Milbank: Intolerance Doing ‘Real Damage’ to GOP

Tuesday, 02 Apr 2013 01:04 PM

By Cyrus Afzali

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As the furor over Rep. Don Young’s reference to Latino immigrants as “wetbacks” continued to escalate, columnist Dana Milbank writes that Republicans’ response to the episode may be the most encouraging sign yet that they are willing to stand up to offensive, troublesome elements in the party.

In his column in Tuesday’s Washington Post, Milbank notes how quickly party leaders denounced the Alaska Republican for remarks aired during a radio show where he said as a boy in California, his father “used to hire 50 or 60 wetbacks to pick tomatoes” on his farm.

Almost immediately after the interview, Sen. John Cornyn of Texas, the No. 2 Senate Republican, issued a statement saying Young’s slurs “do nothing to elevate our party.” House Speaker John Boehner also called Young’s remarks “offensive and beneath the dignity of the office he holds.” Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus, Sen. John McCain, and House Majority Leader Eric Cantor also all condemned the remarks, which led Young to issue two different apologies.

A separate incident flared up in Michigan where Dave Agema, the state Republican National Committeeman, posted an article on Facebook condemning “filthy” homosexuals, alleging they have higher rates of murder and disease. There too, rather than ignoring the remarks, a group of young Republicans started a campaign to oust him from his post. State GOP chief Bobby Schostak also issued a statement saying while Republican support traditional marriage, that support “should never be allowed nor confused with any form of hate or discrimination toward anyone.”

A county GOP chairman blasted Agema’s remarks as “disgusting” and Priebus also issued a statement saying “all human beings deserve to be treated with dignity and respect.”

Milbank writes that while it may be too early to say Republicans have fundamentally changed, response to recent incidents provide encouraging signs.

“It’s not time to award any medals of courage,” he wrote “But there seems to be a growing if self-interested recognition that intolerance is doing the GOP, and conservatism, real damage.”

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