News & Politics

Civil War Comments Cause Problems for State Legislative Candidate

Donald Trump has succeeded despite all conventional wisdom regarding what can and cannot be said as a candidate for public office. No matter how outrageous any comment may be, Trump weathers the storm and comes out the other side stronger. One might wonder whether that signals a shift in the overall political environment. Can anyone do what Trump has done? Can we all say outrageous things now?

Apparently not. From the Minneapolis Star Tribune:

A candidate for the Legislature in the northern suburb of Blaine has resigned from his job as an aide to Minnesota House Republicans, following a report about his Facebook posts celebrating the Confederacy.

A House official confirmed the Wednesday resignation of Nolan West, who began working for House Republicans in 2015.

On the day South Carolina removed the Confederate battle flag from its statehouse grounds in 2015, West reposted an advertisement for the flags on his Facebook page, continuing his history of publicly expressing admiration for the Confederacy and disdain for President Abraham Lincoln.

It’s noteworthy that West’s posts regarding the Confederate battle flag and Abraham Lincoln, while certainly impolitic, were no where near as outrageous as some of the things Donald Trump has said. The notion that the “War of Northern Aggression” was a violation of state’s rights, and that President Lincoln acted tyrannically, is neither new nor inherently racial.

Reasonable people can disagree about the morality of the Civil War without evoking race or the merits of slavery. Trump, by contrast, has made overtly racial comments regarding a federal judge. He also placed at the top of his campaign a figure with ties to the vile alt-right. In the same moment that West is forced to resign for comments about the Confederate battle flag, Trump is lifted up as the Republican Party’s nominee for president.

Apparently, for the little guy running at the state and local level, nothing has changed. The conventional wisdom remains wisdom wherever convention remains convention. Trump may be able to get away with absolutely anything. But Republicans elsewhere must still abide by the old standard. Is that a good thing or a bad thing? Hard to say.