SLO County Republican Party Struggles to Condemn Hate

SLO County Republican Party

Seems like several SLO County conservatives are struggling to condemn Neo-Nazis and white supremacists, especially the local Republican Party.

In his Sunday commentary, Tribune columnist Tom Fulks took aim at the SLO County Republican Party for their moral ambiguity in light of the attacks in Charlottesville, which resulted in the death of 32-year-old counter-protester Heather Heyer. Former SLO County Republican Party chair Al Fonzi fired back in his viewpoint, stating local Republicans have always stood against hate, but that Fulks never noticed or cared to pay attention.

Al Fonzi
SLO County Republican Party past president Al Fonzi

After looking into his claims, I find that Fonzi’s words ring hollow.

As much as I value and respect several conservatives in SLO County, the local party they belong to clearly has a hate problem. They don’t want to confront it, address it and condemn it.

Immediately after the “Unite the Right” rally was held in Charlottesville (Aug. 11-12), when the headlines were broadcast across the national-political landscape, the SLO County Republican Party shared a tweet from the official GOP Twitter account. The tweet bragged about Republicans being in control of governorships, state governments and partisan legislative chambers. Though they twice shared Fonzi’s column on social media, SLOGOP offered no official statement about the violence in Charlottesville since the rally happened.

Recently, I called the SLOGOP to check if they had an official statement that condemned the hate groups involved in the rally. They hung up on me, and it wasn’t an accident.

In his viewpoint, Fonzi indicated that Republicans were “present” at the Aug. 16 “Outshine the Darkness” candlelight vigil, which supported a stand in solidarity against the hate in Charlottesville. I was unable to confirm with event organizers that the SLOGOP was present in an official capacity or volunteered. Sure, there were likely many people who identified as Republicans that attended the event, but party officials were noticeably absent from the event, according to several volunteers and attendees.

Fonzi talked about how the phone lines on KPRL’s “Sound-Off” program lit up and “melted down in outrage” over the events that transpired in Charlottesville, but there’s no indication from Fonzi that he or the SLOGOP melted down in outrage with his seemingly outraged listeners.

Curiously, there are no podcasts available from that show for the entire month of August.

In a strange pivot, Fonzi said SLOGOP members were outraged over Fulks’ “tirades,” asserting they stopped reading The Tribune, including a majority of elected officials. Maybe if they read The Tribune, they would’ve seen the countless letters to the editor, condemning the hatred and bigotry.

Fonzi claimed that Republicans was the party that led the fight against slavery. He noted that it was the Democrats who started the Ku Klux Klan. History is more complicated than that. After the Civil War, several white southerners — that were disappointed with then-president Abraham Lincoln’s reconstruction push — migrated to the Democratic Party in the 1860s. A century later, many Democrats with racial prejudices returned to the Republican Party in protest of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s support of the Voting Rights Act of 1964. The migration was part of an effort led by Richard Nixon’s “Southern Strategy” to lure southerners back to the GOP.

Fonzi cherry-picked examples of Democrats “embracing” questionable things, such as “eugenics as science” and President Woodrow Wilson attending the screening of a pro-Klan film “The Birth of the Nation” in 1915. This is evidence, Fonzi claims, of Democrats “winking at the racists in its midst” for over 140 years.

Of course, times have changed, and so have the political dynamics.

Here’s a good example, which Fonzi brings up, oddly enough. He wrote about “openly avowed racist” Sen. Robert Byrd. Fonzi accurately stated that Byrd was a high Klan official, but he was wrong to claim that the senator “never stopped using derogatory euphemisms toward African-Americans.” Byrd renounced his youthful participation, saying it was the “greatest mistake [he’s] ever made.” He’s repeatedly apologized for his involvement on the record and in his autobiographies.

Fonzi claims the “left” has made excuses for the violent actions exhibited by the Antifa movement, but doesn’t offer any specific examples. On social media, local Democrats argue that Antifa’s direct action against fascism pales in comparison to genocide and violent racism exhibited by Nazis/KKK. However, several of my conservative readers have pointed out that Antifa, which is an autonomous movement, is inspired by European, pro-communist political movements in the 1930s, which also lead to violence. The movement originated from the Soviet Union’s push to bring communist dictatorship to Germany.

Regardless, the SLOGOP’s moral ambiguity remains a problem. It’s hard to feign outrage against the left when they’ve been silent on condemning hate.

I’m not impressed.

Fonzi offers a lot of deflection and platitudes, but the facts don’t change.

The quintessential American is someone who takes pride in rejecting hate without being coaxed into doing so.  Note to the SLOGOP: Kicking and screaming into condemnation is not very patriotic. Just saying.

Author: Aaron Ochs

Aaron Ochs is a local columnist, entrepreneur and founder of SLO Truth. Ochs is also a member of the SLO Progressives club.