Let me get this out of the way right now. Like most Republicans, I’m against whitewashing our history. Historical monuments serve to remind us of our past, and how we got where we are today. They are important–both for the good things they represent that we can be proud of, and the bad things that we must never, ever forget.
What’s happened in Charlottesville isn’t about a monument. It isn’t about preserving and conserving history, or what it means to be American. It is thoroughly radical—rejecting the knowledge and lessons passed down by a thousand generations of our forebears. This knowledge culminated in the Enlightenment, and then in the American experiment built on the premise that “All men are created equal.” Conservatives–and the political right more broadly–are dedicated to preserving the philosophical legacy of the Founders.
The rejection of that legacy is fundamentally un-conservative, and not something that is, or at least ought not be, associated with the actual Right.
GOP gubernatorial candidate Ed Gillespie summed it up very well early today:
Here’s the hate to which Ed was referring:
The alt-right goons and tiki-torch thugs who have come out of the woodwork in response to the cynical dog whistles of pseudo-conservative politicians are now unmasked. They’re not conservative. They’re not classical liberals. They’re not really of the Right. They’re hateful, poorly educated, blustering lackwits desperate to feel relevant. They now feel empowered by ostensibly conservative politicians whose open embrace is an avenue to legitimacy and respectability.
They include people like Jason Kessler, who was the principal organizer of this weekend’s events in Charlottesville. Here’s Kessler with his creepy looking sidekick, Isaac Smith, at a Corey Stewart for Governor rally in Richmond earlier this year:
Here’s another of Isaac Smith, making a questionable hand gesture at the same event:
Here’s Smith again, introducing Corey Stewart to speak to the crowd at a protest outside a Rep. Tom Garrett town hall meeting in Charlottesville.
TBE’s Steven Brodie Tucker has a wonderfully in-depth piece from back in May called “Corey Stewart’s White Nationalist Problem,” detailing a great deal of the less-than-savory support Corey Stewart activated with his relentless campaigning on “heritage” issues.
One might have expected Corey Stewart to distance himself from these guys during the primary, when his closeness to this movement started to be noticed. But no, Stewart only denounced the media, Ed Gillespie, the “establishment,” and the power company.
So I suppose it should come as no surprise that, in the wake of Nazi flags being paraded in the streets of a Virginia city, Stewart has again declined the opportunity to denounce this kind of vile hatred.
Stewart took to Facebook Live earlier today, and like before, attacked the media, the Left, and violence from the Left (all good and suitable targets). But when the event is supposedly about “Uniting the Right,” and this man is supposedly a politician on the Right running for the U.S. Senate, he spares not a single syllable to draw a distinction between himself and his supporter’s Nazi-loving tiki-torch gang.
When Stewart lost his second bid for nomination to a statewide office in June of this year, he quickly turned around and announced he was running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate in 2018, to take on incumbent Sen. Tim Kaine. He promised then that he would run a “vicious” campaign. We’re now starting to see what that means.
I don’t believe Corey Stewart is a racist. Not for a minute. What I do believe is that the Minnesota native will cynically drape himself in the Confederate flag and white nationalist rhetoric because he thinks it will work for him. (After all, it worked pretty damn well in the primary, let’s not forget).
What is actually “vicious” about this is that while it may serve Corey personally, it will damage the Republican Party, the Commonwealth, and the nation. Most immediately, it will damage conservatives, who—particularly with Corey’s failure to distance himself from the Nazis—are now much more easily lumped in with that handful of vicious haters parading their ignorance in Charlottesville.