Of all the reactions and criticisms to the fallout from the deadly rightwing rally in Charlottesville, Va., we’ve been most impressed by the thoughts of former Supreme Court chief justice and Republican attorney general Jim Jones.
Writing for the Times-News, Jones recounted Idaho’s dark history with white supremacists at Hayden Lake and the role conservative leaders played in driving neo-Nazis out of the state. The key, Jones said, were the Republican leaders who quickly and forcefully condemned white supremacy and the ideals of hatemongers.
That’s why it’s so troubling now to see Idaho conservatives failing so spectacularly. Prime examples include Rep. Heather Scott of Blanchard and Rep. Bryan Zollinger of Idaho Falls.
In a Facebook post last week, Zollinger posited it was “completely plausible” that Democrats staged the events in Charlottesville to smear President Donald Trump. The theory is not only disgusting but entirely not plausible, considering video of the event shows torch-carrying Nazis shouting “Jews will not replace us.” The rally was indisputably organized by far-right extremists who have not only taken credit for organizing the rally but have publicly continued to espouse extreme and racist views in the aftermath.
Zollinger’s post, which originated on a conspiracy website called The American Thinker, suggested the deadly terror attack that killed a young protester and was a factor in the death of two police officers in a helicopter crash was a plot by former President Barack Obama, billionaire George Soros, the governor of Virginia and the city’s mayor.
More troubling, instead of realizing his folly and apologizing for spreading such outrageous lies, Zollinger doubled down on his claim even after receiving harsh criticism from both the left and the right. He even bragged that donations to his political campaign have increased as a result of his social media post.
Heather Scott, meanwhile, continues to instigate white nationalist views in northern Idaho, the former home to white supremacists prior conservative leaders fought so hard to drive out. She seems to enjoy being photographed with Confederate battle flags. Idaho wasn’t even a state until nearly 30 years after the Civil War, so she can’t claim the flags represent anything about our state’s “heritage.” Rather, the symbolism here is meant to be a wink and nod to racists in Idaho.
Here in the Magic Valley, Scott was cozy with conspiracy theorists who believed Twin Falls city leaders where involved in some vague plot to cover up the sexual assault of a 5-year-old girl in the Fawnbrook Apartments incident because the perpetrators were Muslim. And, of course, she was stripped of her legislative committee assignments last session when she suggested women advance in the Legislature only when they perform sexual favors for party leaders.
Fanatics like Scott and Zollinger aren’t just making fools of themselves and the state. They and their allies nearly derailed the Legislature two years ago over a laughable argument that complying with a federal funding requirement somehow made the state susceptible to falling under Sharia law. Unbelievably, a considerable number of elected conservatives gave the theory credence.
That alone should serve as a disturbing example of just how far zealots have already crept into the state’s lawmaking body and how much influence they wield.
Scott, Zollinger and others like them are a stark contrast to the GOP leaders of old, back when the Republican Party quickly condemned racists, not enabled them. Any self-respecting Republican in Idaho today should be quick to shun Scott, Zollinger and others who are a cancer to the party of Lincoln, especially Idaho’s gubernatorial candidates, whose responses so far have come far too late or have been far too tepid. Failing to do so provides extremists with more legitimacy and threatens to alienate moderate voters, companies considering business in Idaho and the right and just citizens who’ve fought for generations to make Idaho a place where race and creed have no bearing on a person’s pursuit of happiness.
Republicans must make it crystal clear that white supremacists and their enablers have no place in the party – or in Idaho. Scott and Zollinger are doing the opposite. How shameful.