The Republican Party is full of overt fascists and white nationalists. They don’t even hide it anymore. They will hold a slim majority in the House of Representatives in January. This GOP party that is more extreme than ever.
The party that once struggled with how to react to Trump’s assault on democratic values has disintegrated. It was replaced in now by one that nominated insurrectionists and apologists for congressional and statewide posts, embracing Trump’s election denial rather than simply tolerating it. This new approach was so repugnant that it cost Republicans important Senate races and the “red wave” GOP strategists were counting on. Post-election analysts who believe that the party will suddenly change course and take a more politically sensible stance are gravely mistaken.
There are many leaders in the new Republican Party as well as a base that does not simply believe Trump’s lies. Republican supporters are increasingly seeking political inspiration from right-wing European nationalist politicians with a fascist worldview who use racism, bigotry, and a win-at-all-cost attitude to elections and governance, rather than the scandal-plagued former president. With a vision that is noticeably more authoritarian than anything seen during the 45th president’s first term, Trump and a new generation of ruthless partisans will plot a return to unitary power using this transformed Republican Party’s control of the House and state offices as leverage for the 2024 presidential election.
Democrats must be aware of this as they get ready for the upcoming political season. They won’t be in power with a political party that can be compared to the caucuses that intermittently controlled the House from 1995 to 2019 but were extremely conservative and institutionally inclined. Joe Walsh, who was regarded as one of the most right-wing members of the House after his election in the Tea Party wave of 2010, the GOP passed its “semi-fascist” stage in 2022 and began “barreling toward full-on fascism.” “The nation has to realize how anti-democracy my old political party is. A fascist political organization. Republicans applauding European nationalists and domestic insurrectionists at CPAC in 2022 served as evidence that the party favors authoritarianism. We must proceed at this point and simply defeat them.
On November 8, a lot of Republicans lost their seats. However, the GOP still gained the ability to block much of President Biden’s agenda thanks to its new House majority. Republicans under new House Speaker Kevin McCarthy did not pick up as many seats as they could have had they run as the Grand Old Party in a more traditional midterm election with a more institutionally minded candidate. However, they were able to combine worries about inflation and crime with racial backlash messaging, a violently unfavorable campaign, and enormous amounts of funding to achieve gains that shouldn’t have been possible. This is partly due to the inflexible two-party system in America, which requires most voters to make an either-or decision. With such a system, the right is able to appeal to voters who may not fully support the GOP platform but who nonetheless want to “send them a message,” in the words of former Alabama governor George Wallace’s racist campaigns.
This time, the message is frightening because the party that rode a wave of discontent over exorbitant petrol costs and the unpredictability of the post-pandemic era is not the GOP of Ronald Reagan, the George Bushes, or Dick Cheney. The Republican primaries of 2022 would have seen none of those candidates have a chance. In fact, Liz Cheney, the poster child for the neoconservative foreign policy and social conservatism that predominated until Trump came along lost her Wyoming Republican primary for reelection.
Without a doubt, the Republican Party was moving uncomfortably to the right well before the 2022 midterm election season. After all, this is the party that embraced Southern segregationist Strom Thurmond when he ran for president in 1964 against Barry Goldwater. But when I observed the 2022 elections in states around the nation, it became evident to me—and to many other longtime GOP analysts I spoke with—that the party had taken a far more serious turn. There is an open understanding that “we’re doing awful things and we don’t care because we think it will work politically.” This Republican Party is brazenly unrepentant about its excesses.
With admittedly dishonest attempts to refute claims that the party was waging overtly racist, brutally xenophobic, and aggressively dishonest campaigns in the not-too-distant past, we saw a resolve to preserve a veneer of respectability, but that determination has been abandoned. As has any readiness to admit that certain candidates, like Herschel Walker of Georgia’s US Senate nomination or J.D. Vance of Ohio’s recent election, are too poisonous to be supported. Thus, the GOP has totally devolved into a party that has given up on its principles.
The trajectory is unmistakable, regardless of whether the party is labeled as authoritarian, neofascist, or fascist. One of the foremost experts on American fascism, “Trump had done everything he could to grasp the laurel wreath and declare himself an American Caesar.” He hasn’t given up yet, and most of his supporters haven’t either, to add to that. Republican leaders on Capitol Hill, including House Republican Conference chair Elise Stefanik, rushed to support Trump’s 2024 presidential bid even as the 2022 results pointed to dozens of races in which his interventions had saddled the GOP with weak candidates—who in many cases lost what should have been winnable seats. Moreover, polls continue to show Republicans favoring the former president over the governor he derides as “Ron DeSanctimonious” by a significant margin. This is despite the fact that the same pundits who predicted Trump would be rejected by Republicans in 2015 and 2016 now believe Florida’s Ron DeSantis has the firepower to steal the nomination away from Trump. The error of the commentators is to believe that most Republicans want to move past the blatant racism that has defined their party ever since Trump banned references to “the big tent” and began calling anti-Semitic white nationalists “very great people.”
The Republican Party of today eagerly magnifies the rhetoric of Steve Bannon, the scholar of European fascist literature and movements who was once despised but is now widely regarded as its ideological guru. It adheres to an ideology that calls for a complete redistribution of federal power in addition to vengeance against political opponents and longtime targets of its animosity like Dr. Anthony Fauci and liberal philanthropist George Soros.
Even with a slim majority, a Republican-controlled House will cease using its oversight authority to investigate Trump’s attempted takeover and will instead start attacking the committee’s investigators and the idea of accountability in general. That will only be the start of a campaign to delegitimize Joe Biden as president by rejecting his policy recommendations and using the budget process as a weapon to withhold funding from federal agencies. The plan, outlined in a “Dear Colleague” letter from Texas Representative Chip Roy in September, is intended to prevent “tyrannical government agencies, offices, programs, and policies that Congress regularly funds through annual appropriations bills” by rejecting continuing resolutions. Roy is an emerging force in the House Republican Conference. According to the theory, the ensuing chaos will persuade voters that only a switch to full Republican power will restore order to the government.
Republicans will carry out their explicit mission to politicize the government the Trump whisperer amplifies the views of the former president’s congressional conspirators, election skeptics, like Bannon.
Bannon is not the only Republican Party member using fascist terminology. Now openly courting European right-wing extremists, this party. Remember that the Italian politician Giorgia Meloni, who is the head of a party with political roots in the neofascist movement that arose out of Benito Mussolini’s alliance with Nazi Germany during World War II, was one of the stars of the 2022 Conservative Political Action Conference along with Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán. The political rise of Meloni to become Italy’s prime minister has been praised as “amazing” by Texas Senator Ted Cruz. Her victory is heralded by Fox News as “the dawn of a new day.”
But of course, it can’t happen here, as the title of Sinclair Lewis’ dystopian book from 1935 about the menace of fascism in America implied. But can it?
CPAC’s chairman, Matt Schlapp, told Bannon that the party “fits right perfectly in the definition of what we call ‘conservatives’ here in America” after Meloni’s Brothers of Italy Party won the most votes there in September.
Republican elected officials such as Florida state representative Anthony Sabatini, who unapologetically tweeted quotes from Francisco Franco, the fascist dictator of Spain, and US representative Marjorie Taylor Greene, a rising star in the House Republican Conference who was once criticized for her extremism, vowed allegiance to the racist doctrine of Christian nationalism during the 2022 election season. To avoid any misunderstanding, a survey conducted earlier this year found that 61 percent of Republicans agreed with the Georgia congresswoman’s support for Christian nationalism. In actuality, very few of Greene’s positions are in opposition to the party establishment. That is undoubtedly the case with her advocacy of Trump’s election denial; a September YouGov poll found that only 43% of Republicans believed that candidates who lose elections should accept loss.
Kevin McCarthy is now offering to reinstate Marjory Taylor Greene’s committee responsibilities, which were taken away after a CNN investigation discovered that she had regularly expressed support for the death penalty for prominent Democrats. Greene, a Republican favorite who is rumored to be Trump’s running mate in 2024, regularly meets with McCarthy and declared in October that “he is going to give me a lot of power and a lot of leeway to be the best speaker of the House and to delight the base.” This coming from a woman who, while running for office in 2022, likened her opponents to feral hogs and then took a photo with a dead animal she had just shot from a helicopter.
“You can subsequently transform what you originally imagine into reality. After enough practice, as we are seeing, the final step from playacting to acting becomes far less intimidating, according to Jay Bookman, a journalist from Georgia, who was reflecting on Greene’s overt mention of pursuing Democrats. Bookman said of Greene, “Greene is such a fanatic, as are many others in the rising New Right who are riding racism and hatred and fear, who hint openly at the necessity for violence if the change they seek cannot be produced through the ballot box. He is such a fanatic, as are many others in the rising New Right. Personally, I am not prepared for this world to abruptly end with all of its flaws. But once started, these fires can be challenging to put out.
In the months leading up to the midterm elections, Bookman was not the only one to notice that the GOP was moving toward an overt and dangerous radicalism that had not been seen before. Where once there was a heated discussion about Trump’s actions within the party, the dissenters are no longer there. Former House Speaker Paul Ryan and other traditional inside-the-Beltway conservatives have retired, Cheney and others who opposed Trump after the attack on the Capitol on January 6 have been defeated, and McCarthy and other party hacks who do not want to lose their jobs have been forced into submission. “It turns out that intimidation works. Miles Taylor, a former official in the Trump administration, said, “We’ve seen this before in democratic democracies. “You are aware of its location. Before the rise of Hitler, we witnessed it in the German Weimar Republic. Drawing such analogies isn’t being overly dramatic since we witnessed very comparable behavior occurring that was based on, you guessed it, a giant lie. a significant political falsehood that caused that kind of bloodshed.
Dowd’s knowledge of economic history was a little sketchy. Early 1920s saw hyperinflation in Germany; by early 1930s, huge unemployment was the problem. However, his argument that economic instability created a window for fascism is clear to anyone who has studied the time. The same can be said of modern Republicans’ strategies, which have added a new degree of complexity to the tried-and-true tactic of using racist and anti-immigrant stereotypes to demonize opponents. This style of campaigning was commonplace in 2022.
The crude “soft on crime” advertisements George H.W. Bush used to disparage Democratic candidate Michael Dukakis in the 1988 presidential election, which were widely seen as the lowest form of racism politics, are being outdone, Minnesota Attorney General Keith Ellison told me in October. Ellison, who is Black and the first Muslim elected to Congress and who orchestrated the successful prosecution of the police officer who killed George Floyd, endured a barrage of similar advertisements while locked in a close reelection contest that he ultimately won by about 20,000 votes. The advertisements proclaimed, “Keith Ellison has always been anti-cop.” Before Ellison was elected attorney general, many of the violent crime photos that flashed on the screen alongside ominous pictures of him were committed more than ten years ago and as far away as Florida. Whose shady organization funded the provocative and dishonest advertisements? The Republican Attorneys General Association, which receives funding from corporations, gathered more than $26 million by mid-October for attack advertising.
Republican party mailings in the neighboring state of Wisconsin featured pictures of Democratic US Senate candidate Mandela Barnes, who had obviously darkened his complexion. TV ads portrayed Barnes, the state’s first African American lieutenant governor, as “different” and “dangerous,” and the National Republican Senatorial Committee invested nearly $3 million in inflammatory commercials that featured images of Barnes alongside crime scenes and repeated the false claim that he wants to immediately release half of the state’s inmates.
In the 2022 election, race was a major topic of discussion. Without apologizing or holding the millionaire funders and corporate sponsors of the racist and xenophobic commercials accountable, Republicans ran them. In fact, said Joe Walsh, they did it with joy. “I hear them say that every day. The old saying, “We must do evil things to beat the Democrats,” has been replaced by, “Fuck, yeah, let’s do evil, illegal, nasty crap.” Who cares? We’ll win because of that. Additionally, Republican contributors who have long since made peace with Trump and Trumpism are saying it, not just Republican operatives. Even if they would want DeSantis’ strongmen to wear suits and ties, they will take tax cuts from any candidate.
The win-at-all-cost mentality takes over when a candidate makes a big mistake, even when disclosures about that politician’s background reveal jaw-dropping hypocrisy. That’s what happened when the revelation that the anti-choice candidate had financed for at least one abortion shook Herschel Walker’s Georgia Senate campaign. Walker’s fabrication of the situation made things worse. But it didn’t seem to matter. Leaders of the religious right supported Walker. It doesn’t alter anything for me, stated Dana Loesch, a former NRA spokesperson who is still a major conservative figure. Loesch declared, “I don’t care if Herschel Walker paid to abort endangered baby eagles. “I want the Senate under my control.”
Election politics has always been about winning. Additionally, racist appeals are not new. However, a strategy is when a win-at-all-cost approach is consistently used, not by renegade candidates or consultants, but rather by political operations that are supervised by party leaders in the Senate and supported by the richest citizens and business interests in the country. And autocratic movements frequently use it.
According to Steve Schmidt, a top strategist for John McCain’s presidential campaign, “this political movement is supported by a minority of the population.” But one of the two political parties is run by a minority that has sway over all the institutions and levers of power at the local, county, state, and federal levels. Therefore, an extremist-filled minority movement that seeks political power sees a path to success through a majority election that hides the minority extreme purpose. Some individuals think that it makes no difference what happened to Herschel Walker because he is merely a means via which we can ascend to power. In this instance, the implication is that “Once we’re in there, we’re not giving it up.”
Schmidt is open about the fact that he and those like him contributed to the makeover of the Republican Party, not the least of which was McCain’s selection of Sarah Palin as his running mate in the 2008 election. Schmidt, though, has since raised the alarm with a passion that surpasses that of many Democrats. He issued a warning about “all of the things that have to come together for an autocratic movement” when we spoke about the current GOP during the 2022 campaign.
What are the requirements for a cult of personality? You must immediately have two things: Both followers and charismatic leaders are necessary. But that’s insufficient, said Schmidt. “Financiers are necessary. The billionaire class is necessary. The propagandists are necessary. You require the elites’ cynicism. History reminds us that when you combine all of these factors into a coalition for power, bad things can happen.
We are currently seeing significant gaslighting and lunacy, Schmidt continued. “And there is a lack of a focused, furious, better message,” she continued.
So what will the message of opposition be? It must go beyond the Democratic Party stumbling over its own narrative and tactics, which we regularly witnessed in 2022. Democratic candidates were unable to win against some of the worst Republican contenders in history. If they ignore the truth of the Republican Party’s regression, they won’t continue to do so.
“Two characteristics of a fascist political party are: They refuse to recognize the outcomes of elections that don’t support their agenda. Additionally, they support political violence, as Jamie Raskin, a representative, emphasized in September. He was referring to the Capitol attack on January 6. But less than two months after Raskin voiced his worries, Trump and other well-known Republicans began spreading rumors about a plot to kill House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s husband Paul in their own home.
Democrats must be ready to talk about the Republican Party’s progress, and they must also consider what characteristics define an anti-fascist party.
The party must be ready to discuss “the threat of American fascism,” as former vice president Henry Wallace said nearly 80 years ago. And not simply because it is ethically right to do so, but also because it is the proper thing to do politically, it must be about the business of resolving the current economic, social, and racial inequalities. This was amply demonstrated by John Fetterman’s successful campaign in Pennsylvania, which ended up being the sole Democratic effort this year to flip a Senate seat held by the other party.
Democrats and their allies must begin to frame the conflict in terms that are more expansive, aspirational, and upbeat. They performed better than anticipated in 2022 because voters in numerous states rejected Republicans who would win at any costs and election skeptics. By refusing to make concessions to extremists and denouncing the corporate and media elites that support authoritarian regimes, they can perform even better in 2024. They must firmly uphold the rule of law in workplace settings. However, they must also unite across racial, ethnic, gender, and class divides for a more audacious vision of the America that must be.
We haven’t been strong enough in our support for democracy and too slow to realize that Wallace was correct when he said that democracy needed to prove its ability to “keep the trains run on schedule” in order to internalize fascism. It needs to learn how to balance the budget while managing to keep everyone fully employed. Humans must come first, followed by money. It must rely on logic and morality rather than force and lies. We must not put up with repressive administrations or forms of industrial aristocracy like cartels and monopolies. We can anticipate an increase in the liberal potential of the United States as long as scientific advancement and creative brilliance outpace our capacity to design social systems to boost the living standards of the populace. We can anticipate a rise in American freedom if this liberal potential is used effectively. The challenge is to accelerate social creativity at the expense of everyone’s welfare.
It’s past midnight. However, as the election results on November 8 proved, the authoritarians who currently control the Republican Party and those who negotiate with them are a minority in our politics. Gerrymandering and billionaire funding have allowed them to take control of the House. However, it is not inevitable that they will assume power in 2024. The majority that supports democracy has been overconfident in their conviction that it cannot occur here. The majority now needs to stand up and announce that this won’t happen here.