Trump affronts the most elementary ethic with his late condemnation of racism.
Of all the damages which Donald Trump has inflicted on the American presidency, the worst is of the moral order. And this, considering precedents such as the banditry which brought Richard Nixon to resign; the indolence of Ronald Reagan during the AIDS epidemic; and the sexual adventures of Bill Clinton. Nothing in this century can be compared to the fact that the president of the United States resisted calling racist terrorism by its name after a band of neo-Nazis, armed to the teeth, paraded 200 kilometers (approximately 124 miles) from the country’s capital, provoking the deaths of three people.*
After the blood bath, even the most radical politicians such as Sen. Ted Cruz did not delay in denouncing the emergence of domestic terrorism, whose investigation was taken up by the Justice Department. Everyone except Trump, who initially declared on Twitter that the facts to him seemed “very sad.” Afterwards in a fleeting appearance, he condemned “the violence on all sides,” equating victims and aggressors. Finally on Sunday, 48 hours after the facts, he read a note of condemnation pushed by his advisers. He read a brief communication in front of the camera in which he affirmed that “racism is bad,” and then withdrew without answering any questions or showing any emotion.
This event is evidence like no other of the great abyss which separates Trump from all of his predecessors in the job. Before, it was possible to interpret his simpatico relationship with Russia’s Vladimir Putin or his weird duel with the North Korean regime as an extravagance, but now the fact is that a president of the United States refuses to rapidly and energetically denounce killings committed by a group of neo-Nazis.
In other times, serious moments such as this served as a time when presidents put themselves above political divisions and assumed the role of conciliator, appealing to the genuine optimism of the American democracy. This was what Obama did, for example, on the occasion of protests against police by blacks, who almost burned the country's cities down in 2014.* But Trump is the opposite of conciliator. The role that he chose for himself is that of an iconoclast and of provocation, two characteristics which permitted him to win the election last year against all predictions, and by virtue of which he feels legitimate in throwing away any and all customs, including those of a moral character.
His fragility stems from his not seeing in a negative light the existence of white groups, who protest because the government spent decades investing in programs to end social inequalities of black and Hispanic minorities. For Trump, this is not racism: It is freedom of expression, politically incorrect, but deserving to be heard. In his inauguration speech, he characterized the above-mentioned government programs in effect as “carnage.” He knew what and for whom he was speaking. They are the most loyal of Trump’s base, who rejoiced in the fact that in 2012, he had cast a doubt as to whether Obama, the first black American president, really had been born in the United States. In this way, Trump’s campaign gestated, and in this way, he took over the process of the Republican Party’s primaries. The great doubt now is how long it will take for the 60 million traditional Republicans who voted in the general elections to realize that he is a person, who, if not practicing racism, at the minimum shows himself to be dangerously tolerant of it.
*Translator's note: Although accurately translated, certain facts asserted by the author with reference to activities by black protesters could not be verified.