On Wednesday, South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, a likely candidate for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, blamed the Trump administration — and Vice President Mike Pence personally — for the rise of white nationalism.
“In terms of white nationalism, I’m sure he does not consider himself to be a racist but I think the moment you come on board with a project like the Trump campaign or the Trump-Pence administration, you are at best complicit in the process that has given cover for a flourishing and resurgence of white nationalism in our midst,” Buttigieg said of Pence on BuzzFeed’s AM2DM radio show.
— AM2DM by BuzzFeed News (@AM2DM) March 28, 2019
The Democrat argued that the rise of white nationalism “creates a level of obligation to provide a powerful countercurrent to that.”
He noted Indiana’s dark past with the Ku Klux Klan, insisting that Hoosiers cannot “pretend that that history is over.”
“And so with white nationalism on the rise, and it being a very real clear presence and deadly threat that the current president and administration don’t seem to want to confront, it creates an obligation for anyone in a position of authority or power or even just visibility to speak out about why it’s wrong,” Buttigieg argued.
Public figures also have an obligation to explain “why it’s not consistent with American values, and why if you really want to talk about security and safety then that has less to do with putting up a wall from sea to shining sea than making sure that people are not continuing to be radicalized to violent white nationalism with what seems at best to be a level of negligence if not encouragement coming from the highest office in the land.”
Liberals continue to suggest that President Donald Trump has not condemned white nationalism and white supremacy. They reference his claim that there “were very fine people on both sides” in the 2017 Charlottesville riots. Yet even in that event, the president clearly slammed white nationalism.
“It’s fine, you’re changing history, you’re changing culture, and you had people – and I’m not talking about the neo-Nazis and the white nationalists, because they should be condemned totally – but you had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists, okay? And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly,” Trump said at the time.
Trump does not talk about the evils of white nationalism all day every day, because he has more important things to do. Perhaps he should do more to counter this racism, but he is not “complicit” in it.
Openly gay Buttigieg is unique among 2020 Democrats in his attempt to show nuance in condemning Republicans. While slamming Mike Pence for his “beliefs that are sincerely awful when it comes to LGBT equality,” he acknowledged that Pence “believes [these beliefs are] his interpretation of his religion.” Even while calling Pence “at best complicit” with the rise of white nationalism, he acknowledged the vice president does not see himself as racist.
Buttigieg should show even more nuance and acknowledge that the Trump administration is not promoting white nationalism. Perhaps that is asking too much of the party enflamed with Trump derangement syndrome.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.