Alaska U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan finally released a statement Tuesday night on the anti-racism protests that have swept the nation, condemning the killing of George Floyd and calling out systemic racism in America.
“The killing of George Floyd was a shocking and sickening act. Those involved must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. Racism in America unfortunately continues to exist. It is real, it is evil, and it should never be tolerated,” he said in a pair of tweets. “Julie and I pray that we can come together – as Americans, as Alaskans – to work toward justice, equality, and peace for all.”
It’s by most accounts a fine statement that eschews the both-sidesing of the issue that’s been a hallmark of the last four years of conservative governance. It would have been even better if it had not come after President Donald Trump’s now-infamous photo-op in front of St. John’s Episcopal Church on Monday night.
Sullivan, a dependable Trump ally who’s up for reelection this year, was among the Republican senators questioned by reporters Tuesday about the federal government’s use of force to clear peaceful protesters with “don’t call it tear gas even though it is tear gas” pepper balls and low-flying helicopters so the president could pose with a Bible.
His statement to the reporters is telling:
“Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska: Walks by with no response,” tweeted NBCNews Reporter Kasie Hunt.
Unfortunately, Sullivan’s response seems to be the status-quo for Senate Republicans who met reporters’ questioning of the use of force with silence, no comment, claims that they simply hadn’t seen it or, in some cases, full-throated support.
It’s no secret that America has a president that is stoking the flames of white supremacy with a wink and a nod. He’s used the state’s highest office to demean and belittle people of color both abroad and at home, creating a permission structure that’s empowered the vicious responses to protesters today.
He’s done this without much challenge from his party members, who string words like “evil” and “injustice” together in PR statements but fail to acknowledge the president’s role in encouraging blatant acts of racism and police violence against protesters.
Standing idly by President Trump isn’t new for Sullivan, either. Here’s another notable time, as reported by the New York Times, when the president sought to undermine the United State Postal Service:
Congressional Republicans who represent rural areas where the daily mail is an economic and medical lifeline have been some of the agency’s biggest supporters, and they could face political consequences for embracing the president’s position.
Take Senator Dan Sullivan, Republican of Alaska. He stood silently behind Mr. Trump in the Oval Office when the president threatened to block emergency aid to the Postal Service late last month.
But in Alaska, the mail is a vital commodity, delivering goods to remote areas that commercial delivery companies do not serve. On a tele-town hall with constituents recently, Mr. Sullivan said he would defend the Postal Service against any potential cuts.
“It’s a lifeline for so many of our communities,” he said. “We are defenders of all of these programs because you can’t be treated differently just because you’re an American and you live in a village without a road.”
And to be clear, it doesn’t take a whole lot to be heralded as a brave conservative willing to buck partisan politics and do what’s right. Just look at U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski and her statement made to that pool of reporters on Tuesday.
“I did not think that what we saw last night was the America I know.”
See, is literally the bare minimum in criticism that hard?