August 07, 2019

The American right wing is enabling a dual crisis: gun violence and white supremacy
The right can no longer hide behind claims that the two issues should not be ‘political’‘Trump has lit a match to this powder keg.’ Photograph: Kevin Lamarque/ReutersThe increasingly intertwined threat posed by gun violence and white nationalist terrorists is real, evil and deadly – and it is being enabled and encouraged by Donald Trump and the right wing that he has emboldened and embraced.Gun violence is the deadliest violent threat facing America today. The Centers for Disease Control recorded 39,773 deaths by firearm in 2017. And while it pales in comparison with the gun epidemic, white nationalist terrorism is a growing threat made more deadly by the availability of guns. The Anti-Defamation League noted that of the 50 deaths caused by domestic extremists in 2018, “white supremacists were responsible for the great majority of the killings”.If this many Americans were killed in a war or foreign terror attack, the US government would be in crisis mode. The president would be convening meetings of the cabinet and state and local officials. Congress would be rushing legislation through the door quicker than legislators could read the bills. The media would cover the issue as religiously as it covers Trump’s tweets.And yet, these issues hardly register in national policy debates, and the reason is the American right wing.For a long time, the right wing has thumped their chests in attempts to show how tough they are on national security. They invaded Iraq because one war in response to 9/11 wasn’t enough. The right wing regularly hype threats of terrorism to advocate for militaristic policies, whether it’s on Iran or Yemen. They constantly demand more defense spending – just because more is somehow better. They advocate for more and new kinds of nuclear weapons, as though the thousands we already have couldn’t blow up the world enough times.Perhaps the right wing feels the need to show how “tough” they are because they know they are aiding and abetting a genuine national security threat. The systematic rightwing effort to make it easier to access guns, alongside policies and rhetoric that spew racism and bigotry, make the rightwing enablers of mass murder and inspirations to white nationalist terrorism.Ask just about any expert, law enforcement official, or national security professional who is focused on the issue and they will tell you that commonsense gun-violence-prevention legislation can significantly reduce gun violence. A glance at other countries with stricter gun laws and virtually no gun violence confirms this fact. And yet, the right wing is not only opposed to these laws that would save lives – it has been working for years to make it easier for Americans to obtain assault weapons.While guns kill tens of thousands every year, white nationalists are using them more and more to carry out their terrorist attacks. A New York Times report showed how murders by white nationalists are not only growing around the world – they are also becoming more and more connected. And the right wing in the United States are helping these terrorists by leading the way with hateful, racist language and policies that terrorists cite in explaining their murderous acts.Trump has lit a match to this powder keg. Rightwing support for white nationalists can now be seen weekly in the Oval Office. Trump regularly refers to immigrants and minorities as part of an “invasion” and “infestation”, fueling the white nationalist conspiracy theory of the “great replacement” in which “other” people are supposedly trying to replace white Americans. In Charlottesville in 2017, white supremacists murdered Heather Heyer at a neo-Nazi rally where people were chanting “Jews will not replace us” – after which Trump called them “very fine people”. At a rally in May, Trump laughed when an attendee suggested shooting immigrants. It is not difficult to understand why the alleged killer in El Paso cited the “great replacement” conspiracy as a justification for the massacre.And yet, combating white nationalist terrorism is not even remotely a partisan issue for the American public. In a recent survey, 87% of Americans said that white supremacists and other domestic extremists were just as important to focus on as foreign terrorists. And according to another 2019 poll, there is even broad-based support for more restrictions on firearms, with 69% of the American people in favor.While some think this shouldn’t be a political issue, it is. It is because the killers are telling us it’s political in their manifestos. It’s political because progress – getting legislation passed – requires politics. And it’s political because it is overwhelmingly one side of the political spectrum that is fueling the threat.America must act. There are plenty of commonsense pieces of legislation and executive action that could be put into effect immediately to reduce gun violence. Congress and the executive branch could easily focus on combating white nationalist terrorism and provide the resources to do so. And the current president and his allies could stop talking like white nationalists.But until they change, let everyone make clear that the actions of the right wing are undermining the safety and security of the American people and enabling mass murderers. We can’t beat around the bush any more with pleasantries and thoughts and prayers.• Michael H Fuchs is a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, and a former deputy assistant secretary of state for east Asian and Pacific affairs
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