Mitt Romney’s stern, powerful and effective rebuke of President Donald Trump’s false equivalency of white supremacists and counter-protestors in Charlottesville, reminded Americans of the flagging conscience of the Republican Party.
It’s one thing for GOP officials to condemn white supremacy and racism, but in the year 2017, that should not be a high bar to hurdle.
The higher achievement, one worthy of emulation for its demonstrable courage and leadership, is found in Gov. Romney’s direct repudiation of Trump: “He should apologize,” the former Republican standard-bearer declared. Speaking to Trump’s studied equivocation, and addressing the neo-nazis, KKK and white supremacists who had rallied to spew hatred, Romney correctly stated: “The racists were 100% to blame for the murder and violence in Charlottesville.”
Romney’s lecture reflects an important lesson: silence in the face of racism strengthens racism. His words harken back to the teaching of Goya, the Spanish artist, who concluded: “The sleep of reason brings forth monsters.” In the United States, the remedy for outrageous speech, including the hateful speech of white supremacists and those who, on its behalf, promote false equivalencies, is more speech.
There is a role for every American to perform this mission, whether holding elective office, or the highest office in the land, that of Citizen. Frequent, penetrating and forceful denunciations of the doctrines of white supremacists are the tools with which to bury doctrines that find no foundation in our political creed or constitutional architecture.
In this manner, citizens of all shapes and colors should exercise their constitutional rights, guaranteed in the First Amendment. They should resort to the vast nature of freedom of speech and, among other acts, set pen to paper and fill the state’s newspapers with letters to the editor that forcefully reject the winds and falsehoods of those who promote racism and white supremacy. They should assert their right to Freedom of Assembly by tying the laces on their marching shoes and joining rallies where those who gather speak truth to power and lay bare the impoverishment of the nazi’s platform.
And, they should exercise their Freedom to Petition Government for Redress of Grievances by distributing and signing petitions urging members of Congress to vigorously perform their oversight duties to insure executive accountability to the rule of law and the American people.
Romney is one of the few nationally prominent Republicans to speak candidly about Trump’s character flaws and poor performance in the White House. Others include Senators Ben Sasse of Nebraska, Jeff Flake and John McCain of Arizona, Marco Rubio of Florida, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and, most recently, Robert Corker of Tennessee. Corker, the distinguished chair of the powerful Senate Foreign Relations Committee, stated that Trump’s fundamental problems are “lack of stability and competence” in carrying out the responsibilities of the presidency.
Corker’s words, carefully chosen and weighted, provide insight into the growing concern of congressional members that Trump lacks the overall fitness, equipment, temperament and judgment to satisfactorily perform the duties of his office. Those concerns are rightly expressed, particularly at a time when Trump became the first American president to lend aid and comfort, indeed, moral succor, to the neo-nazis since we defeated their standard bearer and hero in World War II. Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT), spoke for all who do not count themselves white supremacists, when he declared that his brother had not died fighting the Nazis so that we could embrace them 70 years later.
David Adler is the president of the Alturas Institute, headquartered in Idaho Falls, dedicated to advancing the Constitution, civic education and gender equality.