There is “a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;” (Ecclesiastes 3:7) and when it comes to hate crimes, Trump knows how to use time. When a terrorist drove his truck into a crowd in Nice, Trump tweeted immediately to denounce Islamic terrorism. When the nightclub attack in Orlando took place, Trump tweeted immediately to condemn Islamic terrorists (even though no definitive conclusion had been reached on the nature of the attack). When an Egyptian man attacked police with a machete in Paris, Trump tweeted immediately to condemn Islamic terrorists (again, before any link to terrorism could be confirmed). Yes. Trump is quick to tweet when there is an attack that may or not be perpetrated by radical Islamists. The only thing he hasn’t done is invent a terror attack by radical Islamists. He had Kellyanne Conway do that for him.
If Trump suspects an act of hate or terror by Muslims, he knows that his response must be swift, his condemnation forceful.
But what about other acts of hate? What about the mass shooting that killed 6 people in a Quebec City mosque? What about the murder of Srinivas Kuchibhotla, a Garmin engineer from India, in Kansas? What about the bomb threats to Jewish community centers and the desecration of Jewish graves? In these cases, Trump holds his tongue. He takes his time. He distracts himself until the wave of denunciations by pundits, by other Republicans, and by his own family members overwhelms him and he cannot be silent any more. Only then does he speak.
Why does he wait? Who is he waiting for? We do not know. But his supporters on the extreme right are happy to play mind-reader. They see Trump as their king and liberator. “Donald Trump is setting us free” writes Andrew Anglin of the Daily Stormer. He adds, “Our Glorious Leader [Donald Trump] has ascended to God Emperor.” For these supporters, Trump’s silence reflects their suffering. They see him bearing the same crosses of “multiculturalism,” “political correctness,” and “diversity,” that they bear as they wait for a new dawn.
Some say that Trump is not responsible for his followers. But Trump knows what the far right believes and instead of denouncing them, he tweets their memes and racist arguments. Others say, Trump cannot be anti-Semitic, his own daughter is Jewish. But having a cherished daughter has had no effect on Trump’s behavior towards others. No matter how much baby Ivanka may have melted his paternal heart, he still went on to insult, objectify, and assault other women as he watched her innocently playing, laughing, and growing into a young woman under his roof.
Will Trump become the white nationalists’ Messiah? Right now, Putin enjoys higher ratings for that job. But Trump is in an auspicious position. He has a Jewish family to abandon, an existing legal tradition to co-opt and undermine, and a party of followers who could easily sell him out. Trump might not even want the job. Too many sacrifices involved. But that makes it all the more compelling. With a handful of fervent believers and his ego, Trump’s time may come.