When the coronavirus epidemic began mushrooming, Republican elected officials and commentators from Donald Trump on down spewed conspiracy theories that made them sound like clones of Alex Jones. Most of them seem to have changed their tune, though not without some prodding. For instance, Fox News is reportedly afraid of being sued for its previous attempts to downplay the epidemic. But apparently the memo seems to have been missed in one of the reddest pieces of real estate in the country, Colorado Springs.
On Wednesday, Vickie Tonkins, chairwoman of the GOP in El Paso County–home to Colorado Springs–created a stir when she used the party’s official Facebook page to ask whether coronavirus was a government “PSYOP” intended to manipulate the public. When state Republican officials saw it, they told–not asked–Tonkins to take the post down. Tonkins complied, but didn’t seem to understand the fuss. She claimed she just “posted a question,” and thought we shouldn’t “get all offended” about it.
Let’s spell it out for you nice and slow, Vickie. You were promoting a noxious conspiracy theory. And you used the party’s official social media platform to do so. If you don’t understand that, you’re not fit to clean the party headquarters, let alone run it.
A number of Tonkins’ fellow Republicans were of the same mind. Over the last two days, several current and former county Republican chairs have called for Tonkins to resign. Among them was one of Tonkins’ predecessors in Colorado Springs, Eli Bremer–best known for competing in the modern pentathlon at the 2008 Summer Olympics.
When Tonkins learned about it, her response made her critics’ argument for them. She claimed the effort to push her out was–wait for it–racist. She told the Colorado Times Recorder that her foes are just mad that “a black woman is in the position and won by over 60 votes” at the El Paso County Republican convention.
The conversation then took on a distinctly Trumpian flavor. Tonkins claimed that a fellow Republican operative in Colorado Springs had screenshotted a similar post on Tonkins’ personal Facebook wall “without my permission,” and that her critics “saw an opportunity to get me.” For those of you paying attention, this was a watered-down version of what the nation has had to deal with since Trump came down the escalator.
Earlier, she claimed that Bremer had lied when he accused her of calling coronavirus a hoax. Um, Vickie? You suggested that this pandemic was a government attempt to screw with our minds. Don’t insult our intelligence. You sound like a Colorado version of Diamond and Silk or Jesse Lee Peterson–albeit considerably more articulate than your fellow disgraces to the race.
Before Wednesday, Tonkins was probably known for appearing in an ad during the 2018 cycle in which she argued electing Jared Polis as governor would result in Colorado becoming another California. Watch here.
So let’s see. The GOP tapped a black woman who leads the local party in one of its strongest bastions in both Colorado and the nation as its voice in this ad. Not exactly a sign that the establishment isn’t happy with her.
Moreover, Vickie, in case you haven’t been paying attention, Trish Regan of Fox Business was effectively pushed out after going on a rant as unhinged as the one you posted. Regan is a white woman. She got the same treatment that you deserve to get.
And even without that to consider, isn’t the Republican Party supposed to be the party of personal responsibility? Oh, that’s right. In the Trump era, insisting on taking responsibility for your wingnuttery makes you a member of the establishment at best and a “cuck” at worst.
Colorado Springs has been a Republican fiefdom for some time. A Democratic presidential candidate has only carried El Paso County twice in the last century, the last time coming during Lyndon Johnson’s 44-state landslide of 1964–which is also the last time a Democrat has even crossed the 40 percent mark. It has been known for some time as one of the epicenters of the religious right. As an example of how hard right this county is, last spring it declared itself a Second Amendment sanctuary.
In other words, it takes some effort to be too loony for this neck of the woods. But Tonkins managed to pull it off. Perhaps she’s better off resigning and joining forces with Diamond and Silk. In fact, such an act would deserve a new name–“Cubic Zirconia, Burlap and Cloth.”
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