Jennifer Carnahan, the new chairwoman of the Minnesota Republican Party, is the first to admit the modern GOP has issues with racism and sexism.
All that nasty business needs to be purged, she believes, to make way for the real values of the Republican Party – growth, opportunity, and fiscal conservatism.
Republicans bought her pitch, electing a 40-year-old Korean-American woman with practically zero political experience to rebrand the party. Minnesota's conservatives, it seemed, were open to change.
Two days later, 7th Congressional District Republicans posted a photo of Congressman Keith Ellison on Facebook, calling him a “Muslim goat humper.” It wasn't exactly a calling card of a new Republican Party.
For her part, Carnahan did everything right, wasting no time publicly apologizing and demanding the resignation of the person responsible.
But as news of the Ellison post spread, hate mail started piling up in Carnahan’s Facebook Messenger. People didn’t seem to care that she wasn’t the person who created the post. They called her a racist. They demanded she step down. They were all from people who hate racism, presumably, though some were plenty racist themselves.
Carnahan says she felt the same visceral disgust as when she saw the Ellison post.
“I didn’t feel scared, but I honestly was just more in shock,” she says. “There’s just no room to talk to someone like that, even if you’re upset and angry. I was highly insulted and I just thought, ‘What kind of person even uses a word like that, ever, in their life?’”
One man who called Carnahan started screaming as soon as she picked up. Carnahan recalls that he said something along the lines of, “You better fucking watch your back, you fucking bitch. We’re coming to get you. We know where you are.”
She left her condo and went to stay with a friend for the weekend, just in case anyone showed up at her door. She no longer answers calls from strange numbers.
Being the target of public outrage is part of working in politics, Carnahan knows. But as long as she's trying to hold Republicans to a zero tolerance policy toward racism and hate speech, she says, the least Democrats could do is not be hypocrites.