First, the photo, and my commentary about it on Twitter:
When grandma is perfectly cool letting a Nazi salute fly outside a GOP candidate's event, we've got some problems. pic.twitter.com/ESlVLUr7A3
— John Scalzi (@scalzi) March 12, 2016
(Here’s a direct link to the photo on the Chicago Tribune site if for some reason you can’t see it.)
The problem with that photo is not that someone is giving the Nazi salute at a Trump rally. Neither Trump nor any of the other presidential candidates can be accountable for the actions of a single person at one of their events. The problem with the photo is at this point no one is surprised that someone is giving the Nazi salute at a Trump rally. And this is something that Trump can be held responsible for: That his own positions and actions have made an environment where someone feels letting rip with a Nazi salute is a perfectly okay thing to do.
Which is not to say that the right (and the GOP specifically) wants to own this. One of the first things the trolls* did on Twitter is try to suggest the woman in the photo (identified by name and city of residence by the Chicago Tribune, as one does as a matter of standard journalistic practice) was a supporter of Bernie Sanders named Portia Boulger, thanks to a photo showing Ms. Boulger with roughly the same hair as the woman in the photo — apparently to these folks, all older, gray-haired women look the same. Sadly for them, Portia Boulger’s current haircut is shorter and she can account for her whereabouts last night. But this doesn’t stop folks on the right looking for someone, anyone, else to blame.
Well, no. Sorry, guys, but the right spent decades blowing dog whistles. Now that you’ve got a candidate who has graduated from a dog whistle to a bull horn, you shouldn’t be surprised when some of his supporters decide that thank God it’s time to stop being politically correct and fling out fascistic symbolism in this new, accepting environment. Disavowal is difficult when the difference between Trump’s tactics and the ones the right has been using for numerous election cycles is in degree, not kind. You get to own this one. Enjoy it.
(*It appears that one of the first trolls to do this, winning a retweet from Donald Trump, Jr., was Vox Day, noted eater of crayons. If the Trump folks really want to put some daylight between themselves and the forces of willfully incompetent bigotry, this is a poor way to do it. It also reaffirms that if you’re really determined to make an ass of yourself in public, associating yourself with Vox Day is a very fine way to make that happen.)