Thursday, October 29, 2020
Oct. 29, 2020

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Jayne: Escalating the discord

By , Columbian Opinion Editor
Published:

Well, that escalated quickly.

Last week, The Columbian’s Editorial Board had a remote interview with Vicki Kraft and Tanisha Harris, candidates for one of the legislative positions in the 17th District. And amid the discussion of tax policy and racial justice and the Interstate 5 Bridge, there was talk about the coronavirus pandemic and Gov. Inslee’s shutdown orders.

Kraft has made this a focus of her campaign. She helped promote and took part in protests this spring at the state Capitol and at the Clark County Courthouse, decrying what she regards as Inslee’s Draconian measures.

Certainly, people have the right to protest. They even have the duty to do so; that’s what democracy is all about. But if you ask me, it is irresponsible for an elected official to promote a rally as attendees largely ignore social distancing and recommendations to wear masks. That kind of behavior is why we are still stuck in a partial economic shutdown and why COVID-19 numbers are growing, nearly seven months into the pandemic.

To which Kraft told the editorial board: “It is responsible for a state representative to represent the people. Gov. Inslee was not listening.”

When asked about her thoughts, Harris said: “There are people at these rallies who are members of known white supremacy groups and hate groups and people who are holding Nazi flags and have signs that are referencing the Holocaust. … I think we have to be careful about where we show up and who we are surrounded by and the messages that are coming out. I think we all can have discussions about how we safely and responsibly open up our economy and get our state moving back again. But when we have these other distractions and these other elements coming into play, the message is lost and that’s really quite disturbing to me and to lot of people here in Clark County.”

Kraft said she did not see any Nazi flags, adding, “You know, somebody could have come and been the plant to be there with one.” In viewing about 100 photos from the two rallies, I did not see a Nazi flag. It doesn’t mean it didn’t exist; it just wasn’t evident in the photos.

And then it escalated. “If there was a Nazi flag let me tell you exactly what that would mean,” said Kraft, who later gave a painfully convoluted answer to a question about racial justice. “Nazi represents Hitler; Hitler was a dictator, one man dictating to his country and trying to dictate to the world what needs to happen. Gov. Inslee is acting like a dictator.”

Which seems to be a bit of a stretch. Like a “Donald Trump is a stable genius” kind of stretch. It is one thing to oversee the murder of 6 million Jewish people; it is quite another to order the closing of businesses in an effort to protect public health.

You see, it used to be that there was at least one thing this nation could agree on. We always have had differences of opinion, but it was nearly unanimous that Nazis are bad. To be clear, Kraft did not say they were good; but in providing a tortured analogy that compares a sitting governor to Hitler, she ever so slightly diminished the horror of the Holocaust.

All of that became a bigger issue the following night, when President Trump bypassed an opportunity to condemn white supremacists during the presidential debate. “Proud Boys, stand back and stand by,” he said instead, which sounded like a call to arms.

Of course, this is a president who has defended Confederate statues, defended the Confederate flag, and said of a white supremacy protest and counter-protest that there “were very fine people, on both sides.”

Trump long has employed racist dog whistles, and in desperation for reelection he now is blaring them through a bullhorn. We expect it of him.

But it seems the rest of us can do better. And it seems that we must acknowledge the rise of white nationalism in this country, with deplorables feeling emboldened by an president who panders to them.

Using a mention of a Nazi flag to say Inslee is acting like a dictator only escalates our discord.

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