I left Netroots Nation this year with some sense of dread. North Korea issues were still ongoing, and the situation in Charlottesville left us all stunned and sickened. As Netroots Attendees marched toward the Georgia State House, I received messages from frantic friends and family members, as well as other political workers. What would happen next? What was there to say?
Driving back to Kansas City from Atlanta, we passed through Paducah, Kentucky, where a memorial to Confederate soldiers stood out to us on the highway. The flag, we noticed, was at half mast. As I saw the symbol I thought: this is where we stand. As Republican elected and state parties called for denouncements on hate and white nationalism, they contended no responsibility — no culpability — for harvesting this hatred. How could they have known? Their denouncements were as good as any Democratic members issued, they contended, because they had always stood against this kind of violence, this kind of rhetoric, these kind of tactics.
The problem with line of thought is simple: it is a gaslighting lie. In Kansas, I have seen it session after session, time after time, as racial portrayals and calling to our worst fears were used to harness votes.
There is no Republican apology coming — because they refuse to accept they started this fire. But the truth is inescapable.
Congressman Kevin Yoder issued this plea to Twitter.
But last year, his campaign was a part of this mailpiece against immigrants.
This ad dropped two weeks after a racially motivated attack occurred inside his district.
When Trump’s campaign was in full swing, a Kansas University was attacked with racist markings, but also “build the wall”.
And where were Republicans when an elected official called for shooting immigrants from helicopters like feral pigs?
Republicans urged outrage at a fire they had started and stoked, continuously, in state after state.
The problem, simply put, was fear. As I sat down to a table post our march in Atlanta, I began receiving text messages from individuals thinking about running for office in 2018.
Having just done a Nuts & Bolts panel, I was receiving messages from many states, sometimes individuals I didn’t know. One struck me: “I am in a very Trump-friendly district. But this is wrong. I want to say something. Should I?”
My answer was quick: Yes. Say something.
Not because it was the politically calculated move, but because it is the only morally acceptable stance. Can you stand by while a great injustice happens and say nothing?
Well, that was the standard of many GOP, including supposed moderates who refused to state the obvious, that tactics of racism and hatred deployed during the 2016 cycle demeaned not just their party but human decency.
Before I left to head home, I received another message. Independent filer Greg Orman had considered running in the Kansas Governor race, “He’s about 60-40 on getting in,” the contact told me, “taking meetings now.” Knowing that such an entry complicates the math in Kansas, I had just one question: “Is he prepared to denounce Trump?” After a few minutes: “Trump won Kansas and is still popular..”
And with that, I had my answer. Political calculation ahead of morality. While I would hope for Mr. Orman to break with the advice he may receive on this path, I would hold the same standard for even my strongest allies: if you win an office based on hiding from the voters the truth because you are too afraid to tell it, are you someone I want serving in office?
I doubt it.