Trump's problematic response to the deadly events in Charlottesville has given Nazis and white supremacists like David Duke explicit reason to celebrate, tweet, and feel vindicated. Today Trump used his own Twitter to position himself even deeper in the alt-right's ecosystem by defending Confederate statues and bemoaning the "culture of our great country being ripped apart" by their removal. Meanwhile, his attorney made headlines for forwarding an email which praised Robert E. Lee, vilified the Black Lives Matter movement, and generally contained secessionist (i.e. Southern independence and Confederate culture) rhetoric.
Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments. You.....— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
...can't change history, but you can learn from it. Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish! Also...— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) August 17, 2017
Trump saying he was "sad" to see Confederate monuments being removed, as was the case in Baltimore overnight last night, continues to put pressure on mainstream Republicans, who can no longer hide from the explicit ease with which Trump has equivocated the racial hatred that spurred last weekend's events with the relative minority of counter-demonstrators by calling it violence on "both sides." There is no longer a broad conservative legislative agenda to take shelter under; now they are unmistakably standing under the shade of a white nationalist enabler.
Last summer Candidate Trump said that he believed Black Lives Matter had instigated the killing of cops; in the time since his election, the movement has faced even more political pressure. That his attorney James Dowd forwarded an email which decried the Black Lives Matter movement as "totally infiltrated by terrorist groups" is the latest link in a chain that leads from the Oval Office to the alt-right's racist den.
The latest polls have Trump's approval at around 33%, an historic low. But while 55% of Americans disapprove of Trump's handling of Charlottesville, nearly two-thirds of Republicans said they approved of Trump's response. The Republican party has some existential questions to ask itself about supporting a President this rhetorically cozy with members of the KKK, but while the poll numbers look like this, the answers may just be more of the same.