LINCOLN, Neb. (AP) — A Republican state lawmaker from Nebraska is blasting his party for “enabling white supremacy in our country” and calling on the state’s all-GOP congressional delegation to speak out against President Donald Trump’s inflammatory comments about minorities.
Sen. John McCollister, a moderate Republican from Omaha, made the comments on Twitter late Sunday in response to weekend mass shootings in Ohio and Texas that left more than 30 dead. Officials have said the suspect in the El Paso, Texas shooting posted an online diatribe against immigrants before that shooting.
In an interview Monday, McCollister said the shooting was a “tipping point” for him to call out his party, although he doesn’t plan to change his affiliation.
“I hope big-name Republicans will be more willing to take a strong stand against some of the lack of moral activity by some of our Republican office holders,” McCollister said.
In a string of Twitter postings, McCollister singled out President Donald Trump, “who continually stokes racist fears in his base.”
“The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country,” he wrote. “As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s the truth.”
McCollister pointed to Trump’s vulgar description of African countries during an immigration discussion with lawmakers and his public statement that four liberal, minority congresswomen should “go back” to their countries of origin. All four of the House Democrats are American citizens and three were born in the United States.
Most of Nebraska’s congressional delegation remained silent after Trump’s remarks or offered subdued criticism. U.S. Rep. Don Bacon of Omaha’s 2nd Congressional District called the statements “unacceptable” but stopped short of labeling them racist.
Gov. Pete Ricketts, a Republican Trump supporter who has been at odds with McCollister in the past, defended the president Monday afternoon and said white supremacy and racism have no place in the United States.
“Contrary to baseless accusations made on social media, the Republican Party does not tolerate such hateful views,” Ricketts wrote on Twitter, without mentioning McCollister.
McCollister said many Republican lawmakers look the other way when the president makes such comments out of fear it will hurt their re-elections. He said he wasn’t suggesting that all Republicans were racist, but was frustrated that party leaders haven’t done more.
“The time is now for us Republicans to be honest with what is happening inside our party,” he said. “We are better than this and I implore my Republican colleagues to stand up and do the right thing.”
McCollister said Monday the GOP also needs to champion wind energy, environmental protections and the National Park System.
McCollister, 72, is the son of former Nebraska U.S. Rep. John Y. McCollister, a Republican who served from 1971-1977. As a state legislator, he represents an Omaha district once held by former U.S. Rep. Brad Ashford, a former moderate Republican who switched to the Democratic Party and was elected to one term in Congress.
McCollister is serving his second and final term in the officially nonpartisan Nebraska Legislature, and has clashed with party before with his support for expanding Medicaid. He also voted against a bill sought by abortion opponents to create a state-sanctioned license plate displaying the words “Choose Life.”
McCollister can’t seek re-election due to term limits, and because Nebraska’s system is nonpartisan, party leaders can do little to retaliate against him.
One former Nebraska lawmaker, state Sen. Laura Ebke, was defeated in her 2018 re-election bid after leaving the Republican Party in 2016 and registering as a Libertarian.
Ebke said the rise of Trump played a small role in her decision, but she was more concerned about the party’s direction and Gov. Pete Ricketts’ demand for more “platform Republicans” in the Legislature.