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Opinion | For today, racism is bad for the GOP

GOP leaders condemned white nationalists and racism on Tuesday. It would be nice if they did so when it really mattered.

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., is introduced at a rally for former President Donald Trump at the Minden Tahoe Airport in Minden, Nev., Saturday, Oct. 8, 2022. AP Photo/Jose Luis Villegas
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White nationalists are racists, Sen. Tommy Tuberville suddenly came to realize on Tuesday. 

That fairly obvious epiphany, unfortunately, didn’t come to Alabama’s senior senator until after he spent some time on Monday evening explaining to CNN anchor and Alabama native Kaitlin Collins that labeling white nationalists as racists was some sort of a Jedi mind trick perpetrated by Democrats. 

When Collins pushed back, saying that pretty much everyone knows that white nationalists believe in white supremacy, Tuberville countered with his best Dude from “The Big Lebowski,” telling Collins that that was just, like, her opinion, man. 

In Tuberville’s mind – at least on Monday evening – the term white nationalist meant “American.” But an American who votes for Republicans. And maybe participates in some light insurrection. 

Tuberville believes/d that many of his supporters were being unfairly maligned as racists simply because they bought into the rhetoric of the far right, which vilifies brown migrants at the border and imposes religious restrictions on would-be visitors from foreign countries and screams that “white lives matter too!!!!” 

You know, just good ol’ Americans. Who sometimes march in formation with tiki torches and chant “the Jews will not replace us.”

But by Tuesday afternoon, following strong statements from his Alabama counterpart, Sen. Katie Britt, and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, Tuberville had come to realize what the words “white nationalist” actually meant. 

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“White nationalists are racists,” Tuberville said to reporters. And not in the form of a question. 

What led to this stunning realization is unclear. But back home, where his base of white nationalist supporters live, Tuberville left quite a few white nationalist apologists holding an empty bag of white victimhood with his newfound understanding of words. No sooner had they formulated a talking point – “we’re just proud Americans, dammit!” – than their leader abandoned them. 

But now that we have most sane people – and some borderline insane people – on the same page on this, let’s carry this all the way, shall we? 

Because while it’s nice to have Britt and McConnell and Tuberville and whole bunch of other Republicans on record denouncing “white nationalism,” it would also be nice if all of those people – and the Republican Party in general – denounced the practices of white nationalism. And denounced racism, bigotry and discrimination in all forms. 

Including the forms that they keep using to scare voters. And to divide Americans. And to vilify anyone and everyone who looks, acts and believes a little differently than white, straight and Christian. 

Because while Tuberville has certainly been the face of this ignorance over the past two years or more, his biggest abnormality when it comes to differentiating him from the rest of the GOP is simply that he’s not smart enough to pretty up his racism. 

I mean, is there actually a big difference between openly saying that you think white nationalists are just Americans and a party that’s gleefully leaned into bogus elections conspiracies in order to impose race-based voting restrictions in a number of key states? 

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Or how about a party that spent eight years vilifying the nation’s first Black president to the point that there was a national wave of people joining race-based hate groups? 

Or how about a party in this state that has done its absolute best to pack Black voters into a handful of districts in order to lessen their voting power? 

See what I mean? Sure, it’s great that all of a sudden, in this one particular instance, a handful of Republicans have found their voice. It’s nice that they’ve determined that in this particular instance white nationalists and racism are bad. 

But it sure would be nice if they came to the same conclusions when it really mattered.  

Josh Moon is an investigative reporter and featured columnist at the Alabama Political Reporter with years of political reporting experience in Alabama. You can email him at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter.

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