I don’t know whether the Trump campaign needed to give a platform to white supremacists to win. But the campaign clearly did, and it had the effect of empowering the white-nationalist movement.
Trump provided a platform by retweeting white nationalists — giving their views an audience of millions. Views previously relegated to the darkest corners of the Internet also had a platform on Breitbart, the website of Trump campaign chief executive Stephen K. Bannon. “Before Trump, our identity ideas, national ideas, they had no place to go,” said Richard Spencer, president of a white-nationalist think tank that held a post-election conference in Washington. Former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke said this fall, “The fact that Donald Trump’s doing so well, it proves that I’m winning.”
At Harvard, some on the Trump team crowed that we in the Clinton campaign and those in the press were foolish because we took Trump’s words “literally.” That’s right. We did. You should take a candidate for president’s words literally. You know who else took his words literally? White supremacists. The white supremacists who lauded Trump with cries of “Hail, Trump!” Duke, who expressed confidence that Trump’s decision to make Bannon his chief strategist meant Duke’s ideology would have a prominent place in the West Wing. The students who mocked Hispanic athletes with chants of “build that wall.” The man in New York City who threatened the off-duty female Muslim police officer last weekend…
If we are not to take Trump’s words literally, he needs to explain what he does mean. The Trump team likes to tell Clinton supporters “hashtag ‘he’s your president.’ ” But this isn’t a one-way street. If Trump expects the Americans who did not vote for him to accept him as president, he needs to show that he accepts all of them as Americans. He needs to show that he understands their concerns and hears their fears.