Two of the top Republican Party leaders flaunted their devotion to white supremacist ideology and stoked white angst and hate around the anniversary of a racist massacre that occurred just one year ago.
Many in the country, including President Joe Biden, took some time this weekend to recognize and honor the 10 Black people murdered by a white supremacist shooter in Buffalo last May. The shooter, who was sentenced to life in prison earlier this year, reportedly published an online document that aligned with Christian nationalist extremism. But Donald Trump and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, likely foes in the upcoming GOP presidential primary, chose to ignore the anniversary.
Instead, DeSantis spent his Friday night promoting a fundraiser for Daniel Penny, who was recently recorded on video choking a young man named Jordan Neely to death. In a post boosting the fundraiser for Penny’s legal defense, DeSantis invoked an antisemitic talking point he’s used in the past, denouncing “George Soros-funded” prosecutors (an antisemitic trope) and “pro-criminal” liberals. In contrast, DeSantis referred to Penny as a “good Samaritan,” a biblical term normally reserved for people who engage in acts of kindness and goodwill.
Trump, meanwhile, participated remotely in a Christian nationalist "ReAwaken America Tour" event happening in Florida. Trump’s participation followed Rachel Maddow’s reporting last week that multiple people scheduled to speak had expressed racist and antisemitic views. (Two of the people she called out were pulled from the weekend’s lineup, but are still associated with the broader ReAwaken tour).
Trump called the conference on Saturday and spoke with Michael Flynn, his former national security adviser and the Christian nationalist founder of ReAwaken America. More recently, Flynn has become infamous for associating with racist extremists and spouting racist views. During the call, Trump vowed to make Flynn part of his administration if Trump wins the GOP presidential nomination.
We shouldn’t understate the power of this messaging. Neither Trump nor DeSantis issued a statement acknowledging the Buffalo massacre; it's clear these GOP leaders have hitched their wagons to a different demographic. And the quest for extremist adoration is a race to the bottom.