Despite racist Hampton official’s denunciation, GOP actions have long alienated black voters

It is no revelation that many African Americans, in Virginia and across the country, view the Republican Party as hostile to their aspirations and well-being. The news that a GOP election official in Hampton Roads hurled a racial slur at two black military veterans and gleefully suggested a return to “good public lynching,” bolsters the view of such enmity — if not violence. pure and simple.

Governor Glenn Youngkin and other Republicans quickly demanded that David Dietrich, chairman of the Hampton Electoral Board since January, resign over the recent publicity about his February 2021 Facebook post. The Hampton Circuit Court officially ruled acknowledged his resignation on Monday.

Dietrich had verbally abused Lloyd Austinwho served more than four decades in the military and is the nation’s first black secretary of defense, and Russell Honorea retired Army lieutenant general who led the US Capitol security review after the January 6, 2021, uprising.

To question their loyalty is both absurd and offensive.

The Hampton Republican Party, on his Facebook pageexpressed outrage at Dietrich’s missive and copied text from the ominous 2021 post. Dietrich had said Honoré was “a black nationalist” and called the two men “enemies of the people.”

The election official went on to describe the two military veterans this way: “They’re nothing more than filthy, smelly n——s.”

This is how Dietrich distilled the essence of two men who together spent three quarters of a century serving in the military and defending this country. Among his military tours, Austin fought in Iraq.

“As governor, I serve all Virginians,” Youngkin tweeted April 9, before Dietrich resigned. “I will not accept racism in our Commonwealth or our party. The hateful comments of a Hampton Roads official are unacceptable and have no place in Virginia. It’s time to quit.

A bit of context on electoral councils: Political parties in a locality recommend candidates. The Chief Judge of the Judicial Circuit then selects the members. Usually, two members of the three-person electoral council belong to the same party as the governor.

Their duties include holding meetings, approving and recommending polling station locations, and determining official results.

It’s unclear how the Hampton GOP learned of the 2021 Facebook comments. Hampton GOP Chairman Phil Siff declined an interview but referred me to a press release. In the statement on the Facebook page, the party said it “unequivocally condemns all forms of racism and bigotry, and specifically condemns the language employed by Mr. Dietrich.”

Siff had told another outlet: “This is not acceptable behavior for someone who is going to be in this type of position.”

In effect.

Dietrich would have helped oversee elections in a 50% black city, yet he held these harmful views. Fortunately, no elections were held during his short tenure on the board.

It’s not a useless point, as some Republican officials across the country have long questioned Joe Biden’s victory after the 2020 presidential contest. Dietrich’s rantings were along the same lines.

Youngkin’s criticism was justified and welcome. Nor am I suggesting that every Republican thinks like Dietrich.

Yet the governor and other Republican-elects too often used racial tropes and outright lies, after calculating that such strategies would drive their base to the polls.

To hell with racial reconciliation and equity.

Youngkin held his gubernatorial contest claiming “critical race theory” harmed public education. The Conservatives had shelled out the catch-all phrase to encourage their voters. The question helped the political novice defeat Democrat Terry McAuliffe last year.

A spokeswoman for Youngkin did not respond when I asked what the governor would say to blacks in Virginia who see the Hampton incident as further evidence that the GOP is hostile to them.

The de facto leader of the Republican Party, Donald Trump, used the racial animosity of white people towards others even before his 2016 presidential campaign. He was, for example, the main supporter of the calumnious “birther” movementclaiming that Barack Obama was not born in the United States – and therefore ineligible for the presidency.

After his failed bid for re-election in 2020, Trump and his minions repeatedly lied about voter fraud. Trump specifically cited heavily black cities, including Detroit, Philadelphia, Milwaukee and Atlanta, as places he said the election was stolen from him.

It was a blatantly racist and stunning attack. African-American voters have overwhelmingly backed the Democratic presidential nominee for decades.

From 1968 to 2016, in fact, no Republican presidential candidate received more than 13 percent the African-American vote; from 2000 to 2016, the Democrat averaged 91% of the black vote. Biden won approximately 90% of black people vote in 2020.

None of Trump’s claims about black votes made sense — unless you didn’t want those ballots to count.

Ketanji Brown Jackson, the first African-American woman selected to the United States Supreme Court, has faced a host of troubling questions from Republican lawmakers. The investigations had nothing to do with his specific background or his work as a judge. Senators also disrespected repeatedly cutting off the candidate’s answers at this year’s confirmation hearings.

Alaska GOP Senator Lisa Murkowskione of three Republicans who voted to confirm Jackson, noted: “I think there was a level of personal attack that was unwarranted.”

Back to the Hampton Election Commission. Among Dietrich’s most alarming comments was his stint at lynchings.

Given the history of vigilante terror in this country, the statement was deplorable. Notes from Tuskegee University 4,743 people were lynched from 1882 to 1968; 73% of the victims were black.

A more modern allusion? Someone built and erected a hangman’s gallows during the bid to overturn Biden’s victory on January 6, 2021 at the United States Capitol.

The GOP, in Virginia and elsewhere, may continue to alienate large swathes of the public with biased and biased tactics and rhetoric. The strategy has been partly successful for decades, but less so in an increasingly racially diverse country.

Will the party shift to inclusion rather than opportunism? Given the recent past, there is no reason to be optimistic.

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