Last week a sitting U.S. congressman delivered a keynote speech at a white nationalist convention in Florida.
“Wow, what a group,” Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) mentioned as he took his place behind a podium emblazoned with the letters “AFPAC” — an acronym for America First Political Action Conference, the second annual gathering of the white nationalist “groyper” movement.
After talking about “cancel culture,” Big Tech’s supposed censorship of right-wingers, and the necessity for a giant border wall to maintain “America First,” Gosar mentioned goodbye to the AFPAC crowd, who’d traveled from throughout the nation to attend the key gathering inside the Hilton Orlando.
“May God bless you,” Gosar mentioned. “And may God bless the United States of America.”
The crowd — a motley crew of unabashed racists and anti-Semites — broke right into a chant of “Gosar! Gosar!” to which the congressman responded with a wave, a smile and what regarded like an earnest, heartfelt “Thank you.”
AFPAC’s organizer, white nationalist figurehead Nick Fuentes, took the stage subsequent, telling the group that “white people are done being bullied” and that America wants to guard its “white demographic core.”
The subsequent day, Fuentes and Gosar sat down for espresso, based on a photograph Fuentes posted to Twitter.
“Great meeting today with Congressman Gosar,” tweeted Fuentes, a 22-year-old Holocaust denier who as soon as compared Jews killed in Nazi gasoline chambers to cookies baking in an oven. “America is truly uncancelled.”
Gosar’s AFPAC look generated a flurry of media protection, and rightly so: It is newsworthy, and deeply alarming, that an elected U.S. congressman feels comfy publicly palling round with dyed-in-the-wool white nationalists. Gosar didn’t instantly return a request for touch upon his AFPAC look.
In the week since AFPAC, the Republican Party has but to rebuke Gosar. HuffPost this week reached out to the places of work of seven distinguished Republican politicians — together with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (Calif.) — to see whether or not they would condemn Gosar for attending an explicitly white nationalist convention. None responded.
HuffPost additionally contacted the National Republican Congressional Committee and the Republican National Committee, asking whether or not they would condemn the congressman.
Only the RNC responded, sending a boilerplate assertion that didn’t particularly reprimand Gosar in any respect. “There is no place for anti-Semitism or racism in the Republican Party,” RNC spokesman Tommy Piggot mentioned. “We condemn it in the strongest possible terms.”
Gosar, who got here into workplace in 2011, emerged as one among former President Donald Trump’s most loyal supporters in Washington lately, and is amongst a cadre of far-right lawmakers who devoted the previous couple of months to making an attempt to overturn the outcomes of the 2020 election. Gosar himself helped organize and promote the Jan. 6 rally that became an rebellion on the Capitol.
The GOP’s silence about his current attendance at a white nationalist convention is among the clearest indicators but of an American conservative motion totally unreformed and unrepentant since Trump’s electoral defeat, and reveals one among America’s two main political events beholden as ever to a white majoritarian, anti-democratic agenda.
It’s maybe why a crew of merciless college-aged “America First” fascists discover the GOP to be such a fertile recruiting floor.
‘The Fire Rises!’
It’s exhausting to overstate how extreme and loathsome Fuentes and his cohort really are.
Fuentes attended the 2017 “Unite the Right” white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, the place he stood alongside neo-Nazis, one among whom drove his automotive into a bunch of anti-fascists, killing 32-year-old Heather Heyer and injuring 19 others.
Afterwards, Fuentes wrote on Facebook that the rally had been “incredible.”
“The rootless transnational elite knows that a tidal wave of white identity is coming,” he wrote. “And they know that once the word gets out, they will not be able to stop us. The fire rises!”
In the years because the Charlottesville rally, Fuentes has hosted a sequence of podcasts, most notably “America First,” which he’s livestreamed on numerous video platforms, together with YouTube.
The livestreams continuously function Fuentes in a swimsuit and tie, sitting in entrance of some crudely green-screened cityscape, spewing racist invective.
“Enough with the Jim Crow stuff,” Fuentes mentioned in a single episode, defending the fear that was racial segregation within the pre-Civil Rights period South. “Who cares? ‘Oh, I had to drink out of a different water fountain.’ Big fucking deal. Oh no, they had to go to a different school. And even if it was bad, who cares? It was better for them, it’s better for us.”
The podcast earned Fuentes a faithful following and a supply of revenue, and it made him a serious identify within the far proper.
By 2019 he had teamed up with Patrick Casey, former chief of the hate group Identity Evropa, to steer a brand new coalition calling itself the “Groyper Army,” a reputation taken from their on-line talisman: a cartoon toad carefully associated to the alt-right’s Pepe the Frog. (Followers of Fuentes and the “America First” motion name themselves “groypers.”)
Fuentes and Casey sought to make use of a political technique known as “entryism,” which according to The Institute for Research and Education on Human Rights is the follow of “gaining a place in more mainstream organizations by moderating one’s appearance and expressed values in order to further movement goals.”
Groypers, most of whom are of their early 20s, introduced themselves in public as merely clean-cut younger Republicans, sporting Make America Great Again hats and waving blue “America First” flags. When Fuentes turned up at various MAGA rallies with a megaphone final yr, he didn’t preach for the need of a white ethnostate or homeland — though that’s exactly what he wants — however as an alternative talked of preserving “heritage,” utilizing phrases he is aware of are extra palatable to the common Republican.
The groypers turned fierce proponents of Trump’s marketing campaign to overturn the outcomes of the 2020 presidential election, and have been fixtures at “Stop the Steal” demonstrations throughout the nation.
“What can you and I do to a state legislator — besides kill him?” Fuentes mentioned. “We should not do that. I’m not advising that, but I mean, what else can you do, right?”
Two days later, Fuentes was serving to lead the violent rebellion on the Capitol — although he claims he by no means entered the constructing itself. He hasn’t been charged or arrested for his position that day.
“Keep moving towards the Capitol — it appears we are taking the Capitol back!” he told a crowd of cheering supporters by means of a megaphone.
“Break down the barriers and disregard the police. The Capitol belongs to us,” he added.
Even because the mud settled from the rebellion, because the loss of life and destruction it had precipitated got here into clearer focus, and although a few of his groyper followers had been arrested for his or her position within the riot, Fuentes defended the violence that had taken place.
And when he took the stage at AFPAC final week, talking simply after congressman Gosar, Fuentes described the enjoyment the rebellion had introduced him.
“I saw hundreds of thousands of patriots surrounding the U.S. Capitol building, I saw the police retreating, and we heard that the politicians voting on the fraudulent election had scurried to their underground tunnels away from the Capitol,” he mentioned. “I said to myself: ‘This is awesome!’”
The New Steve King
Gosar was a main organizer of the Jan. 6 “Stop the Steal” demonstration that became the lethal rebellion, selling it for weeks whereas calling President Joe Biden an “illegitimate usurper” and arguing that Trump was the sufferer of a “coup.”
He has an extended historical past of political extremism, spending his 10 years in workplace usually hobnobbing with extremist teams in America and even overseas.
Gosar is carefully tied to the far-right militia the Oath Keepers. A chief of the group just lately claimed Gosar as soon as instructed the militiamen that America was already in a civil struggle. “We just haven’t started shooting yet,” Gosar allegedly mentioned.
He as soon as traveled to Nevada to assist different far-right militiamen in an armed standoff with federal authorities; he’s posed for a photo with a member of the Proud Boys, a violent neo-fascist avenue gang; and one other time flew all the best way to London to talk at a rally in assist of a jailed anti-Muslim activist.
He’s confronted little penalties for these associations, routinely profitable re-election and having fun with the assist of his Republican colleagues in Washington.
But will that assist finish? Gosar might discover a cautionary story in one among his fellow AFPAC speakers: former Iowa congressman Steve King.
King spent 9 phrases in Congress and have become infamous for his bigotry. HuffPost additionally uncovered King’s deep ties to white supremacists in America and abroad.
But for the majority of his time in Congress, the GOP by no means actually punished King for his extremism, and due to Iowa’s outsized position within the presidential main, Republican candidates for president routinely courted him for his endorsement.
It was solely after King almost misplaced re-election to a Democrat in his deeply conservative district in 2018 that his fellow Republicans began to activate him, out of the blue feeling the occasional have to condemn his bigotry.
Then, in Jan. 2019, King made remarks condoning white supremacy in an interview with The New York Times. “White nationalist, white supremacist, Western civilization — how did that language become offensive?” King instructed the newspaper. “Why did I sit in classes teaching me about the merits of our history and our civilization?”
The response from Republicans was unusually swift. McCarthy stripped King of his committee assignments, rendering him a lame-duck congressman.
Then a strong coalition of GOP figures poured cash into the marketing campaign of his Republican main opponent. In June 2020, King misplaced his main election, bringing a shock finish to his 20 years in workplace.
The lesson of King’s story, although, is just not that the GOP took a stand in opposition to white supremacy; it’s that the GOP acted in opposition to him solely when his extremism turned a political legal responsibility.
HuffPost contacted the places of work of seven Republican lawmakers this week who had beforehand condemned King for his feedback about white nationalism, asking in the event that they’d condemn Gosar for talking at a white nationalist convention.
McCarthy and McConnell’s places of work didn’t reply. Nor did the places of work of Sens. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), Chuck Grassley (Iowa), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Ted Cruz (Texas), or Tim Scott (R-S.C.).
Scott, one of many few Black Republicans in Washington, wrote a Washington Post op-ed about King in 2019. “Why are Republicans accused of racism?” the headline requested. “Because we’re silent on things like this.”
That silence has penalties, permitting white nationalists just like the groypers extra room to develop and set up contained in the get together.
“As the GOP struggles to chart its post-Trump future, the groypers are determined to move their brand of explicit white nationalism deeper into the conservative mainstream,” Ben Lorber, a analysis analyst at Political Research Associates, instructed HuffPost.
“Securing Gosar’s public support is a disturbing step in that direction,” he mentioned, “and could open the door for more elected officials to court the movement and its politics.”
The day after Gosar spoke at AFPAC, he was a featured panelist at one other convention: the Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC, additionally in Orlando.
CPAC has lengthy been the premier annual gathering of the American proper, the place presidents and senators and members of Congress mingle with activists and journalists. By the time Gosar took the CPAC stage, his look on the groyper convention had grow to be a information story.
Like any good groyper, Gosar sought to dial down his extremism, and to obscure it. “I want to tell you, I denounce . . . white racism,” he instructed the CPAC crowd. “That’s not appropriate.”
Later asked by a Washington Post reporter why he went to AFPAC, Gosar responded: “We thought about it, and we thought: There is a group of young people that are becoming part of the election process, and becoming a bigger force, so why not take that energy and listen to what they’ve got to say?”
Asked by the identical reporter if he regretted talking to that group of cheering racists and Holocaust deniers, Gosar replied, “you don’t accomplish anything by isolating” and never talking to some individuals.
“It’s always about the debate,” he mentioned. “That’s how you grow.”
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