New U.S. House GOP Majority Whip Steve Scalise voted against making Martin Luther King, Jr. Day a state holiday twice while he was in the Louisiana state legislature. The Republican Congressman, who is under increased scrutiny for addressing a White Nationalist group in 2002, has spent the week in damage control mode. Scalise is trying to distance himself from David Duke and the European-American Unity and Rights Organization (EURO). However, his voting record to reject accepting the Martin Luther King holiday will do little to quell suspicions that he is a racist.
In 1999, Scalise cast one of only three votes against establishing the holiday. In 2004, he was just one of six lawmakers to vote down a bill to make MLK day a state holiday. 90 lawmakers supported the measure. Scalise continues to deny that he had any knowledge of EURO’s white supremacist ideology, though one would think the name itself provides a bit of clue.
While rejecting the Martin Luther King holiday doesn’t necessarily out Scalise as a hardcore white nationalist, it does suggest that his views on race are suspect at best. He says he detests hate groups. Then he awkwardly compares a hate group to the League of Women Voters. That bizarre comparison reveals how unoffensive he really finds white supremacists. Or alternatively, it proves that he hates civic minded women who want to provide information to voters. Either position is indefensible.
Steve Scalise will continue to try to run from his dubious association with white nationalists. He may even convince himself that he is “color blind”. However, his two votes against the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday now seem to take on a new significance. At a time when Scalise is trying to distance himself from white racists, his two votes against the MLK holiday are coming back to haunt him. As well they should. Pandering to racists may be smart electoral politics in Metairie, Louisiana. However, it doesn’t look so good when that politician hits the national stage. Now that Scalise is under the national spotlight, his past may undo him politically. His days as Majority Whip may already be numbered.