Violent right-wing extremists are more emboldened than ever by hateful rhetoric from Trump and Republicans.
Hate crimes are sharply on the rise in the Trump era, according to new data from the FBI. That makes it all the more worrisome that Trump and the Republican Party embraced an openly anti-Semitic message in a desperate last-minute bid to win midterm elections.
Trump's hateful influence on America started with his high-profile, virulently racist 2015 campaign for president. Between 2015 and 2016, the FBI found a 6 percent increase in hate crimes reported to law enforcement agencies around the country.
But it's gotten a lot worse since Trump took office. According to the FBI's latest data, the number of hate crimes reported increased by another 17 percent from 2016 to 2017, rising from 6,093 to 8,437.
Of these, 1,679 hate crimes were anti-religious. 58.1 percent were anti-Semitic, and 18.7 percent were anti-Muslim.
The numbers on anti-Semitism are especially troubling given the horrific synagogue shooting that killed 11 Jews in Pittsburgh last month, and given the hateful messaging that Trump and Republicans engaged in during the 2018 midterm election cycle.
Republicans and the conservative movement have long made a boogeyman out of George Soros, a philanthropist and Holocaust survivor. Soros, who is Jewish, has donated heavily to progressive and pro-Democratic causes.
But during the 2018 campaign, the Republican Party turned its anti-Semitic dog whistle about Soros into a bullhorn. The party's official campaign committee ran numerous anti-Soros ads, some of which invoked ancient, hateful stereotypes about Jewish people by depicting Soros sitting behind piles of money.
Soros, along with about a dozen other prominent Democrats, were targeted with pipe bombs sent to them in the mail by a fervent Trump supporter. The would-be serial bomber had made online postings ranting about Soros, furthering the same tropes pushed by the right for years.
And shortly before his murderous rampage, the Pittsburgh synagogue shooter tweeted anti-Semitic conspiracy theories that echoed those pushed by Trump and some congressional Republicans.
Trump himself has embraced anti-Semitic ideas, language, and positions ever since he became involved in politics. His campaign granted press access to anti-Semitic outlets, and he was praised by former Ku Klux Klan grand wizard David Duke.
And during his presidency, Trump has repeatedly sided with violent extremists.
Not only did Trump infamously call violent neo-Nazis "very fine people" after they murdered Heather Heyer in Charlottesville, he also decided to cut funding for the Violent Extremism Grant Program that begun under President Obama.
Instead of putting violent right-wing extremists on notice and on the run, the move sent another signal to these groups that Trump would allow them to flourish.
For years, conservatives have complained about government efforts to counter right-wing extremism. Most notably, the Obama administration was attacked for a Department of Homeland Security report on recruitment efforts by far-right groups.
Now, with Trump in the White House, those convicted of hate crimes are actually citing Trump's words as a defense. Three men convicted of a plot to bomb Muslims in Kansas filed a sentencing memorandum referencing "the rhetorical China shop bull who is now our president."
Trump called to ban Muslims from traveling to the United States, and tried to make it official U.S. policy soon after he was first sworn in.
The FBI's new hate crimes report reveals that Americans are under attack for no reason other than their race, gender, orientation, or religious beliefs.
Instead of being leaders who will protect all Americans, Trump and the Republicans are fostering hate in a desperate attempt to hold on to political power.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.