Politics of Poverty

Now is not the time to “turn on the hate”

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Steve Bannon at a Presidential campaign event. (Photo: Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Troubling appointments being made by the President-elect may pave the way for policies that sanction discrimination, hate, and abuse.

The news about political appointments and rumored appointments by the Trump transition team is updating by the minute, and many of the names being floated are troublesome. One of the first appointments – that of Steve Bannon – started what seems to be a worrying trend.

When Donald Trump announced Bannon as his choice for chief strategist and senior counselor in the White House, alarm bells sounded for many of us hoping for signs of unification, tolerance, and inclusion in the new administration.

Loud alarm bells. When Bannon became chair of Breitbart Media in 2012, he steered it to enormous popularity – by choosing to stoke fears and prejudices, and play up themes around white nationalism. In July of this year, he described it simply to a reporter: “We’re the platform for the alt-right.” Shortly thereafter, he became the campaign director for Donald Trump.

Today, he is about to become closer to the ear of the President-elect than nearly anyone. He will almost certainly play a role in shaping strategy around a number of issues that are at the heart of our concerns: status of immigrants and refugees in our country (and around the world), human right to dignified labor in a safe environment, and the future of our environment.

In the meantime, Breitbart continues to dig in its heels on dangerous rhetoric. This week, amid a surge of well-documented instances of harassment and vandalism, Breitbart published an article titled, “Wave of fake ‘hate crimes’ sweeps anti-Trump social media.” The apostrophes around hate crimes tell you all you need to know.

What will Bannon be saying to the President? Signs are clear that it won’t be unifying language. This is a man who said, in reference to Republican leaders in an email exchange: “Let the grassroots turn on the hate because that’s the ONLY thing that will make them do their duty.”

Letting this voice steer policies in the new administration may well sanction discrimination, hate, and abuse.

We have been alarmed before by some of the ideas that Trump put forward in his campaign: banning Muslims, building walls between countries, deporting millions of immigrants. Now that he will be in the Oval Office, he needs to find a way toward justice and fairness, in the effort to become the President of all of us, and to lead forward rather than backward.

In August, Bannon defended the alt-right: “Look, are there some people that are white nationalists that are attracted to some of the philosophies of the alt-right? Maybe,” he said. “Are there some people that are anti-Semitic that are attracted? Maybe. Right? Maybe some people are attracted to the alt-right that are homophobes, right? But that’s just like, there are certain elements of the progressive left and the hard left that attract certain elements.”

This is not the time to tolerate, or condone, those who espouse or give cover to white nationalism, or anti-Semitism, or homophobia: it’s a time to stand against the things that divide and vilify.

We urge President-elect Trump to withdraw his appointment of Mr. Bannon and take a clear stand against those who seek to turn on the hate.

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