White Lightning

Behind Trump, the GOP Really Is Becoming the Racist Party

The Donald is getting the backing of the white-supremacist crowd, and the GOP from Priebus on down says nothing. Draw your own conclusion.

08.31.15 5:00 AM ET

Let me offer some friendly advice to the Republican Party that I learned firsthand as a Muslim American: You don’t want to be defined by your most extreme members. And here’s a little more advice. The longer the GOP leadership remains silent as Donald Trump garners increasing support from white supremacist organizations, the more likely the GOP will become known as the party of racists.

I know, some of my progressive friends will say that’s already the case. But that’s not fair. Sure, there are racists drawn to the GOP, just like we have seen psychopaths attracted to Islam. I’m sure not all Republicans are racists and I bet some are even disgusted by bigotry.

We are, however, seeing a bone-chilling attraction to Trump by white nationalist groups. It’s almost like they view Trump’s candidacy as their last stand against the changing demographics of America. He’s become the poster child for their philosophy that “White Lives Matter More.”

For example, just last week David Duke, the former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux, publicly praised Trump as the best Republican candidate in the 2016 field because he “understands the real sentiment of America.” Duke applauded Trump’s views on immigration that call for mass deportation of families, saying that Trump is ”speaking out on this greatest immediate threat to the American people.”

Trump’s tepid response to Duke’s glowing praise was troubling to say the least: “I certainly wouldn’t want his endorsement. I don’t need anyone’s endorsement.” When pressed by a reporter to repudiate Duke, Trump responded, “Sure, I would if that would make you feel better.”

As the Southern Poverty Law Center’s Mark Potok explained Saturday on my SiriusXM radio show, this response by Trump was “incredibly weak,” noting that Trump “barely repudiated” Duke. Potok explained that as opposed to Trump saying I’ll condemn Duke if it will “make you feel better,” he should’ve made it unequivocally clear he finds Duke’s views despicable and doesn’t want Duke or his white supremacist followers’ support in any way.

In fact, in 2000, when Trump was considering running for president with a new political organization called the Reform Party, the billionaire publicly stated he wanted nothing to do with the party after he learned that Duke was a part of it. But now, with Trump actually running for president, he’s far less vocal in denouncing Duke.

Duke, however, is far from the only person tied to white supremacist or hate groups publicly endorsing Trump. Last week, white nationalist radio host James Edwards, a man who has warned against interracial marriage, called slavery “the greatest thing that ever happened to” blacks, and featured a “roster of white supremacists” on his show, publicly endorsed Trump.

Trump has also been touted by neo-Nazi websites such as The Daily Stormer with articles like, “We are all Donald Trump Now.” And as Media Matters set forth in detail a few days ago, the list of white nationalist leaders supporting Trump is alarmingly long.

The issue is not just that these hate groups see something they like in Trump. These groups have the right to endorse anyone they like. The more alarming issue is Trump’s failure to publicly to condemn them.

Since Trump is not willing to make it clear he wants nothing to do with these hate groups or their followers, it’s time for the GOP leadership to step up and do just that. Trump is currently far and away the leader in the race for the 2016 GOP presidential nomination. Consequently, his actions will increasingly define the Republican Party. And the longer the GOP leaders remain silent, the more likely the Republican Party will be defined by the white supremacist groups publicly endorsing Trump.

Luckily, the GOP is in a far better position than Muslim Americans to denounce its extremists. In our case, we are a small minority group with very limited media contacts. Getting the message out that we despise terrorists like ISIS and al Qaeda has been challenging to say the least despite our best efforts to do just that.

In contrast, the GOP has extensive media connections. In fact, the No. 1 cable news network, Fox News, showcases the party’s leaders on a daily basis. It won’t take much for the Republican leaders to get the media to cover their condemnation of the white nationalist and neo-Nazis supporting Trump.

For example, look what happened last year when we learned that the third-highest ranking member of the House Republican leadership, Steve Scalise, had given a speech to a white supremacist group in 2002 when running for office. House Speaker John Boehner simply issued a press release noting that he stood with Scalise because Scalise had acknowledged his actions were “wrong and inappropriate.” That press release was covered by media outlets nationwide.

Now just imagine the media coverage if RNC chair Reince Priebus held a press conference, along with some of the GOP leadership in the House and Senate, to denounce the white nationalist groups supporting Trump. It would make headlines nationwide and send a clear message to all.

Isn’t it time for the GOP leaders to make it clear where they stand on white supremacists supporting their party’s front-runner for the presidential nomination? I, for one, very much look forward to hearing what they have to say on this issue.