The joke had long been that if Donald Trump won the presidency, the White House would be reappointed with the gold-plated kitsch so prevalent in his real-estate holdings. A better choice, it seems, would be wicker, for if there ever was a basket of deplorables, it’s taking shape in the West Wing.
Most notable among them is Stephen K. Bannon, the former Breitbart News chief executive who will serve as Trump’s chief strategist. As Breitbart’s head honcho, Bannon told journalist Sarah Posner that he fashioned the website as “the platform for the alt-right,” the once-fringy movement that encompasses white nationalists, neo-Nazis, and hate-mongering conspiracy theorists. Bannon’s appointment won applause, according to The Washington Post’s David Weigel, from white nationalist leader Richard Spencer, who is convening a conference in Washington, D.C., this weekend at the Ronald Reagan building. But Bannon is but one of a number of appointees, advisers, and potential cabinet members who have been tagged by the Southern Poverty Law Center as hate-mongers.
Friday morning brought word of Trump’s appointment for attorney general: Senator Jeff Sessions of Alabama, who, during the campaign, said that he didn’t think the act described by Trump as his right in that leaked Access Hollywood video—the nonconsensual grabbing of women’s genitals—amounted to sexual assault. Sessions was denied Senate confirmation for a federal judgeship in 1986 because of allegations that he addressed a black attorney as “boy,” and said he was OK with the Ku Klux Klan except for the fact that its members smoked marijuana.
In response to the election of Donald Trump to the White House, one of the largest chapters of the Ku Klux Klan announced it would have a victory parade in North Carolina. And Trump was famously endorsed by David Duke, the former grand wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan.
The night before the Sessions appointment was announced, Trump appointed retired General Michael Flynn to be his national security adviser, a post that does not require confirmation by the U.S. Senate. Flynn, according to The New York Times, has advanced the false narrative that Sharia law—a religious code adhered to by Muslims—is being written into U.S. law. The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC) describes Flynn as an adviser to ACT for America, an anti-Islam group that SPLC describes as convening and annual “racist gathering.”
In February, Flynn tweeted, “Fear of Muslims is RATIONAL.” The new national security adviser is said to be considering a plan that would require all Muslims in the United States to register with the government—an idea also pushed by Trump adviser Kris Kobach, who currently serves as the Kansas secretary of state. (On Thursday, Carl Higbie, who runs a pro-Trump super PAC, told Megyn Kelly of Fox News that the internment of Japanese Americans during World War II provided legal precedent for such a registry.) It was Kobach who fashioned the language used by Trump during the campaign for building a wall on the southern border, and making Mexico pay for it. Kobach was also the mastermind of Arizona’s S.B. 1070, the law that empowers police to demand proof of citizenship from anyone, anytime.
As the point person for domestic policy on his transition team, Trump chose Ken Blackwell, the senior fellow for human rights and constitutional governance at the Family Research Council, which is designated by SPLC as an anti-LGBT hate group.
And let’s not forget Trump’s own anti-Semitic coding about alleged secret meetings between rival Hillary Clinton and “international banks” and “global financial powers” to plot “the destruction of U.S. sovereignty.”
The FBI just released its annual compendium of hate-crime incidents for the year 2015, finding a marked uptick—a 67 percent increase—in hate crimes against Muslims. While not all are attributable to the environment created by the Republican presidential campaign, Trump and the people around him have been loudly banging the war drums against Muslims and non-white immigrants for years. And just since the election, SPLC has collected anecdotes of some 400 incidents of hate directed against people for some aspect of their identity, be it religion, race, gender, or sexual orientation.
On November 12 in East Windsor, Connecticut, Trump acolytes gathered around a bonfire, joined by a man dressed in the white robes of the KKK, according to police. The next day, at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, anonymously authored flyers titled “Why White Women Shouldn’t Date Black Men” were distributed on campus. Two days later, the university condemned the screed—which said that black men were more likely to abuse women, give them sexually transmitted diseases and produce stupid children—and its appearance on campus. Then there was my own Election Day experience in Manhattan, when a normal-looking young man, accusing me of stepping in front of him as I walked to a cab as directed by a taxi-line dispatcher, called me a c**t and screamed he hoped Trump would win. Looks like he got his wish.