Yesterday, Las Vegas City Council Member Michele Fiore finally agreed to drop the “Mayor Pro-tem” title she had held since 2017. So can we finally “put that issue to rest”?
No. No, we can not and must not. After all, this goes far beyond what Michele Fiore has said this past month. And quite honestly, this goes far beyond Michele Fiore herself.
No comment from Michele Fiore… On Michele Fiore’s own prior comments
Disclaimer: I tried contacting a couple potential sources within the Nevada Republican Party to get to the bottom of what exactly Las Vegas City Council Member (and Mayor Pro-tem) Michele Fiore said at the Clark County Republican Party Convention earlier this month. No one got back to me, but someone else ultimately said what Fiore actually said.
According to Congressional candidate and current Fiore ally Niger Innis’ recollection to The Nevada Independent, Fiore told the Clark County Republican audience, “If there’s a job opening and my white ass is more qualified than somebody’s black ass, then my white ass should get the job.”
Until this week, Fiore had refused to either confirm or deny what she actually said. And for all the complaints from other Republican politicians and operatives about Fiore’s “racially charged remarks” (that’s how the Clark County Republican Party described Fiore’s comments), none of them would actually say what Fiore actually said until Innis spoke with the Indy.
And now, a reminder of the “Web of Hate” that such “racially charged remarks” strengthen
Over the years, countless far-right politicians have attacked the concept of affirmative action as “unfair”. Now, they’re attacking the Black Lives Matter movement and anti-racist activists as “divisive”, “reverse racist”, and even “terrorists”. And now, these far-right politicians’ “racially charged remarks” are offering convenient cover for violent racist actions across the country, even some dangerously close to home.
Last week, the FBI arrested three Boogaloo Bois who’ve been charged with a wide-ranging plan of attacks that included an attempt to attack a Las Vegas Black Lives Matter protest, a plot to firebomb a park ranger station at Lake Mead, and talks of possibly attacking a power substation and a pro-Trump “Reopen Nevada” rally.
Boogaloo Bois claim to be “libertarian”, and they claim their mission is “armed insurrection against government tyranny”. But in reality, the Boogaloo movement is rooted in far-right online “shitposting” that thinly concealed the boys’ desire for race war, a race war that they hope will take down the U.S. government so they can build their new fascist state.
As we explored during previous installments of our “Web of Hate” series, fascist movements like the Boogaloo Bois tend to conceal their violent platform in “playful humor” to better “red pill the normies” into fascism. Whether they intend to do this or not, right-wing politicians only help these fascists “red pill” more people by normalizing their language, their ideology, and ultimately their movement(s).
“At what point do we stop using the race card?”
– Michele Fiore, at a Nevada Legislature hearing in March 2015
Last Thursday, Las Vegas City Council Member Cedric Crear called for his colleague Michele Fiore to lose her “Mayor Pro-tem” leadership title. Community activists have since gone further in launching a “Expel Michele” recall campaign against her, and this has come after environmental activists launched their own recall campaign in response to Fiore’s controversial plan to build an events venue (that her own family stand to profit from) at Floyd Lamb Park.
In response to Crear’s call for her to step down as “Mayor Pro-tem”, and in response to Black Lives Matter activists’ call for an end to police brutality and institutionalized racism throughout society, Fiore declared last Thursday, “Black Lives get media. White lives don’t. All lives matter.” Fiore then claimed she supports “police reform”, but she wouldn’t commit to much of anything beyond future “community town halls”.
Actually, as we’ve repeatedly pointed out on these pages (such as my “Brief(-ish) History of American Fascism”), as The Root has thoroughly explained, and as many others have discussed, the Black Lives Matter movement is a response to the past four centuries of white lives being prioritized while black and brown lives were denigrated. Fiore has had ample time to learn this history, but instead she keeps doubling down on this false narrative that amounts to erasure of actual American history.
In 2014, Fiore celebrated Cliven Bundy’s “Range War” against the federal government, even after “mainstream” national media outlets began to notice that Bundy’s rationale for “Range War” is based on white supremacist ideology. In 2015, when representatives from the NAACP National Voter Fund tried to explain how the voter ID bill that Fiore supported would disproportionately harm voters of color, Fiore complained, “At what point do we stop using the race card?” At the same hearing, Fiore offered some bizarrely worded “praise” for then Assembly Member Harvey Munford (D-Las Vegas), then claimed that because Barack Obama was president, “So the color and the race issue: I think it’s time that we put that to rest?”
Michele Fiore has plenty of friends (or at least, ideological allies) in high places, and their track records are just as tainted as hers.
It’s easy to express “shock”, “dismay”, and even “revulsion” over Michele Fiore’s words and deeds. It’s much harder to look beyond Fiore and notice how much of this extreme bigotry has seeped into Nevada’s and America’s political “mainstream”. Just yesterday, Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman praised Fiore for being “loyal and giving to every community all the time”. Keep in mind that on a multitude of matters, from the city’s targeting of the Downtown homeless population to their alarming COVID-19 denialism, Carolyn Goodman has locked arms with Michele Fiore the whole damned time.
And it doesn’t even stop at Las Vegas City Hall. Months before Fiore indulged in some “revolutionary” cosplay at the Bundy Ranch, Assembly Member Jim Wheeler (R-Gardnerville) told a private audience that he’d vote to reinstate legally sanctioned slavery if “that is what is constituents wanted him to do”. Wheeler went on to take over the Assembly Republican Caucus in 2017 and serve as Minority Leader during the 2019 legislative session.
Going back to 2014, then Assembly Member Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) came excruciatingly close to becoming Assembly Speaker following the “Great Red Tide” that washed Republicans into power, but the revelation of his past racist, anti-Semitic, misogynist, and homophobic writings caused Assembly Republicans to ultimately designate John Hambrick (R-Las Vegas) as Speaker instead. Nonetheless, Hansen wielded tremendous power in the Assembly in 2015, including chairing the Judiciary Committee and holding an “Assistant Majority Leader” title.
Even as Michele Fiore’s political career continually ebbed and flowed, Hansen’s flourished. He won another term in the Assembly in 2016, though he returned to the Assembly in 2017 with Republicans in the minority. Then in 2018, Hansen got elected to the State Senate. And in 2019, Hansen continued his tradition of spouting “incendiary rhetoric” by declaring abortion “the 20th century version of 19th century slavery”. Yet as of today, no state or county Republican Party official is calling for any censure of Hansen and/or Wheeler.
“LIBERATE!” for me, but not for thee
Again, even after Cliven Bundy “wondered aloud” whether African-Americans were “better off as slaves” in April 2014, Michele Fiore continued to support the Bundys, even to the point of showing up at their court hearings and acting as a “mediator” in Oregon after Ammon Bundy led the incursion into Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in February 2016.
But hey, at least Michele Fiore never pretended otherwise. To the contrary, several other Republican politicians, such as U.S. Senator Rand Paul (R-Kentucky) and then U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R), had rushed to the Bundys’ side until Cliven’s “thoughts on slavery” rendered them a “political liability” to the GOP. Yet even then, and even after two Bundy Ranch “Range War” alumni assassinated Las Vegas Metro Police Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo less than two months later, none of these right-wing politicians dared to speak out against the fascist and bigoted ideology at the heart of this violence.
Fast forward six years later, and many of the same far-right politicians resurfaced to chant “Blue Lives Matter” and claim their “support for the police” to discredit the Black Lives Matter movement and the growing calls to end the scourge of police brutality. Why is it that these “libertarians” scream about “government overreach” when white landowners refuse to respect the rule of law, and when armed white men “protest” just feet away from the Governor’s Mansion, but then turn around and scream “Blue Lives Matter!” when black and brown protesters demand an end to institutionalized racism?
We’re not stopping at Michele Fiore. Let’s go all the way to the White House.
As I’ve been pointing out throughout this column, this problem goes way beyond what Michele Fiore said at the Clark County Republican Convention earlier this month. And even though Fiore finally stepped down as Mayor Pro-tem yesterday, this problem is far from over.
Not only does Fiore still wield tremendous influence inside Las Vegas City Hall and in the Republican Party. After all, Fiore was resoundingly reelected as RNC Committeewoman at the Nevada Republican Party Convention just last weekend, and none other than Jim Wheeler got a speaking slot at that very convention.
And since we’re talking about the Republican Party, we might as well go all the way to the top. President Donald Trump has reveled in racism during his entire political career, yet he’s continually “failed upwards”, all the way into the White House. Even after Trump proclaimed there were “very fine people on both sides” in Charlottesville, even after Trump called a large swath of immigrants “animals”, and even after Trump began matching his violent rhetoric with violent actions against Black Lives Matter protesters, Republicans up and down the ticket continue to defend Trump’s words and deeds.
Finally, let’s bring this back home.
— PLAN (@PLANevada) June 17, 2020
Again, this problem goes way beyond Michele Fiore. At Las Vegas City Hall today, activists have been trying to speak out against the city’s new protester backpack ban that passed following the launch of the Black Lives Matter protests, yet city officials are pointing to the state’s social distancing rules to justify their new rules on public comment.
Goodman insisted again yesterday that she “doesn’t see color”, and Fiore again promised a “course of action that will help repair the many hurting communities who have been affected by this deep divide”, yet neither seems to be leading any kind of charge in demanding honest answers on Metro Police’s conduct at the local Black Lives Matter protests.
— John Piro (@JohnPiroNV) June 17, 2020
Even though we now know what Michele Fiore said at the Clark County Republican Party Convention, and even though Fiore no longer has that fancy ceremonial title at Las Vegas City Hall, this problem is far from over. In the coming days, we’ll take a closer look at another brewing controversy involving local politicians, one that speaks to a brutal tradition of “politics of personal destruction” that’s more bipartisan than many care to admit.
You have constitutional rights, regardless of what anyone claims. If you are in need of legal assistance, check with the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada, Washoe Legal Services, Volunteer Attorneys for Rural Nevadans, and the Nevada Supreme Court’s Self-help Center. If you’d like to help during this time of need, check out the ACLU of Nevada, PLAN’s Las Vegas Freedom Fund, Black Lives Matter, Color of Change, and additional organizations across the nation who need our support.