Tag Archives: CPAC

They Aren’t Even Pretending Anymore

It is becoming impossible for any honest person to deny the transformation of America’s Republican Party into a racist, anti-Semitic, anti-gay, misogynistic authoritarian cult.  At the recent CPAC meeting in Dallas, speakers and attendees were “out and proud” about that transformation–wildly applauding no less a Neo-Nazi than Viktor Orban.

Viktor Orban, the Hungarian prime minister who has consolidated autocratic power with hard-right opposition to immigration and liberal democracy, addressed a crowd of thousands of American admirers in Dallas on Thursday with a red-meat speech that could have easily been delivered by any Republican candidate on the campaign trail this year.
 
 Orban presented the two countries as twin fronts in a struggle against common enemies he described as globalists, progressives, communists and “fake news.”

The former GOP would have uninvited Orban after his delivery of a widely reported and truly horrifying speech in which–among other things– he railed against Europe becoming “mixed race.”  In the wake of that speech, one of his  close advisers resigned in protest, calling the speech “pure Nazi.”

Among Republicans In the U.S., however, there was nothing but agreement;  Donald Trump, Tucker Carlson and Ohio Senate candidate J.D. Vance applauded the speech, and Trump referred to Orban as his “good friend.” 

As the Guardian noted, the assembled crowd “roared, whooped and gave Orban a standing ovation.”

Calling for Christian nationalists to “unite forces”, Orbán told CPAC: “Victory will never be found by taking the path of least resistance. We must take back the institutions in Washington and in Brussels. We must find friends and allies in one another. We must coordinate the movements of our troops because we face the same challenge.”

He noted that US midterm elections will be later this year followed by the presidential contest and European parliamentary elections in 2024. “These two locations will define the two fronts in the battle being fought for western civilisation. Today, we hold neither of them. Yet we need both.”

Rarely has the alliance between nationalist parties across the Atlantic been so bold, overt and unshackled. CPAC was once the domain of cold warrior Ronald Reagan. But in recent years guest speakers have included the Brexit cheerleader Nigel Farage and Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, niece of the far-right French politician Marine Le Pen.

A Washington Post column by former Republican Max Boot described the speech and the response.

All you need to know about the state of the Republican Party today is what happened at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas on Thursday. Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban, who has been destroying his country’s democracy, received a standing ovation less than two weeks after he gave a speech in Romania in which he endorsed the white supremacist “replacement theory” and denounced a “mixed-race world.”

One of Orban’s longtime advisers quit over what she described as a speech “worthy of Goebbels” before backtracking a bit. But Orban hasn’t recanted his repugnant views, and right-wingers in Dallas thrilled to his denunciations of immigration, abortion, LGBTQ rights and “the Woke Globalist Goliath.” He even excoriated Jewish financier George Soros, a Hungarian native, as someone who “hated Christianity.” The racist and anti-Semitic signaling was not subtle.

Boot took to task the observers who see the primary victories of Georgia’s  Governor Brian Kemp and Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger as evidence of Trump’s waning influence in the party.

That was an aberration. In other races across the country, Republicans are nominating far-right fanatics who claim that the 2020 presidential election — and any election that they lose, for that matter — was “rigged.” By refusing to accept electoral defeat, they embrace authoritarianism…

Taking a cue from Trump, the winners of Republican primaries traffic in authoritarian imagery and rhetoric. Guns have become a de rigueur accessory in GOP campaign commercials. Arizona U.S. Senate nominee Blake Masters wants to lock up Anthony S. Fauci for trying to slow the spread of covid-19. And Arizona gubernatorial nominee Kari Lake wants to lock up her opponent for certifying Biden’s election victory.

Boot is hardly the only former Republican appalled by the extremist takeover of the party and the abandonment of long-held principles.

The libertarian-leaning Republican Party I grew up with in the 1980s is long gone and not coming back. Republicans still use the language of “freedom,” but their idea of freedom is warped: They want Americans to be free to carry weapons of war or spread deadly diseases but not to terminate a pregnancy or discuss gender or sexuality in school….

The most apt phrase for this American authoritarianism is the New Fascism, and it is fast becoming the dominant trend on the right. If the GOP gains power in Washington, all of America will be in danger of being Orbanized.

Ironically, Orban and the GOP embody their own “globalism”–that  of the fascist Right.

 

They Aren’t Even Pretending Anymore

Over the past few years, I have become increasingly convinced that a variety of seemingly unrelated political attitudes and allegiances can only be explained by a deep-seated underlying racism. That conclusion doesn’t require us to disregard the complexities that dictate individual world-views and predict their saliency; I don’t mean to imply that individual circumstances are irrelevant–but the racist element is inescapable. History teaches us that previously suppressed bigotries  emerge and find expression when people are insecure,  financially or otherwise.

We are seeing that emergence play out in today’s Republican Party.

In the 1970s and 80s, when I was active in the GOP, I encountered people who expressed racist , anti-Semitic and homophobic opinions, but they were a distinct minority. If others with whom I worked shared those prejudices, they kept them to themselves; furthermore,  a significant number of  Republicans–including then-mayor Bill Hudnut– were vocal proponents of inclusion and anti-discrimination policies.

Maybe acceptance of diversity was easier at the time because most Americans didn’t anticipate the demographic changes that are now seen to threaten continued White Christian dominance–or maybe the current crop of GOP “leaders” is genuinely representative of the Republicans who remain after the “good guys” have mostly headed for the party exits.

Whatever the reason, those who are left in the GOP no longer feel the need to be coy about their White Nationalist beliefs. The recent CPAC meeting was held on a stage modeled on a recognizable Nazi symbol, and ABC’s recent report on the CPAC meeting was titled, “GOP congressman headlines conference where organizers push White Nationalist rhetoric.”

GOP Rep. Paul Gosar of Arizona was the surprise keynote speaker at a conference Friday night in Orlando, Florida, where speakers spread white nationalist rhetoric, organizers railed about the U.S. losing its “white demographic core,” and some called for further engagement like the ire that drove the Capitol attack on Jan. 6.

Gosar wasn’t the only “usual suspect” who appeared at the meeting. Others included former Iowa Representative Steve King, whose most notable “achievement” in the House was a long history of explicitly racist comments, and the equally offensive conservative commentator Michelle Malkin.

Gosar’s keynote was followed by a speech by a man named Nick Fuentes, identified as  founder of the America First PAC, who filled his talk with white grievance and anti-immigration rants. He is quoted as telling the crowd that “If [America] loses its white demographic core … then this is not America anymore.”

Fuentes went on to praise the Capitol attack, boasting about it leading to a delay in the certification of the election results.

“While I was there in D.C., outside of the building, and I saw hundreds of thousands of patriots surrounding the U.S. Capitol building and I saw the police retreating . I said to myself: ‘This is awesome,'” Fuentes said to the applause of the crowd….

“To see that Capitol under siege, to see the people of this country rise up and mobilize to D.C. with the pitchforks and the torches — we need a little bit more of that energy in the future,” he said.

The most terrifying part of that description is the sentence recording “the applause of the crowd.” The attendees applauded the perpetrators of the treasonous January 6th insurrection that left five people dead and did thirty million dollars of damage to the nation’s capitol.

The entire event revolved around fidelity to Donald Trump and acceptance of his Big Lie–from the “Golden Calf” Trump statue (which was reportedly made in Mexico…), to Trump’s willingness to make his first post-Presidency appearance at a meeting of far-right, proudly racist extremists.

I find admiration–let alone fidelity–to Donald Trump incomprehensible–but then I consider the effect of tribalism and political polarization. I still remember my long-ago discussion with a party “regular” about a Republican candidate that we all knew to be incompetent and probably corrupt. He didn’t disagree with my evaluation, but he smiled. “He may be a son-of-a-bitch,” he said, “but he’s our son-of-a-bitch.”

Trump may be the antithesis of the “family values” these good “Christians” claim to be about, but he hates and fears the same people they do. He’s their White Nationalist.

 

Religion Or Cult?

A few weeks ago, the Washington Post ran a column by Michael Gerson, examining the reasons for and consequences of Evangelical Christians’ embrace of Donald Trump. Gerson himself is a conservative Republican, an Evangelical Christian who served as speechwriter for George W. Bush; he has been a consistent critic of both Trump and those of his co-religionists who have enabled and supported Trump.

Gerson wrote that Trump’s “naked attempt to overturn a fair election”– despite testimony by Republican state officials rebutting charges of “rigging,” consistent rulings from Republican-appointed judges, and even the rejection of the Big Lie by Big Liar Bill Barr of the Justice Department– ” has driven some Trump evangelicals to the edge of blasphemous lunacy.”

“I’d be happy to die in this fight,” radio talk-show host Eric Metaxas assured Trump during a recent interview. “This is a fight for everything. God is with us. Jesus is with us in this fight for liberty.”

Elsewhere Metaxas predicted, “Trump will be inaugurated. For the high crimes of trying to throw a U.S. presidential election, many will go to jail. The swamp will be drained. And Lincoln’s prophetic words of ‘a new birth of freedom’ will be fulfilled. Pray.”

Just to be clear, Metaxas has publicly committed his life to Donald Trump, claimed that at least two members of the Trinity favor a coup against the constitutional order, endorsed the widespread jailing of Trump’s political enemies for imaginary crimes, claimed Abraham Lincoln’s blessing for the advance of authoritarianism and urged Christians to pray to God for the effective death of American democracy. This is seditious and sacrilegious in equal measure.

Actually, I think it’s less “seditious and sacrilegious” than bat-shit crazy, but then, I’m not religious. (Or tolerant of manifest stupidity.)

Gerson’s concern is that the embrace of what he terms “absurd political lies” gives us nonbelievers every reason to conclude that Christians are prone to swallowing equally absurd religious lies as well. As he says, if we encountered someone who sincerely believed in the existence of both the Easter Bunny and the resurrection of Christ, “it would naturally raise questions about the quality of his or her believing faculties.”

No kidding.

Gerson wrote his column about these concerns before CPAC unveiled the “Golden Calf”–a gold statue of Donald Trump. I can only imagine his reaction to that sacrilege.

I am not making this up. As Vox describes it, the biblical story trended on Twitter after someone involved in the 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) wheeled out a golden statue of Trump, evidently to cheers from conference attendees.

The snarky sub-head read “Apparently CPAC attendees missed the part of the Bible about the Golden Calf.”

The Golden Calf is one of the most famous stories in the Old Testament. The Israelites, newly freed from Egyptian slavery, have a crisis of faith while God is speaking with Moses on Mount Sinai. They melt down the golden jewelry to construct a physical god — a statue in the shape of a calf — to worship in place of their abstract, invisible deity. It’s a story about the allure of idolatry, how easy it is to abandon one’s commitments to principle in favor of shiny, easy falsehoods.

Gerson agonizes over the behaviors exhibited by his fellow Evangelical Christians, because he realizes that those behaviors are likely to repel reasonable people. The “Golden Trump/Calf ” proves his point; it encourages–actually, it practically demands— the mocking and dismissal of these particular believers as just another cult.

Gerson acknowledges that  a need for faith in a “higher order” doesn’t make that faith true, but he insists it doesn’t make faith false either.

So how do we decide? If Christianity were judged entirely by the quality of Christians, it would be a tough sell.”

Ya think?