Trump must rein in extremist fringe
The use of Nazi salutes of the so-called “alt-right” are a chilling reminder of the forces emboldened by the president-elect’s poll victory. Trump must rein in the extremist fringe among his supporters and, as he promised, be a president for all Americans.
The use of Nazi salutes by members of a far-right group in the US celebrating Donald Trump’s election victory are a chilling reminder of the extremist forces emboldened by his winning of the presidency. Those responsible for the abhorrent salutes and cries of “Heil the people, Heil victory” at a conference for members of the so-called “alt-right” movement in Washington were, no doubt, a minority. Some present suggested these gestures were ironic and not intended to be taken seriously. But the symbolism is important and the racist views expressed at the conference repugnant. It is disturbing that members of these far-right groups have been encouraged by Trump’s victory.
The president-elect has since said he disavows and condemns them. He told those responsible for racist acts, which have been on the increase in the US, to “stop it”. This is too little, too late. Trump’s racially charged and divisive election campaign fuelled intolerance. It played to the prejudices of far-right groups, whether they are called alt-right, white nationalist, or neo-nazi. It is no surprise they have championed him. It is to be hoped that Trump the president will prove to be very different from Trump the candidate in this regard. In his first speech after the election, he called for unity. But his appointment of Stephen Bannon as chief White House strategist is a further concern. Bannon, who led Trump’s campaign, is the executive chairman of far-right website Breitbart News. He has described the website as a platform for the alt-right movement. It propagates offensive and bigoted views. Placing him at the heart of the White House sends an alarming signal.
These developments at the formative stage of the Trump presidency come at a time of rising nationalism around the world. Britain’s decision to leave the EU was largely driven by fears about immigration. Now, the presidential election in France will be anxiously watched, with far-right candidate Marie Le Pen tipped by some for a Trump-style victory. It will be a tragedy if prejudices prevalent as the world went to war last century are allowed to hold sway again. America and its allies fought against the Nazis in Europe, aiming to build a better world. Trump’s ascendency threatens to undermine the values of tolerance and freedom the country has long stood for. He must rein in the extremist fringe among his supporters and, as he has promised, be a president for all Americans.This will not be easy. The genie has been allowed out of the bottle – and it will not be easy to put back.