Dean Heller is giving support to white supremacists. That might seem like a bold claim, particularly given Heller’s statements condemning what occurred in Charlottesville, but I stand by the assertion.
The Nevada Independent has just reported that Dean Heller voted for Donald Trump in the 2016 election, even after spending the electoral cycle distancing himself from his party’s nominee, and claiming he was “99% certain” he would not support Trump. Not only does that tell us that Heller misled his constituents, performing one of the flip-flops that have come to characterize his rather pitiful tenure. It also demonstrates that with his actions, Heller has been a consistent supporter of Trump. He voted for Trump, he backed Trump’s cabinet appointments, he voted for Trump’s plan to strip healthcare from millions of Americans, and is supporting Trump’s toxic, deregulatory agenda.
The past days have made it undeniably clear that Donald Trump is a friend to neo-Nazis and other white supremacists. Fascists gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia, chanting Nazi slogans, waving Nazi and Confederate flags, and spouting anti-Semitism. It takes deliberate delusion to pretend any longer that “taking back our country” is in the minds of the people who use the term, anything other than a racist, rhetorically genocidal attempt to destroy the social, political, and economic rights of black, Latino, Asian, Muslim, and Jewish Americans.
Trump’s response to the neo-Nazi rally in defence of a Confederate general responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Americans in his defence of a slave-based rogue state, was to say that both sides were responsible. Then, through gritted teeth, he read a teleprompter statement concluding that actually white supremacists were culpable. Today, he has returned to his original position, saying that some of the neo-Nazis who demonstrated their goals and their sympathies with Nazi slogans and salutes, were “very fine people.” In context, it is clear that Trump’s condemnatory comments were forced, and that his real sympathies are with the people who invoked his name as they terrorized the college town.
The white supremacists in question made it clear that Trump had inspired them and provided them with oxygen. They characterized themselves as carrying out his vision for the country. Trump leads the Republican Party, so his words and those of his neo-Nazi followers implicate not just the president, but also every Republican officeholder across the country.
Donald Trump’s relationship with white supremacy is not really news. His campaign was based around a clearly racist narrative of reclaiming the country. From whom, you ask? From the Muslims he wanted to ban, the African Americans he wanted to discipline in the “inner cities,” the Latinos from whom he wanted to strip rights, or his political opponents who he coyly suggested might be murdered by his supporters.
Trump has appointed a number of white supremacists and fascists to leading positions in the White House. Steve Bannon is perhaps the most notorious, but he is given a close run for his money by the KKK-sympathizing Attorney General Jeff Sessions. It was clear from day-one of his campaign that this was Trump’s base and these were the people with his ear.
But that did not stop Nevada’s Dean Heller from voting for him in November, despite suggesting to his constituents that he would do otherwise. It did not stop Dean Heller from confirming the known-racist Jeff Sessions to the cabinet. It did not stop Dean Heller from backing Trump in his legislative efforts.
Dean Heller may claim to oppose the neo-Nazis and white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville. But actions speak far louder than words, and by helping to elect and then enabling their inspiration, their voice, and their own chief enabler, he is supporting their toxic views, disgusting words, and dangerous actions. And Nevadans will remember.
We know how toxic ideologies and movements spread. It requires people accepting features of their platform, while ignoring and disclaiming responsibility for other features. It requires staying silent, or alternatively, protesting ineffectively while actively offering the kind of support that actually brings people and their ideas to power. Dean Heller, and every elected official from his party are participating in this process, this normalization.
Now that it is crystal clear where Trump stands in relation to the neo-Nazi movement in the United States, Republicans cannot credibly disentangle their support for the president from their support for fascism. Every vote they grant the president, every action they take to frustrate his critics, every contorted cable news defence they mount of his presidency, keeps him in power, sending an unmistakable signal of support to the swastika-bearing, torch-waving, ‘sieg heil’-delivering, slavery-celebrating malevolence that manifested itself in the contorted faces and words of people who are seeking to resurrect the most dangerous ideology of the twentieth century.