Sean Ray | Student Columnist
It has recently come to light that Louisiana representative Steve Scalise (R) had spoken at a meeting of a white supremacy group in 2002. The meeting was held by a former Grand Dragon of the Ku Klux Klan, David Duke.
This revelation has strewn up controversy, with many calling for Scalise to step down from office, while his fellow Republicans have vowed to stand by him. This issue is especially a hot button because Scalise is the House majority whip, basically making him third in command of the House Republicans.
Controversies are not a new thing to politics. Former President Glover Cleveland was accused of having a child that he abandoned. Indeed, reactions are not much different; with people either calling for the accused’s immediate stepping down from office, or rushing to their defense.
Now, in times of controversy, I believe it is important to remember something: politicians are just as human as anyone else. They make mistakes, have lapses in judgment, or have bad days. A simple mistake should be forgiven. However, if the controversy looks to be something that can affect how a politician acts or votes, then it becomes important.
Take, for example, Bill Clinton. His affair with Monica Lewinski is fairly well known by now. Were his actions morally wrong? Absolutely. Having sexual affairs outside of marriage when one is married is generally agreed to be wrong. Did this make Bill Clinton any worse of a president? Absolutely not. Presidents manage the nation’s budget, lead the army, and enforce rules. None of these have anything to do with marriage and cheating.
Compare this to another Clinton, Hillary. The Benghazi scandal was one of the major controversies of last year. Unlike Bill’s controversy however, Benghazi had to do with Hillary’s job. Whether you supported or were against Hillary, protecting embassies is something the Secretary of State is supposed to look out for. When an embassy is attacked, the Secretary of State is someone that should share some of the blame. It is the secretary’s job to be knowledgeable about conditions in foreign countries, and if an area is too dangerous for an embassy, the secretary should inform the president to pull the diplomats out of the nation before something happens.
So, where does this leave Scalise? Well, speaking at a white supremacy group is something that could affect his job. Delegates generally do what their voters want them to, and with support from white supremacists, Scalise could start voting or crafting laws that negatively affect certain races. However, even in times like this, emotions should not run wild. Asking for Scalise to step down before even a formal investigation is undertaken is wrong. Scalise might have made a simple mistake and was unaware of the group’s views.
If, however, it is discovered Scalise did know the group’s views, or that he has a history of possible racism, then action should be taken against him. Racism is one of the ugliest things in the word, and should be combated wherever it stands. At the very least, Scalise should step down from being the House majority whip, if he is found to be guilty of the accusations. Having a racist as a major party leader would not look good for Republicans, or for Congress in general, whose approval ratings continue to stay low.
Controversies can be times of high emotions and arguments, but it is most important to let cool heads rule through and think things through logically. A witch hunt need not be called until the accusers are sure of the evidence.
By no means do I approve of Scalise’s actions if they are true. Honestly, I would not be surprised if they were, the South does not have the best track record with racial equality. But it is too early to say definitively or not that Scalise is guilty until the matter is formally looked into. An outrage without significant evidence is, to quote Shakespeare, “full of sound and fury, signifying nothing”.