Paul Nehlen is a father, Wisconsin businessman and Republican primary candidate for Paul Ryan’s seat representing Wisconsin’s 1st District. He also happens to be an unabashed white supremacist. Although this isn’t Nehlen’s first bid for U.S. Congress, it’s likely you’ve never heard of him, thanks to the Republican party’s efforts to distance themselves from everything he does.
It’s not hard to grasp how Nehlen thinks — he basically expresses overt disdain toward anyone who doesn’t share his skin color and religion. Nehlen’s past is full of depraved antics, which are further articulated by another Badger Herald columnist.
There’s a strong case to be made that covering white supremacists in any way just amplifies their platform by introducing them to a larger potential audience. While that’s true to a certain extent, putting political figures like Nehlen into the open can also serve as a reminder that people who hold white supremacist views usually hold deranged views about many other contemporary issues, as well.
For example, take Nehlen’s views on immigration, which by comparison make our President’s views sound almost reasonable. In late January, Nehlen made an appearance on the radio show of former KKK leader David Duke. Unsurprisingly, the interview featured a few of Nehlen’s hot takes on immigration reform. Nehlen detailed his vision of Trump’s border wall, but separated himself from Trump by declaring that the wall should also have, “armed machine gun turrets every 300 yards.”
This is obviously terrifying as simply a standalone statement, but Nehlen wasn’t done sticking his foot in his mouth yet. He went on to say, “You can automate those [machine guns]. Anyone who approaches that barrier will be treated as an enemy combatant. Man, woman or child.”
It’s difficult to put into words how vile of a person Paul Nehlen is, but his statement on killing children who get too close to the U.S.-Mexico border speaks for itself. It’s troubling to imagine that political discourse in the U.S. has reached a point where anyone, especially a candidate for Congress, feels it’s acceptable to voice such an opinion as this.
Wisconsin GOP congressional candidate Paul Nehlen banned from Twitter, and rightfully soWisconsin Republican Paul Nehlen, a congressional hopeful running against House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, and overt white nationalist, was recently Read…
We can at least take solace in knowing that Nehlen likely won’t win his election or even his party’s primary, especially with the increasing number of previous supporters who have abandoned Nehlen due to his increasingly racist and anti-semitic rhetoric. University of Wisconsin political science professor Barry Burden succinctly summarized the decay of Nehlan’s political career in an interview with Newsweek.
“He went from being kind of an underground hero in 2016 to a total pariah,” he said. “[Now] no one in the conservative movement is willing to stand with him.”
Even though it’s obvious to most that Nehlen stands little chance of winning, we should still take a moment to ask what the presence of someone like Paul Nehlen means for Wisconsin politics. Nehlen demonstrates that overt and vocal racism in Wisconsin’s political climate is at the very least tolerated by his supporters, which is a larger population than you may expect — his current Facebook campaign page boasts more than 40,000 followers.
Nehlen also serves as a reminder that white supremacy still has a presence in Wisconsin and in the United States as a whole, which is a terrifying thought by itself. But at least it’s a bit comical to know that the best candidate white supremacists could come up with in Wisconsin was Paul Nehlen, which doesn’t bode well for the future success of their ideals.
Brett Mower ([email protected]) is a senior majoring in journalism and economics.