The Greater Issue Behind the Steve Scalise Neo-Nazi Scandal

© Josh Sager – January 2015

Last month, it was revealed that Representative Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana)—the House Majority Whip—had been a speaker at a white supremacist conference in 2002. The conference was put on by the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO), which was founded by notorious KKK leader and political activist David Duke.

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Currently, there is no available record as to what Scalise said during his speech. Despite the lack of an official record of what was said during this specific speaking engagement, David Duke has confirmed his relationship with Scalise by threatening to out other politicians as his friends if they don’t stand behind Scalise after being outed as such.

Scalise himself is quoted by LA political reporters as describing himself as “David Duke without the baggage.” Additionally, he said the following during a 1999 Roll Call interview when asked why he is a better candidate than Duke: “The voters in this district are smart enough to realize that they need to get behind someone who not only believes in the issues they care about, but also can get elected. Duke has proven that he can’t get elected, and that’s the first and most important thing.”

To defend his choice to speak at a white supremacist conference, Scalise has claimed ignorance as to the racist nature of EURO. He has claimed that his speech was purely on economic issues and that race was not mentioned. Given his quotes, this claim is laughable on its face and the only logical conclusion is that he did this because he thought that it would provide short-term political gains and would likely go unnoticed in the long-term.

Personally, I am not surprised by this scandal (nobody who follows American politics can be shocked when a southern conservative says or does something racist or insane) nor do I think that it should, in a vacuum, be as large a story as it has been. That said, we aren’t living in a vacuum, and the Scalise scandal is actually very relevant to greater issues in American politics.

The Racist Demographic

Put simply, the south is populated by a significant population of white Americans who are racist, conservative, and ignorant. This isn’t to say that all white southerners belong to this group or that the north has solved racism, but the fact remains that the south is the area in this country where these racists are concentrated to the point where they virtually control society.

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It is almost impossible for a southern Republican to get elected to higher office unless they court the racist ultraconservative vote. However, once elected, this support becomes a liability on the national level, thus a skilled Republican needs to find the way to thread the needle between capturing the support of racists and providing himself with plausible deniability if anybody accuses him of pandering to racists.

Representative Scalise is facing a scandal today because he was a little too overt in his courting of this racist demographic—rather than use racial dogwhistles like “welfare queens,” “urban youth,” and “affirmative action hiring” and passing legislation that has racist applications (ex. school privatization, differential drug sentencing that increases the punishments for drugs predominantly used by minorities, and draconian anti-immigration laws), Scalise was actually seen with his supporters.

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In short, Scalise’s political sin wasn’t his support for a racist narrative or racist policies, but the fact that he once supported those racist narratives and policies on a stage in front of a bunch of people we can easily recognize as racist. He accidentally stripped away his own deniability.

Ironically, Scalise’s defense in the scandal is his admission that he shares his economic policy with the racist demographic. Unspoken is the fact that his economic ideology is the same as the rest of the right wing, thus the conclusion is that the national GOP is apparently in lockstep with these racists. This isn’t surprising, as racist propaganda has long decried welfare as redistribution from white people to minorities (an anti-tax ideology) and the federal government as oppressive for forcing private businesses to employ/serve with minorities (an anti-regulatory ideology).

The GOP Rallies to Support Scalise

Arguably, the most surprising aspect of this scandal to me is the level of support that the GOP leadership has shown to Scalise. They have rallied behind him and have refused to even consider having him step down from his position as the third most powerful Republican official in the country (not counting the four lunatics on the Supreme Court).

While the GOP has a long history of forgiving right wing politicians who demonstrate immense hypocrisy or corruption (ex. David Vitter, Newt Gingrich, etc.), there is usually a cooling off period where the politician has to apologize, and leave the political scene for a couple months. In this case, the support was immediate and overt.

Personally, I think that the unusual GOP support for Scalise is a function of them recognizing that they all are guilty of what Scalise has done—the only difference is that he was slightly too overt. Even if a southern Republican isn’t personally a racist, they must court the racists; thus, the precedent that being caught courting racists is reason to strip an elected politician of large portions of their political power (ex. chairmanships) would be a liability for a majority of the Republican Party.

2014: The Year We Wish Could Be Redone

© Josh Sager – January 2015

At the end of every year, I have a custom of reviewing the political and social events that had an impact on our society. The purpose of this review is very simply to cement the events of the year in my mind and to ensure that I don’t keep making the same mistakes over and over again. I think that this is an important practice for everybody and would suggest that everybody who reads this do something similar in their areas of interest.

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Put simply, 2014 was not a good year to be a progressive or supporter of social justice in the United States. A series of brutal, demoralizing, and heinous events dominated the news and there were few truly positive stories to balance them out.

In the following article, I will give a short accounting of some of the most important events that occurred last year, along with their ramifications.

  • The 2014 Midterm Election Results

Depressingly enough, arguably the least negative event on my list is the 2014 midterm tsunami for the GOP. During the 2014 election, the GOP captured the Senate, widened their lead in the House of Representative, and won a series of state legislative posts. In addition to these gains, GOP extremists like Governors Rick Scott (whose company pled guilty to largest Medicaid fraud in US history) and Scott Walker (who accidentally kissed the ass of a reporter pretending to be a Koch brother) were re-elected.

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Of the new GOP politicians who were elected, there were a few highlights. A self-proclaimed exorcist was elected to the CO state legislature; Iowa is sending a woman to Washington who ran a campaign based upon anti-UN conspiracy theories and the idea that she knows how to cut pork because she castrated hogs on her family farm; North Carolina elected a man who proposed “blitzing” Mexico with our military to punish them for illegal immigration. These are just a few of the science-denying, frothing-nuts conspiracy theorists and corporate tools who will be populating our government for the next few years—at best, we can hope that gridlock and extremism will prevent them from getting much passed, but I am not optimistic.

Obama and the Democrats have been disgustingly willing to capitulate and throw progressive policies overboard in pursuit of an impossible, center-right “compromise” and I don’t see this changing with them in the minority.

  • The Torture Report

Last month, the Senate released its final report summarizing the findings of its investigation into torture by the US government. In this report, it was not only confirmed that the US tortured detainees, many of whom were found to be totally innocent, but that the methods of torture were even more hideous than previously thought.

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The Bush Administration committed the war crime of torture with malice of forethought and hired two psychologists to design the regime of techniques. In addition to the water-boardings and beatings that we already knew about, detainees were forcibly rectally infused (essentially anal rape via rubber tube and pressurized liquid), forced to stand on broken feet in stress positions, subjected to isolation and hypothermia (which killed at least one detainee) and sustained periods of loud music (including hours-long repetitions of the meow mix song). Additionally, they suffered threats to their families and mock burials, where they were forced into coffins and made to think that they would be buried alive.

Torture is a war crime under international laws that the US has ratified—in fact, it was our efforts that led these laws to be passed in the first place. As such, Obama has no legal excuse for not packing up the Bush cronies and shipping them to The Hague to face a war crimes tribunal. Unfortunately, Obama has been a coward and has refused to face domestic political backlash to do the right thing and follow the law. The only result of this will be a repeat of the torture crimes in the future, as the precedent set here is that torture is a policy disagreement, not a war crime.

  • ISIS

During 2014, a terrorist group called the Islamic State cemented its hold over a region in both Iraq and Syria. These terrorists are so extreme that Al Qaida not only renounced them for their brutality against civilians, but has also acted as in intermediary between ISIS leaders and US military officials during hostage negotiations. When Al Qaida becomes a hostage negotiator for the USA, you know that the other side is absolutely off the batshit scale.

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ISIS has attempted to commit genocide against the Kurds, specifically a minority group called the Yazidi sect, to ethnically cleanse their region of all “apostates” (essentially, anybody who isn’t as extreme as they are) and to repel the secular militaries of Syria and Iraq. While pursuing these goals, ISIS has murdered thousands of POWs, enslaved hundreds of women, buried or burned people alive, crucified Muslim moderates, and decapitated several American aid workers and journalists.

In short, ISIS is truly evil, and represents a threat that must be dealt with. They have acted as a magnet for Islamist extremists across the west and numerous European, American, and Australian citizens have either joined their ranks or been caught trying to do so. Because of this western appeal, destroying ISIS is particularly risky, as it threatens to fragment these extremists and redirect their attention from securing the Middle East to attacking the people in the west who they blame for their defeat.

  • Ebola

When Hollywood imagines an apocalypse virus, they often borrow on the reality of the hemorrhagic fevers—highly infectious diseases that cause bleeding and death. Ebola is one such virus, albeit one that is actually not much of a threat to a developed nation.

In 2014, Ebola ravaged portions of eastern Africa, killing thousands and infecting thousands more (we really don’t have accurate estimates at this time). One such infected individual traveled to the United States before he knew that he was infected, where his case set off a nation-wide media panic.

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Unfortunately, the first Ebola fatality in the United States was a case of massive mismanagement by the Dallas hospital that not only failed to diagnose the infection, but also failed to follow rudimentary hygienic procedures (they had stacks of soiled material piled up in the patient’s room at some points) which are designed to stop infections from spreading. These oversights caused a nurse working at the hospital to be infected, but, fortunately, she survived.

Put simply, Dallas’s response to Ebola was pathetic and indicative of the truly poor medial infrastructure in some areas of the country. First responders were not briefed on safety protocols, nurses were not following proper procedure in asking new patients about their travel history, and public officials failed to rapidly track potential infections. In comparison, New York had numerous rapid response teams, fully briefed in security protocols and stocked with hazmat supplies—additionally, they ran dozens of dry-runs, where individuals would go to emergency rooms and give a plausible set of symptoms and travel histories for an Ebola patient, just to determine whether the hospital was properly handling all potential infections.

  • Police Brutality

During 2014, the terms “hands up, don’t shoot” and “I can’t breathe” gained gruesome and significant meaning in the American psyche. The Michael Brown shooting and Eric Garner chokehold murder are just two of the most highly-publicized examples of lethal police violence this year.

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In response to police violence, massive protests broke out across the nation and thousands marched for change. These marches were repressed in some areas (ex. Ferguson) by police officers wielding military equipment and tear gas, creating the perception that the police are an occupying force who can kill minorities or abuse with impunity.

While police violence is in no way a new or unusual phenomenon, I think that 2014 was the year where things broke. Not only did we see police officers choke a man for selling cigarettes on camera and shoot an unarmed teenager, but there was no justice in either case—the prosecutor’s offices threw both cases, essentially presenting defense cases to the grand juries in order to ensure that the police officers never even saw the inside of the court room. The rage stemming from these incidents doesn’t appear to have dissipated in the past few months and I see a period of extreme unrest coming up in the future.

The Garner and Brown murders may have been the most publicized cases of police violence, but they were no alone. Two other examples of police murder that stand out include the murder ot Tamir Rice, where a black child was executed in a drive-by by a mentally unstable police officer for holding a toy gun and the murder of John Crawford, a black man who was killed by police in a Walmart for the crime of holding a toy gun that the store was selling.

  • Net Neutrality Under Fire

While no decision has been reached on this issue, 2014 could very well be the year that killed net neutrality in our nation. We are currently awaiting decision from the FCC on whether they will continue to regulate the internet as though it is a public utility (where no company can increase or decrease information transfer speeds based upon how much a company pays) or whether they will follow the demands of the internet providers and deregulate the industry.

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Unfortunately, Obama appointed Michael Wheeler, the ex-top lobbyist for the cable industry as the head of the FCC, putting him in the position to tip the scales in favor of the industry and away from a free internet. Given his past comments, it is likely that he has already made up his mind on this issue and that we will soon get notice that our internet is no longer protected from corporate abuses.

Net neutrality is vital for a free flow of ideas, as allowing those with money to buy preferential access to the net allows them to suppress any idea that competes with them. For example, if Comcast wanted to eradicate competitors for a video streaming site that they create (ex. Netflix, YouTube, etc.), they could throttle access to the competitors, thus slowing them down and making their product better by comparison.

NYPD Officers Assassinated by New Yorker in Revenge for Eric Garner’s Murder

© Josh Sager – December 2014

Last Saturday (12/20/14), a New York resident named Ismaaiyl Brinsley executed two police officers—Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos—at point-blank range while they sat in their parked police cruiser. As far as we can tell, this was not a result of a personal grudge between Brinsley and the officers, but rather a random act of anti-police violence by Brisley.

Before the shooting, Brinsley posted numerous anti-police sentiments online—including an Instagram post that morning which said that he was going to put “wings on pigs today” in retaliation for the Eric Garner killing.

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After the shooting, Brinsley was pursued by police down into a nearby subway station, where he turned the gun on himself and took his own life. The gun was recovered at the scene and there is virtually no doubt that he is guilty.

In response to the shooting, the police have railed against Mayor De Blasio and the protesters who flooded the street after the refusal of the grand jury to indict the police officer who murdered Eric Garner with an illegal chokehold (at least, according to police regulations and the medical examiner).

My Analysis

First and foremost, I have a lot of sympathy for the police officers who were killed and condemn any violence against any group, including the police. The police are a necessary part of any society and should not face the threat of such extreme violence while doing their jobs.

That said, the police have long failed to realize that people can only be pushed so far before something snaps (that “something” usually being the least balanced and rational people in society). For years, the NYPD have “stopped and frisked” minorities with impunity while completely disregarding the feelings of the community. This long-term tension set the stage for conflict with police, while the recent cases of Michael Brown, Eric Garner, and Tamir Rice created a powerful catalyst for extreme reactions—in short, many Americans have lost faith in the justice system being fair to people like them and are no longer willing to take it lying down.

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The failure of prosecutors to even get indictments when police have killed young black males, under extremely suspect circumstances (when over 95% of indictments go through), has given the perception that police officers have the right to kill at will. In this situation, people who are both disenfranchised and without a good degree of impulse control can become extremely dangerous to anybody who they can blame for their helplessness.

In short, when people don’t have faith that they can get justice, they often turn to blind and destructive revenge—this can take the form of riots, the murder of police, vigilante justice, or even assassination attempts against lawmakers.

“A riot is the language of the unheard.”

            –Martin Luther King Jr.–

If police departments don’t want this kind of violence to be directed at random police officers in the future (not excusing the perpetrators of that violence), they must take steps to punish those who abuse their power. The perception that the police are an occupying force rather than a protective force will inevitably lead to more violence and the only way to fix such a perception is by ensuring that police officers who break the law are punished within the law. Officers who murder citizens should face a jury of their peers, rather than a fixed grand jury that renders a secret preemption of a fair trial.

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Additionally, the idea that the NYPD is blaming De Blasio for this shooting, simply because he has shown a willingness to call them out when they violate peoples’ rights, is both wrongheaded and an offensive attempt to turn a tragedy into a political weapon (a la neocons using 9/11 to attack Democrats). People aren’t angry at the NYPD because De Blasio pointed out that the NYPD is abusing their authority—they already knew that because they were living it. This effort by the NYPD to tar De Blasio with blame this murder is an attempt to turn this tragedy to a previous political effort and is an offense to the memory of the dead officers.