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Editorial: We Need Leaders Who Know When to Shut Up; Burgos Should Step Down

You don’t need a controversy started by an elected Virginia Republican Party leader to know that we have a problem with our political discourse, but it sure does illustrate the point.

Last week, Bearing Drift highlighted comments made by 11th District State Central Committee representative Fredy Burgos.  In both an article [1] from Editor-in-Chief Jim Hoeft and a guest piece [2] written by Nadia Elgendy, a Muslim RPV State Central Committee member and College Republican leader, Bearing Drift made clear that the kinds of comments (in a variety of social media forms) made by Burgos were improper and inappropriate.  In response to our reporting, Mr. Burgos issued an “apology.”

Here’s the text of the actual apology:

burgosapology [3]

As far as apologies go, this one leaves much to be desired.  Ignoring grammar and spelling, it is simply not believable that his statements were “misconstrued.”

Our apologies to Mr. Burgos, but it’s hard to misconstrue statements such as these:

burgos1 [4]

burgos2 [5]burgos3 [6]

These comments represent a fundamentally different problem than the kinds of situations we’ve seen before with Republican leaders and social media.

This wasn’t a situation where bad jokes were spun into antisemitism during electoral silly season [7], or a case of poor word choice coming from a baby boomer who has never heard of Urban Dictionary.  Those situations, at least, were one-off events.  Mr. Burgos has demonstrated a consistent, repeated pattern of behavior of saying inflammatory, bigoted things on social media.  Only now, having been elected, is his world-view coming under scrutiny.

Unfortunately, these comments reflect a world-view that is becoming all too common in GOP circles.  We were pleased, however, at how quickly this rhetoric was condemned by (most) party leaders.

While we acknowledge that at least Mr. Burgos has acknowledged his error and taken down the offending tweets, the damage has been done — and unfortunately, such damage compounds the damage done by previous party leadership in similar circumstances.

The Washington Post [8] noted our reporting, as well as comments from other Virginia Republican leaders that helped demonstrate to the public that Republicans — not just Democrats and the perpetually offended — find this behavior to be unacceptable.

We are concerned, however, by Virginia Trump Co-Chair Corey Stewart’s comments that “[w]e just can’t police the views of every Republican out there.”  While this is true, what Chairman Stewart doesn’t seem to grasp is that Burgos is not simply a Republican.  He’s an elected party leader.  What he says has an impact on the party as a whole.

We cannot police the views of every Republican, nor should we.  Yet we can and should police the views of our Republican elected leadership, whether in public or party office.

The role of a free press is to help voters hold their leaders accountable, and as the most-read center-right news outlet in Virginia, we here at Bearing Drift have long accepted this obligation.

We can’t do this alone.

We know, just as our readers know, that conservatives and the rest of our center-right coalition are not the bigoted neanderthals the left has long tried to stigmatize us as.

The idea that disagreement is a form of hate speech is a childish, amateurish, and in some circles carefully plotted strategy to silence dissent, thought, and speech.  It is precisely the opposite sort vice and viciousness that only fuels the polarization of the public square and creates instances such as these.

The truth is, conservatives come from all walks of life, economic backgrounds, races and ethnicities, differing sexual orientations and yes — many faiths.  Conservatives by intent and design demand diversity because it makes us that much stronger.  Such diversity of thought, backgrounds, and opinions are reflected in the political party most of us belong to.

So when certain party leaders play down to the expectations of the political left — especially when such ignorance goes unchallenged — not only does this reinforce certain negative stereotypes about conservatives, but it strikes at the very heart of who we are.

This is the kind of image the left paints about us:

"Republican Hate Kills" read the banner at a NY gay pride parade following the Orlando terrorist attack. The killer was a registered Democrat. [9]
“Republican Hate Kills” read the banner at a NY gay pride parade following the Orlando terrorist attack. The killer was a registered Democrat. Photo appears in The Daily Wire [10].

The reality is far different.

Most Republicans don’t care about background, ethnicity, race, creed, color, sexual orientation, or any of the rest.  What do we care about?  Free markets, free minds, and a free society.

An equal chance for every child, strong families that don’t have the economy rigged against their success, a nation that trusts one another with our basic civil liberties, and a foreign policy that extends “peace through strength” with the very best of our virtues — and where liberty is threatened, it is defended with the business end of an M-4.

Republicans will continue to get what we deserve when we do nothing — even if it’s just a small number who continue to speak with venom and anger towards others.

The demonization of “the other” plays right into the hands of the political left and their enablers, who are quick to hand victim status to anyone a Republican criticizes no matter how valid the criticism.

When, as here, the criticism is ridiculously overbroad and inappropriate, one simply hands the opponents of freedom a weapon to use against our ideas.  When we fail to highlight bad behavior from party leaders, and when the party at large tolerates this behavior?  Such silence equates to tacit acceptance.

That silence is morally unacceptable.  It is unacceptable not only because it damages the party politically, it is unacceptable because it is morally wrong to ignore injustice and do nothing.

An apology — especially one that tries to claim he was misunderstood when what he has said is clear – does not fix the damage.  For the good of the party, Mr. Burgos should step down.

We at Bearing Drift care about the conservative message.  We will continue to do our part to ensure that the fundamental, core messages of optimism and hope that have long characterized the conservative movement — messages that still bind together our entire center-right coalition — are not lost in a sea of 140 character bigotry.

That is going to take discipline and self-control on the part of our leaders, and a willingness to stand up and confront bad behavior on the part of our colleagues when they make mistakes.  Bearing Drift has done so for the last decade, and we will continue to do so not only because it speaks to the best of the conservative tradition, but because it is simply the right thing to do.