Even after Vladimir Putin’s brutal attack on Ukraine, some Republican elected officials have been cozying up to Putin and to far-right nut-jobs in the United States. There is a Tin Foil Hat Caucus for every party, however, there are few leaders in the GOP who can rein in these wackos and stop their party going down the rabbit hole.
While Republicans have not yet paid a huge price, playing footsie alongside extremists will be a costly mistake. For the GOP’s critics, Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R–Ga.) It’s the gift that keeps giving. Last month, Greene spoke to the America First Political Action Conference—a group that’s popular among groypers (young, white-nationalist trolls).
To give you a sense of the optics, the attendees reportedly cheered loudly after former Maricopa County, Ariz., Sheriff Joe Arpaio said he’s been called the “biggest racist in the country.” Arpaio was flustered and asked, “What’s the clapping?” That I am (the largest racist) or that it is not? They also cheered when he said he’s been accused of racial profiling.
Greene praised the conference’s founder, Nick Fuentes—the smirking provocateur, who gave these insidious remarks: “Now they’re going on about Vladimir Putin and Russia, and Vladimir Putin is Hitler—and they say that’s not a good thing.” Participants chanted “Putin!” Putin! Putin!” Fuentes said last year that he would give the Holocaust-denying, racist, sexist and antisemitic speech of his life that weekend.
Greene played the victim after receiving expected criticism. She claimed she will not turn down the chance to speak to 1,200 young American First Patriots “because of some off-color remarks made by another speaker,” even though she did not know Fuentes. It’s not clear what his fellow comrades did. America first—and only an ignoramus wouldn’t realize what these other speakers were saying.
Nevertheless, she received little GOP pushback beyond a wrist-slap from the GOP’s oleaginous House leader, Kevin McCarthy (R–Calif.). This is no surprise. It’s no surprise that Donald Trump will be criticized by Republicans. Trump had initially spoken highly of Putin’s intelligence, but he called out to Greene during a conservative conference that was more mainstream. That crowd gave her a loud cheer—and Republicans no doubt enjoyed her childish heckling of Joe Biden’s State of the Union.
Arizona saw a similar level of nutsiness. State Sen. Wendy Rogers (R–Flagstaff), also spoke at the disturbing gathering, where she made Greene sound like a squishy moderate. Rogers called Zelensky the Ukrainian President a “globalist puppet”, who along with Western leaders “reports to the exact same Satanic masters.” She spoke about the hanging of war criminals.
Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, whose political action committee helped elect Rogers, at first refused to criticize her remarks. Rogers is better than her Democratic counterpart, Ducey said. It was disappointing, because Ducey has been one of the most talented and courageous governors in America. As he certified Arizona’s voters, I laughed.
Fortunately, Ducey later issued a critical statement and then the Arizona Senate voted to censure Rogers. It did so by an overwhelming margin, thus reminding us that it’s still possible—though admittedly rare—for politicians to police their own.
On the Left, this same problem can be just as dangerous. Avowed socialist was very close to the Democratic nomination. The Liberal Democratic mayors struggled to condemn Antifa fanatics, who have turned large parts of their towns into garbagelands. I remember the Cold War days when progressives fawned over Fidel Castro and Daniel Ortega, just as some righties now fawn over Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban.
It’s time to reflect on Alexander Kerensky’s legacy as the moderate prime minister in the Russian government of 1917, given all of the discussion about Russia. As his regime faced attacks from the Right, Kerensky embraced a “no enemies on the Left” strategy that emboldened Bolsheviks such as Lenin—and led to the overthrow of his government and to a 70-year totalitarian calamity.
Modern reality shows that both liberal parties who can’t rid themselves of socialists, and conservative parties which can’t rid themselves of fascists are at risk of being destroyed by their “allies.” Greene may be a backbencher but there are more GOP court jesters. Eventually, Greene, Lauren Boebert, Madison Cawthorn, and Matt Gaetz may become the face of the party.
As I explained in a previous column, National ReviewWilliam F. Buckley, publisher convinced Barry Goldwater (64 GOP Presidential nominee) to separate himself from John Birch Society. This group, just like Buckley was anti-communist but their leader shared conspiracy theories such as Dwight D. Eisenhower being a communist agent.
Buckley knew the crazy stuff undermined the anti-communist cause. Goldwater was defeated in the election but Ronald Reagan rediscovered his ideas. The Republican Party’s extremist conspiratorialists were already marginalized by then. But they have recently made a comeback. But their ineptness is hampering freedom. Do any Republican adult men have the same stature as Buckley?
This column first appeared in The Orange County Register.