The problem with allowing your party to be taken over by its fringe elements is that the crazies come crawling out of the woodwork and then you own them. Such was the case of JT Ready, border vigilante and White Supremacist, that just last week committed mass murder and then killed himself. Ready was closely identified with the Arizona Republican Party, which has furiously denied any connections. The GOP in Idaho is currently suffering from a similar image problem as another White Supremacist is running for Sheriff in Bonner County and he’s doing it as a Republican.
Shaun Winkler does not have the endorsement of the Bonner County GOP or their permission but that’s not a requirement to run as a Republican. This is not a new problem for the GOP. Winkler held a cross burning ceremony just last week and invited the media to attend. The Daily Bee reports:
“Mainstream society looks at cross lighting as a symbol of hate, but it predates the klan by hundreds of years,” he said. “We look at it more as a religious symbol.”
According to Winkler, the religious component of the ceremony dates back to back to Scottish origins, when clan members used it as a means of communication. He also saw it as a pointedly Christian symbol, a representation of Jesus Christ’s light spreading to the rest of the world.
If Winkler were not a proud member of the KKK and a virulent White Supremacist, this might have just been in poor taste. His affiliations say otherwise, though. The use of cross burning as a means to terrorize mostly southern African-Americans has supplanted any previous meaning. The Swastika is an ancient symbol that has been similarly tainted in the Western hemisphere. Interestingly, it is still in use as a mystical/religious symbol in Asia where the horrors of the Nazi Party were not felt. It is possible to use such symbols in their original context but only in places where that symbol has not been perverted. In other words, Winkler is full of it.
Again, to be fair, the GOP can’t stop Winkler from running under their brand. On the other hand, the fact that Winkler even feels that he should run as a Republican suggests that he believes that it will beneficial to him and that he would better identify with Republican voters than Democratic or Independent ones. This is where the GOP’s true problem lies: by aggressively pursuing the Southern Strategy, which plays on conservative voters’ racial resentments, and allowing the Tea Party to take control of the messaging (as well as a good deal of the GOP itself), the GOP is increasingly becoming identified with White Supremacists, Neo-Nazis and all kinds of unsavory actors. There’s a point where outliers cease to be “out” and become part of the mainstream; That point is approaching for the GOP.
And they have no one to blame but themselves.
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