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Shawn Vestal: Spokane GOP again in awkward embrace of white nationalist James Allsup

FILE - WSU student Orion Welch, left, talks to James Allsup during the WSU College Republicans Trump Wall demonstration and Unity Rally counter protest  on the WSU campus, Oct. 19, 2016. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)
FILE - WSU student Orion Welch, left, talks to James Allsup during the WSU College Republicans Trump Wall demonstration and Unity Rally counter protest on the WSU campus, Oct. 19, 2016. (Colin Mulvany / The Spokesman-Review)

Last time we checked in on the most odious white nationalist on the Palouse and his relationship with the local Republican Party, we were assured that it was tragically unfair to tar the GOP with such an association.

That was early June, and the sniggering bigot James Allsup – one-time president of the College Republicans at Washington State University and champion of the “Jews Will Not Replace Us” marchers in Charlottesville – had signed up to be a GOP precinct chairman in Whitman County.

Party defenders rushed to assure everyone that those of us who noticed were prosecuting a case of guilt by association.

The GOP was, we were assured, once again being unfairly linked to racists.

The GOP was, we were assured, once again being tragically victimized by the media, which had so unfairly noticed that Allsup had boasted about becoming a precinct chairman while speaking to the white separatist group Identity Evropa – a speech in which he was explicitly advising white supremacists about how to work their way into the GOP.

The coverage and criticism of this was, we were assured, just another tiresome installment in the long-running series: The Many Ways in Which The World is Unfair to The GOP by Noticing How Attractive The Party Has Become to Bigots.

It’s a true tragedy.

It’s like a lynching.

“I have a gentleman here this evening who has been label lynched,” said Cecily Wright when introducing Allsup to a living room full of local Tea Party Republicans.

Wright, president of the Spokane County GOP, was speaking at a meeting in a private home here on July 11. A video of the meeting was posted by the group Northwest Grassroots on YouTube. The fact that Wright invited Allsup to polish up his image among local Republicans runs quite contrary to the way she spoke about Allsup in a public statement a month earlier, when she said his values are “deeply out of step with the values of the Republican Party.”

That was then, this is now. In July, Wright welcomed Allsup to the Northwest Grassroots gathering with open arms – as did the applauding members of his audience.

“Action is what the Republican Party needs so strongly,” an unidentified man says at the end of Allsup’s speech. “How’d you like to have a couple hundred people like James here in Spokane?”

Applause.

Yikes. Sadly, we already do have a couple hundred people like James here in Spokane. I’m sure there are at least a couple hundred people who argue, as James does, that America was founded as a nation for decent white people and should return to those values. A white homeland, if you will. I’m sure there are hundreds of people here who believe, as James does, that white people are the only true victims of racism these days.

And there is no doubt at all that when James softens the edge of his bigotry just a hair, that there are many, many more than a couple of hundred people here in Spokane who think Allsup is right on the money about plenty of things.

“You have transgenders teaching your kids, you have the gay agenda, you have all this social degradation going on,” Allsup said during his speech.

Republicans get huffy these days if you notice the bigotry of the president or some of his supporters. It’s so unfair, they say. Such bias.

It’s just like a lynching.

But the July meeting of this group illustrates the real-world problem that lies behind that insistent shifting of responsibility: Some parts of the GOP keep warmly embracing people like Allsup, and when they do so, they either don’t know what he stands for or they stand for the same manure he does.

At his fireside chat, Allsup didn’t talk much about race, as he is wont to do in his YouTube videos or at appearances before other groups. He didn’t mock the dead victim at the Charlottesville protests as fat, as he has done. He didn’t discuss the way he has baited students of color into confrontations he can post online as sport for his fellow bigot-bros. He didn’t say a word about his view of America as a country built specifically for white people.

No, he mostly talked Trump, RINOs and the pernicious left.

He spoke of how proudly Republicans should refuse to apologize for anything they do, however appalling others find it. He said that Republicans should not, for example, give in to the calls to be empathetic to the plight of children seized from asylum-seekers at the border. He spoke smirkingly and admiringly of Trumpster Corey Lewandowski’s now infamous mockery of concern for those kids.

“ ‘Oh, what about these poor illegal alien children?’ ” Allsup said in a whiny voice. “He says, womp womp.”

Laughter.

Like so many people who are totally not racist, Wright drafted a term from the country’s shameless and violent history of white supremacy – lynching – to depict the abuse that she said has been heaped upon Allsup and other conservatives.

Wright mentioned a number of labels that she said were unfairly deployed in this “label lynching,” ranging from conservative all the way to neo-Nazi, lumping traditional Republicans with proud, self-declared bigots as more or less equal victims of the left’s pernicious attacks. She displayed complete ignorance about what Allsup has said and done, and she framed her complete ignorance in complete confidence.

“If I started saying something about you, that you were a white supremist (sic), because so-and-so and such-and-such happened, and other people pick it up, and then if the news media picks it up, you’re dead meat. It’s pretty darn sad,” Wright said.

“And people’s lives are being destroyed because of these labels that are being hung on them because we don’t take time to really figure out, is it true or is it not true.”

This is correct. Sometimes people don’t take the time to figure things out, to sort out the true from the false. To understand what the “so-and-so” and “such-and-such” really is. Wright now acknowledges she failed to do so when inviting Allsup, but that attempt at taking responsibility is too little, too late.

Allsup broadcasts his views all over the place. If Wright didn’t know any better, that’s her own fault, though it’s a safe bet that she’s already figured out a way to blame it on the media.

Meanwhile, there is now a new pressing question about the Spokane County GOP and its relationship to Allsup.

Are they the party that pays lip service to denouncing his views in the public square?

Or are they the party that applauds him warmly in their living rooms, when no one else is watching?


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