Generally, I like to tell a joke or two in these columns, looking to underscore the absurdity of politics with a little dark humor.
But no joking this time.
On Saturday, an 18-year-old white supremicist armed with a semiautomatic rifle walked into a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and started shooting people.
Black people, mostly.
Payton Gendron was there to kill Black people. Or as Buffalo’s mayor, Byron Brown, told reporters: “This individual came here with the express purpose of taking as many Black lives as he possibly could.”
Before police arrested Gendron, he’d killed ten. Injured three others. And then he pleaded not guilty, even though he’d been livestreaming his rampage, perhaps looking to “inspire” other white suprecimists to do the same. As he himself was “inspired” by white supremacists who came before him.
Crazy, crazy shit.
Most of the country—or the relatively sane people—reacted with horror at this senseless slaughter brought on by racial hate.
And then there was Laura Loomer, who I will now quote, as much as I don’t want to. ’Cause sooner or later we have to confront this shit. Writing on her Telegram social media page, Loomer said . . .
“Planned Parenthood has still targeted and killed more black people than the Buffalo supermarket shooter.”
Wow. More crazy.
Karen Hawkins, my editor, and I talk a lot about the batshit crazy that swamps our country. But Loomer’s comments go beyond routine crazy.
Her comments are an attempt to minimize the slaughter—or rationalize it. Next Loomer and others like her will turn Gendron into some kind of hero who was taking some kind of stand. Like they did with Kyle Rittenhouse up in Kenosha.
I need to point out that Loomer is no ordinary asshole chiming in on social media.
No, she’s a Republican candidate for Congress in the 11th Congressional District in Florida. A self-proclaimed “Islamophobe,” as though that’s something to be proud of, she has a decent chance of winning the August 23 Republican primary.
She’d then join Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Madison Cawthorn, Lauren Boebert, Paul Gosar, and all the other wackos in the Republican congressional caucus.
Oh, yes—and Congresswoman Elise Stefanik in New York, don’t forget her. Once upon a time, she passed for a moderate. Now she’s running with the herd.
Like Stefanik, Loomer subscribes to a theory gaining strength in Republican circles. It’s called white replacement—or great replacement—and the essential theme is that Democrats are conniving to replace real Americans (i.e., white ones) with Black or Brown people.
Black or Brown people who will never be real Americans, the theory goes, no matter how long they or their ancestors have lived here.
Perhaps the most prominent apostle of a version of this theory is the most passive-aggressive one—Tucker Carlson, the FOX talking head.
I call him passive-aggressive because he pretends he’s not espousing hate, even as he is.
The original proponents of white replacement made no attempt to hide their hate. And they didn’t limit themselves to blaming Democrats.
They blamed it on “the Jews.” And so in 2017 we had Nazis marching through the streets of Charlottesville chanting “Jews will not replace us.”
That’s the first time I became aware of this so-called theory. Several prominent Republicans denounced the Nazis. But not Donald Trump. He said there were “very fine people, on both sides” of the protests. Fine Nazis? And with that the hate seeped deeper into the bloodstream of the Republican Party.
As I said, Gendron is a proponent of white replacement. It’s all there in the 180-page manifesto he wrote.
That seems to be the thing with these deranged murderers. They not only feel compelled to slaughter people, but they apparently want others to follow in their footsteps.
So it was that Robert Bowers justified shooting 11 congregants at a synagogue in Pittsburgh in 2018.
And Patrick Crusius did the same when he gunned down 23 Latino people at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in 2019.
And Brenton Tarrant killed 51 people at two different mosques in New Zealand in 2019.
Jewish, Black, Latino, and Muslim people—senselessly slaughtered for being who they are.
Now, you’d think that mainstream politicians would want to be far removed from white replacement theory.
But at the moment it’s gaining popularity in the Republican Party. Polls show that nearly 50 percent of Republican voters think it’s real.
That leaves mainstream politicians in a quandary. If they denounce it, they risk alienating their base. So many stay silent. They crawl under a metaphorical table, pretending they don’t see the hate that’s there in front of their face.
Obviously, the lunatics with the high-powered weaponry are the greatest danger. But the silent bunch are also a threat. In their silence, they enable the shooters.
As I write this, the highest-ranking Republican elected official to speak out against white supremacy is Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney.
“The House GOP leadership has enabled white nationalism, white supremacy, and anti-semitism,” Cheney tweeted on Monday. “History has taught us that what begins with words ends in far worse. @GOP leaders must renounce and reject these views and those who hold them.”
Obviously, I’ve had my issues—to put it mildly—with the Cheneys over the years. But at this moment I can’t be picky about my allies in the fight against fascist white supremacy.
So thank you, Congresswoman Cheney. Now what about the rest of you Republicans?
Right here in Illinois we have five Republican frontrunners clamoring to be the party’s nominee in November’s general election against Governor J.B. Pritzker.
Their names are Richard Irvin, Darren Bailey, Paul Schimpf, Gary Rabine, and Jesse Sullivan.
I’m still waiting for one of them to denounce white replacement theory.
In their silence, with each passing day, those Nazis marching through Charlottesville become closer to the center of the Republican Party.
Illinois Republicans, time to crawl out from under the table and take a stand.
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