By now everybody knows the bigly favor President Trump did the Alt-Right this week.
On Tuesday, like a bad parent defending his skinhead bully kid in the principal’s office, Trump insisted the deadly mayhem that torch-carrying white supremacists wrought in Charlottesville, Virginia, over the weekend wasn’t all their fault.
Some of the racists were "very fine people," he asserted – adding that the anti-racist protesters he called "Alt-Left" were also to blame. Then, in closing, he suggested Stonewall Jackson was a great American hero.
But what’s gotten lost in all the shouting on both sides, many sides, all sides (did we leave any sides out, Mr. President?) is that Trump also did a yuuuuge favor for the Alt-Left.
Not the Alt-Left Trump made up on Tuesday. Not the Antifa (anti-fascist) activists (some of whom admittedly don’t help their cause by wielding clubs). I’m referring to the real Alt-Left – the Alt-Left that’s just as brutal and ideologically warped as the Alt-Right. The Alt-Left that’s just as devoted to evil icons like Stalin as the Alt-Right is to evil icons like Hitler.
I’m talking, damas y caballeros, about the authoritarian socialist regime in Venezuela. Last Friday, Trump dropped a red-ribboned gift on the lap of Venezuela’s loony-left government when he said the U.S. is considering “a military option” to overthrow it. It was as dimwitted a declaration as his remarks about Charlottesville were – and, for Venezuelans, just as dangerous.
That’s because it was a propaganda coup for Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro and his own, Alt-Left thugs.
The mere suggestion of returning to America’s sordid history of military interventionism in Latin America sets off air raid sirens from Tijuana to Tierra del Fuego. That's why all the Latin American nations that recently sided with Washington against Venezuela’s increasingly tyrannous leadership are now running away from the U.S. faster than corporate CEOs abandon Trump presidential panels.
Result: Trump’s lamebrain gringo sword-rattling might as well have been a Fedex shipment of political Viagra addressed to Maduro – who's now using fears of a yanqui invasion to shore up his shrinking base and the support of his armed forces.
That in turn has put the safety of my friends and colleagues in Venezuela at serious risk.
What Trump, unbelievably, doesn't get is that Maduro’s jaded and reviled regime, which has engineered the worst economic collapse in modern Latin American history, is in desperate police state mode right now. It’s looking for any justification, no matter how lame, to punish anyone it deems a political opponent. In delusional Alt-Left-speak, “opponent” means a criminal accessory to Washington’s plot to overthrow Venezuela’s divinely anointed socialist revolution.
On Monday Maduro co-opted Trump’s remarks as a reason to call for military drills in Venezuela this month. And – as he often does when he thinks he can exploit the threat of U.S. imperialismo to deflect attention away from his catastrophic rule – he’s trotting out the revolution’s citizen militias for street exercises.
All of which may well then be a dog-whistle call to the regime’s genuinely menacing enforcers – the pro-government street goons known as colectivos – to break more heads.
The colectivos are a genuine Alt-Left version of the neo-Nazis and Klansmen who marauded through Charlottesville. Their trademark is the motorcycles from which they've commited drive-by shootings of protesters in barrios like Catia, a Caracas slum where I was once a teacher and still have friends.
Catia was once considered the cradle of the revolution. But this year it’s been the scene of one colectivo killing after another – including that of an elderly woman last month – as the regime tries to terrorize residents into remaining loyal socialistas. Over the weekend I spoke with one opposition leader in Catia who told me he felt nauseous when he heard of Trump’s off-the-cuff statement last Friday about possibly siccing the Marines on Venezuela.
“He’s put an even bigger target on our backs now,” he told me.
And that’s the really appalling thing about Trump’s really appalling week. He’s managed not only to embolden democracy’s enemies on the Third Reich right but throw a lifeline to its enemies on the Leninist left as well. That takes some bigly yuuuuge doing.