On April 25, 2019, Former Vice President Joe Biden released a video announcement declaring his 2020 United States presidential campaign. In the video, Biden placed his focus primarily on the affairs of his predicted Republican opponent, President Donald Trump, and his reluctance to condemn the rhetoric and violence elicited by the white supremacists who organized the deadly 2017 “Unite the Right” rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. By highlighting Trump’s comment that there were “very fine people on both sides” of the riot, Biden renewed immense controversy over Trump’s lenient attitude towards white nationalism. As in 2017, the nation is faced with the question of whether or not Trump’s agenda supports the existence of white supremacy.
In response to Biden’s video, Trump defended his statement regarding Charlottesville and proclaimed that it was geared toward the individuals in the area who were protesting the removal of the monument of Confederate General Robert E. Lee. Instead of retracting his statement, Trump defended it by mentioning Lee – a slaveholder who led the anticipated Southern secession from the Union. His choice to steer away from the necessary discussion over his handling of Charlottesville has incited murmurs among Democrats and Republicans alike.
Following the resurfacing of the conversation on Charlottesville, a white supremacist opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, California. Though gunman John Earnest denounced Trump in his manifesto — due to Trump’s support of Israel — and Trump condemned “the evil of anti-Semitism and hate,” Trump held on to his reluctance to directly criticize the hatred conserved by white supremacists. Inherently, Trump has made it difficult for anyone to ignore the implications regarding his protection of white supremacy.
This parallels Trump’s lacklustre response to global white nationalism. In his manifesto, Brenton Tarrant, the charged perpetrator of the mass shooting at Christchurch in New Zealand, referred to President Trump as “a symbol of renewed white identity and common purpose.” This was considered as a red-flag, granted that the President of the United States served as an inspiration for a man who murdered 49 innocent Muslims. Instead of outright denying and condemning Tarrant, Trump responded to being asked if white supremacy was growing as an international threat with: “I don’t, really.” His baseline response and indifference to the overwhelming statistical growth of white extremism is alarming within itself — especially with the number of white supremacists aligning themselves with Trump’s policies, from establishing the border wall to travel bans. Though Trump was again given the opportunity to denounce the link people have created between him and white supremacy, he instead chose to deflect from an evident and perpetual global issue.
The initiation of Biden’s running campaign has been enough to revive the conversation of white supremacy infiltrating the presidency. The national discourse that Biden has sparked is inevitable — the juxtaposition of American diversity and white nationalism is now on the forefront for the 2020 campaign trail. Having a president who advocates white superiority is not new, but it is not a precedent that America is meant to continue following. The idea of America should not be centered around the perpetuation of hate and white superiority — the same concept that allowed the Ku Klux Klan to prosper, slavery to exist, and has led to numerous global tragedies. Frankly, the only thing for Trump to do is to condemn white supremacy altogether. Biden’s intentions were clear, and Trump fell directly into the bait. By choosing to not publicly rebuke the dangerous individuals who execute white supremacy, Trump is feeding into the assumption that he is an evident supporter of this horrific cause.