, and this vulnerability and powerlessness is magnified.

Trump’s incendiary verbal attacks on Mexican immigrants and Muslims – even his reluctance to distance himself from David Duke and the Ku Klux Klan – follow the older fascist script.

That older generation of fascists didn’t bother with policy prescriptions or logical argument, either. They presented themselves as strongmen whose personal power would remedy all ills.

They created around themselves cults of personality in which they took on the trappings of strength, confidence, and invulnerability – all of which served as substitutes for rational argument or thought.

Trump’s entire campaign similarly revolves around his assumed strength and confidence. He tells his followers not to worry; he’ll take care of them. “If you get laid off …, I still want your vote,” he told workers in Michigan last week. “I’ll get you a new job; don’t worry about it.”

The old fascists intimidated and threatened opponents. Trump is not above a similar strategy. To take one example, he recently tweeted that Chicago’s Ricketts family, now spending money to defeat him, “better be careful, they have a lot to hide.”

The old fascists incited violence. Trump has not done so explicitly but Trump supporters have attacked Muslims, the homeless, and African-Americans – and Trump has all but excused their behavior.

Weeks after Trump began his campaign by falsely alleging that Mexican immigrants are “bringing crime. They’re rapists,” two brothers in Boston beat with a metal poll and urinated on a 58-year-old homeless Mexican national. They subsequently told the police “Donald Trump was right, all these illegals need to be deported.”

Instead of condemning that brutality, Trump excused it by saying “people who are following me are very passionate. They love this country and they want this country to be great again.”

After a handful of white supporters punched and attempted to choke a Black Lives Matter protester at one of his campaign rallies, Trump said “maybe he should have been roughed up.”

There are further parallels. Fascists glorified national power and greatness, fanning xenophobia and war. Trump’s entire foreign policy consists of asserting American power against other nations. Mexico “will” finance a wall. China “will” stop manipulating its currency.

In pursuit of their nationalistic aims, the fascists disregarded international law. Trump is the same. He recently proposed using torture against terrorists, and punishing their families, both in clear violation of international law.

Finally, the fascists created their mass followings directly, without political parties or other intermediaries standing between them and their legions of supporters.

Trump’s tweets and rallies similarly circumvent all filters. The Republican Party is irrelevant to his campaign, and he considers the media an enemy. (Reporters covering his rallies are kept behind a steel barrier.)

Viewing Donald Trump in light of the fascists of the first half of the twentieth century – who used economic stresses to scapegoat others, created cults of personality, intimidated opponents, incited violence, glorified their nations and disregarded international law, and connected directly with the masses – helps explain what Trump is doing and how he is succeeding.

It also suggests why Donald Trump presents such a profound danger to the future of America and the world.

 

By: Robert Reich, The Robert Reich Blog, March 8, 2016

March 14, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Fascism, White Working Class | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“A Lot Of People Like Me”: Donald Trump And The Ku Klux Klan: A History

For months, as Donald Trump developed his political repertoire, he adopted an uncharacteristic reply for questions about fascism and the Ku Klux Klan: silence, or something close to it.

He used the technique as early as last August, when his opponents, and the press, still generally regarded him as a summer amusement. On August 26th, Bloomberg Television anchor John Heilemann brought up David Duke, the former Klan Grand Wizard, who had said that Trump was “the best of the lot” in the 2016 campaign. Trump replied that he had no idea who Duke was. Heilemann asked if Trump would repudiate Duke’s endorsement. “Sure,” Trump said, “if that would make you feel better, I would certainly repudiate. I don’t know anything about him.” Changing tack, Heilemann pressed Trump about an article in this magazine, which described Trump’s broad support among neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and other members of the far right who were drawn in by his comments about Mexicans. Trump maintained a posture of indifference. “Honestly, John, I’d have to read the story. A lot of people like me.” The interview moved on to other topics.

It should be noted that Trump’s unfamiliarity with Duke is a recent condition. In 2000, Trump issued a statement that he was no longer considering a run for President with the backing of the Reform Party, partly because it “now includes a Klansman, Mr. Duke.”

Throughout last fall and into the winter, Trump continued to accumulate support among white nationalists. In November, on a weekend in which he said that a black protester, at a rally in Alabama, deserved to be “roughed up,” Trump retweeted a graphic composed of false racist statistics on crime; the graphic, it was discovered, originated from a neo-Nazi account that used as its profile image a variation on the swastika. In January, he retweeted the account “@WhiteGenocideTM,” which identified its location as “Jewmerica.” Shortly before the Iowa caucuses, a pro-Trump robocall featured several white supremacists, including the author Jared Taylor, who told voters, “We don’t need Muslims. We need smart, well-educated white people.” Each time Trump was asked on Twitter about his white nationalist supporters, the candidate, who is ready to respond, day or night, to critics of his debating style or his golf courses, simply ignored the question.

Only under special circumstances did Trump summon a forceful response on matters of the Klan: in January, BoingBoing unearthed a newspaper report from 1927 on the arraignment of a man with the name and address of Donald Trump’s father; the story was about attendees of a Klan rally who fought with police, though it wasn’t clear from the story why the Trump in the piece was arrested. Asked about it, Donald Trump denied that his father had had any connection to a Klan rally. “It’s a completely false, ridiculous story. He was never there! It never happened. Never took place.”

But recently, as Trump’s campaign has received much belated closer scrutiny, his reliable approach to the Klan problem has faltered. On Thursday, Duke offered his strongest support for the candidate yet, telling radio listeners that a vote for one of Trump’s rivals would be “treason to your heritage.” The next day, when Trump had hoped to focus on his endorsement by Governor Chris Christie, of New Jersey, a reporter shouted a question about Duke’s embrace, and Trump said, “David Duke endorsed me? O.K., all right, I disavow. O.K.?” For the moment, it worked, and the press conference moved on. Christie, in fact, bore the brunt of the Duke association: he appeared on the front page of the Daily News on Saturday, as the “MAN WITH A KLAN,” with his picture beside a group of hooded Klansmen. In a different spirit, the Daily Stormer, a neo-Nazi news site that long ago endorsed Trump, awarded Christie the title “Heroic Deputy.” (Christie’s overnight evolution from trashing Trump to obeying him repulsed even the political class, a group that is usually more forgiving of self-rationalization. The technology executive Meg Whitman, who had been one of Christie’s top backers, called his alliance with Trump “an astonishing display of political opportunism,” and asked Christie’s donors and supporters “to reject the governor and Donald Trump outright.”)

Over the weekend, Trump’s purported indifference to support from white supremacists and fascists became an inescapable problem. He had retweeted a Mussolini quote from @ilduce2016 (which, it turned out, was an account created by Gawker to trap Trump)—“It is better to live one day as a lion than 100 years as a sheep”—and, when asked, on NBC, if he wanted to associate himself with Mussolini, he said that he wanted “to be associated with interesting quotes.” He added, “Mussolini was Mussolini. . . . What difference does it make?” On CNN, Jake Tapper pressed him about David Duke, and Trump, seeming to forget that he had given a one-line disavowal, reverted to a position of theatrical incomprehension: “Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, O.K.?” Tapper asked three times if Trump would denounce the Klan’s support, and each time Trump declined. “I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists,” he said. “So I don’t know. I don’t know—did he endorse me, or what’s going on? Because I know nothing about David Duke; I know nothing about white supremacists.”

By Monday, less than twenty-four hours before primary voting on Super Tuesday, his non-answers about the Klan were creating a crisis, and Trump introduced a new explanation: audio trouble. “I’m sitting in a house in Florida with a very bad earpiece that they gave me, and you could hardly hear what he was saying,” he said on the “Today” show. “But what I heard was various groups, and I don’t mind disavowing anybody, and I disavowed David Duke and I disavowed him the day before at a major news conference, which is surprising because he was at the major news conference, CNN was at the major news conference, and they heard me very easily disavow David Duke.”

There may be no better measure of the depravity of this campaign season than the realization that it’s not clear whether Trump’s overt appreciation for fascism, and his sustained salute to American racists, will have a positive or negative effect on his campaign. For now, his opponents are rejoicing. Marco Rubio, the Florida senator, pronounced him “unelectable.” Governor John Kasich, of Ohio, called Trump’s comments “just horrific.” But it is by now a truism to note that Trump has survived pratfalls that other politicians have not. A surprisingly large portion of Americans believed him when he pushed a racist campaign denying the birthplace of Barack Obama; a comparably chilling portion of Americans were attracted when he called Mexicans rapists. By the end of the day on Sunday, he had received the endorsement of Senator Jeff Sessions, of Alabama, the first sitting senator to officially line up with Trump. Sessions was not likely to be bothered by Trump’s flirtations with the Klan. In 1986, he was rejected from a federal judgeship after saying that he thought the Klan was “O.K. until I learned they smoked pot.”

In the weeks to come, Trump is virtually guaranteed to accumulate additional endorsements from politicians like Christie and Sessions, who have divined their interests in drafting behind the strongest candidate for the Republican nomination. Whether driven by fear of irrelevance, or attracted by the special benefits of being an early adopter, Christie seemed compelled to do it, and now the remnant of his political reputation is going from a solid to a gas. But the true obscenity of his decision, and those of other Trumpists, may take years to be fully appreciated. In an editorial last week, the Washington Post declared that “history will not look kindly on GOP leaders who fail to do everything in their power to prevent a bullying demagogue from becoming their standard-bearer.” That’s true, but history will judge even more harshly those who stand with Trump now that it is indefensibly clear with whom they are standing.

 

By: Evan Osnos, The New Yorker, February 29, 2016

March 2, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, Ku Klux Klan, White Supremacists | , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The White Supremacists’ Candidate”: Trump’s Racial Controversies Leave GOP In Awkward Spot

It was just a few days ago that Donald Trump, pressed to respond to support from former KKK leader David Duke, told reporters, ”I didn’t even know he endorsed me. David Duke endorsed me? I disavow, OK?”

Yesterday, however, Trump was asked again about support from overt racists, and this time, the Republican presidential candidate’s line grew murky.

In an interview Sunday morning, GOP front-runner Donald Trump would not condemn former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke’s support for his presidential campaign, telling CNN host Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” that he has no knowledge of the white supremacist leader.

“Just so you understand, I don’t know anything about David Duke, okay? I don’t know anything about what you’re even talking about with white supremacy or white supremacists. So I don’t know, did he endorse me or what’s going on,” Trump said.

Asked about his willingness to condemn white supremacists, Trump was hardly unequivocal. “Well, I have to look at the group,” he told Jake Tapper. “I mean, I don’t know what group you’re talking about. You wouldn’t want me to condemn a group that I know nothing about. I have to look. If you would send me a list of the groups I will do research on them and certainly I would disavow if I thought there was something wrong. But you may have groups in there that are totally fine and it would be very unfair. So give me a list of the groups and I’ll let you know.”

Not surprisingly, the exchange prompted yet another round of “Will this sink Trump’s campaign?” speculation, and it wasn’t long before the GOP candidate’s rivals were publicly criticizing Trump’s apparent reluctance to denounce his white-supremacist allies.

In a year like this one, guessing how conservative voters might respond to various developments is increasingly difficult. That said, it’s important to understand the degree to which the Republican Party is in an exceedingly awkward position.

At a Virginia event yesterday, for example, Marco Rubio was eager to denounce Trump’s latest racially charged controversy. And who was introducing Rubio on the campaign trail yesterday? That would be none other than Virginia’s former governor and senator, George Allen (R), whose career was cut short in the wake of his own racially charged controversy.

What’s more, while Trump evidently no longer knows what to say about David Duke, let’s also not forget that Louisiana’s Steve Scalise spoke at an event for white supremacists several years ago and described himself as “David Duke without the baggage.” House Republicans nevertheless made Steve Scalise the House Majority Whip – the #3 position in the House GOP leadership – and largely failed to even criticize him after the public learned about Scalise’s past.

More to the point, Trump’s most notable contribution to the political discourse – before his racially charged rhetoric as a presidential candidate – was his leadership role in the “birther” conspiracy theory, which, at its core, was racist nonsense. Republican leaders not only failed to denounce Trump’s ridiculous crusade, they also publicly welcomed his support and endorsements, Trump’s “birtherism” notwithstanding.

With this in mind, isn’t it a little late for GOP officials and candidates to wring their hands and claim the high ground? Had Republicans been consistent all along – removing Scalise from his leadership post, denouncing the “birther” garbage from the outset, etc. – the party would likely be in a more credible position now, but that point passed long ago.

Postscript: On a related note, Rachel has an incredibly well-timed piece in the Washington Post that you’re going to want to check out: What does it say about the GOP that Trump is the white supremacists’ candidate?”

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, February 29, 2016

March 1, 2016 Posted by | Donald Trump, GOP Primaries, Marco Rubio, White Supremacists | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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