John McCollister, 72, is a Republican Senator from Nebraska who recently called out the Republican party on Twitter for “enabling white supremacy in our country”.
McCollister sent the tweet on August 5 following a weekend of mass shootings that left a total of 29 dead following two incidents in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
The suspect in the El Paso case, Patrick Crusius, is believed to be a white supremacist. He allegedly posted a manifesto to the message board 8chan before the shooting that started with “In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas.”
The suspect in the Dayton, Ohio shooting, Connor Betts, isn’t believed to be a white supremacist and the attack doesn’t appear to be racially motivated. He ran a Twitter account, @iamthespookster, that had extreme leftist views.
“Millenials have a message for the Joe Biden generation: hurry up and die.” he tweeted on August 3, the day of the shooting. He also retweeted several things from presidential candidates Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren. He also “liked” several tweets that referred to the El Paso shooter as a “terrorist,” and a “white supremacist.”
McCollister, who represents Omaha, was apparently fed up with his colleagues supporting some of President Trump’s more controversial views. “We have a Republican president who continually stokes racist fears in his base. He calls certain countries “sh*tholes,” tells women of color to “go back” to where they came from and lies more than he tells the truth.” He said in a Facebook post after the initial tweet went viral.
“The time is now for us Republicans to be honest with what is happening inside our party.” wrote McCollister “We are better than this and I implore my Republican colleagues to stand up and do the right thing.”
John McCollister was elected to the senate in 2014. He is self-described as “center-right” and has been calling for Republicans to reach across the aisle.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. John McCollister Clarified His Remarks Following His Initial Tweet
After his initial tweet got national attention and significant criticism from his Republican colleagues, McCollister further explained his views in a lengthy Facebook post.
“To my Republican friends, I hope you know I wish our party no ill will. I’m not trying to “harm” us.” He said in the post, “I’m trying to reclaim what our party CAN be.”
He then goes on to invoke the memory of Abraham Lincoln in calling for his Republican colleagues to stop taking sides.
“We are the party of Abraham Lincoln. We are the party that conceived of our National Park system. We are the party of the EPA and the strongest environmental regulations ever conceived.” The Senator wrote. “These aren’t “liberal” ideas. They are American ideas and as Republicans we should be PROUD that we introduced them.”
McCollister cited legislation he passed in Nebraska supporting wind energy and said that has “created new income streams for farmers, great jobs, and new tax revenues that improve our schools and infrastructure.” but that republicans would “get excited but if I include the “wind” part, many TUNE OUT.”
Most users were supportive of the Senator’s comments. “Senator, please know that most people support you and your courageous stance.” said one user “You’re sure to experience a wave of hateful rhetoric from the haters themselves. Stand tall. We’re proud of you!”
Other users weren’t as pleased and viewed the senator’s comments as a betrayal to his party. “Do us all a favor and switch parties and run for something and lose and fade into obscurity.” Said one user. Others were critical of his support of wind power, “If wind power is so great, why do you have to steal from Americans pockets to subsidize it?”
2. His Dad Was a Congressman in Nebraska
McCollister followed in his dad’s footsteps. His father John Y. McCollister was a Nebraska Republican who served in the house of representatives from 1971-1977.
McCollister Sr. was a Navy veteran who served in World War II. He also gave former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel his first Washington job. Hagel said in a 2007 news conference that McCollister was the finest public servant he had ever known.
John Y. McCollister passed away in 2013 from cancer.
3. The Nebraska Republican Party Heavily Criticized His Remarks
Not everybody agreed with McCollister’s thoughts on the Republican party. In a press statement from the Nebraska Republican Party, Exclusive Director Ryan Hamilton slammed the senator for betraying his party.
“John McCollister has been telegraphing for years that he has little if nothing in common with the Republican voters in his district by consistently advocating for higher taxes, restrictions on American’s Second Amendment rights, and pro-abortion lobby,” Hamilton said. “His latest false statement about Republicans should come as no surprise to anyone who is paying attention, and we’re happy he has finally shed all pretense of being a conservative.”
“I am happy to send a change of voter registration form along to his office so he can make the switch officially and start, for once, telling the truth to voters in his district.”
There were several responses to McCollister’s viral tweet from prominent Republican voices who disagreed with his words. “WTF are you talking about @SenMcCollister?” replied Republican strategist Seth Weathers, “There is nothing further from the truth. You are creating hysteria and disinformation with this irresponsible tweet.”
Despite his message to ignore party lines, many users have used the post to take sides.
4. He Was a Centrist Before the Tweet
Senator McCollister’s record in Congress reflects what he said in his viral tweet. He was rated 41% earlier this year by the American Conservatives Union, an American political organization that ranks politicians based on their level of conservatism. This means McCollister voted Democrat more than Republican in 2018.
He’s leaned left on several issues during his time as Senator including voting against “choose life” state license plates, he tried (unsuccessfully) to increase Nebraskans access to Medicaid coverage and food stamps, and he was one of many to ask Attorney General Doug Peterson to end the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals immigration program.
He also butted heads with Nebraska Republican Governor Pete Ricketts over budget vetoes in 2017. After the Nebraska legislature voted against several motions, one that would have provided $32.5 million for the care of low-income Nebraskans and people with developmental disabilities or mental health problems, McCollister spoke out.
According to the Omaha World Herald, during the debate McCollister “alluded to the pressure being brought on senators to support the governor.”
The senator said he was willing to risk defeat in his re-election bid next year “because I know I didn’t buckle under.”
“This is absolute political hardball,” He added.
5. He Sponsored a Voting Rights Bill That Caused a Vicious Fight in the Nebraska State Legislature
In 2018, Senator McCollister sponsored a bill that was aimed at restoring certain rights, including the ability to get federal student loans, for people who have served time in prison. Nebraska Sen. John Murante amended the bill to remove the clause that would immediately give ex-cons the right to vote. The legislature previously voted to give them the right back after a 2-year waiting period.
Senator Justin Wayne said the amendment was necessary. “This isn’t about felon rights. This is about what it actually means to a young African American who is watching this right now. We were the only state to be vetoed, not just once but twice, over this issue: the right of African-Americans to vote,” he told the legislature.
After Speaker Jim Scheer held the vote and the amendment was voted down, things got heated. Senator Ernie Chambers launched into a fiery tirade, admonishing the “nay” votes. “All of you know. That’s why you’re staying here now. He was wrong, wrong, wrong. I have nothing but contempt for it,” Chambers stated emphatically, pacing back and forth as many of his colleagues watched.
“Those are judgment calls when we do voice votes. Certainly, the ‘Nays’ were louder. But because you talk louder doesn’t mean there are more of you,” Scheer fired back.
Senator McCollister did not get involved in the public battle back and forth. That same year, he supported a bill that would prevent employers from requiring disclosure of criminal history on job applications.