The Poison of Identity Politics: The Return of White Nationalism Is Part of a Deeper Ailment - And Larger Than Trump
By The Wall Street Journal Editorial Board
As ever in this age of Donald Trump, politicians and journalists are reducing the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday to a debate over Mr. Trump’s words and intentions. That’s a mistake no matter what you think of the President, because the larger poison driving events like those in Virginia is identity politics and it won’t go away when Mr. Trump inevitably does.
The particular pathology on display in Virginia was the white nationalist movement led today by the likes of Richard Spencer, David Duke and Brad Griffin. They alone are to blame for the violence that occurred when one of their own drove a car into peaceful protesters, killing a young woman and injuring 19 others.
The Spencer crowd courts publicity and protests, and they chose the progressive university town of Charlottesville with malice aforethought. They used the unsubtle Ku Klux Klan symbolism of torches in a Friday night march, and they seek to appear as political martyrs as a way to recruit more alienated young white men.
Political conservatives even more than liberals need to renounce these racist impulses, and the good news is that this is happening. The driver has been charged with murder under Virginia law, and Attorney General Jeff Sessions opened a federal civil-rights investigation and issued a statement condemning the violence: “When such actions arise from racial bigotry and hatred, they betray our core values and cannot be tolerated.” Many prominent conservatives also denounced the white-nationalist movement.
Mr. Trump was widely criticized for his initial statement Saturday afternoon that condemned the hatred “on many sides” but failed to single out the white nationalists. Notably, David Duke and his allies read Mr. Trump’s statement as attacking them and criticized the President for doing so.