Colorado Republicans held hostage by Nazis?
Author: Roger Hudson - August 23, 2017 - Updated: August 31, 2017
The Left and the Right have both been pretty noisy in the days since neo-Nazis took to the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia. Self-elevated talking heads have been wagging their fingers nonstop on cable news and talk radio. Each ratcheting up the volume to denounce white supremacy — as if conflicts over race in America had just been discovered.
By the way, just a side note. Where in the world does cable news find so many, so quickly, who seem to sit so comfortably on their high horses? It’s as if a news producer rubs a magic lamp and they just appear. Or maybe they’re mass-produced back in the green room, each identical in their robotic use of rehearsed rhetoric.
Please don’t get me wrong. What took place in Charlottesville on the evening of Aug. 11 was shameful and disgusting. And for any American who believed racism had been overcome with the election of America’s first black president, this was a serious wake-up call. Some may call it free speech, but for the vast majority of Americans we don’t want torch wielding Klan members marching through our cities. We certainly don’t here in Colorado.
And so THIS is where I am confused.
If the vast majority of us find the violence of Friday, Aug. 11 unacceptable, why then are Republicans having such a difficult time successfully denouncing the hate filled violence of modern day Nazis? This seems like an easy message to share, especially for us law abiding flag waving republicans. And yet, republicans clearly stumbled – and in the absence of good strong messaging – they were undone by the Left
Look, I’m a Republican communications guy. It’s how I pay my mortgage. If you want to know how to sell an idea, product or a message, I’m your guy. You need a complicated thought turned into a 140-character Tweet, you call me. But I have to admit, I was startled by the number of Colorado nonprofits, politicians and business owners that continue to be unsure how to talk about race in relation to the events of Charlottesville.
I had a Colorado politico call me concerned over his Tweet punctuation. Let me say that again in case you missed it. An elected official called me because he was worried that if he capitalized the word “Nazi” that it would appear that he was showing respect for Nazis… or nazis… or Nazis. Honest.
One Colorado business owner shot me an e-mail asking if I would research what other similar businesses were saying about the president’s Charlottesville comments. He told me that he felt like he should say something but what? Like many, he wouldn’t want to say anything publicly that might hurt his business or upset his employees.
Understand, these are all educated Coloradans who care about justice, human rights and public service. And yet, each was frozen by the specter of talking publicly about race in America. But if Colorado Republicans can’t simply and eloquently denounce Nazi ideology as hateful, abhorrent and un-American… We didn’t just lose the metaphorical higher ground, we gift-wrapped it and hand-delivered it to both an anti-Trump media and the Democratic machine.
So what did I tell my Colorado clients and Republican friends?
It’s not your full-time job to “denounce” every ugliness you see. You’re a Republican and not a Democrat for goodness sake. You have a full-time job and it’s not minding everyone else business. But you should never be afraid to stand up for what’s right and principled. And it should never be difficult to call a Nazi a Nazi. Because let’s face facts, the uniforms may have changed since 1945 but the hate that sent millions to the ovens has not.
I had another well-known Colorado Republican trade emails with me last week. Seeing all the negative media coverage of the president’s Charlottesville remarks, he wanted to have a statement ready if asked. But he, too, walked this vague, weak line that was easily recognizable as coming from someone who didn’t want to rock the boat. Or even worse, a politician who obviously didn’t want to rock the boat.
A quote I remember from my reporter days keeps replaying in my head. I used it several times while running a Houston newsroom. In 2000, presidential candidate George W. Bush addressed race head-on in a speech delivered during the NAACP’s annual convention. Honest, unflinching and statesman-like, this speech from a Republican was a game changer:
“For our nation, there is no denying the truth that slavery is a blight on our history, and that racism, despite all the progress, still exists today. For my party, there is no escaping the reality that the party of Lincoln has not always carried the mantle of Lincoln. Recognizing and confronting our history is important… Transcending our history is essential.”