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Op-Ed: Trump’s endorsements show he appeals to extremists

Donald Trump, the Republican front runner who is sweeping all before him in Iowa and New Hampshire, won a high profile endorsement recently. Jerry Falwell Jr, president of the conservative Christian college Liberty University, formally endorsed Trump for president following Trump’s address to the school. Falwell said Trump reminded him of his late father, the famous televangelist.

Jerry Falwell Sr was the man who claimed the purple Teletubby was a gay role model. In the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, Falwell told fellow televangelist Pat Robertson that “pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU” had helped the attacks happen and added that the attacks were “probably” deserved.

If the son of Jerry Falwell sees his father in Donald Trump, that should worry mainstream voters. It should also be a problem for the Republican establishment. Falwell, like Trump, was at the extreme edge of conservative politics. While many Americans strongly cheered Falwell’s hateful invective, no-one with his views could ever win a national election. That fact should give Trump pause.

The questionable endorsements don’t stop with Falwell. Self-styled white nationalists have been actively campaigning for Trump. The American Freedom Party has made 200,000 robocalls in Iowa calling on voters to back Trump. The calls specifically say “we don’t need Muslims,” echoing Trump’s call to ban Muslim immigrants.

David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has said Trump is more radical than he is. Duke is a well-known white supremacist who has dabbled in presidential politics in the past. He believes Trump is “head and shoulders” above the other candidates.

Trump hasn’t helped his perception as friendly to white supremacists. He has re-tweeted an account called White Genocide, associated himself with the conspiracy theorists at InfoWars, whose founder, Alex Jones, believes 9/11 was a conspiracy and many school shootings were false flag operations.

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A loose coalition of reactionaries, white nationalists, conspiracy theorists, racists and religious bigots has coalesced behind Donald Trump. Trump isn’t leading the Republican pack because of them. He enjoys much wider support thanks to his populism and opportunistic conservatism. But the enthusiastic support Trump receives from the extreme fringes of society is deeply troubling.

Anyone considering voting for Trump, even deeply conservative Republicans, must consider the excitement he’s causing among extremists, many of whom hold views completely at odds with most conservatives. Can American patriots accept a candidate endorsed by those who deny 9/11 or claim it was deserved? Can hard-working conservatives support a man with white supremacist approval?

The Iowa caucus is days away and Trump is poised to win. Every Trump victory encourages the lunatic fringe of the American right and Trump seems happy to go along with it.

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