President Donald Trump and his allies have rejected attempts to blame him for the increasingly violent political atmosphere in the United States, even as he continues to fan the flames of hatred toward the media and his opponents.
But Catherine Rampell wrote in a Washington Post opinion piece Monday that perhaps the White House is correct: It’s not Trump who is to blame. It’s the entire Republican Party.
Pinning the current state of affairs on Trump would be easy — after all, he has “explicitly praised those who engage in political, ethnic or anti-media assaults”. And at other times, Trump has “dog-whistled conspiracy theories about a black president or a supposedly treasonous rich International Jew — both of whom were intended recipients of bombs last week.”
But Americans should not let the rest of Trump’s party off the hook, Rampell wrote.
> The president is hardly the only elected official who has played footsie with neo-Nazis, far-right thugs and xenophobic conspiracy theorists.
> Why, earlier this year, Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.) invited to the State of the Union a Holocaust denier who had also been banned from Twitter after appearing to threaten the life of a black civil rights activist. At the time, Gaetz said he didn’t know his guest’s ugly background.
> Somehow, though, this same far-right hatemonger ended up at a Gaetz fundraiser last month.
Gaetz also pushed the conspiracy theory that Jewish billionaire George Soros is financing the caravan of migrants marching toward the southern U.S. border.
And it’s not just Gaetz:
> Other Republican lawmakers — such as Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Tex.), Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa) and House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) — have dabbled in this or other dog-whistling conspiracy theories about Soros’s alleged efforts to subvert the United States.
> And then we come to Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa), whose good standing in the Republican Party should infuriate anyone who pretends to care about civility (looking at you, Paul Ryan and Jeff Flake).
Cataloging King’s many controversial statements would take a while, but Rampell listed a few just since the summer:
> He endorsed a white supremacist running for mayor of Toronto, a woman who claims Canada is undergoing a “white genocide.”
> He retweeted a self-described British neo-Nazi.
> And while on a European trip arranged by a Holocaust memorial group, King met with members of a far-right Austrian party founded by a former Nazi SS officer. He told the party’s affiliated publication that he, too, feared a coming “Great Replacement” of white European culture by “somebody else’s babies,” enabled by Hispanic and Muslim migration, in a plot orchestrated by (guess who?) Soros.
> When asked why he was palling around with European ethnonationalists, King defended himself thusly: “If they were in America pushing the platform that they push, they would be Republicans.”
This, Rampell said, is exactly the problem.
Even if it is understandable that Republicans fear standing up to their leader, they also fail to speak out meaningfully against the hate promulgated by far less powerful members of their own party.
> Neither major U.S. party is completely innocent of employing intemperate rhetoric or “incivility,” but only one of them has federally elected lawmakers who sound so often like European ethnonationalists.
> Why haven’t the Kings and Gaetzes of Congress been ejected from the caucus, or at least censured in some way, for encouraging ethnic hatred?
The short answer is that they don’t have to, and since Republicans refuse to clean house, “the mess just keeps getting worse.”