Let me preface what I am about to write with an acknowledgment that there are people I respect enormously doing righteous work to combat the ill-informed hatred of people like Richard Spencer and his band of largely imaginary Internet trolls who have threatened to come to Whitefish. I say this even though most of this troll army (if they exist) lack the intellect to comprehend modern air travel or the energy to leave their basements covered in replica Third Reich memorabilia if they did, and I seriously doubt Whitefish will see any kind of march from a mob of Internet Nazi wannabes.
Political leaders and the media have been rightly critical of Spencer, who looks more like a guy who roots for whatever team is currently most popular in European soccer than a member of Congress, but all the attention on his band of misfits gives a free pass to mainstream xenophobic politicians and policy proposals, many of which have been supported by the politicians using Spencer as cover.
Take Congressman Zinke, for instance. While he bravely (and belatedly) tweeted and signed off on a letter of his opposition to the white supremacists marching in the town he once called home, he had no problem during the last campaign with using vile, fear-mongering rhetoric about refugees, women and children he was terrified because of their Syrian background. A person can hardly be a champion of non-discrimination if he only stands for some groups while himself fueling hatred against another group.
It’s hardly a noble stand against bigotry as a matter of principle when Zinke himself has engaged in offensive, inaccurate rhetoric and signed on to be a cabinet member of a man who called Mexicans rapists, called for a ban on Muslims entering the country, and who made a fortune engaging in racist renting practices.
Unless I’ve missed it, the news coverage of Zinke’s opposition to Spencer and his views fails to mention that Zinke was the recipient of a $500 campaign donation from Spencer during his first run. While Congressman Zinke did eventually return the money and can’t be held accountable for the donations of another man, it’s telling that Spencer saw Zinke as a fellow traveler in white nationalist circles. Perhaps he found reason to support Zinke in the Congressman’s anti-Muslim rhetoric and policies, or simply his association with other racist crackpots in the Flathead area. Perhaps it was Zinke’s decision to meet with and cosponsor legislation written by the hate group ProEnglish, whose executive director and founder are white nationalists.
Either way, you can be sure that Richard Spencer did not donate to Jon Tester or Steve Bullock, but did find something appealing about Mr. Zinke.
It’s awfully easy for politicians to take a stand against obvious, horrific bigots like Mr. Spencer and the media no doubt enjoys running feel good editorials and news pieces about a bipartisan opposition to a Nazi, but let’s not forget that some of those same politicians taking the easy, high road now took the low, bigoted road in their effort to win re-election.
Not being a bigot one time doesn’t make someone any less of a bigot. Doesn’t it seem that a critical press should ask Congressman Zinke why he chose to stand this time and lie down to bigots time and time again before?