Editor’s Note: Dean Obeidallah, a former attorney, is the host of SiriusXM radio’s daily program “The Dean Obeidallah Show” and a columnist for The Daily Beast. Follow him @DeanObeidallah. The opinions expressed in this commentary are his own. View more opinion articles on CNN.
President Donald Trump on Sunday morning told America who he believes are “great people.” They’re the supporters who scream “white power” in response to those who call the President a racist.
That, at least, seemed to be the message from Trump’s sharing of a two-minute video showing residents from a Florida community known as The Villages driving in golf carts adorned with signs such as “Trump 2020” and “America First.” As these Trump supporters approached anti-Trump protesters, some of whom were holding up Black Lives Matters signs, one protester yelled Trump is a “racist.” In response, one of the golf cart drivers screamed: “White Power! White Power!”
Trump’s tweet was no longer on Twitter by late Sunday morning. White House spokesman Judd Deere said in a statement that the President did not hear the “white power” shouts when he tweeted the clip.
Earlier, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar told CNN’s Jake Tapper that while he hadn’t seen the tweet “obviously neither the President, his administration nor I would do anything to be supportive of white supremacy or anything that would support discrimination of any kind.”
But let’s be clear, the yell of “white power” was not embedded deep in the video. Rather, the man using the phrase appears in the first 10 seconds of the footage. It’s simply impossible for anyone who watched the start to miss the “White Power” scream, which the Anti-Defamation League notes is a “white supremacist slogan” that is “commonly shouted at white supremacist events as a racist rallying cry.”
Yet it was this video Trump shared with his over 82 million Twitter followers along with the words, “Thank you to the great people of The Villages” as he then slammed, “The Radical Left Do Nothing Democrats.”
Trump’s sharing this video was not a mistake. The President, who finds himself trailing presumptive Democratic nominee Joe Biden by up to 14 points in a range of polls, is simply following his successful 2016 campaign playbook, where he trafficked in bigotry to divide Americans. We saw it from his baseless claim that Mexico was sending “rapists” to calling for a “total and complete shutdown” on Muslims entering America to, during the campaign, retweeting open white supremacists such as one with the name “White Genocide” – another white supremacist rallying cry.
But what could’ve been seen as disturbing dog whistle racist politics by a candidate is even more jarringly out of place in 2020.
In the last few weeks, America has been reckoning with systemic racism. As nationwide protests in support of Black Lives Matter filled our streets, Trump has responded by moving in the opposite direction. He has defended US military bases named after Confederate military leaders who went to war to preserve slavery – the ultimate example of white supremacy. (Even some of Trump’s fellow Republican members of Congress are open to renaming these bases.) Trump has also slammed those who want to tear down statues that honor leaders of the Confederacy as trying to destroy our “heritage.”
And through this all, Trump has refused to embrace the Black Lives Matter movement or even acknowledge the US criminal justice system is plagued by systemic racism. In fact, during Trump’s nearly two-hour speech at his rally last Saturday in Tulsa, he slammed “the unhinged left wing mob” that he said was “trying to vandalize our history, desecrate our monuments, our beautiful monuments,” but at no time did he mention George Floyd or Black Lives Matter. His few references to race included the boast that he’d “done more for the black community in four years than Biden has done in 47 years” and that “racial justice” would begin with Biden’s retirement from public life.
Trump refuses to evolve. Even the Mississippi State legislature voted this weekend to remove the Confederate symbol from its state flag. But the President, like the statues built to honor Confederate leaders, is locked forever in that mold.
Trump is arguably America’s most visible symbol of white supremacy. And come November 3, that tribute to white supremacy must be repudiated for the good of our nation.