- The Washington Times - Sunday, March 7, 2021

Congressional Republicans have a plan for Democrats’ repeated claim that White supremacists infest the Republican Party: silence.

Challenging accusations of racism and White supremacism is pointless because it won’t stop the name-calling, Republican lawmakers say, but sooner or later the Democrats will go too far.

“At some point, they so overstate their case it doesn’t matter anymore. The more you watch, the more you realize that everybody but Democrats are White supremacists to these people,” said Rep. Andy Biggs, Arizona Republican.

Republican political strategists warned that Mr. Biggs and his colleagues are making a huge mistake.

Pushing back against accusations of racism is a stronger play, said Ford O’Connell, a Republican Party strategist.



He said the Republican lawmakers fear that sticking their necks out and speaking up will get them branded as White supremacists and drummed out of Congress like Steve King of Iowa. Mr. King was formally censured by the House and defeated in his 2020 reelection campaign after pondering how “White supremacist [and] Western civilization” became offensive terms.

“It’s a reasonable fear,” Mr. O’Connell said. “But I don’t think they understand how Democrats move the goal posts in this arbitrary narrative of White supremacy. Eventually, they are going to have to confront the White supremacy allegations head-on because if you allow Democrats to go on and on the public will continue to believe it.”

Mr. Biggs insists he and his Republican colleagues are not afraid of Democrats playing the White supremacist card.

“We decided that is their mantra and they are going to call you a White supremacist no matter what. A better way to get at what they are talking about is to point out their hypocrisy,” he said.

That’s why Republicans often call out Democrats for their tepid condemnations of riots during the 2020 racial justice protests. It highlights what they say is hypocrisy for railing against right-wing extremism.

The political left sees a different reason.

Tanya Faison, co-founder of the Black Lives Matter chapter in Sacramento, California, said Republicans are avoiding confrontation because their record on racial issues is open to criticism.

“The recent history of the Republican Party has been racist for Black folks,” she said “If they are going to talk about the issue being put in front of them, then they are going to be forced to have that conversation, and they don’t want to do that.”

Republican angst over the racism label is not new, but the Democrats’ accusations intensified after a pro-Trump mob attacked the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6.

Democrats seized upon the violence at the Capitol when the mob attempted to stop Congress from certifying Joseph R. Biden’s election victory.

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, New York Democrat and leader of the “Squad” of far-left House members, declared on MSNBC: “There are legitimate White supremacist sympathizers that sit at the heart and at the core of the Republican Caucus in the House of Representatives.”

Since then, two House panels have held hearings on the threat of domestic terrorism and used the Capitol attack to paint those involved, and by extension Republican voters, with the broad brush of White supremacy.

The truth is much more nuanced. Most of the Capitol rioters were not known White supremacists. Court documents and public records linked several participants to right-wing militia groups such as the Proud Boys and Three Percenters.

The New York Times reported Feb. 21 that of more than 230 people charged in the riot, 31 had ties to right-wing extremist groups.

With the investigation continuing, it is difficult to determine how big of a role White supremacists played in the attack.

Still, that didn’t stop Democrats from accusing former President Donald Trump and his supporters of being White supremacists at a recent hearing before a House Judiciary subcommittee.

Rep. Cori Bush, Missouri Democrat, declared that the Republican Party benefited from the support of White supremacists. A Democratic witness said Mr. Trump’s speech to his supporters ahead of the riot was a racist foghorn.

The accusations went unanswered as Republicans hammered away at left-wing militant group Antifa’s involvement in the summer rioting.

Rep. Gregory W. Steube, Florida Republican, prodded Democratic witness Malcolm Nance into dismissing the widespread rioting and looting as “civil disobedience.”

A similar scene played out last month at a House Homeland Security Committee hearing on White supremacy. Rep. Bonnie Watson Coleman, New Jersey Democrat, said Mr. Trump brought together the “most diverse group of people who hate something in the whole country.”

Republicans didn’t respond to the accusation then, either. They focused on Antifa.

Pollster Robert Cahaly said the Republican strategy doesn’t register with the American people.

“The moment you engage in whataboutism, you’ve conceded the first point, and for people looking around trying to find out where the conservatives are, that sounds like a dog whistle because you won’t confront the truth,” he said.

Claims of racism have dogged Mr. Trump since he announced his presidential campaign in 2015. He pushed back against the claims, even when Democrats made it a 2020 campaign issue, but Republicans shied away from the fight. Some, such as Sen. Ben Sasse of Nebraska, joined the Democratic chorus by saying Mr. Trump “flirted” with White supremacists.

In January, when Ms. Ocasio-Cortez made her accusation, Republican lawmakers remained silent for weeks.

Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel spoke up at the time and called Ms. Ocasio-Cortez’s comments reckless and divisive.

Rep. Burgess Owens, a Utah Republican who is Black, rebutted Ms. Ocasio-Cortez last month when the New York Democrat suggested that those who oppose universal health care are White supremacists.

In a tweet last month, Mr. Owens said her rhetoric attempted to “gaslight the public.”

“Democrats are effectively diluting the very real dangers of White supremacy,” he later told The Washington Times. “It also falsely categorizes a broad swath of Americans in lieu of tackling the real issues of racism in this country.”

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