Having pushed white supremacists out of Idaho in the 1990s, Idahoans know the importance of a strong, united, prompt response to the kind of hatred and violence witnessed in Virginia on Saturday.
That’s why we applaud Rep. Mike Simpson and Sen. Mike Crapo for their forceful condemnation of hatred and violence. And that’s why we are so disappointed with Rep. Raul Labrador, who did not join his colleagues in speaking out, and with Sen. Jim Risch, who didn’t respond to the “reprehensible” acts until Monday afternoon.
Simpson said such “hateful rhetoric and violence have no place in this country.” Crapo said we must “condemn and reject the racism and hate perpetuated by white supremacist groups.” No room for doubt about where they stand.
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Nor was there any wiggling by Vice President Mike Pence, whose clear statement contrasted with the muddle President Donald Trump made by initially talking about violence of “many sides,” as if there are multiple sides when it comes to combating Nazism, white supremacy or the KKK. On Monday, Trump did issue a stronger statement. But this is not a case where politicians should have to consult advisers about what to say; it should come quickly, and from the heart, without research or rehearsal.
It’s not a matter of right or left. It’s a simple question or right or wrong.
For those not familiar with the Idaho story, the white supremacist Aryan Nations had a North Idaho stronghold in the 1980s and 1990s. But Idahoans of all political stripes banded together to say: Not in Idaho. They toughened laws against malicious harassment and domestic terror, allowing the kind of civil lawsuits that ultimately bankrupted the Aryan Nations in 2000. But we all must remain vigilant; Idaho still suffers the residual effects of having once had white supremacists so prominently call our state home.
And we saw in Virginia how hate speech can translate into violence, when an innocent woman was killed when a car plowed into a crowd of counter-protesters. That’s why silence in the face of such events is not acceptable.
Our nation allows speech of all kinds to be free, even when it is stupid and hateful and racist. That’s because we have a strong antidote to ignorant speech: More and better speech, like the prompt words of Congressman Simpson and Sen. Crapo.
Unsigned editorials represent the opinion of the Statesman editorial board.