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It’s Not Just Tuberville, the GOP’s White Nationalist Problem Runs Much Deeper

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Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville appeared to defend white nationalism on CNN on Monday night when Kaitlan Collins asked to explain his position on the issue. A shocking moment that caught the nation’s attention and led Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) to condemn the move on the Senate floor, saying: “The senator from Alabama is wrong, wrong, wrong… For the senator from Alabama to obscure the racist nature of white nationalism is indeed very, very dangerous.”

The widespread vocal criticism forced Sen. Tuberville to admit the bare minimum fact that “white nationalists are racists.” An apology and a forceful denunciation of an ideology of white supremacy that actively threatens U.S. democracy and public safety isn’t likely forthcoming. Nor does it appear that we see more than platitudes for the Senate leadership of Tuberville’s party; a reality that should be a searing indictment of today’s Republican Party.

Lest we forget,the GOP of 2019, was willing to offer consequences for former Rep. Steve King when he questioned why white supremacy was wrong to a major news outlet. Then Minority Leader Rep. Kevin McCarthy stripped Rep. King of his Committee assignments. A reminder that it is only the lack of political will inside the GOP itself that prevents real consequences for its members defending white nationalism on live national TV. 

Collins’ question was prompted by an earlier statement from Sen. Tuberville in May on a local radio program where he criticized an effort to remove white nationalists from the military, saying such an effort was “ruining our military.” A disturbing comment made more chilling as the Republican-controlled Senate had earlier stripped the provisions from the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) to combat extremism in the military.  

And as Dr. Heidi Beirich, of the Global Project Against Hate and Extremism, pointed out if Republican Senate leadership wanted to put any action behind their comments that white supremacy is “unacceptable” and “has no place” in the Republican party, they “could add back into the NDAA provisions to fight extremists in the ranks”. And as the reauthorization of the NDAA is currently making its way through Congress, there is a clear opportunity for GOP leadership to take a piece of concrete action, right now. 

Though I wouldn’t recommend holding your breath that the Republican leadership will do anything to address the issue much beyond baseline general lip service. Not least because the problem of white nationalism in the GOP runs much deeper than Sen. Tuberville’s comments.

One of the main veins of this problem runs through Republicans’ stance on border and immigration with the GOP widely adopting white nationalist rhetoric and conspiracy theories about alleged “replacement” and an “invasion.” Just looking at the members of the 118th Congress who have employed the white nationalist “invasion” conspiracy theory America’s Voice has identified:

  • 33 Members of the 118th Congress who employed the “invasion” conspiracy in their official capacity 81 times.
  • And seven pieces of legislation that employ the “invasion” conspiracy theory have been introduced in the 118th Congress. 47 different members have co-sponsored at least one of these pieces of legislation. On June 22, 2023, by a vote of 219 – 208, the House voted to refer H.Res.503, the Biden impeachment resolution sponsored by Rep. Lauren Boebert, to the Committees even as it relied on the “invasion” conspiracy theory. All Republicans present voted yes, while all Democrats present voted no.

Republicans have also made these white nationalist slogans a key part of the campaign rhetoric. This is in spite of the fact these same conspiracy theories have motivated multiple deadly domestic terrorist attacks, including Pittsburgh, El Paso, and Buffalo.  America’s Voice has found more than 550 examples of elected Republicans and campaigns that amplified the “invasion” and “replacement” conspiracy theory in just a little over one year since the white nationalist murder of 10 in a Buffalo supermarket.

Take Sen. Tuberville’s fellow Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX), who for the last year has regularly amplified the white nationalist conspiracy theory about a non-existent migrant “invasion.” In April of this year, Sen. Cruz went on Fox and did a full recitation of the white nationalist “replacement” conspiracy theory. 

Or take Republican Senators Debbie Fischer (R-NE) and Ron Johnson (R-WI), who sent out a joint fundraising email the same day as the white nationalist who murdered 23 people in El Paso was sentenced, echoing the same “invasion” rhetoric.

Where does this stop? Unfortunately, we’ve already seen where it can lead.

It is important that Sen. Tuberville is facing serious pushback for his shockingly blatant and public defense of white nationalism, but it shouldn’t take this blatant of an example for this forceful of a pushback. We cannot and must not end the criticism and accountability at the most blatant examples of when Republicans attempt to normalize white nationalist ideas.