WASHINGTON — Nebraska State Sen. John McCollister is speaking out against his own Republican Party and President Donald Trump.
“The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country,” McCollister wrote on Twitter on Sunday night. “As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s the truth.”
In a phone interview Monday, McCollister said he has been concerned about the direction of his party for some time, but the horrors of people being gunned down over the weekend represented a tipping point.
The Republican Party is enabling white supremacy in our country. As a lifelong Republican, it pains me to say this, but it’s the truth.— Senator McCollister (@SenMcCollister) August 5, 2019
I of course am not suggesting that all Republicans are white supremacists nor am I saying that the average Republican is even racist.
McCollister’s Twitter posts came after the mass shooting in El Paso, Texas, on Saturday that left 22 people dead and 24 injured. Authorities have linked the gunman to a manifesto posted online that railed against an “invasion” of Latino immigrants, particularly in Texas.
McCollister, 72, has identified as a moderate voice in the party and represents a district in central Omaha. His father, the late John Y. McCollister, was a Republican who served in the U.S. House of Representatives in the 1970s.
McCollister wrote on Twitter that he’s not suggesting that all Republicans are white supremacists or even that the average Republican is a racist.
“What I am saying though is that the Republican Party is COMPLICIT to obvious racist and immoral activity inside our party,” he wrote. “We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base. He calls certain countries ‘sh*tholes,’ tells women of color to ‘go back’ to where they came from and lies more than he tells the truth.”
He said Republican lawmakers look the other way and say nothing because they are afraid of losing elections.
“No more,” he wrote. “When the history books are written, I refuse to be someone who said nothing. The time is now for us Republicans to be honest with what is happening inside our party. We are better than this and I implore my Republican colleagues to stand up and do the right thing.”
Nebraska’s Republican Gov. Pete Ricketts appeared to respond to McCollister on Monday afternoon with his own series of tweets, although he did not refer to the legislator by name.
“White supremacy and racism have no place in our country, and they must be driven out. I have said this repeatedly and will say it again and again,” Ricketts tweeted. “Contrary to baseless accusations made on social media, the Republican Party does not tolerate such hateful views.”
The executive director of the Nebraska Republican Party, Ryan Hamilton, responded to McCollister by issuing a statement via Twitter suggesting that the state senator re-register as a Democrat.
Hamilton said McCollister has opposed conservative policy positions on issues ranging from taxes to abortion.
“His latest false statement about Republicans should come as no surprise to anyone who is paying attention and we’re happy he has finally shed all pretense of being a conservative,” Hamilton said.
In the interview, McCollister specifically cited members of Nebraska’s all-GOP congressional delegation as lacking in their responses to the president and his rhetoric.
For example, Trump said that several women of color in the House, all citizens, should go back to where they came from.
Rep. Don Bacon responded by calling the statements “unacceptable” but stopped short of labeling them racist. And he has stood by his endorsement of Trump.
Other members of the delegation also offered muted criticisms or simply avoided commenting on Trump’s statements altogether.
“I’d like to see some moral outrage from some of our Republican officeholders,” McCollister said. “The silence is deafening.”
McCollister told The World-Herald that his father wouldn’t recognize today’s GOP. He said his hope is that enough people will speak up that party leaders will have to take notice.
McCollister won a second term in the Nebraska Legislature last year by defeating left-leaning Democratic opponents. He did not garner a challenge from the right, despite having shown a willingness to buck party leaders.
That included voting against “Choose Life” license plates, seeking to expand Medicaid coverage and asking the Nebraska attorney general to back off trying to end the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program.
McCollister’s Sunday tweets garnered lots of attention. Though some criticized the senator’s tweets, he noted that his followers had increased tenfold to more than 6,500 by Monday morning and that the number was continuing to climb.
“The overwhelming message that I’m getting from people is, ‘Thanks for speaking up — I’ve felt this way for a long time,’ ” he said.