Trump Fails Basic Leadership Test

by Michael K. Fauntroy

President Donald Trump has failed yet another basic test of presidential leadership. His statement in the aftermath of domestic terrorism committed by white supremacists was weak, fueled by hypocrisy and craven political calculus. He sidestepped an opportunity to show that he was the President for all Americans, choosing to throw rhetorical cotton balls at the domestic terrorist who committed this act and the many like-minded people who were on the scene.

For a presidential candidate who repeatedly criticized President Obama for not using the phrase “radical Islamic terrorism,” it is ironic that President Trump cannot bring himself to specifically call out the alt-right, white supremacist, neo-confederate, and Ku Klux Klan types who have perpetrated the hysteria and hatred in the country that led to the attack. He weakly assigned blame to “many sides,” effectively providing a false equivalency to the victimizers and the victims. To be fair, President Trump is not eloquent or reflective, so perhaps it is unrealistic to expect him to rise to this important occasion.

Those of us who provide political commentary and analysis sometimes try to find nuance and not rely upon the first available explanation. I get that; I’ve certainly done it. But sometimes, things are what they immediately appear to be. That’s where we are with Charlottesville. It was a racist attack encouraged by backward, ignorant, and conspiracy-minded people. Our President, who courted these same people to help Make America Great Again, is not going to bite the hand that fed him the presidency. His only chance for reelection requires keeping together a coalition of rogues, racists, and others who want an America that no longer exists.

So where does all this leave us? In the absence of strong, clear, and sincere leadership, we are left with a deep void at this important time. President Trump, having decided to continue to cast his lot with those who want an America that reflects a bygone era in which the confederacy reigned and Black people had no rights, has demonstrated an unwillingness and inability to fill this void.

President Trump and his supporters are hypersensitive to the notion that white supremacists lie at the core of his base. But he and his supporters must now own the fact that they made it easier for white supremacy, and all its evil, to flourish.


Michael K. Fauntroy is associate professor of political science, associate chair, and director of graduate studies at Howard University. He has written extensively on race and politics. His next book, More than Just Partisanship: Conservatism and Black Voter Suppression, will be published next year by New York University Press. He blogs at

Posted by Michael Fauntroy on Saturday, August 12, 2017
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