Conservatives Defend Trump Over KKK Dodge

Mark Cornelison/ZUMA

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Last Sunday, Donald Trump declined to disavow David Duke, a white supremacist and former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan who asked his supporters to back Trump for president. The next day, Trump blamed his response on a bad earpiece garbling the question. It wasn’t until Thursday morning that he finally came around to condemning Duke. By then, the media and Trump’s GOP rivals had spent five days attacking Trump over the issue and hand-wringing about the state of the Republican Party. “So is this how the party of Abraham Lincoln dies?” asked Joe Scarborough, the conservative co-host of MSNBC’s Morning Joe.

But the fact that it took Trump days to condemn a white supremacist didn’t faze many Republican voters at the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual conservative gathering just outside of Washington, DC.

“Ridiculous,” said Sharon Begosh, 54, of Maryland, when asked about the furor over Trump’s response to the David Duke question last week. She’s pretty sure Trump didn’t hear the question correctly. “There’s not a racist bone in his body,” she said.

Begosh, who is supporting Cruz, said the Duke controversy is an example of people playing the “race card” when they have nothing else on their political opponents.

“The Ku Klux Klan won’t rise again,” said Grace Hagerty, 83, of Virginia, who voted for Trump on Super Tuesday.

While pundits have pointed to Trump’s KKK dodge as evidence that the Republican front-runner is riling up racist elements in the party, CPAC attendees saw it differently. One of the most common responses to questions about the Duke issue was that politicians simply are not responsible for who their supporters are or what they believe.

“I don’t think you can control who your supporters are,” said Nestor Riano, 53, of Minnesota.

Brian Bledsoe, 35, of Texas echoed that sentiment. “Can’t blame the candidate about who’s supporting him,” he said.

 

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SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

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