During the second Democratic debate on Wednesday, Gov. Jay Inslee (D-Wash.) explicitly called President Donald Trump a “white nationalist.” Former HUD Secretary Julián Castro echoed him by saying, “The president is a racist.”
Is Donald Trump a “white nationalist?” Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines “white nationalist” as “one of a group of militant whites who espouse white supremacy and advocate enforced racial segregation.”
In common parlance, “white nationalist” has become a weaker way to say “white supremacist” and a stronger way to say “racist.” So, is Trump a racist and worse?
First, while the president has made statements that liberals falsely denounce as racist — like responding to Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) by pointing out the poverty of West Baltimore — he has welcomed black Americans into the White House, celebrated their economic success, and received their praise.
In February 2017, about a month after Trump took office, the presidents of 100-plus Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) met with the president in the Oval Office. Trump welcomed rapper Kanye West to the White House. He has elevated black and brown Americans to high positions in government: naming Ben Carson to HUD; naming Ajit Pai chairman of the FCC; hiring Omarosa Manigault Newman in the White House (who said Trump wasn’t racist before she accused him of being racist); and many more.
Under Trump, the black unemployment rate reached its lowest point in 17 years. Trump celebrated the low unemployment rate in his second State of the Union address, but Democrats did not rise to clap for this great achievement. Voters have said Trump is better for young black Americans than former President Barack Obama.
The president has received praise from many black Americans. Some leaders of HBCUs praised Trump as being “more responsive to our community” than Obama’s administration was. Robert Johnson, the first black billionaire, gave the president an “A+” on the economy.
Indeed, it is not inconceivable that Trump could actually win the black vote in 2020.
Is it still possible that the president, in his heart of hearts, harbors some dislike or animus toward black people? Sure. But it would take a mindreader to draw that out. There are some claims that Trump mistreated black people in his real estate dealings in New York. That’s quite possible.
Yet it seems unlikely the president is actually a racist. His angry tweets and hyperbolic declarations have been quite ugly at times, but there is no clear racist streak to them. Trump’s governance and celebration of low black unemployment certainly do not support any claims of racism.
If Trump is not even racist, how can he be a white nationalist? If he were militant, he has the entire U.S. military at his beck and call. Has he used the military in a racist manner? While Democrats have consistently attacked him for saying there were “decent people” on both sides in Charlottesville, Va., he also condemned white nationalists and white supremacists in the very same statement. He has certainly not advocated white supremacy, and has not moved one iota toward “enforced racial segregation.”
Any white nationalist who elevated black Americans to positions of power, celebrated lower black unemployment, and worked to help HBCUs would be a horrible white nationalist.
According to Merriam-Webster, he would not even be a white nationalist at all.
Follow Tyler O’Neil, the author of this article, on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.