From the Long Overdue News Department, today’s reminder that Donald Trump, who campaigned on using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” has to this day still never publicly uttered the phrase "far-right radical terrorism" or anything like it:
A group of Democratic senators, including three 2020 presidential candidates, on Thursday called for the FBI to rescind a recent change to the way it classifies domestic terrorist incidents, arguing that the move plays down the threat of white supremacy. [...]
In the letter, the senators said the FBI has created a new category — “racially-motivated violent extremism” — that “inappropriately” combines white-supremacist incidents with those involving “Black identity extremists.”
The letter is welcome recognition that the rise of white nationalism, and its accompanying tide of hateful violence, is an issue of presidential-level concern, and may well become a focus of campaign 2020 rhetoric.
For the past three years, hate crimes have soared to record levels—and even so, it is certain that the numbers reported are severely undercounted. The Anti-Defamation League also recorded a dramatic increase in propaganda incidents involving white nationalists, particularly as they have focused much of their efforts into recruiting on college campuses.
The tide is cresting. The Southern Poverty Law Center recently reported that it had recorded an all-time high in numbers of hate groups operating in America, 1,020, much of it attributable to the apparent toxic influence of Donald Trump, to whom white nationalists have been pledging allegiance since well before the election.
Trump has minimized their presence. After the Christchurch attacks, he opined to the press that he didn’t see white nationalism as a “rising threat” globally: “I don’t really, I think it’s a small group of people that have very, very serious problems.”
The senators who signed the letter were Sens. Cory Booker of New Jersey, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, and Kamala D. Harris of California, all 2020 candidates, as well as Sens. Richard J. Durbin of Illinois, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Christopher A. Coons of Delaware, and Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut.
The senators’ letter explicitly disagrees: “It is clear that white supremacists are the most significant domestic terrorism threat facing our nation today,” it says.
It goes on: “Our concerns that the Trump administration is not taking this threat as seriously as it should be. At this briefing, DOJ and FBI officials made a stunning admission: the Trump administration has shifted its approach to tracking domestic terrorism incidents to obfuscate the white supremacist threat.”
Specifically, the senators point to the internal decision within the Department of Homeland Security to “streamline” its intelligence operations by folding its right-wing domestic terror unit into its larger analysis operation.
They have some specific questions for Attorney General Barr and FBI Director Wray to answer:
- What specific steps, if any, have you ordered DOJ and the FBI to take to respond to the threat of white supremacist violence?
- How are the DOJ and FBI currently allocating counterterrorism resources to address this threat?
- How do you justify the change in tracking domestic terrorism incidents?
- Will you rescind this change and return to the long-standing practice of tracking white supremacist violence as a separate category of domestic terrorism incidents?
Considering that right-wing domestic terrorism is currently cresting to new highs, and not showing any sign of receding—thanks in no small part to Trump’s apparent embrace of the tactics of scripted violence, in which he names specific targets of hatred and then his followers terrorize those targets—the emphasis by Democrats on the problem is sorely needed, since it is abundantly clear that not only are Republicans eager to deny the problem, they’re eager to benefit from the outcomes.
Regardless of the predictable obstruction, the public well-being demands a serious approach to the problem. The fact that only Democrats are willing to assume that mantle actually gives us a glimpse into the dark, foul, and festering soul of the Republican Party.
This is why it remains a fact, as I explored a bit in 2017, and the St. Louis Post-Dispatch first observed: Foremost among the words you will never hear from Donald Trump’s mouth are “radical right-wing terrorism.”
Republished with permission from Daily Kos