Tuesday, July 6, 2021

It Can Happen Here

Scary profile of a pairing of whack-jobs via the New York Times.

WASHINGTON — Nick Fuentes, the leader of a white nationalist group, was bemoaning the political persecution he said he was facing from the federal government when he paused during a recent livestream to praise one of his few defenders.

“There is some hope, maybe, for America First in Congress,” Mr. Fuentes said, referring to the name of his movement, a group that aims to preserve white, Christian identity and culture. “And that is thanks to — almost exclusively — to Representative Paul Gosar.”

Mr. Gosar, a five-term Republican and dentist from Prescott, Ariz., emerged this year as a vociferous backer of the “Stop the Steal” movement that falsely claimed that former President Donald J. Trump won the 2020 election and spearheaded the rally in Washington on Jan. 6 that led to the deadly Capitol riot.

But Mr. Gosar’s ties to racists like Mr. Fuentes and America First, as well as similar far-right fringe organizations and activists, have been less scrutinized. A review of public comments and social media posts suggests that in Mr. Gosar, they have found an ally and advocate in Congress.

His unapologetic association with them is perhaps the most vivid example of the Republican Party’s growing acceptance of extremism, which has become apparent as more lawmakers espouse and amplify conspiracy theories and far-right ideologies that figure prominently in the belief systems of fringe groups.

“The politicians get the support of the far-right groups that are emerging and are becoming more visible — they get the support of those constituents,” said Kurt Braddock, a communication professor at American University who studies extremism. “What’s significant for the groups is that by associating themselves with these politicians — sitting members of Congress — they get a level of legitimacy that they wouldn’t have gotten otherwise.”

Representative Matt Gaetz of Florida appeared at an event last year where security was handled by the Proud Boys, a far-right militia with more than a dozen members who have been charged in the Capitol riot. Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado has come under scrutiny for her ties to members of the Three Percenters, a radical militia group.

And before she was elected to Congress, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia endorsed executing Democratic lawmakers, including Speaker Nancy Pelosi. She was also an adherent of QAnon, the pro-Trump conspiracy movement that holds that a corrupt cabal of Democrats, global elites and career government employees who run a Satan-worshiping child sex-trafficking ring will soon be rounded up and punished for their misdeeds, and that Mr. Trump will be restored to the presidency. (Ms. Greene has since said she does not follow QAnon.)

Mr. Gosar has appeared at rallies across the country referring to President Biden as a “fraudulent usurper,” and called efforts to seat him “sedition” and a “coup.” Last week, Mr. Gosar came under scrutiny after a social media channel associated with Mr. Fuentes advertised an upcoming fund-raiser featuring both men. And in a recent fund-raising solicitation, he spread a groundless conspiracy theory that the F.B.I. may have been behind the Jan. 6 attack.

The statements and actions have not resulted in any punishment from House Republican leaders, who have largely declined to publicly reprimand those in their conference who espouse fringe beliefs or peddle misinformation. Representative Kevin McCarthy of California, the minority leader, told The Washington Post last week that Mr. Gosar had told him that the advertised fund-raiser was “not real.” A spokesman for Mr. McCarthy did not respond to questions about Mr. Gosar’s ties to Mr. Fuentes.

In contrast, Mr. McCarthy moved quickly to try to silence the most outspoken Republican critic of Mr. Trump: He purged Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming from her leadership post for speaking out about the lies that fueled the Capitol riot and suggested that she could lose her committee assignments for joining Democrats in investigating it.

Mr. Fuentes, a 22-year-old white nationalist, online provocateur and activist who leads the America First movement, boasts the kind of résumé that most members of Congress would run from. Having marched at both the Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Va., in 2017 and outside the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, he has warned that the nation is losing “its white demographic core.” Other conservative organizations have denounced him as a Holocaust denier and a racist.

Mr. Gosar has continued to associate with him.

The Arizona Republican was the keynote speaker at a conference hosted by Mr. Fuentes’s group in February, the only member of Congress to participate. Mr. Gosar has spread America First’s motto and projects on Twitter and written to the F.B.I. on congressional letterhead in Mr. Fuentes’s defense. In return, Mr. Fuentes has praised the congressman on his show and social media channels and urged his followers to donate money to his campaign.

Mr. Gosar’s office did not respond to detailed questions about his ties to America First and other fringe groups.

The Conventional Wisdom is that the GOP leadership like Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell is that they don’t want to punish them because they’re afraid of alienating the base of the party, and most pointedly, incurring the wrath of some old fart retired in Palm Beach. But the truth is that the party leadership most likely agrees with what Fuentes and his band of Neo-fascists believes. They’re in on it; they just are too cowardly to admit it.

For those of you who paid attention in history class — or if you’re of a certain age — you will remember that this isn’t the first time America First was trotted out both as a name for a movement and a movement itself.  In the late 1930’s, conservatives who wanted the United States to stay neutral in World War II rallied under that banner, saying that Europe’s immolation was none of our business, and besides, what Chancellor Hitler was doing in Germany was good for business and he was an anti-Communist.  The undercurrent, subtle or otherwise, was that putting the Jews and the other minorities “in their place” was fine with them, too; they were doing it here.  Rumors of concentration camps were just propaganda from the Left, and why should we put our young (white) men at risk?  America First wasn’t a fringe group in the 1940 election, and the halls of Congress were rife with senators and congressmen who went to the rallies and listened to Charles Lindbergh, and if at the time the term of a president had been limited to two terms, the history of the world might have looked a lot different today.  (The Republicans remedied that with the 22nd Amendment as revenge for FDR’s four elections.)

As of now, the far-right whack-jobs are limited to a few wild-eyed goofballs like Gosar, Gaetz, and Greene; the ones who get all the attention on TV.  But in the silence that emanates from the head offices in the Capitol, they’re not alone.

One bark on “It Can Happen Here

  1. And don’t forget that Father Charles Coughlin was another key cog in the American Fascist isolationist sewer of the 30’s.
    Great post!
    (As usual).

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