This morning Liz Cheney Tweeted, “The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism. History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOPleaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.” She’s emerged as a profile in courage among conservatives, calling out the cowardice of her colleagues and condemning the racism that’s taken root in her party. She understands the stakes in allowing far-right ideology to permeate a major political party. Unfortunately, the rest of the GOP will likely denounce her instead of White supremacy.
The ”far worse” to which Cheney refers occurred in Buffalo this weekend. A blatant White supremacist who was radicalized on the internet traveled two hours to a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood with the intention of killing African Americans. The shooter was a follower of Great Replacement Theory that contends that White people are being replaced by people of color and that the White race is under threat. It’s propaganda being pushed by Tucker Carlson and host of Republican politicians, including Rep. Elise Stefanik, who replaced Cheney after she was stripped of her leadership position.
Already, conservative commentators are jumping to defend Republicans, on one hand denying that they are promoting Great Replacement Theory and, on the other, arguing that the theory is not racist. They are like the Southern pundits during the Civil Rights Movement who told us that the violence against African Americans was the work of individuals, not the fault of Jim Crow society, and that the frustration of the perpetrators was understandable, given the protests and demands to be treated like White people. The more things change, the more they stay the same.
Despite what Chief Justice John Roberts falsely believes, racism is not dead. It is always just beneath the surface of American politics and it boils to the surface when heat is added. Republicans and conservatives have been turning up the gas since the election of Donald Trump.
While Tucker Carlson is on television telling his audience of ignorance that Democrats are trying to recruit immigrants to take over the country at the ballot box, GOP activists are telling those same people that Democrats want to blame their children for Jim Crow and slavery. It’s fear mongering and it’s working. They are keeping the GOP base motivated with fear and anger while normalizing radicals on the right. In addition, they’re inciting the mentally unstable and terrorists in their ranks to commit atrocities like the one in Buffalo.
Carlson, Fox News, and the rest of the right-wing media conglomerate will continue to promote racist and anti-democratic propaganda, while more mainstream conservatives will serve as their apologists. We’ve been here before with a similar cast of characters. Just over 50 years ago, mainstream conservatives like William F. Buckley defended segregation and saw African Americans as inferior to Whites while looking down on segregationists like Lester Maddox as crude. Their positions were the same, but Buckley saw himself as more moderate.
Today, conservatives denounce the Proud Boys and the Bugaloo Bois, but either stay silent or defend the radical rantings of Tucker Carlson and his ilk. They’ve succumbed to the tribalism that defines politics today. And for truth tellers like Liz Cheney, they reserve a certain type of scorn, stripping her of her authority in a futile effort to remove her credibility. Cheney, though, will be remembered as a hero while the enablers will be seen as collaborators.