You’ve probably read about the Steve Scalise controversy. In brief, the third-ranking House Republican offical is from Louisiana, and he’s in trouble. It turns out that in 2002 he spoke to a rally organized by white supremacists including the infamous David Duke.
Scalise’s office is denying that he knew who Duke was twelve years ago, but that’s transparently silly. Duke had mounted a surprisingly strong run for governor in 1991. In 1999 Scalise was a state representative, in which context he was asked by Roll Call how he could compete with Duke in an election for Congress. He replied, “The novelty of David Duke has worn off… The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he canít get elected, and thatís the first and most important thing.” In 2004 Scalise voted against making Martin Luther King Day a state holiday. Ninety legislators voted in favor, while Scalise took his stand with the six who voted against. These are not the actions of a Louisiana politician who’s unaware of David Duke.
Clearly Boehner will have to dump him. Given the GOP’s PR-only efforts to reduce the toxicity of the brand among anyone other than older rural whites, having an(other) open racist on the top leadership team is not in the cards, whatever views the other leaders and their supporters might hold privately. But I was struck by one thing Scalise said in his own defense:
I don’t support any of the things I have read about this group, but I spoke to a lot of groups during that period. I went all throughout South Louisiana… I spoke to the League of Women Voters, a pretty liberal group … I still went and spoke to them. I spoke to any group that called, and there were a lot of groups calling.
The League of Women Voters, in Scalise’s mind, is as radical a group as David Duke’s European-American Unity and Rights Organization. And when making such a ridiculous statement he is not laughed out of the room, but instead can expect a number of heads nodding in agreement at every Republican gathering.
Chomsky has long said that the goal of those we now call the one percenters is to roll back the twentieth century, a period during which an increasing portion of the population gained some basic rights, de jure if not always de facto. In some areas (e.g., the federal safety net) they have managed to impede or block progress; in others (e.g., financial regulation, federal secrecy) they have turned back the clock to the Depression era.
Most regrettably of all, they have cheapened public discourse to the point that non-partisan organizations advocating participation in voting can be compared to racist hate groups and no one bats an eye. Just par for the course in covering today’s Republican party.