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After last weekend's horrific violence in Charlottesville, civilized people of all political stripes joined in unison to condemn the cowardly attack.

But the President of the United States couldn't find the courage to condemn terrorism committed in the name of white supremacy.

By Monday morning, Trump's defenders were ready with their talking point: The Nazis aren't so bad; we should worry about a group named Antifa.

Named and patterned after a loose organization of resistance fighters in Nazi Germany, the 21st Century American version of Antifa has sprung up in a number of cities. The largest is Rose City Antifa in Portland, Oregon. The group's name is an abbreviation for "anti-fascist", and their website proclaims, "We oppose fascism by any means necessary."

Long a fringe group, Antifa has been empowered by the election of Donald Trump.

According to NYC Antifa, the group’s Twitter following nearly quadrupled in the first three weeks of January alone. (By summer, it exceeded 15,000.) Trump’s rise has also bred a new sympathy for antifa among some on the mainstream left. "Suddenly," noted the antifa-aligned journal It’s Going Down, "anarchists and antifa, who have been demonized and sidelined by the wider Left have been hearing from liberals and Leftists, 'you’ve been right all along.’'"

The group gained a measure of notoriety in June, after James Hodgkinson fired shots at a group of Republican Congress members who were preparing for a baseball game. Conservative pundits claimed the attack was part of a growing trend of violence by left-wing groups.

People on the right have also condemned attacks by the Antifa (anti-fascist) movement and black bloc activists, including one in February at the University of California, Berkeley. In that case, masked protesters on the political left set fires and smashed windows, and one pepper-sprayed a Trump supporter as she spoke with a reporter.

Also in June the group's Portland branch was involved in an altercation in Chapman Square, when Antifa protestors used slingshots to fling balloons filled with urine and feces at police officers who were on hand to prevent violence from escalating. These guys have the mentality of baboons.

The major difference between Antifa and the alt-right is that the alt-right's purpose is to divide people based on the color of their skin. Antifa's purpose is to oppose fascism. One group is rooted in ideology, and the other in racism.

Antifa is also a smaller and less violent group than white supremacists.

"The far left is very active in the United States, but it hasn't been particularly violent for some time," says Mark Pitcavage, a senior research fellow at the Anti-Defamation League's Center on Extremism.

He says the numbers between the groups don't compare.

"In the past 10 years when you look at murders committed by domestic extremists in the United States of all types, right-wing extremists are responsible for about 74 percent of those murders," Pitcavage says.

Still, that means more than a fourth of all politically-motivated murders are committed by left-wing extremists. And all of the violence has only hurt their cause.

“It just makes [antifa] feel good—they think they made a point,” the ADL’s Pitcavage said. “But their tactics are counterproductive. They haven’t made any dent over the years with those tactics. … And it gives the white supremacists an unbelievable amount of publicity.”

Conservative critics are right to condemn Antifa. Violence as a political tactic has no place in a democracy. At the same time, anyone who can condemn Antifa should also be able to condemn the much more violent—and much more detrimental to a healthy democracy—neo-Nazis and white supremacists, especially after this weekend's terrorism in Charlottesville. Most conservatives understand this. But when Donald Trump is unable to condemn Saturday's act of terrorism except in language praised by white supremacists, he is broadcasting his loyalties for all to see. The president's failure to condemn Nazi violence has only made a dangerous group even more dangerous.

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