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Monday, December 09, 2019 {{ new Date().getDay() }}

Reprinted with permission from MediaMatters.

President Donald Trump’s comments about the Civil War in a recent interview, in which he diminished the impact of slavery ahead of the war and praised former President Andrew Jackson, echo sentiments of white nationalist media and signify yet another instance of intermingling between Trump and his nativist fans.

During a May 1 interview with the Washington Examiner, Trump claimed that “had Andrew Jackson been a little later you wouldn’t have had the Civil War,” adding that Jackson “was a very tough person but he had a big heart. He was really angry that he saw with regard to the Civil War.” Trump went on to say, “People don’t ask that question, but why was there the Civil War? Why could that one not have been worked out?”

As Jamelle Bouie, then of The American Prospect wrote, “Civil War historians disagree on many things, but there is a general consensus surrounding the reasons for the war, and slavery is at the top of the list.” Tony Horowitz of The Atlantic stated, “The Civil War today is generally seen as a necessary and ennobling sacrifice, redeemed by the liberation of four million slaves.” And, as noted by Ta-Nehisi Coates, the Civil War “ended slavery, and birthed both modern American, and modern black America.”

Trump’s remarks were largely panned for being “puzzling” and “fact-free.” But as historians warned would happen, white nationalist media figures praised his comments, saying that Trump was “right about the UnCivil War” and that “none of the modern wars have advanced the White race and our shared civilization.”

By questioning the cause of the Civil War, Trump was blowing a dog whistle to white nationalist media figures and neo-Confederates, tacitly supporting the revisionist history they promote. The white nationalist website VDare, for example, has claimed that the idea that the Civil War was meant to “preserve the Union and free the slaves” is a “lie.” White nationalists have also attempted to dismiss the traumas of slavery, writing that it “wasn’t as bad as you were taught.” So when Trump suggested that the war could have been avoided or that the cause was unknown, he was echoing the sentiments of white nationalists by diminishing the impact slavery had in the United States.

Additionally, Trump’s repeated praise for Jackson has drawn support of white nationalist media figures who are similarly drawn to Jackson. White nationalist websites like The Daily Stormer have praised Jackson for kicking Native Americans off their land, writing, “They were killing kids, raping and killing women – it was a horrorshow (sic) with these tree-monkeys (sic).” The white nationalist website Infostormer called Jackson “a legitimate bad ass,” writing, “He fought in duels, won the Battle of New Orleans and abolished the Second Bank of the United States,” which Jackson had said was an elitist institution that lacked proper oversight.

When Trump praises Jackson, white nationalists take note. After Trump hung a portrait of the late president in the Oval Office, Infostormer said it was “great news” because “there is a good chance Trump plans on shaping his presidency to be in the same vein as Jackson[’s].” When Trump visited Jackson’s tomb, Infostormer lauded Trump for “recognizing the greatness that was Andrew Jackson.”

Trump has had a long history of interacting with white nationalist media figures. His latest comments are yet another wink and nod to his nativist supporters.

Graphic by Dayanita Ramesh

Trump speaking at Londonderry, NH rally

Screenshot from YouTube

Donald Trump once again baselessly claimed on Sunday that the COVID-19 pandemic was "going to be over" soon, just hours after his chief of staff suggested the administration was unable to get it under control.

"Now we have the best tests, and we are coming around, we're rounding the turn," Trump said at a campaign rally in Manchester, New Hampshire. "We have the vaccines, we have everything. We're rounding the turn. Even without the vaccines, we're rounding the turn, it's going to be over."

Trump has made similar claims on repeated occasions in the past, stating early on in the pandemic that the coronavirus would go away on its own, then with the return of warmer weather.

That has not happened: Over the past several weeks, multiple states have seen a surge in cases of COVID-19, with some places, including Utah, Texas, and Wisconsin, setting up overflow hospital units to accommodate the rapidly growing number of patients.

Hours earlier on Sunday, White House chief of staff Mark Meadows appeared to contradict Trump, telling CNN that there was no point in trying to curb the spread of the coronavirus because it was, for all intents and purposes, out of their control.

"We are not going to control the pandemic. We are going to control the fact that we get vaccines, therapeutics and other mitigation areas," he said. "Because it is a contagious virus, just like the flu."

Meadows doubled own on Monday, telling reporters, "We're going to defeat the virus; we're not going to control it."

"We will try to contain it as best we can, but if you look at the full context of what I was talking about, we need to make sure that we have therapeutics and vaccines, we may need to make sure that when people get sick, that, that they have the kind of therapies that the president of the United States had," he added.Public health experts, including those in Trump's own administration, have made it clear that there are two major things that could curb the pandemic's spread: mask wearing and social distancing.

But Trump has repeatedly undermined both, expressing doubt about the efficacy of masks and repeatedly ignoring social distancing and other safety rules — even when doing so violated local and state laws.

Trump, who recently recovered from COVID-19 himself, openly mocked a reporter on Friday for wearing a mask at the White House — which continues to be a hotspot for the virus and which was the location of a superspreader event late last month that led to dozens of cases. "He's got a mask on that's the largest mask I think I've ever seen. So I don't know if you can hear him," Trump said as his maskless staff laughed alongside him.

At the Manchester rally on Sunday, Trump also bragged of "unbelievable" crowd sizes at his mass campaign events. "There are thousands of people there," he claimed, before bashing former Vice President Joe Biden for holding socially distant campaign events that followed COVID safety protocols.

"They had 42 people," he said of a recent Biden campaign event featuring former President Barack Obama. "He drew flies, did you ever hear the expression?"

Last Monday, Rep. Francis Rooney (R-FL) endorsed Biden's approach to the pandemic as better than Trump's, without "any doubt."

"The more we go down the road resisting masks and distance and tracing and the things that the scientists are telling us, I think the more concerned I get about our management of the COVID situation," he told CNN.

In his final debate against Biden last Thursday, Trump was asked what his plan was to end the pandemic. His answer made it clear that, aside from waiting for a vaccine, he does not have one.

"There is a spike, there was a spike in Florida and it's now gone. There was a very big spike in Texas — it's now gone. There was a spike in Arizona, it is now gone. There are spikes and surges in other places — they will soon be gone," he boasted. "We have a vaccine that is ready and it will be announced within weeks and it's going to be delivered. We have Operation Warp Speed, which is the military is going to distribute the vaccine."

Experts have said a safe vaccine will likely not be ready until the end of the year at the earliest, and that most people will not be able to be vaccinated until next year.

Trump also bragged Sunday that he had been "congratulated by the heads of many countries on what we have been able to do," without laying out any other strategy for going forward.

Nationally, new cases set a single-day record this weekend, with roughly 84,000 people testing positive each day. More than 8.5 million Americans have now contracted the virus and about 225,000 have died.

Trump, by contrast, tweeted on Monday that he has "made tremendous progress" with the virus, while suggesting that it should be illegal for the media to report on it before the election.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.