Being Right: Trump Shows Us His True Colors… Again

Michael Hanratty, Staff Writer

The guardrails are off at Mar-a-Lago. Less than a month after announcing his third run for the presidency, Donald Trump hosted one of the more ill-fated meals in recent memory. Axios was the first to report that just before Thanksgiving, the former President dined with Kanye West at his Florida estate. Kanye brought a friend along, too: white supremacist Nick Fuentes, a major promoter of the 2017 neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville and the January 6 attack on the Capitol.

The mere fact of the dinner is disgraceful: no politician should countenance Kanye’s virulent anti-Semitism or Fuentes’ white supremacism. Though the two are free to say what they believe in our American system, they also must deal with the consequences of their words. That consequence should be total ostracization from the political process–not a personal audience with the only official 2024 presidential candidate.

It’s telling that during the dinner, Trump reportedly told Kanye not to run for president because he would siphon away Trump’s voters. Hillary Clinton was rightly lambasted for calling Trump supporters a “basket of deplorables” during the 2016 campaign. But for followers of West or Fuentes, the term fits. Any candidate should be deeply concerned about receiving the passionate support of self-proclaimed racists and bigots. Instead, Donald Trump actively courts them.

Though some Republicans were initially hesitant to speak out about the dinner for fear of inciting Trump’s rage, condemnation was near-universal once Kanye praised Hitler just days after. That’s not much of an accomplishment, though. Saying that Nazism has no place on the American right is, quite literally, the lowest bar possible. But to divorce Kanye’s hateful ideology from any broader narrative about Donald Trump is to be willfully ignorant about who Trump really is. Time and time again, he has shown himself to be concerned about one thing above all else: himself. As President, his actions after the 2020 election showed us that he was willing to take down the Republic with him. Now, once again a candidate, he’ll do anything for a few votes–even if it means giving voice to a rabid anti-Semite who, Trump added in a post on Truth Social, “has always been good to me.”

To use Maya Angelou’s words, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” Football coach Dennis Green put it more prosaically in an epic press conference rant: “they are who we thought they were.”

To their credit, many Republicans have accelerated their pivot away from the former president in recent days. Mitch McConnell, in his characteristically understated way, said in a press conference that anybody who would dine with West and Fuentes is “unlikely to be elected president.” Speaking out is the right thing to do. It’s the politically advantageous thing to do, too. Voters sent Republicans a clear message in the midterms: “Go sell crazy someplace else. We’re all stocked up here.” Republicans who articulated an optimistic conservative message of liberty and opportunity dominated: Governors Mike DeWine of Ohio, Brian Kemp of Georgia and Ron DeSantis of Florida each won resounding victories in competitive states. Conversely, a New York Times data analysis found that candidates who won their primaries on the strength of a Trump endorsement underperformed compared to all other Republican candidates by an average of 5 points across the board, and 7 points in competitive districts. Another Trump campaign is sure to be a spiteful, grievance-laden affair. Voters won’t buy it. For Republicans to nominate him again would be a unique combination of dumb and just plain wrong.

Successful Republican leaders have shown time and time again that it is possible to excise the most odious elements of the American right from the conservative movement. Ronald Reagan told the hateful John Birch Society that they had no home in his GOP. George W. Bush’s “compassionate conservatism” stood strongly against the seedy populism that Pat Buchanan had re-introduced during the 1990s. A clean break with Kanye, Fuentes and anybody willing to listen to them is possible, and after the developments of the past few weeks, it’s sorely needed. Republicans need to stand together and deliver a clear message: ours is an inclusive party fighting for every single American. It’s a message that Donald Trump can’t–and won’t–deliver.