It is telling that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is compelled to rely on Sen. Tim Scott of South Carolina to help craft Republicans’ response to the nationwide demand for reform following the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Why does Scott get the lead? Because he is the only African American Republican in the Senate. And, in case you were wondering, there is but a single African American Republican in the House: the soon-to-be-retired Rep. Will Hurd of Texas. That might tell McConnell and his ilk something is amiss in their party.

In an inadvertently honest moment on Tuesday, McConnell declared, “None of us have had the experience of being an African American in this country and dealing with this discrimination, which persists here some 50 years after the 1964 civil rights bill and the 1965 civil rights bill.”

In using the pronoun “us,” McConnell appeared to be speaking on behalf of the 52 non-black Republicans, an odd formulation but a telling acknowledgement that they lack the diversity necessary to appreciate the full American experience. Goodness knows they have made little effort to try to educate themselves about systemic racism — as many continue to deny it even exists.

Could Scott tell his colleagues what needs to be said? Doing so would mean explaining to colleagues that their minimization of a federal role in addressing police issues smacks of the states’ rights excuses that bigots have used in the past to prevent nosy federal officials from getting involved in their communities. “It’s my view that the best reforms need to happen at the local level. That is where the community can help drive them as opposed to just one national standard across the board. If there is something we can do here that makes sense, I will certainly look at it,” Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) weakly offered.

Scott would have to tell fellow Republicans that they will never have credibility on race so long as they scurry away and refuse to condemn President Trump’s insane suggestion that 75-year-old protester Martin Gugino, whose skull was cracked when pushed to the ground by a police officer in Buffalo was part of some sort of setup with antifa activists. Scott would need to tell Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) that objecting to anti-lynching legislation in 2020 is as grotesque an example of racial callousness as one could imagine. Scott would also be compelled to tell his colleagues that in refusing to take up the Heroes Act, which would fund testing and state and local governments, they are once against disproportionately harming African Americans — just as their ludicrous effort to repeal the Affordable Care Act in the middle of a pandemic would do. He would be obliged to tell Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) that proposing the military be unleashed on civilians and give “no quarter” is akin to recommending the killing of protesters, who are predominately African American.

Scott would also have to tell Republicans to cease support for voter suppression techniques — including opposition to mail-in voting, voter ID laws (in the absence of significant fraud), denial of sufficient polling facilities in African American neighborhoods, gerrymandering (to limit the voting power of nonwhites) and voter roll purges. Perhaps Scott can talk his fellow Republicans into supporting the most obvious reforms (e.g., a ban on police chokeholds), but the serious work of rooting out systemic racism in criminal justice, health care, education and every other aspect of American life is impossible in today’s Republican Party, which has become the party of white grievance, historical fabrication, xenophobia, authoritarianism and unfettered devotion to the interests of the wealthy.

It is entirely untenable so long as Republicans refuse to criticize Trump in any meaningful way, despite his attempts to bestow respectability to neo-Nazis (“very fine people on both sides”), his early adherence to birtherism and his message of returning to a mythical past when women and nonwhites were without legal protections. They continue to defend a president who in the national convulsion over race announces (on the day NASCAR, not exactly a great bastion of left-wing ideology, bars display of the Confederate flag at its events) that he will not even consider renaming military bases honoring Confederate generals because of . . . well . . . “Great American Heritage.”

Scott cannot fashion a remotely adequate Republican response to Floyd’s killing because Trump and his Republican Party are a central part of and, indeed, aggravate the problem — along with their cadre of right-wing white nationalists and run-of-the-mill apologists. The American response to racism requires the political obliteration of the Republican Party as we know it. That starts with voting them out of office, up and down the ballot, in November.

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