Now that Trump has attacked Syria, his ardent supporters are divided on what to think

Richard Spencer, the white nationalist Trump supporter, is livid about Syria.
Richard Spencer, the white nationalist Trump supporter, is livid about Syria.
Image: Reuters/Joshua Roberts
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Does President Trump deserve praise for attacking Syria? Or is he turning out to be another “cuck“?

During the president’s candidacy and through the early days of his term, many of Trump’s most vocal proponents have supported him for his perceived “anti-globalist” vision. In their view, such a vision entailed staying out of conflicts that don’t affect the US directly—a sentiment that stemmed from disillusionment with the outcome of the war in Iraq. Trump himself gave mixed messages regarding his stance on military policy, but his consistent criticism of the handling of Iraq and repeated calls to stay out of Syria during president Barack Obama’s second term led many to believe he would pursue a non-interventionist strategy in the Middle East.

The missile attack Trump authorised on Syria on Thursday (April 6), however, has disappointed many people that make up this segment of the president’s supporters. The result—members of the pro-Trump ”alt-right” are now suddenly lashing out against Trump, while others are clawing for reasons to defend Trump’s decision.

Mike Cernovich, one of the main voices of the pro-Trump alt-right, expressed disappointment about the missile strikes on Twitter to his 246,170 followers. He also went on a marathon YouTube livestream to mull over the decision with his fans.

Ann Coulter, another vocal Trump supporter best known as a voice for America’s evangelical right, also criticized Trump.

Richard Spencer, the white nationalist who won media attention for waving Nazi salutes at his pro-Trump rallies, also spoke out against the strikes. In a 20-minute YouTube video where he speaks to the camera beside a toy frog, he called the decision “a betrayal.”

It’s a betrayal of the meaning of his candidacy. He ran on “America first.” We’re not gonna do all that crap about Barack Obama, Libya, all that kind of stuff, we’re not gonna do all that disastrous wars of George W. Bush. No, it’s different, it’s america first. That was his promise, that was his message, that was the meaning of his campaign. And he absolutely betrayed it.

On Breitbart, the right-wing online media outlet once chaired by Steve Bannon, the top commenters on the article announcing the strike were no more forgiving toward Trump. One wrote tersely, “This isn’t what I voted for.”

Image for article titled Now that Trump has attacked Syria, his ardent supporters are divided on what to think

Others had a more favorable view of the attack. Scott Adams, the Dilbert creator who has lately fashioned himself into something of a Trump apologist, hailed the decision as a brilliant pre-emptive decision.

Bill Mitchell, a North Carolina talk radio host and vocal Trump supporter (who once appeared on Reddit’s The_Donald channel for an “Ask Me Anything” Q&A) also called for calm.

Adam’s and Mitchell’s comments show how easy it will be for Trump voters to rationalize continued support for him, including those who are unhappy about the strikes. They can note that Trump hasn’t yet started a war. They can argue that the swamp hasn’t been drained, and that Trump is still subject to influence from “the establishment,” in spite of his own inclinations. They can argue that Trump is merely using the strikes to “send a message”—to Assad, or Russia, or ISIS, or North Korea and other adversaries. They can even argue that the strikes finally put to rest any notion that Trump has compromising ties to Russia.

But for now, some soul searching is in order for Trump supporters who expected “America First” meant “No more wars.” And fissions that already exist in America at large and the Republican Party now seem poised to emerge within the pro-Trump camp.