Yesterday in Washington, the Democratic-controlled House Judiciary Committee held a hearing on the increase in white nationalism and hate crimes in the last few years, with prominent examples like the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia in 2017 and the mass murder of Jewish congregants at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in October of 2018 serving as a backdrop to the reported three years of consecutive increases in such crimes. USA TODAY:
Last week, FBI Director Christopher Wray called white supremacist violence “a persistent, pervasive threat” during testimony before the House Appropriations Committee.
In November, the FBI released a report that showed a 17% increase in hate crimes from 2016 to 2017, although the bureau pointed out the number of law enforcement agencies reporting the data had also increased.
While majority Democrats in the Judiciary Committee wanted to talk yesterday about the statistically undeniable increase in hate crimes in the United States since Donald Trump became President, undeniable even factoring better reporting of hate crimes or any other kind of excuse one could make to explain the increase away…Republicans on the committee had other ideas. Right Wing Watch’s Jared Holt:
Conservatives on the House Judiciary Committee, of which notably few were even in attendance, made it clear today that they are not equipped or willing to engage in a meaningful conversation about understanding and solving white supremacy and hate crime in America.
A panel of experts and people with lived experience who study and feel the effects of violent extremism in this country sat under the lights in the Rayburn House Office Building this morning–next to right-wing activists Candace Owens, communications director for Turning Point USA, and Zionist Organization of America’s Mort Klein. The esteemed experts attempted to share factual information and proposed solutions, but their messages were frequently derailed by the conservative duo’s efforts to change the topic of discussion and wield the hearing as a bludgeon against Democrats. Republican members of the Judiciary Committee in attendance, including Reps. Louie Gohmert and Ken Buck, egged them on and, at one point, Rep. Greg Steube yielded his time to Owens to make whatever comments she wanted to. Buck asked Owens if her status as a “pro-life” conservative “triggers” liberals. [Pols emphasis]
Owens testified that she was participating in the hearing because she had been the victim of a hate crime in high school, which is true. But Owens spoke only briefly about that incident and then pivoted to make accusatory and incorrect claims, such as that the GOP’s Southern strategy was a myth, ignoring the fact that RNC chairman Ken Mehlman apologized for the Southern strategy’s existence in 2005.
Candace Owens of the hard-right college organizing group Turning Point USA recently caused a stir in Colorado when she spoke before Boulder County Republicans shortly after recorded comments of her saying Adolf Hitler “just wanted to make Germany great” in a way that could be interpreted as an excuse for Naziism if it only happened inside one country. Boulder Republicans gave Owens a pass, but the Turning Point USA chapter at CU Boulder later called for her to step down. But at yesterday’s hearing Rep. Ken Buck of Colorado, fresh off his most recent lowlight last week comparing gay people to Nazis, had Owens’ back:
Buck, who was a longtime Weld County district attorney and is now the new chair of Colorado’s GOP party, was among the Republicans who defended Owens during the testy hearing.
“I think you’ve caused my friends on the left to go to their safe spaces,” said the 4th District Colorado Republican. [Pols emphasis]
As for Owens’ blanket denial that Republicans intentionally courted whites in Southern states with coded racist campaign messages, initiating the great Southern realignment from the Democratic Party to the GOP by the early 1980s? There’s simply no historical basis for this contention. The strategy was publicly avowed by its principal architect Lee Atwater, and it is an historical fact that the Republican Party apologized for it back in 2005:
Mehlman, speaking before the NAACP, said Republicans had been wrong to try to make use of racially divisive issues.
“Some Republicans gave up on winning the African American vote, looking the other way or trying to benefit politically from racial polarization,” Mehlman said, according to his prepared remarks. “I am here today as the Republican chairman to tell you we were wrong.” [Pols emphasis]
While the “Southern strategy” helped Nixon win the White House in 1968, Democrats went on in the ensuing decades to solidify their support among black voters, as Mehlman acknowledged.
What changed between 2005 and today to make Republicans deny this dark but important period of their own history? That’s simple. The strategy became popular again–and not just in the South. The low-information apologetics of Candace Owens, backstopped by members of Congress like Ken Buck who are seemingly out to prove Owens wrong, is a bizarre spectacle that says a great deal about today’s GOP politics.
And nothing good.