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Opinion: Is Donald Trump to blame for the resurgent rise of the extremist right?

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After the violence seen this past weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, many are left wondering if the President is to blame? The answer is unequivocally yes.

America has had a long, dark history with far-right extremist groups such as the KKK, Neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. Many people, perhaps foolishly, thought they were a thing of the past, most of these groups were pushed to the underground and had dwindling memberships, they believed.

However the election of Donald Trump has revealed to the whole nation that in fact there is still a sizable portion of the country that does hold these extremist views. Ever since Trump’s campaign gained steam, extremist right-wing groups have seen a big increase in membership and support. The fact of the matter is his election has emboldened them, and this came to a head in Charlottesville.

Trump’s supporters say there is no relationship between the two, and that Trump is not to blame for the far right’s resurgence. But this argument holds little weight. Rallies such as the one in Charlottesville would have been unimaginable years ago. His rhetoric has swelled their numbers and, as they see it, they now have an ally in the White House, which is a green light to expand their activities. Already another rally is being planned, this one linked to notorious white supremacist Richard Spencer.

The violence in Charlottesville led to three deaths and dozens injured. At this point Trump had an opportunity to condemn the far right extremism that led to this tragedy. Instead of the usual unfiltered, fiery rhetoric many have come to expect from Trump, particularly after events such as these, the President instead gave a very brief, mundane statement: “We condemn in the strongest possible terms this egregious display of hatred, bigotry and violence, on many sides. On many sides.”

The President is certainly not shy about calling out specific people and groups he dislikes. Whether its ISIS, North Korea, MS-13, or even his opponents on the left, he does not mince words. However there seems to be a worrying trend that sees the President unusually cautious when it comes to far right extremist groups. Instead of calling them for what they are, the president opted to say “on many sides.” This is certainly not the first time. During his campaign he repeatedly refused to reject the support of these groups, such as the KKK, who’s former leader David Duke is an outspoken supporter of his.

Only after two days of outrage over his “many sides” statement, did the President finally give in to the pressure and name extremist far right groups in a clearly rehearsed statement. For many it was too little too late.

For those who defend Trump, saying these groups do not represent what the President stands for, it is time to wake up. These groups were never this bold or active before. It is only after the election of a man who shares many of their goals that something like the tragedy in Charlottesville could happen. They saw his victory as their victory and are now more brazen then ever. Turning a blind eye and pretending it isn’t true will only make the situation worse and lead to more tragedies.

While these white supremacists, neo-Nazis and KKK groups do not represent most of Trump’s supporters, the fact is they are there. It is time for everyone, especially Trump, his party and supporters, to condemn them and reject their evil ideologies which have no place in our society.

Pietro Pisciotta

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