This past Saturday, around 250 white supremacists, many proudly sporting the Hitler Youth hairstyle known to my late grandparents as the “undercut,” gathered at the International Trade Center in Washington, DC to celebrate President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpOvernight Defense & National Security — Presented by Boeing — Milley warns of 'Sputnik moment' for China WSJ publishes letter from Trump continuing to allege voter fraud in PA Oath Keeper who was at Capitol on Jan. 6 runs for New Jersey State Assembly MORE’s victory.
“Hail Trump! Hail our people! Hail victory!” their leader, Richard Spencer, declared as a few of his energized compatriots raised their right arms to offer the Hitler Salute. Their gathering reflected an increasingly vocal white supremacist movement euphemistically known as the “alt-right.”
Attracted to Trump’s brash style and racially charged policies on immigration and national security, they emerged onto the national stage this year.
In Trump, they found a candidate who they and old-time racists like David Duke could support. After the election, Trump wasted no time in encouraging them further by appointing as his chief strategist, Steve Bannon, the Breitbart executive who once described the tabloid website as “the platform for the alt-right.”
Empowered as they may be now, organized white supremacists still represent a fringe movement within our country — and the Republican Party. But their role as an active segment of Trump’s support base raises questions about the influence they’ll have in his administration and what their alignment with the GOP says about the party and its future.
It’s no secret that the GOP has struggled for years to earn the votes of African Americans and other minorities — even without the influence of white supremacist movement. Trump won only 8 percent of the black vote and less than 30 percent of the Latino and Asian vote this year.
This has little to do with the party’s traditional ideology of free enterprise, limited government, and personal liberty. In fact, it is that ideology that offers the greatest opportunity to all Americans.
However, the GOP’s long-standing pattern of failure to win minority votes suggests a problem. That white supremacists feel comfortable aligning with the party, while minorities do not suggests that the GOP as a whole is not sufficiently welcoming to racial diversity. One needs only to look at the mass selfie Vice President-elect Mike PenceMichael (Mike) Richard PenceFormer professor claims she was fired in retaliation over COVID-19, criticism of Pence Jan. 6 panel plans to subpoena Trump lawyer who advised on how to overturn election Pence to deliver address on 'educational freedom' in Virginia MORE took with the House Republicans last week.
Clearly enjoying their hard-fought triumph, the image conveyed a stark message to the country about homogeneity in the party’s leadership.
Some have argued that the Republicans’ sweeping victory of the House, Senate, and White House renders the support of minorities unimportant. Why bother when gerrymandering often creates less diverse, right-leaning districts where Republicans do not need to compete for minority votes? Why bother if it’s still possible to maintain Senate control and win the White House?
For starters, there’s the simple electoral analysis that warns against depending on Democrats to keep nominating candidates as unpopular as Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to attend World Series Game 4 in Atlanta Pavlich: Democrats' weaponization of the DOJ is back Mellman: The trout in the milk MORE, while the white population in the U.S. shrinks relative to the surging minority population.
But the more compelling reason is simply that a more racially inclusive Republican Party is the right thing for the country. Only parties and leaders who embrace America’s diversity can offer the kind of unifying leadership our nation needs.
Welcoming minorities to the GOP will not require compromising conservative principles, but rather embracing them. It will require advancing criminal justice, immigration, education, and anti-poverty program reform.
As I learned while on the campaign trail as an independent presidential candidate this year, it will require listening to minorities as they explain their real struggles.
And, it will require vocal Republican opposition to some of the rhetoric and policies that excite white supremacists, such as a religious test for immigrants, mass deportations, or even the registration of Muslims — all of which support their call for the “peaceful ethnic cleansing” of America. It will require Trump and other Republican leaders’ consistent, full-throated condemnation of racism and its advocates.
A prior absence of political necessity may have permitted some Republican leaders’ lack of sympathy for and outreach to minorities. If their indifference or prejudice could go mostly unnoticed previously, Trump’s white supremacist allies are now forcing a decision: Allow the ideology of hate to become mainstream within the party or expel it.
Remaining silent now is allowing the Party of Abraham Lincoln to drift towards the Party of David Duke.
Not in years have we had such a clear opportunity to demonstrate our commitment to the truth that all men and women are created equal. It is both a gift and a test for Republican leaders. Fight for the dignity of all Americans or fail to lead, turn minorities away for at least a generation, and allow the growth of a domestic threat to our way of life.
Republican leaders must not leave it to their Democratic colleagues alone to fight for equality in America. No near-term political advantage derived from accommodating organized racism can compensate for the damage it does to our nation.
Repudiating and eradicating opponents of equality in America should be a primary duty of all of our leaders, conservative and liberal alike. Let us not miss our opportunity to do it now.
McMullin is a former CIA operative and was the 2016 Independent candidate for president. Follow him on Twitter at @Evan_McMullin.
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