Chelsea Mancilla, Guest Writer
Recently, Virginia politics have been thrown into chaos. Democrats, including Governor Ralph Northam and Attorney General Mark Herring, have confessed to using blackface in their youth. Initially, the scandal had surrounded Governor Northam, when a picture from his medical school’s yearbook became available to the public. In addition to this, Lieutenant Governor Justin Fairfax has been accused of sexual assault. The Democratic leadership, the public, and the citizens of Virginia, have demanded their resignations, but the Democratic leadership has realized that if all three men were to resign, Republican Speaker of the House Marvin “Kirk” Cox would become governor. Their partisanship shows through as they think “certainly this can’t happen!” There is a discussion going on right now: shall we pretend this never happened? Or hand the governorship to the Republicans?
During these events, I heard on NPR that people believe there is a double standard. Likewise, Domenico Montanaro succinctly stated in his article, “Democrats see a double standard in the Trump era. They point out that Northam and Al Franken before him had to go (Franken for sexual misconduct allegations), but Trump, Iowa Rep. Steve King (who questioned how the terms white nationalist and white supremacist became offensive) and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith (who landed in hot water over her own past racially tinged remarks) got to stay.”
First, no matter how racist or sexist these figures may be, only their own resignation can remove them from office. Unless they commit a crime, they can stay in office until their term is finished. Second, these individuals do not represent their political party or ideology as a whole. You cannot judge a football team based on the actions of a single player. Individuals should be held accountable for their own actions.
The media’s logic is simple: We expect all Republicans to be bad, but when a Democrat says or does the wrong thing, then we have to denounce them as the black sheep as loudly as possible. Isn’t it possible that a Democrat is just as likely to be a racist as a Republican is? We’re all human. We shouldn’t assume a black or Hispanic kid is going to shoplift, but we do assume a Republican is automatically racist? What’s the deal with that? When did some people become “bad people,” because of their political beliefs? We are taught not to assume that people are bad because of the color of their skin, but it’s considered okay if someone is bad because of their political ideology?
The media perpetuates the idea that the GOP is the enemy. If you’re not with us (the Democrats), then you’re against us. If you’re against us, you’re probably a racist or a Republican, or likely both. If you type in a search engine the term “GOP representatives,” the instant results include “Families are being ‘crushed’ by Republican leadership,” “The GOP’s Lonely Heartless Club,” and “A Victim of Gun Violence and GOP Party Leaders.” Whereas, when you look up the words, “Democrat representatives,” the titles are “Democrat solidarity stands out at State of the Union,” and, “Nevada’s Democratic representatives skeptical of Trump’s unity message in State of the Union.” People are either the evil supporters or the victims of the sinful Republican, and the Democrats are here to save the day.
The general public is willing to participate in the same dialogue which demonizes the GOP. It’s called conforming. When you conform, no one can call you out for dissenting and you can’t become an enemy of the majority. When you conform, you’re in a safe bubble, but suddenly there’s an “us” in the bubble, and there’s a “them” outside of it. As social animals, we have the adience to be part of the majority. It’s easier to agree than it is to oppose. Our country has transformed into an ideological echo chamber, and many are part of the “silent majority,” of people who are too afraid to object to it.
In an op-ed by Senator Tim Scott about Rep. Steve King, the Senator stated that, “When people with opinions similar to King’s open their mouths, they damage not only the Republican Party and the conservative brand but also our nation as a whole.” He added later, “Some in our party wonder why Republicans are constantly accused of racism — it is because of our silence when things like this are said. Immigration is the perfect example, in which somehow our affection for the rule of law has become conflated with a perceived racism against brown and black people.” Other Republican representatives shared this sentiment and publicly condemned Rep. Steve King.
While I was researching minorities in the Republican leadership, an article by CNN claimed “Black Republicans often make an unspoken bargain with their party: Don’t talk about race/racism, and when and if you do, make it about Democrats and liberals.” CNN goes so far to say Sen. Scott has “evolved” when he chastised Rep. Steve King. Minorities in the GOP are accused of not talking about race and not calling out their peers for racism. The media is making the unfortunate mistake of emphasizing race over a person’s character and beliefs. Individuals all have the capacity to be proud of their cultural and ethnic heritage, but that’s not what’s in question. The media is assuming that minorities in the Republican Party are not talking about race enough because it would disrupt the Republican ecosystem. A person’s identity should be about more than the color of their skin.
FiveThirtyEight looked at a variety of questions on negative racial attitudes from the General Social Survey, which has been conducted periodically since 1972. FiveThirtyEight writers Nate Silver and Allison McCann looked at the numbers for white Democrats and white Republicans specifically, based on the way Americans identified themselves in the survey. According to the results, as of 2012, 27 percent of white Republicans and 19 percent of white Democrats held negative racial attitudes. So, there’s a partisan gap, although not as large of one as some political commentators might assert.
The Republican Party has been branded as racist and corrupt. The fact that a majority of Republicans are white older men has become the circumstantial reasoning to accuse them of being racist and sexist. People are assuming they are promoting white supremacy and misogyny if they aren’t women or people of color. Mia Love, Jaime Herrera Beutler, and Tim Scott are considered the strange minority who became Republicans, and are a “sign of progress” in the Republican Party. In an op-ed from the New York Times, it was said, “Mia Love was supposed to be the future. She was really an anomaly.” The media treats ethnic Republicans as rare white elephants, something to be revered and yet pitied at the same time.
This is why it might surprise you to hear that Republicans are by far the more diverse party when it comes to statewide elected officials, such as senators and governors. The old stereotypes don’t hold when looking at the facts — Republicans have been quietly making inroads into communities of color, even if that hasn’t yet registered in overall voting patterns. And rising Republican stars such as Rubio, Jindal, Sandoval, Scott, Haley, Cruz, and Martinez are reasons for optimism as we look toward the future of American politics.
We’re always assuming Republicans are corrupt and racist, while Democrats are the world’s advocates. What if for a moment, we actually believed that both could be our advocates? What if we tried to cut through the stereotypes perpetuated by the media? What if we all have the same goal, but we believe there are different ways to reach that goal? Well, Republicans and Democrats believe their way is the right way, but in the end, they want America to be the best it can be.