I just learned last night that Bette Midler, an outspoken critic of the President, went onto Twitter earlier this week and criticized Melania Trump for her accent and for being an immigrant. Such a comment is anathema to those who support equality and diversity and it angers and saddens me to read about it.
Her comment launched a firestorm on Facebook with people of all political stripes denouncing her remark. Here in Warren, that discussion took a nasty, ugly, racist turn when the Chair of the Board of Canvassers (https://www.townofwarren-ri.gov/town_government/boards_and_commissions/board_of_canvassers.php) decided to comment on that in a public Facebook post. After lambasting Midler as “Typical Hollywood Liberal S**t Head”, he decided to dial things up by mentioning Former First Lady Michelle Obama and describing her appearance using a racist two-word phrase I cannot bring myself to write here.
Within hours there was a letter to the Town Council decrying his words and by Thursday afternoon the Warren Times Gazette reported that he was going to resign the Board of Canvassers on Friday, saying “Evidently they don’t want me to exercise my first amendment rights. I’m just going to resign.” As of the end of day Friday, no such resignation was forthcoming.
As I write this, I think about what it will look like when this story is picked up by the Providence Journal and from there goes to news outlets throughout the country. What will people think when they learn that a man who writes racist things in public oversees our local election? That one of his roles, along with other board members, is to go out into the community and help those who request assistance filling out their ballots. One cannot help but wonder what kind of conversation is he having with the elderly woman who is confused by the ballot or the disabled person who needs help checking the boxes correctly? What happens on those occasions should never be of concern.
The residents of Warren give the Warren Board of Canvassers the power they have in good faith, faith that they will put aside their political biases and personal prejudices to make sure everyone gets to vote without influencing how they vote or what happens to those votes. The comment by the Chair belies that trust. If he will not resign, the Council should take whatever steps are necessary to remove him from office.