Abraham Lincoln
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The Republican Party is the party of civil rights. It cannot tolerate racist remarks among its ranks.

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Republicans, including President Donald Trump, should soundly and unconditionally denounce the racist remarks of U.S. Rep. Steve King. Ostracize him and demand he resign. Remove this man’s rhetorical stench from the GOP’s big tent of civil rights and family values.

“White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive? Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?” said King, as quoted by a New York Times article that tries to make him the symbol of Trump’s border control agenda.

King, of Iowa, has a right to be racist. Likewise, rational Republicans have a right to treat him like a marginal freak. If they don’t, the media and Democrats will rightly make King the GOP’s poster boy.

How did “white nationalist” and “white supremacist” become offensive? They did not become offensive. These concepts are inherently offensive and contrary to everything “Western civilization” and the Republican Party have fought to become. If schools taught King the merits of our history and civilization, they missed the part about historical and ongoing battles to enhance civilization by creating equal opportunity for all.

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The first Republican president was Abraham Lincoln. He issued the “Proclamation for Amnesty and Reconstruction,” forcing Southern states to abolish slavery to rejoin the union.

Lifelong Republican and former Supreme Court Chief Justice Earl Warren wrote the 1954 decision in Brown v. Board of Education, outlawing racial discrimination in schools.

Republicans should naturally oppose white supremacy and racial discrimination because they favor free markets and oppose excessive regulation. Jim Crow laws, segregating whites and blacks in public spaces, were excessive and unreasonable government regulations the Republican Party fought to end.

Republicans were primarily responsible for passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which barred discrimination in places of public accommodation and eliminated Jim Crow regulations. While Democrats filibustered the bill, 80 percent of House Republicans voted for it.

On the Senate side, Democratic Sen. Robert Byrd filibustered the Civil Rights Act for 14 hours. His Democratic colleague, Strom Thurmond, previously led a nine-day filibuster of the Civil Rights Act — the longest in history. The Senate finally passed the Civil Rights Act with 82 percent Republican support — just enough to overcome entrenched Democratic opposition.

Democrats embraced anti-civil rights crusaders for ensuing generations, into this century, and should serve as a cautionary tale for Republicans. They kept Byrd in office as Senate majority leader and Senate president pro tempore until he died as history’s longest-serving member of the Senate in 2010.

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Byrd, who founded a major chapter of the Ku Klux Klan, was an overt racist into the 21st century. He repeated the N-word on “Fox News Sunday” in 2001 while explaining how Americans talk too much about race. Former U.S. Sen. Hillary Clinton, the 2016 Democratic nominee for president, was photographed in 2004 hugging and kissing Byrd. In 2010, she called him a “friend and mentor.”

Clinton’s embrace and acceptance of a racist former Klan leader, and therefore her party’s opposition to civil rights, haunts her. It cost her public support despite reliably affectionate, supportive and apologetic coverage by the mainstream national press. Aside from that, her embrace of Byrd was hurtful and wrong.

Republicans cannot make these mistakes. They have a moral and ethical obligation to uphold and defend their party’s pro-civil rights tradition, which begins with the party’s founding by Northern abolitionists in 1854, runs through the election of Lincoln and continues through the modern judicial and legislative destruction of racist, segregationist regulations.

King’s outrageous defense of “white nationalists” and “white supremacists” only exacerbates a series of his past statements, though more nuanced, that advocate white nationalism.

Irish philosopher Edmund Burke, the father of modern conservativism, said “all that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing.”

Republicans cannot “do nothing” after someone in their ranks brazenly advocates evil, countering everything their party has fought for since 1854. Make an example of King. Disavow him, and let the world know the Republican Party is no safe space for racists, separatists or haters of any type.

The Gazette editorial board

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