President Donald Trump’s bitter, divisive public tirade over Charlottesville — in which he seemed to give cover to white supremacists who came to their protest bearing torches, guns, and Nazi and Confederate flags and spewing anti-Semitic rhetoric — has brought many in this country to a crossroads.
As tepid and equivocal as Trump’s initial “many sides” statement was, it would have been far better for him to have stuck with that than to embark on a disturbing rant Tuesday in which he said there were “many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists and the press has treated them absolutely unfairly,” drawing praise from such vile figures as former KKK wizard David Duke. Let’s be clear: There is no moral equivalency on white supremacy.
One video from Charlottesville shows a white nationalist driving his car at high speed into a crowd of counterprotesters, killing one woman and injuring 19 other people. In another, a young black man is sprawled on concrete as white thugs armed with poles brutally beat him. The images are as stomach-turning as they are intolerable.
This nation needed Trump to take a clear moral stand and he failed. In doing so, he once again poisoned his policy agenda.
The latest case in point is the president’s manufacturing council, which when formed in January boasted nearly 30 members of top corporations, including Minnesota’s own 3M, all prepared to help develop innovative strategies to bolster American manufacturing. But Trump’s unwillingness to draw a clear moral distinction between white supremacists and those who oppose them doomed that effort. The stream of exits from the council grew rapidly after his remarks, culminating Wednesday with the departures of 3M CEO Inge Thulin and Campbell Soup Co. CEO Denise Morrison.
In his statement, Thulin said he had joined the initiative because he wanted to advocate for policies that aligned with his company’s values and that encouraged investment and job growth. “Now,” he said Wednesday, “I believe the initiative is no longer an effective vehicle for 3M to advance these goals.”
Thulin went further, restating the guiding principles that have made 3M a strong corporate leader in Minnesota over the years, noting that sustainability, diversity and inclusion have been “my personal values and also fundamental to the 3M vision. … I am committed to building a company that improves lives in every corner of the world.”
Minnesotans can take pride in the ethical stand by Thulin and 3M. Within hours, the president who earlier had boasted that he had many others who would replace the departing “grandstanders,” bowed to reality and disbanded the manufacturing council and another business forum that was on the verge of collapse.
It would be better to have a president who led on the values espoused by Thulin and others. But voices are rising up across this country, from citizens, politicians and corporations, letting the world know that while Trump may be president, his is not the only voice speaking for America.