Fight back! Don’t allow extremists to hide in plain sight | Opinion

·3 min read

We are at a crossroad. We are at a time where silence equals tacit complicity. Democracy requires that we show up. We cannot mail it in.

When extremists and their sympathizers are embedded in a local political party’s executive board, with no objection or consternation from others on that board or, perhaps more damning, from elected officials of the same party, it must be called out.

At least five members of Republican Party’s local governing body, the Miami-Dade Republican Executive Committee, have ties to the Proud Boys, declared an extremist group by the FBI.

Is that acceptable?

We must protect democracy as one would protect a flower garden from animals. Democracy is as fragile as the most beautiful of roses, even though it has thorns to prick those who cannot handle it delicately. By turning a blind eye and a deaf ear to extremists laying siege to local political parties, we are turning a flower bed into a bed of hatred, of dishonesty.

The words of Goebbels have become the strategy in too many circles here. “A lie told once remains a lie, but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

The “Big Lie of the 2020 presidential election surpassed the previous big lie that Barack Obama was not born in America. Both were orchestrated by the same person — Donald Trump.

It’s been downhill since then, cracking open the door just enough for extremist groups to ooze their way into political parties, school boards, and commission races. Of course, you can always blame the media with the well-worn scream of “fake news!” But as the Bangor Daily News in Maine eloquently stated: “Facts matter. But they don’t make themselves known. They don’t, actually, speak for themselves. They need people, such as journalists, or yourselves, to say them out loud.”. We need to say these things out loud lest it gets lost in the quicksand called apathy. The time is now not tomorrow.

Extremists are a cancer remains undetected then spreads to other parts of the body, up to and including all the limbs of a functioning and healthy society. Subsequently, I fear that it’s only a matter of time before these extremist groups serve as a personal paramilitary wing for a candidate who buys into their mission statement.

One need go back to the 1950s when a Wisconsin Sen. Joseph McCarthy ruined lives with lies and false accusations of Communism. It was that generation’s Big Lie. It took the courage of an Army-hired lawyer, Joseph Welch, to ask McCarthy, “Have you no sense of decency, sir?”

There are far more good people in Miami-Dade County then there are extremists and sympathizers. We, too, need to seek decency, just as Welch did. An exhibition of firm resolve will counter the political spinelessness that rivals COVID for its contagious properties.

Subsequently, a small window exists where a proper response can avert problems down the road. Think France and England between 1934-1938. History makes clear that inaction will come back to haunt the inactive. The residents of Miami-Dade County must be adamant in their resolve that this will not stand.

Extremists must not be allowed to hide in plain view. Political philosopher Hannah Arendt summed it up after the Reichstag fire in Nazi Germany in 1933: “I was no longer of the opinion that one can simply be a bystander.”

David Magnusson was a police chief in North Carolina and South Florida after spending 30 years with the Miami Police Department. He was the committee chairperson for the Association of Miami-Dade Chiefs of Police Domestic Violent Extremism Committee and currently works with the Anti-Defamation League informing law-enforcement agencies about hate crimes and violent extremism.