Note: It appears that the Trump Campaign has repudiated the KKK endorsement. Go here.
To what extent are political candidates responsible for the actions and beliefs of organizations that endorse them?
That question is pertinent to today’s political discussions because that old bugaboo of America’s nightmares, the Ku Klux Klan, has not only endorsed President Elect Trump, it evidently plans to hold a victory parade celebrating his win. Given that the KKK is not just any organization, but a group that carried out organized terror tactics, including lynchings and murder by other means, in a large swath of the country for generations, this is more than disturbing to any thinking American.
I don’t think anyone would be taking this so seriously if President Elect Trump had run a different kind of campaign. He engaged in race-baiting, female-baiting and over-the-top hate rhetoric throughout his campaign. We have all heard the tape of him bragging about committing sexual assault and we’ve all seen the testimony of a number of women saying he did this to them. President Elect Trump is not a nice man. His rhetoric and behavior are adequate testimony to that.
That fuels the reaction to the KKK’s enthusiastic endorsement of President Elect Trump. It raises the question in a lot of minds as to whether or not the KKK is correct in their assessment of what is going to happen to our country under his governance. It also provides those who oppose President Elect Trump with another way to attack him.
But the truth is that all sorts of organizations and people endorse political candidates, each for their own reasons. If the candidate seeks the endorsement of a group, then it’s fair to say that the candidate at least has some affinity with that group’s goals and purposes. Even then, it would be a mistake to say that the candidate absolutely agrees with that organization’s goals and purposes and will allow him or herself to be dictated by them.
I have not seen anything which indicates that President Elect Trump actively sought the endorsement of the KKK. He has not repudiated it, which, given the horror that this organization’s history raises in the minds of so many Americans, is a mistake.
Elected officials do not repudiate every errant endorsement they receive. It’s bad business to insult people when you don’t have to, and it would also be exhausting to list all the things you are not for. It’s usually better to just proceed with your job and let your work speak for itself. That may well be what President Elect Trump intends to do about the KKK.
However, the KKK is different from other organizations. It symbolizes America’s darkest failure as a democracy. It speaks of a time when a self-styled terrorist organization committed vigilante executions and other terror tactics at will, with no response from law enforcement. In fact, members of law enforcement frequently held membership in this organization.
For that reason, I think that it would be wise for President Elect Trump to disavow the KKK’s endorsement. The North Carolina GOP has already done so. The KKK is not like other organizations. It is America’s nightmare. It is especially important to repudiate the KKK given the kinds of policies our president elect has espoused and the campaign he ran to get elected.
However, even if he does not repudiate it, the KKK’s endorsement does not mean that President Elect Trump agrees with their beliefs. So far as I know, he did not seek their endorsement. He simply has not repudiated it.
In this case, I am going to do what people keep telling me I should do. I am going to wait a see if we witness a return to vigilante terrorism under the guise of the KKK in this country. A march to celebrate the election results is not a lynching. On the other hand, a march to celebrate election results by people who advocate lynchings is a chilling message.
I’m going to say it again: President Trump should repudiate his endorsement from the KKK. But even if he doesn’t, it would be a mistake at this point to assume that he will, as president, support a return to their brand of vigilante terrorism.