Tom Fulks

When it’s time to stand against hate, where are local Republican leaders?

Tom Fulks
Tom Fulks

There’s nothing patriotic about Nazis, the KKK, racism, anti-Semitism, violence or hatred. Patriots stand against all that.

You’d think it’s a no-brainer to condemn evil when it’s staring you in the face.

Which is why I’m puzzled not one prominent local Republican has made any public statement or gesture doing that.

Maybe I missed a Facebook post. I’m told by a friend of a friend that former Republican state Sen. Sam Blakeslee might have done so. It’s comforting to know my old pal Sam might oppose Nazis.

That other local Republican leaders haven’t jumped onto the anti-Nazi-KKK train is weird. Charlottesville has started a movement, leaving behind those who don’t openly denounce fascism, racism, anti-Semitism and hate.

This public agnosticism by local Republican leaders toward evil seems of a piece: They’re also silent about President Trump’s moral equivalency between Nazis and people who protest against them (“both sides” are bad) and his conflation of violent “antifas” with anyone opposed to Nazi / KKK malevolence.

Local Republicans are also mute about—in some cases even support—Trump’s peculiar affinity for Russia, Vlademir Putin and thug dictators around the globe.

There’ve been no letters to The Tribune from fire-breathing conservatives condemning that, no words from the conservative local opinion writer, no contrary pronouncements from local elected Republican leaders. Local online commentary is silent.

Until Trump, we could always count on that sort to proclaim traditional Republican Cold War antipathy to Russians, commies and enemies of America. Lately, nothing.

Local Democrats, on the other hand, have dialed the volume to 11: letters to the editor, online commentary, public demonstrations, donations to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the Anne Frank Center for Mutual Respect and Congregation Beth Israel in Charlottesville, among others.

Most Americans know the difference between right and wrong, good and bad. Evil is evil, and it’s a great political opponent to have.

Democrats should obviously campaign against evil by opposing Nazis, the Klan, Russian gangsters and dictators, demonstrate patriotism by promoting freedom, democracy, equality and the Constitution.

Doing right by God and country is a simple concept to drape an American flag around. Democrats can—and should—wrap themselves in that mantle. It’ll still be fashionable by the 2018 midterms.

Apparently, local Trump supporters haven’t figured that out yet, aren’t hip to the national mood shifting underfoot.

Though it’s possible Trump supporters aren’t outraged at all about Trump’s betrayal of their core values of duty, honor and country. Maybe they’re fine with presidential moral vacuity and the abandonment of their party’s historic moorings of principle and decency.

Republicans always seem to behave as if they own the American flag, the Constitution, Jesus, freedom, cops, the military, the Star Spangled Banner, football and all things good and right about the USA! USA! USA!

How SLO County Republicans can claim love of country yet don’t openly condemn Nazis and the KKK is inexplicable. Perhaps they don’t realize the American flag they’ve wrapped themselves in for decades has now fallen to the roadside whilst they’ve accommodated Trump’s un-American rhetoric and behavior.

Any American with a working moral compass objects to Trump’s statement that there were “very fine people” among the torch-bearing fascists in Charlottesville, who chanted “Jews will not replace us!” and the Nazi “Blood and Soil!” slogan. There weren’t any “fine people” in that pre-Kristallnacht rally re-enactment straight from Leni Riefenstahl's “Triumph of the Will” Nazi propaganda film.

Standing against evil here is pretty straightforward, as evidenced last week by SLO County Democrats, several SLO City Council members and county Supervisors Adam Hill and Bruce Gibson. Without being asked, all they did was show up in Mission Plaza, along with more than 1,000 fellow patriots at a vigil titled “Outshine the Darkness,” organized by an assortment of local activists groups.

The vigil featured exhortations of peace from speakers and self-proclaimed commitments from the predominantly white crowd—most of whom have never laid eyes on a real hooded Klansman—to reject Nazis and evil in all its forms and to embrace nonviolence, love and other some such.

Personally, I left somewhat unfulfilled, having witnessed no muscular call to action from the well-intentioned speakers and organizers, merely a tepid go-forth-and-be-nice sendoff after a feel-good group hug.

Republican county supervisors Lynn Compton, Debbie Arnold and John Peschong didn’t bother to show, nor did the SLO County Republican Central Committee, Tea Party or COLAB. Maybe they were busy, or didn’t like the message.

Showing up to oppose evil is easy and patriotic. Wrap the flag around that.


Liberal columnist Tom Fulks serves on the San Luis Obispo County Democratic Central Committee. His column runs every other Sunday, in rotation with conservative columnist Andrea Seastrand.