With President Trump’s response to the racially charged violence in Charlottesville this month continuing to drive national media coverage, the Republican National Committee unanimously approved a resolution Friday condemning white supremacy and the hate groups that espouse it.
The resolution states that “the racist beliefs of Nazis, the KKK, white supremacists and others are repulsive, evil and have no fruitful place in the United States,” and that those attitudes are “completely inconsistent with the Republican Party’s platform.”
The party is “unified in revulsion at the abhorrent white supremacists demonstration in Charlottesville,” the resolution says, adding, “We urge swift and certain justice be meted out to domestic terrorists and groups aiding and abetting through the propagation of hateful ideology.”
The resolution—which was passed at the RNC’s summer gathering in Nashville—comes after a blistering two weeks of national controversy over Trump’s handling of the white nationalist “Unite the Right” rally. While business leaders and elected officials condemned Trump’s claim that there were “very fine people” on both sides of the clash in Charlottesville, most RNC members stayed silent. As we reported earlier this week, only seven of the 146 state party chairs and national committee members we asked about the issue were willing to express disagreement with Trump on the record.
The resolution reportedly prompted some grumbling among RNC members at first. “It’s amazing that we have been lured into this argument that we’re not racists,” Colorado Republican Chairman Jeff Hays told the Associated Press. “Why would we feel compelled to do that?”
But multiple Republicans said on Friday that that the resolution was ultimately a result of media pressure.
“You can’t ignore an issue that is being pushed vigorously by the media—you have to respond one way or another,” said Virginia committeeman Morton Blackwell. “I was concerned about [the resolution] because I did not want it to appear that in attacking the white supremacists that we were somehow approving the violence that was generated by people on the left.” But he said they felt forced to push back on the “preposterous” press narrative that the Republican Party is racist.
The national news media, Blackwell continued, is trying “to make it appear that [Trump] is soft on racism. It’s just not true. There’s an abundance of evidence to that effect. This too shall pass, and when this line of attack fails I have complete confidence in our friends in the major media to come up with some new charge and make it a major issue on all the news all the time.”
Peter Goldberg, the national committeeman from Alaska, agreed. “Generally speaking, those of us here feel that we’re not getting really accurate coverage. All of us, to a person, are totally opposed to the behavior the philosophy, just general bigotry of the KKK, the neo-Nazis, white supremacists.”
Goldberg said it infuriates him that the media portrays Republicans as sympathetic to those hate groups. “We don’t need their vote. There’s not enough of those jerks out there that are gonna affect the politics of the country.” In fact, he blamed the press for giving white supremacists outsize political relevance by putting a spotlight on them. “I want the media to let these idiots be sidelined,” he said. “We’re feeding them by giving them airtime. I think it’s best not to pay attention to them at all.”
The RNC's decision to bring the resolution to a vote despite some members' reluctance illustrates the extent to which the party has been forced to spend time reacting to the president's often volatile behavior. Yet even as Trump continues to inflict political damage on his own party, few in the institutional GOP have been willing to explicitly break ranks with him.
The RNC resolution, which was Politico reported was approved by the White House, made no mention of Trump or his response to Charlottesville. And Republicans on Friday defended the president when asked.
Goldberg said Trump was doing his best to condemn white supremacists, but was “bombarded” with questions in the days following the violence in Charlottesville, and his answers were overanalyzed. “I personally believe that Donald Trump is not bigoted in any way, shape, or form,” Goldberg said. “New York City is the most melting-pot place in the United States, and a bigot won’t survive there.”
Other committee members, meanwhile, used the resolution as an opportunity to ding Democrats—with some challenging them to pass a resolution of their own.
“It’s interesting, the Republican Party has taken the position, and the Democratic Party has not taken that position…” said North Carolina committeewoman Ada Fisher. “I think that’s kudos for the Republicans that they had the courage to say we don’t along with this.”
Shane Goettle, the committeeman from North Dakota, said he hopes Democrats “would do the same thing, and in particular focus on any groups that spew hate or violence.”