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The GOP’s Tommy Tuberville problem

We have a winner. 

The most hateful, anti-American quote of the year is here (and it’s only May). It came in response to the question: “Do you believe the military should enlist white nationalists?” 

Here’s the awful answer: “Well, they call them that. I call them Americans.”  

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) gave that dismissive view of white nationalists as simply Americans in an interview with a home-state radio station, WBHM

When later asked to explain that poisonous description of his fellow Americans, Tuberville offered this justification: “I look at a white nationalist as a Trump Republican. That’s what we’re called all the time, a MAGA person.” 

Is he defending Trump Republicans by proudly labeling them all racists? 

Tuberville represents a Republican Party that nationwide is 85 percent white, according to Gallup polling. 

Former President Trump, the party’s leading voice, is considered a racist by 52 percent of Americans, including 43 percent of white Americans, according to a 2020 Yahoo News/YouGov poll.  

Trump called a Black Lives Matter sign a “symbol of hate.” Some of his supporters carried a Confederate flag during a violent attack on the Capitol. 

In 2019, Fox News polling asked, “Does Trump respect racial minorities?” Fifty-two percent of white Americans said “No.” 

More disturbing racial attitudes among Republicans continued to emerge last year. Sixty-One percent of Trump voters told Yahoo they agree with the racially loaded “Replacement Theory” that there is an effort to “replace native-born Americans with immigrants and people of color who share their political views.” 

It keeps coming. Trump’s biggest challenger in the upcoming Republican presidential primaries, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, signed a bill last week to end all state or federal spending on racial diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) training at the state’s colleges and universities. 

Tuberville has also railed against DEI and “woke capitalism.” These complaints are a staple of white grievance on rightwing media shows and in speeches by Republican members of Congress. 

Tuberville’s anger at the rise in America’s racial diversity recently led him to claim, incorrectly, that the first Black secretary of Defense, Lloyd Austin, had “put out an order to stand down [on] all military across the country, saying we are going to run out the white nationalists, people who don’t believe how we believe.” 

The truth is that, after the Jan. 6, 2021 attack on the Capitol by a mob that included several people who had served in the military, Austin wrote a memo asking for military leaders to pick a day for their units to discuss extremism.  

Tuberville sees that as evidence of Democrats “attacking the military,” by trying to rid it of “white extremists,” who fail to “believe in our agenda, as [President] Joe Biden’s agenda.” 

As WBHM noted in a clarification attached to a transcript of the Tuberville interview, the military’s concern with white nationalists was also evident when Trump was in office. 

In October 2020, before Biden took office, the Pentagon sent a report to Congress that “detailed the military’s efforts to keep extremists, particularly fascists, out of the military.” 

Tuberville’s race-baiting is part of a larger political strategy for getting attention in a disproportionately white party as America becomes increasingly racially diverse. 

Tuberville also has something to say about women in the military. He is blocking military promotions under Secretary Austin to protest reimbursement of military personnel for travel and leave to get abortions, a practice that Tuberville opposes. 

Other abortion opponents, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), oppose Tuberville’s refusal to move ahead with the military promotions.   

The combination of Tuberville’s attacks on racial diversity and abortion are evidence of his incredible sense of white male privilege being larger than his concern for the unity and readiness of the U.S. military. 

He speaks as a white man, 30 percent of the U.S. population, but 62 percent of state and federal officeholders, according to a 2021 report from the Reflective Democracy Campaign.  

In 2020 exit polls, Trump won 61 percent of the white male vote compared to Biden’s 38 percent.  

Since Richard Nixon used the “Southern Strategy” to win the presidency in 1972, the modern Republican Party has routinely trafficked in racist rhetoric to win elections. Conservative stalwart Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.) won his 1990 Senate reelection campaign with the infamous “Black hands” ad implying that his Black opponent, Harvey Gantt, would take jobs from white people and give them to undeserving Blacks. 

Four years ago, then-House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) stripped Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) of his committee assignments because King had told a New York Times reporter that he did not see a problem with terms like “white supremacist” and “white nationalist.” 

McCarthy said King’s indifference to such racism was “beneath the dignity of the party of Lincoln and the United States of America.” 

McCarthy did the right thing. He acted in line with famed conservative thinker William F. Buckley, who shunned antisemitic conspiracists and racists.  

Where is the Republican willing to take on Tuberville? 

Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.

Tags abortion Abortion Donald Trump January 6 Capitol riot Joe Biden Kevin McCarthy Lloyd Austin Mitch McConnell racism Steve King Tommy Tuberville Tommy Tuberville Tommy Tuberville U.S. military white nationalism William F. Buckley

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