Monday, March 1, 2021

The Unbearable Lightness of Being an American Nazi

(By American Zen's Mike Flannigan, on loan from Ari .)  
In a way, CPAC 2021 was hardly a surprise. The Conservative Political Action Conference was always a festering hotbed of right wing nuttery since the first one in 1974 at the end of Nixon's presidency. As with many other Republicans since, California Governor Ronald Reagan, already nursing political dreams that extended far beyond Sacramento, gave the keynote address at the inaugural conference. He would fail in his first presidential bid, of course, and Philadelphia, Mississippi was still over six years off.
     In its spotty history, CPAC has almost made a tradition of inviting then immediately disinviting fringe elements such as right wing atheist groups, Breitbart troll and wouldbe author Milo Yiannopoulos and the Log Cabin Republicans. But considering the way CPAC 2021 shook out, it's actually a surprise that neo Nazi Richard Spenser, who was booted out of the Gaylord Hotel four years ago, wasn't invited this year with fulsome apologies.
     It's a surprise because this past weekend, one of the headline speakers was Rep. Paul Gosar, a man so despised, six of his siblings filmed a campaign ad telling Arizona voters to vote for his Democratic opponent. Gosar, of course, has been linked to white nationalists, many of whom had obviously taken part in the January 6th riot at the capitol. Spenser's non-involvement is also surprising in light of the fact that CPAC's very stage was virtually identical to a Nazi Odal rune symbol that was so obvious that the Hyatt hotel, which had hosted the event, put out a press release denouncing CPAC for the Nazi-themed stage and stopped this short of apologizing for hosting the event.
   Of course, Matt Schlapp (aka Auschwitz Trustee Zero), furiously struck back with the usual Republican outrage, thereby ensuring the Hyatt Hotels won't be hosting another CPAC ever again. Now, it seems, CPAC, once an erstwhile refuge for an occasional right wing fringe element, is now completely composed of fringe elements.
   And the fact remains that from Friday to Sunday, CPAC's stage was filled from end to end with white nationalists and neo Nazis like Paul Gosar (who had someone else cast a vote for him on the coronavirus relief bill  by proxy while he, along with at least 13 other Republicans, played hooky from Congress to attend the hate fest). Subtracting another degree of separation from the fascist movement was Nazi vacation tourist and world's least successful rapist, Madison Cawthorn, who channeled his inner Joe McCarthy to rail about Democrats wanting to turn the nation into "a Communist ashheap".
    But the mainstream Republican Party's not-so-slow merging with the most fascist elements of American society is rapidly becoming the 8000 pound GOP mascot in the room that can no longer be ignored. Let's not forget that even after the January 6th riots, over two thirds of Congressional Republicans, some of whom actually aiding the rioters with guided tours the day before, contested the Electoral College results even hours after their lives could've been violently ended by their own goon squad.
     And then, after Cawthorn tried to bring back 1950, after Kristi Noem tried to duck responsibility for one in 500 South Dakotans dying of COVID-19 through her sociopathic neglect, after Fredo and Ted Cruz screamed their fool heads off about freedom, it was Trump's turn.

Never Mind the Bollocks, Here Comes the Nazi Party
Looking only slightly less shiny and jaundiced than his ineffably hideous and hilarious Mexican-made chrome-plated statue that became the embarrassing centerpiece for CPAC 2021, Trump took the stage yesterday and for the next 90 minutes vomited long discredited conspiracy theories, lies and talking points. In other words, he treated CPAC as just another of his campaign rallies that was billed as his "comeback" speech.
   Those we all expected. After all, his first public speech since January 20th wouldn't be a Trump speech if it didn't contain them. But, of course, with his propensity for outdoing himself, Trump's expected grievance session turned into an indictment of all 17 Republicans who'd voted to impeach or convict him. In fact, he'd named all 17 and, in keeping with his rampant, life-long misogyny, saved Liz Cheney's name for last.
    Those of us who don't have the attention span of a goldfish may remember a time not too long ago when a Cheney, any Cheney, would've been greeted at CPAC with thunderous applause. Nowadays, in the Age of Trump (and, yes, his crushing election loss to Joe Biden didn't end that), the Cheney name is met with boos and jeers. Five years ago or less, that literally would've been unthinkable. But this CPAC marked the first time the names of so many establishment Republicans had been so viciously and virulently ridiculed. Trump essentially announced he was making their persecution his second career (the other one hiding tax documents and getting hauled into court for tax evasion and rape).
    Predictably, he won the straw poll, even though that same poll showed nearly a third of the right wing respondents don't want him running again in three years. They're looking for a younger, fresher face, like Kristi Noem and Ron DeSantis, the two governors with the most tragically failed responses to the pandemic and who'd opened their states' respective tourism industries when the pandemic was at or almost at its worst.
    But despite those apostates, it was still Trump's show and was long before Cancun Cruz took the Nazi stage to say the Republican Party wasn't a "country club party" (despite  their obsession with a guy who owns many of them and lives in one). Over two thirds of the straw poll's participants want the guy who has more impeachments to his credit than actual election victories to once again be their standard bearer. This, despite the fact he will be 78, had lost both popular votes and in fact got a smaller percentage of that vote than Mitt Romney in 2012.
     Scott Jennings, a CNN analyst and Republican campaign advisor, wrote an article about the GOP clinging to Trump even as its political model and very platform is being splintered and fractured by crutches, bicycle racks and American and Blue Lives Matter flags. Yet, he missed one key factor that explains their so-called support for Trump- Republicans are scared shitless that he'll make good on his threat to form a third party. However much of a pipe dream that is, they're afraid he'll fracture the electorate just enough so that they won't win as many elections as they hope in 2022. Either way, though, as Jennings says, supporting Trump is a loser in 2024.


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