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Republicans must resist links to Confederacy

November 14, 2018

It is telling that the anonymous man who recently unleashed a profane rant against two people protesting the Confederate memorial in Orange immediately portrayed them as members of one particular political party — the Democrats. The couple’s signs bear no partisan affiliation. Neither does the billboard space they leased across the street. Their primary talking point is that the monument is needlessly hurtful to many people in Orange. Still, the counter-protester quickly assumed that the two were Democrats, as if no Republican would speak out against the Confederacy.

“What gives you the right to be (expletive) protesting America,” he said, curiously linking the states that rebelled against the union with the country that resisted secession. He berated the couple as “stupid idiots” and shouted that he would “feel better if you (expletive) Democrats would go to hell.”

If Republicans are uncomfortable with being automatically linked as the major party that still sympathizes with the Confederacy — and we hope they are — current members should clarify that point. After all, it shouldn’t be that controversial to condemn the cruelty of slavery and any attempts to break apart this country.

In case anyone has forgotten, it was a Republican president (Abraham Lincoln) who issued the Emancipation Proclamation and kept our nation together during the Civil War. Modern Republicans should be leading the charge to defend this great president and the moral justification for the tough stands he took. And it goes without saying that Democrats are hardly perfect on this issue or any other.

But of course the reasons for the counter-protestor’s assumption are all too clear. As the nation’s conservative party, Republicans have become increasingly linked with people on the fringe of that movement, such as the “alt-right.” President Trump himself and his former guru Steve Bannon have even embraced the concept of nationalism, not knowing or caring about the implications of that word. Just this week, a Republican senator from Mississippi made the tone-deaf remark that she liked one person so much that “If he invited me to a public hanging, I’d be on the front row.”

If other Republicans are OK with this association, they should own up to it. On the other hand, if they believe that their party is open to people of all races and creeds, they should say that, too. But continued silence on this point reinforces the assumption of the counter-protestor that the GOP is on one side of this debate and Democrats are on the other.

Orange County GOP chairman David Covey said local Republicans are focused on important issues like better roads and drainage, and that’s commendable. But this monument was placed in Orange along I-10 by a national Confederate group and so, like it or not, local politicians can’t avoid it. Area Democrats have made it clear they want nothing to do with it. Their Republican counterparts should, too.

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