Washington, DC – Below is a column by Maribel Hastings and David Torres from America’s Voice en Español translated to English from Spanish. It ran in several Spanish-language media outlets earlier this week.
There’s a popular adage in Spanish, “Dime con quién andas y te diré quién eres,” (show me your friends, and I will show you who you are), which clearly shows that the people you choose to surround you says a lot about your character and your values.
And that also applies in the political realm.
For example, the recent massacres in different parts of the country and the attempted coup in the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021 have revealed the devastating effect of disinformation campaigns from social and certain traditional media platforms, when such falsehoods are not denounced and stopped, immediately.
But some people who not only ideologically support these barbarities, but dare to repeat them, have damned the U.S. democracy without fear of the consequences of their historic irresponsibility. Worse still, some people in the world of politics allow themselves to be backed by those from the political gutter, who endlessly disseminate hate speech about minorities, an attitude that always comes with an overdose of racism, xenophobia, discrimination, and elevated anti-immigrant sentiment.
In contrast, America’s Voice just launched a bilingual campaign, “Show Me Your Friends,” to inform voters about the Republican politicians who, even if they often times don’t directly propagate the lies of their party brethren, do fail to energetically and publicly condemn them, becoming accomplices in their silence.
The campaign initially focuses on six Republican candidates for the House of Representatives in this year’s midterm elections, from border districts in Texas, Arizona, and New Mexico—although the plan is to include other candidates as the electoral season advances.
Mario Carrillo, Campaigns Manager for America’s Voice, said “ahead of November, voters in our community should really know who they’re voting for and if they and their friends have our best interests in mind.”
Essentially, there is a lurking danger in the unfolding electoral process, since this hate speech that is spreading now throughout the nation has also shown what happens when public figures look the other way and don’t denounce or condemn those who propagate lies, many times with fatal consequences.
It’s no secret to anyone that the Republican Party has radicalized itself to the point of legitimizing conspiracy theories that were previously limited to fringe supremacist groups who, with the rise of Donald Trump—the primary cheerleader of these theories—to power, felt that their “Messiah” had finally arrived and they would have free reign to propagate their racism and xenophobia.
The nefarious influence of the former president has been so strong that last Thursday, during the first congressional hearing about the January 6 riot—perpetrated by a Trumpist mob that believed Trump’s lie that the election has been “stolen” from him—it was disgusting to see, on video, some Republican figures, who at the time did not confront nor condemn the ex-President publicly—basically say that the election was not stolen.
It’s disgusting because when Trump and his lieutenants propagated a lie that not only put our democracy in danger, but cost lives, those figures remained silent. Such is the case of former Attorney General Bill Barr who, testifying under oath, declared on video that he had told Trump there was no such fraud; but when he was Attorney General, he did not denounce him publicly or immediately, allowing the falsehood to spread like wildfire and, in this case, with fatal consequences.
Since he descended the escalator of Trump Tower to announce his presidential aspirations, the ex-President dedicated himself to propagating lies about immigrants, branding them criminals and rapists. From then on, the Republican Party—as an institution—has incubated conspiracy theories about the “invasion” of non-white migrants “encouraged” by liberals who want to “replace” white U.S. Americans.
This has been one of the most significant national tragedies of this new century, a century in which we aspired to overcome the pitfalls of racism and protect human rights, so that this country could continue serving as a social and democratic model. But not only has rejection of “the other” strengthened, but new seeds of racial prejudice have been sown as a defining feature of a good chunk of U.S. society. Especially those who associate “freedom” with the indiscriminate use of guns.
Those theories of racial hatred have resulted in tragic events and massacres like those in El Paso, Texas in 2019, where a majority of this supremacist’s victims were Hispanic. In Pittsburgh they were Jews, and in Buffalo they were African Americans.
But Republicans—like House minority leader Kevin McCarthy, or the third in charge, Elise Stefanik—far from condemning these lies, have propagated them. And those who have condemned them paid a political price, as is the case of Republican Congresswoman Liz Cheney, who used to be third in charge, but was repudiated by her colleagues and removed from her position for daring to condemn the January 6 riot and Trump. Cheney is one of two Republicans on the committee investigating the January 6 events which, to this day, have not been denounced by Republican leaders, who continue to bow before Trump and the extremists that put him in power, because for them that is exactly what this is about: obtaining power, at any cost.
According to Carrillo, Republican candidates “should publicly refute these dangerous ideas and their would-be constituents should know about the type of friends they keep and will empower” if they are elected.
That is the spirit behind the “Show Me Your Friends” campaign, a sort of warning in the political realm about the devastating influence of conspiracy theories sown by the “friends” of certain Republicans who aspire to represent districts with wide Latino influence.
Trump descended the escalator in 2015, and at the same time the Republican Party has experienced a moral descent that it does not seem to be recovering from. Rather, it continues to promote division, racism, prejudices, and xenophobia as the “winning formula” to gain power. “Show Me Your Friends” alerts us to this danger.
To read the Spanish version of this article click here.