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American Opinion: A national disgrace reveals a national crisis

Summary: The last time any would-be leader of a democracy encouraged supporters to behave like that, it was another humorless, scowling man who was in the process of turning Germany into a dictatorship.

American Opinion
American Opinion

The debate Tuesday night degenerated almost from the start into a national disgrace. And yet it served the public interest by making some things alarmingly plain.

President Donald Trump showed himself, possibly even to supporters who were still in denial, as a scowling, humorless, petulant bully who has zero respect for any rules or anyone else’s opinions, and certainly none for the truth or for a peaceful election. He made his racism into an issue that will not — should not — go away.

Just from his demeanor and Joe Biden’s, one could have watched the debate without sound to know who was winning, which of them talked directly to the people instead of at his opponent, and which is fit for the nation’s highest office.

However, some things that Trump said needed to be heard to understand why he is profoundly dangerous and why replacing him is nothing less than a national emergency.

Trump parried three invitations from moderator Chris Wallace to “condemn” white supremacists and militia groups, and advise them to “stand down and not add to the violence” in some cities where protest demonstrations have turned ugly. Trump insisted that virtually all the violence is on the left.

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After Biden challenged him to repudiate the Proud Boys by name, Trump finally replied.

“Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” he said. He went on to attack antifa and insist that “this is not a right-wing problem, this is a left wing …”

He did not in any sense condemn the thugs on the right.

In that moment, Trump revealed how much the Proud Boys matter to him.

They are an utterly vicious, fascistic organization, known for anti-Muslim bigotry and misogyny and threatening political demonstrations. They were involved with avowed Nazis and the KKK in the anti-Semitic “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, three years ago. On that occasion, which ended in the murder of a peaceful protestor, Trump declared there were “fine people” on both sides.

A year later, the Proud Boys mounted a threatening demonstration against House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during her visit to Miami. One participant was Nelson Diaz, chairman of the Miami-Dade Republican Party and a supporter of Ron DeSantis’ campaign for governor. Diaz apologized, saying he had not known of the Proud Boys and their noxious reputation. But DeSantis ignored calls to repudiate them and went on to win the election.

They had not had any high-level praise before Trump said Tuesday night that they should “stand by.” They gleefully expressed pride on social media, with one meme, obviously photoshopped, depicting Trump in one of their polo shirts. They have been banned at times from Facebook and YouTube for violating policies against hate speech.

Trump’s shout-out was unmistakably relevant to what he said later about “urging my supporters to go to the polls and watch very carefully.”

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Watch? Or disrupt?

Here is how The New York Times reported an event in Virginia last week:

“A group of Trump supporters waving campaign flags disrupted the second day of early voting in Fairfax, Va., on Saturday, chanting ‘four more years’ as voters entered a polling location and, at one point, forming a line that voters had to walk around outside the site.

“County election officials eventually were forced to open up a larger portion of the Fairfax County Government Center to allow voters to wait inside away from the Trump enthusiasts.”

The last time any would-be leader of a democracy encouraged supporters to behave like that, it was another humorless, scowling man who was in the process of turning Germany into a dictatorship.

Now, the titular “leader of the free world,” an honorific that left the White House when Barack Obama did, has confirmed beyond any doubt his affection for the same sort of racists upon whom that tyrant relied.

Of course Trump couldn’t condemn them. He needs them. That is one of the greater reasons, among many, why the nation must replace him with Joe Biden.

This editorial is the opinion of the Ft. Lauderdale Sun Sentinel Editorial Board.

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©2020 Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.). Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com . Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Related Topics: DONALD TRUMP
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