Guest column: Elephant in the GOP

The Daily Ardmoreite
Tony Choate

This week, during a visit with the mother of a domestic terrorist, a former president praised her attack on our democracy and accused an innocent police officer of murder.

Now, in the interest of “seeking justice,” the former president wants to make the name of this police officer public, an act that would no doubt lead to attempts on the officer’s life. 

There is no doubting the loyalty or patriotism of the officer protecting our Capitol. A thorough investigation cleared up any doubts about the matter.

Placed in the position no law enforcement officer wants to face, the officer used deadly force to defend the lives of others — and our democracy.

Sadly, this officer was forced into that position because of racialized rhetoric surrounding the 2020 election. Many Republicans in leadership positions refuse to acknowledge this elephant in the room.

More than 86 judges at virtually every level from state courts to the United States Supreme Court unanimously rejected election lawsuits that were clearly aimed at preventing the votes of minorities from counting in the election.  

Nevertheless, after the courts had spoken with undeniable clarity about the integrity of the election, far too many Republicans in leadership positions continued to rail against a “stolen election.”

Because virtually all claims of election fraud were brought in overwhelmingly minority precincts, blacks and others understood these challenges as a clear continuation of more than a century of attacks on their right to vote.  

To his credit, Senator James Lankford changed course after the January 6 domestic terrorist attack and ended his support of racially-motivated election challenges. Senator Lankford eventually apologized to his “black friends” for his support of efforts to overturn the election.

“I should have recognized how what I said and what I did could be interpreted by many of you. I deeply regret my blindness to that perception, and for that I am sorry,” Lankford wrote in a letter to colleagues on the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Centennial Commission.  

Some Republican leaders still deny the racial implications of the stop the steal rhetoric, but staunch white supremacists understood just as clearly as minorities that these lawsuits were challenges to black votes.  

They responded by storming the U.S. Capitol carrying Confederate flags, spewing racial epithets at officers and declaring their intention to overturn the results of the election.

Ashli Babbitt was part of this violent crowd voicing their intent to kill legislators, hang Vice President Mike Pence and take any other action necessary to stop black votes from being counted.

In praising the actions of this domestic terrorist and calling the officer a murderer, the former president poses a stark choice between a government and society under the rule of law, or a government and society ruled by mob violence.

Going a bit further, this former president seemed to encourage violence.

"If this happened to the 'other side,' there would be riots all over America, and yet there are far more people represented by Ashli, who truly loved America, than there are on the other side."

For those who may not have noticed, the “other side” is anyone who notices the elephant in the room.

The “other side” represents anyone who dares to claim blacks and other minorities in the United States do not receive equal justice.

The “other side” represents the millions of Americans who protested for justice when a white police officer murdered a black man named George Floyd in full view of the world.

The “other side” also includes anyone who supported football players kneeling during the National Anthem in a respectful request for racial justice.

Sergeant Gonell, an officer who testified about his role in defending the U.S. Capitol on January 6, was surprised to learn he was on the “other side.”

On that day, domestic terrorists called Sergeant Gonell a traitor and accused him of not being American because he was not born in this country.

During the hearing, Sergeant Gonell openly wondered why the people who were so outraged about football players kneeling during the National Anthem were not as outraged by the attack on the Capitol and our democracy.

A serious look at the elephant in the room may help us all understand.

It took generations to manufacture the mindset and worldview that the mental and moral inferiority of black people justified slavery.

Long after the Civil War, vestiges of that mindset live on. Since 1896, when the Supreme Court made segregation the law of the land in Plessy v. Ferguson, the worldview of white supremacy has continued to influence society in the form of Jim Crow voting laws, housing segregation, educational inequities, and police mistreatment.

Some of us notice the elephant in the room influencing Republican leaders to downplay the domestic terrorist attack on our Capitol.       

If that puts us on the “other side,” so be it.

— Tony Choate has lived in the Ardmore area for more than 50 years. He earned his master's degree in political science from Purdue University after earning a bachelor's degree in legal studies from East Central University. He worked for several years as an adjunct instructor for Murray State College, teaching courses in American history and American government and politics.