The Charleston Massacre: ‘While GOP Candidates Stammer…’
I do not often cut-and-paste large sections of articles from a leading newspaper.
However, the facts that I am on travel and that an excellent article sometimes cannot/should not be paraphrased prompts me to quote parts of Anne Gearan’s “While GOP candidates stammer, Clinton directly confronts race,” in today’s Washington Post.
First, Gearan laments that few of the nearly two dozen politicians running for president stepped forward to seize the opportunity to show leadership in the wake of the massacre at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston last week:
The Republican hopefuls mostly stammered and stumbled in response to the shootings. At first, some resisted calling the massacre racially motivated, only to reverse course when it became obvious it was.
Most stopped short of calling for South Carolina leaders to remove the Confederate battle flag from the grounds of the state capitol in Columbia. Some, like Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, declined to comment at all. Only after South Carolina’s Republican governor, Nikki Haley, emotionally declared Monday that the flag should come down did most GOP candidates join the chorus.
Some also lacked sensitivity, Gearan writes, and gives the example of Ted Cruz joking about it: “…that in his home state of Texas, gun control means ‘hitting what you aim at’” and campaigning the next day at a shooting range.
In contrast, Gearan points out, Hillary Clinton “has forcefully initiated a conversation about race and bigotry in recent days,” while “[a]t this moment of national trauma, the Republican candidates seemed as though they didn’t know what to say.”
Gearan refers to Clinton’s “impassioned speech” on “persistent racism” in the U.S. which she gave Saturday to the U.S. Conference of Mayors where she “forcefully challenged the nation to confront persistent racism,” saying that “race remains a deep fault line in America” and that
Despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished…I know this is a difficult topic to talk about. I know that so many of us hoped by electing our first black president, we had turned the page on this chapter in our history. I know there are truths we do not like to say out loud or discus with our children. But we have to.
In that speech, Clinton said, “It’s tempting to dismiss a tragedy like this as an isolated incident, to believe that in today’s America bigotry is largely behind us…But despite our best efforts and our highest hopes, America’s long struggle with race is far from finished.”
According to Gearan, “Clinton plans to discuss the Charleston shootings Tuesday afternoon during a community meeting at a predominantly black church in Florissant, Mo., near Ferguson, site of last summer’s searing race riots.”
Gearan also mentions Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Maryland governor Martin O’Malley joining the debate.
Gearan describes how, for Republicans,
…rising to the occasion has proved difficult. The candidates have been balancing the political imperative to present a welcoming face to minority and moderate voters with hesi¬tancy to turn off conservative white voters who see the Confederate flag as a representation of their family heritage and Southern traditions.
The result has been timid, measured responses. It is telling that the most unambiguous Republican statement came from a non-candidate; 2012 GOP nominee Mitt Romney tweeted Sunday, “Take down the #ConfederateFlag at the SC Capitol.”
Gearan concludes by quoting Don Fowler, a South Carolina-based Clinton ally and former Democratic National Committee chairman, who “said that many of the Republican candidates do not have, the emotional and psychological background’ to confidently talk about race relations”:
If you have the right kind of heart and soul, a proper reaction comes out,” Fowler said. He added, “To react to something like this, you have to feel it. You have to understand it. Without having experienced in any way the context of this, the dynamics of it, it’s hard for them to react to it in a courageous and compassionate way.
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