Mitt Romney’s stern rebuke of President Donald Trump’s false equivalency of white supremacists and counter protestors in Charlottesville, reminded Americans of the flagging conscience of the Republican Party. It’s one thing for GOP officials to condemn white supremacy and racism, but in the year 2017, that should not be a high bar to hurdle.
The higher achievement, one worthy of emulation for its demonstrable courage and leadership, is found in Gov. Romney’s direct repudiation of Trump: “He should apologize,” the former republican standard bearer declared. Speaking to Trump’s studied equivocation, and addressing the neo-Nazis, KKK and white supremacists who had rallied to spew hatred, Romney correctly stated: “The racists were 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville.”
Romney’s lecture reflects an important lesson: silence in the face of racism strengthens racism. His words harken back to the teaching of Goya, the Spanish artist, who concluded: “The sleep of reason brings forth monsters.” In the United States, the remedy for outrageous speech, including the hateful speech of white supremacists and those who, on its behalf, promote false equivalencies, is more speech.
There is a role for every American to perform this mission, whether holding elective office or the highest office in the land, that of Citizen. These are not ordinary times. Young men, with razor haircuts, dressed in white polo shirts and khakis, all an effort normalize their appearance and behavior, and integrate themselves into the American mainstream, imitate their Nazi forebears—the Brown Shirts—carrying torches while shouting “blood and soil,” “the Jews will not replace us,” and “Seig Heil.”
There is nothing in their chants, their views or their platform that can be remotely characterized as mainstream. There are no “fine people” in the cesspool of white supremacy, contrary to what Trump has asserted. There is nothing in their architecture that resembles or promotes civil dialogue or democratic ideals. Their creed is anathema to the American creed. We should drop the prefix, “neo,” for there is nothing new in what they espouse. Just call them Nazis.
Frequent, penetrating and forceful denunciations of the doctrines of white supremacists are the tools with which to bury doctrines that find no foundation in our constitutional charter. Citizens of all stripes and colors should exercise their constitutional right of freedom of speech and fill the state’s newspapers with letters to the editor that forcefully reject the winds and falsehoods of those who promote racism and white supremacy. They should assert their right to Freedom of Assembly by tying the laces on their marching shoes and joining rallies where those who gather speak truth to power and lay bare the impoverishment of the Nazi’s platform.
Gov. Romney is one of the few nationally prominent republicans to denounce Trump’s false equivalencies. His rebuke of Trump could not have been more timely. Leaders of white supremacist groups—Richard Spencer and David Duke—have invoked Trump’s words in support of their cause. Trump has become the first American president to lend aid and comfort, indeed, moral succor, to the Nazis since American forces defeated them in World War II. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), spoke for all who do not count themselves among white supremacists, when he declared that his brother had not died fighting Hitler so that “Nazi ideas could go unchallenged” in our time.