Donald Trump knows he can only get away with so much overt racism while hanging on to the presidency of the United States. Although he enjoys testing the limits, by angrily referring to Haiti and African nations as “shithole countries” with lawmakers, and gleefully dismissing COVID-19 as “Kung Flu” at a campaign rally, for example, it is not enough. Trump’s racism also involves a communications strategy of routinely signaling to white supremacists that he’s on their side.
The Trump campaign just released a T-shirt ahead of Independence Day weekend that is raising eyebrows. The fact it is red, white and blue, has a drawing of an eagle and part of an American flag and reads “America First” and “Trump 2020” may sound harmless. However, a look at the shirt’s design reveals otherwise—to the point where former CIA Director Gen. Michael Hayden tweeted, “Holy shit.”
Trump’s new America First logo eerily resembles the Nazi Eagle, with stars and stripes replacing a swastika within the circle below the eagle’s talons. Although the bald eagle is the United States’ national emblem and eagles are common symbols around the world, the Nazi Eagle template is kept alive by hate groups today, according to the Anti-Defamation League’s hate symbols database.
It was only a couple of weeks ago when Trump inserted a large inverted red triangle into a set of Facebook ads ranting about “[d]angerous MOBS of far-left groups” that are “causing absolute madness.” After a public outcry, Facebook removed the ads in violation of its anti-hate policy, citing that particular triangle as a Nazi symbol for communists and political prisoners.
It’s possible for a campaign to create a product or ad that unintentionally bears a striking resemblance to a Nazi symbol. It’s also possible that coded signs of white supremacy, such as 14 words, 88 characters, or a double-H, appear in a politician’s tweets by coincidence. It’s just not realistic to believe that such inadvertencies and flukes apply with Trump.
After years of divisive rhetoric and xenophobic policies aimed at denigrating people for the “crime” of not being white, Trump has a laughably weak claim to the benefit of the doubt. The fact that Trump considers the “Black Lives Matter” sign on New York’s Fifth Avenue to be a “symbol of hate,” as he complained this week, speaks volumes about his motives. When it comes to dog whistling, Trump is a virtuoso — and we must not pretend otherwise.