How Deep It Goes

I left the Republican Party in 2000, but for several years after my departure I held to the belief that the changes I’d seen–the growing radicalization and disregard for evidence that concerned me–remained an essentially fringe phenomenon. Yes, the fringe was growing; yes, it was exerting a troubling amount of control over the reasonable folks who still were in the majority, but it wasn’t (I fondly believed) a wholesale abandonment of sanity and reason in service of bigotry.

I was wrong.

There are undoubtedly people who remain part of the GOP from inertia, or denial, but it is no longer possible to view the Republican Party as anything but a threat to American liberty and equality. In the wake of the horrific massacre in Buffalo, Dana Milbank described the GOP’s transformation from a traditional political party to a White Nationalist cult. He cited statistics for the proposition that the problem–the moral rot– goes “well beyond the rhetoric of a few Republican officials and opinion leaders. Elected Republicans haven’t merely inspired far-right extremists. They have become far-right extremists.”

The study, released on Friday by the Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights, a decades-old group that tracks right-wing extremism, found that more than 1 in 5 Republican state legislators in the United States were affiliated with far-right groups. The IREHR (which conducted a similar study with the NAACP in 2010 on racism within the tea party) cross-referenced the personal, campaign and official Facebook profiles of all 7,383 state legislators in the United States during the 2021-22 legislative period with thousands of far-right Facebook groups. The researchers found that 875 legislators — all but three of them Republicans — were members of one or more of 789 far-right Facebook groups. That works out to 22 percent of all Republican state legislators.

I haven’t had time to access the study to ascertain how many of those state-level legislators are members of Indiana’s Statehouse, but I’m sure the number is significant.

The numbers reported are hair-raising enough, but the study excluded from its definition of far-right groups what it called “historically mainstream conservative groups” such as the National Rifle Association and even pro-Trump and MAGA groups. It included  contemporary iterations of the tea party and selected antiabortion and Second Amendment groups, white nationalists, neo-Confederates and sovereign citizen organizations that claim to be exempt from U.S. law.

In other words, the study looked only at the most radical of the reactionary groups.

Arguably, then, the study understates the true overlap between state-level Republican legislators and the far right. (Also, for obvious reasons, researchers couldn’t count legislators who belong to the several extremist groups that keep their memberships secret.)

Some of these far-right figures already have high profiles. ProPublica last fall identified 48 Republican state and local government officials — including 10 sitting state lawmakers — on the membership roster of the Oath Keepers, a militant extremist group. One Arizona state senator, Wendy Rogers, gained national attention for a speech to a white-nationalist conference in February during which she called for violence. Her remarks to the gathering (which Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) and Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) also addressed) earned her a rebuke by her fellow GOP state senators but proved to be a fundraising bonanza.

Proponents of “replacement theory” have been growing in number since Fox News’s Tucker Carlson has been championing the claim.

Though based in actual demographic trends — Americans of color will gradually become a majority in coming decades — “Great Replacement” holds that Democrats and the left are conspiring by nefarious means to supplant White people.

This idea, expressed by the alleged Buffalo killer (11 of the gunman’s 13 victims were Black), has found support from Stefanik (N.Y.), the No. 3 House Republican. She accused Democrats of “a PERMANENT ELECTION INSURRECTION” in the form of an immigration amnesty plan that would “overthrow our current electorate.”

Variations of this have been heard from Republicans such as: Rep. Scott Perry (Pa.), chairman of the House Freedom Caucus (“we’re replacing … native-born Americans to permanently transform the political landscape”); Sen. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin (Democrats “want to remake the demographics of America to ensure … that they stay in power forever”); Rep. Gaetz of Florida (Carlson “is CORRECT about Replacement Theory”); Vance, the party’s Senate nominee for Ohio (“Biden’s open border is killing Ohioans, with … more Democrat voters pouring into this country”); and Gingrich, former Republican House speaker (“the anti-American left would love to drown traditional, classic Americans … to get rid of the rest of us”).

It’s one thing to name (and–one hopes–shame) the highly visible Republicans promoting this racist bilge, but they aren’t the real problem. The real, very scary problem is that these  people are garnering votes and winning elections.

The real problem is the rank-and-file Republicans who support them.


  1. SK Said: “The real problem is the rank-and-file Republicans who support them.”
    Yes. for sure. And another huge problem is that the MIDDLE of America has grown weary of all of this. They don’t want to watch it on TV. They don’t want to hear about it or talk about it. It is becoming background noise. HOW can we reach the sane middle who is now tuning out to all of this at such a critical time? We must…but how? Can we do it before the fall elections?

  2. Well, for one thing, Pat, we have to drop the discussion about a political spectrum that falls neatly into categories of democratic ideals. Our ideas and beliefs are being shaped for us by propaganda media meant to divide the masses. It does so by conveying all kinds of stereotypes and preying on fears beginning with the idea that we are all individuals with nothing in common.

    Sadly, even our religions teach about the differences which is why we have so many denominations of Christianity – Jesus was all about Unity but if the religion about Him cannot remain unified, how can they teach Unity?

    It’s incredible to watch as a spectator. Our egos are running around attaching themselves to different ideas and beliefs only to change as new knowledge is obtained. I bet over 50% of the people who vote Republican cannot say what the party stands for — its principles. What does conservative mean? Is it the same as being a Republican?

    Same thing with the Democrats. I bet both can name what they are not more so than what they believe in. 😉

  3. Todd,
    What you wrote is EXACTLY why I am running in my Town Council’s first election! My little town always caucused and now we have a chance to vote our officials into office. I’m talking to conservatives, moderates, young and older residents who are sick of what you so eloquently point out.
    The divisiveness is not lost of young people with families, or the older electorate who remember when politicians knew they had to work together.
    It can be done.
    When both sides see how much more alike we are than different, we can accomplish that goal.
    I’m hopeful.
    Thats all we’ve got anymore is hope…
    And hard work!
    PS: Not campaign rhetoric, just the trust!

  4. Fringe v. Mainstream? Hah! Republicans have been leaning this way for a VERY long time. Now, the orange hairball has let the cat out of the bag. I’m reading John Dean’s “Blind Ambition” and, coincidentally, watching the compelling and horrifying HBO series, “Gaslit”. Those Nixon-era people were MUCH worse than we thought. The media barely scratched the surface, and when they did, sewage came out.

    Debate, democracy, equal rights, fair taxation are ALL ANATHEMA to the GOP and its sponsors from the day after Lincoln was shot. Real history is littered with the overturned wastebasket of Republican promises followed by lies. It’s what they’ve always done. I know Todd – and my neighbor – will come up with “both sides are equally to blame.” NONSENSE!

    And for those midwesterners who have turned off their TVs and tuned out the current national political malaise, they should read about what happened in Germany, circa 1925 – 45. Those “middle people” tuned out too, and the results speak for themselves.

    And here we are with a major political entity trying ever so hard to emulate the SAME operating schemes as the Third Reich.

    Well, done America. Ignore the coming horror at your own peril.

  5. Uhm … the 22 percent seems to be wrong. The original report says 11.8% of state legislators were members of far right extremist groups. However, since the report counted only the most radical extremist groups, and did not count “historically mainstream conservative groups” such as the National Rifle Association and even pro-Trump and MAGA groups, 22 percent may be a better guesstimate.

    Also notable, IREHR documented that forty-five insurrectionist rallies also took place in thirty-two states on Jan. 6, 2021.

    Radical right promotes the myth that Democrats and the left are conspiring by nefarious means to supplant White people. It’s more likely that the left is, and that liberal Democrats don’t really care to defend white rights to rule. So much for conspiracy.

    BTW, does anybody have a credible list of radical right legislators and candidates in Indiana? I’d love to see it. Thanks.

  6. Christopher: the 22% was the percentage of REPUBLICAN state legislators, not all state legislators.

  7. There is only one way to stop it and that is a landslide defeat at the polls. That won’t happen, though. Too few people care enough to get out and vote. In fact, if Roe is overturned in June. Most Americans will forget about how angry they were when they first heard about the ruling. Not only do we not get out the vote, but the voters suffer from short attention span, a double whammy against responsible government.

  8. Oh, that it were only those 22% of Republican legislators. It took more than that 22% of voters to put them into places of power… and keep them there. The vast majority of Republican voters, like their German counterparts in 1932, freely voted for extremism and totalitarianism, and if my guess is right they will do so again in 2024.

  9. Two quickies…

    – Thus far in ’22, the GOP turnout has been greater than normal and the DEMs less than normal..
    – Repeating what Bret Stevens wrote last week in the NYT: “The danger with replacement theory in its current form isn’t that a handful of its followers are crazy, but that too many of them are sane.”

  10. Ambitious politicians back in the day were more often than not in it because they were naturally popular patient folks who were more or less born into a party, understood government and law and saw a chance for a career that paid well and could accomplish some good. They also were willing to show up for every meet and greet as another opportunity.

    Today being radical in the right ways and living in the right places in the country makes it much easier to get into the now very lucrative business of politics if you skip every meet and greet and just show up for the fringe groups. and country clubs.

  11. Well, that’s just fine, that’s just fine
    You’ve got to believe
    And I don’t know, I don’t know
    If I could leave anymore
    Even though there’s a scar
    Still fresh from the war
    Don’t think about it no more
    Letting new love flow
    How deep it goes

    “How Deep It Goes” Ann Wilson of Heart

  12. Pete – WADR – the “lucrative business of government” is only that for the greedy (many of whom are already rich). For the few true “public servants/servant leaders”, the hours are long, the pay modest, at best, and the appreciation by being labelled a “pol” is humiliating.

  13. Thank you Ms. Kallimani for running for Town Council.

    Regarding, “How deep it goes,” whether we vote Democrat or Republican, we’re voting for the
    MIC, who captured both parties going back to Eisenhower.

    The last peace candidates we had were McGovern and McCarthy in ‘72. Instead, we got the Republican president who lied about a plan to end the war, and dropped record bomb tonnage on Cambodia.

    The MIC has no fear of, or respect for, the electorate. The Lockheed Martin CEO boldly appeared 5/18/22 on their sponsored media outlet, CBS Face the Nation, touting doubled capacity, and manufacturing jobs for Texas.

  14. How deep?
    Lincoln was assassinated, A.Johnson took over, and the Republican party went to hell.
    Gingrich? The only value in listening to anything he says, is that it can point the way NOT to go!

  15. I have a quibble and I think it’s an important one. You write, “The real problem is the rank-and-file Republicans who support them.”

    While this is true, I think it misses an important, and relatively new, point.

    Today’s Republicans aren’t leading, with rank-and-file supporting them. Today’s Republicans are following from the front – they are listening to the loudest, angriest, most hateful voices bellowing behind them and repeating what they hear.

    This is where Trump was successful – he found and channeled the rage and hate, and in the process finished the transformation of the Republican Party while adding millions of voters who were dissatisfied with their choices, because neither side was willing to espouse the most vitriolic and violent fantasies that take up so much of their days.

    Today’s Republican Party isn’t leading the lynch mob, it’s following it, while pretending to be the drum major in the parade to fascism.

  16. Republicans who vote for any candidate with an R beside his/her name on the ballot are voting out of inertia and/or their party’s successful demonizing of Democrats as baby-killing socialists intent on handing the country over to an uppity minority. Such voters are, whether they know it or not, racists in effect.

    Professor Kennedy’s thumbnail history of the change in Republican politics is spot on, but with this difference – they don’t even have the decency to hide their nefarious goals from casual observation anymore. The idea of the two party system is a checks and balances arrangement where policy decisions are hashed out via debate and compromise. Republicans now (as Mitch openly admitted to be their number one goal) is to trash the Biden agenda, i. e., no debate, no compromise; just be against whatever the administration proposes (baby food relief, poverty-stricken diabetics’ cost relief etc.).

    Perhaps Mitch is only stating the obvious, that the Republican Party is not a political party anymore since its members have no platform or set of governing principles, all of which means we have a one-party system and a former political party that has gone over the right wing cliff with their racism, hatred, fear of change etc., many of whom have even openly agreed with tfg’s civil war chatter, chatter that so far has only enjoyed scattered Republican disagreement.

    I have been ranting for years that the Republican Party is headed back to the oblivion of the Whig Party (Lincoln was a Whig turned Republican) from which it arose in 1854, but with its current leadership of opposition to any Democratic initiative no matter how worthy stoked by
    stolen election propaganda I am beginning to think that party will just implode en route to Whigdom since it stands for nothing and is against everything not of its own making.

    Republicans who vote as a matter of inertia should educate themselves to the coming train wreck of their party, a party whose leaders are interested only in tax cuts and acquisition of power and whose ambitions have been captured by authoritarians – hardly the party of Lincoln.

  17. You know, Sheila, I took a deep dive into this research and the “far right” designations are extremely broad and go far, far beyond the crazy Proud Boys, Three Percenters and militia groups that gets all the press. They have basically classified any group with conservative views as t. I copied and pasted three paragraphs below from the description of the criteria they used. I want you and your readers to see how wide they are casting the net to pump up the number of “far-right” extremists.

    “In this light, the far-right can be understood as groups and individuals advocating changes in the organizational structure of the state (Constitutional structure) or public policy(ies) that would significantly undermine political, social and/or economic equality along such lines as class, race, gender, sexual orientation, national origin, immigration status, and religion. This can encompass groups and individuals who aim to significantly undermine the capacity of government to address broad issues of public health and safety, workplace safety, environmental protection and environmental justice, and other critical public goods.

    This includes a variety of Constitutional or policy changes that would significantly (1) undermine the capacity of national, state and/or local governments to address inequality; (2) interfere with or stop public policies or practices aimed at raising and addressing inequality; (3) enhance the capacity of national, state and/or local governments to suppress groups and individuals seeking to address inequality; (4) undermine the capacity/ability of members of marginalized/oppressed groups to participate in the political process; (5) undermine government capacities to carry out programs and policies important for public health and safety, workplace safety, environmental health and justice, and other public good; (6) support or increase the capacity of private far-right actors to impose anti-democratic and discriminatory policies through civil society and economic institutions.

    Given the specific context of U.S. political history, examples include efforts that would significantly undermine major equality-centered institutional features such as the 13th, 14th, 15th, 16th, 17th, and 19th Amendments; efforts to overturn key victories won in the Reconstruction era, as well as New Deal and Great Society programs; and abolishing or significantly undermining civil-rights and workers’ rights as embodied in Brown v. Board of Education, 1965 Voting Rights Act, 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1968 Immigration Act, and major labor-protective laws, and rights to privacy embodied in cases such as Roe v. Wade.”

    In other words, anyone who holds any traditional conservative view at all is a dangerous extremist. Not a real credible approach to this subject.

  18. Vernon, the sewage as you call it of the past administrations, was noted by many. One noted it and is still maligned for calling GWB a terrorist.
    Harry Belafonte is still alive and every time I find an interview from the past that never disappoints, shows how astute and interpretive he was/is.
    It sure has confirmed my belief in the rot that exists in this country. Thank you all for continuing to expose that sewage rot.

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