The Proud Boys, a violent far-right group, has been celebrating a remark made by Donald Trump at the first presidential debate. When asked if he condemned “white supremacists and militia groups,” Trump repeatedly sidestepped the question, eventually stating “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by…Somebody’s got to do something about antifa and the left.” Trump redirected the question to talk about leftwing violence, even though research shows the alt-right is the one with a track record of murder.
This should not come as a surprise. In 2017, after a protester was killed at a white nationalist rally organized by the Proud Boys, among others, Trump claimed there were “very fine people on both sides.” In 2019, he tweeted that four Congresswomen of color should “go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came.” After Jacob Blake was shot seven times in the back in Kenosha, Trump didn’t even mention the shooting when visiting there. Instead he condemned the protests that erupted against this police violence. The Crusader, a newspaper affiliated with the KKK, has even endorsed Trump.
All this to say, Trump has a history of white supremacist and racist attitudes and behavior. This debate is just the latest episode. He has repeatedly legitimized hate groups like the Proud Boys, whether implicitly or otherwise. And this institutional support is further encouraging and motivating the attitudes of these groups. After the debate, the far-right celebrated on social media, and the Proud Boys unveiled a new logo featuring the phrase “stand back and stand by.”
Who’s to say what these extremist groups will do next, and what they’ll be allowed to get away with? It’s clear the only way we can counter this growing right, is by organizing against racism and all such forms of hate.