A Virginia delegate's speech shows Republicans are learning courage
Barack Obama broke most Republican politicians. It wasn't anything he did. It was his skin color. No matter what Obama did, and no matter the substantive objections conservatives had to his policies and actions, the Democrat response was always the same: racist. Ordinary people began to treat that mindless insult with the disdain it deserved. Politicians, however, grew cowed. That seems to be changing, perhaps because Democrat policies are proving so disastrous that calling critics racist is inadequate.
Be that as it may, politicians are refusing to be silenced. Nick Freitas, a GOP member of the Virginia House of Delegates, exemplifies this trend.
On Wednesday, Freitas, a former Green Beret, stood before the House of Delegates and, using a friendly tone and remarkably polite language, announced that he was no longer going to tolerate being called a bigot simply because he espouses different policies from Democrats. He tweeted a video of his statement, which has been viewed over 553,000 times, which is pretty good if you're not a Kardashian:
Enough. I have had it, my constituents have had it, and I am no longer going to sit here while a member of this body accuses us of being bigots simply because we disagree on policy. pic.twitter.com/dx0uMyFmnB— Nick Freitas (@NickForVA) January 26, 2022
Freitas opens by noting that he has never personally attacked a member of the opposing party for policy differences. It's quite different, though, when you're on the Democrat side of the aisle:
I'm keeping a running tally so far of this session. We're not very far into and almost every day, almost every day, someone on the other side of the aisle either gets up and either subtly, or comes right out and suggests, that if you don't agree with them on policy, then you're not a Christian, you're a sexist, you're a bigot, you're a racist.
Indeed, right before Freitas stood up, Don Scott, a Democrat, gave a perfect example of that kind of personal attack over policy beliefs:
A Democrat Virginia delegate takes exception to Gov. Glenn Youngkin praying for him:— Greg Price (@greg_price11) January 26, 2022
“So far what I’ve seen from his day one activities is that he’s not a man of faith, not a Christian, but someone who wants to cause division.”
Freitas wrapped up his statement by making his position very clear:
Will I be nice this session? I'd certainly like to be. But I'm not about to sit here and listen to that [personal insults], Mr. Speaker, and then go home to my constituents and have them ask me, "Why didn't you stand up and defend us?" So let's have a robust policy discussion but, if you're going to question the faith or the intentions of anybody that happens to disagree with you on policy, then you don't get to lecture us on compassion, tolerance, or an open debate.
Freitas is right. Democrats have known since the 1960s that "The Personal is Political" and vice versa. The way to attack policy is to make people doubt themselves.
In his fascinating book White Guilt, Shelby Steele describes how, during the Civil Rights Movement, he and a group of activists stormed the president's office at his Midwestern college and watched the man collapse before their eyes. He collapsed not because he was afraid; he collapsed because of his sense of complicity in White wrongdoing to Blacks. He felt he was morally weak and incapable of fighting.
The Civil Rights Movement, a righteous movement against institutionalized racism in America, began almost 70 years ago and effectively ended in 1964, when the Civil Rights Act of 1964 became law. At that moment, systemic racism was illegal. There were a couple of decades of sometimes brutal clean-up but that's the past. It's over. It's done. Nevertheless, for 14 years, since Barack Obama was elected, White politicians have been acting as guilty as if they were the ones who barred the courthouse door in Mississippi. And with that guilt, they've too often collapsed as completely as that long ago Midwestern college president.
Freitas's clear, polite statement will, I hope, help bring an end to that unearned sense of guilt. America is, by any standards, a free and fair country, and it's time for Republican politicians to force our political debates to be held on the merits, rather than letting anyone get away with calling them names.
Image: Nick Freitas. Twitter screen grab.