In a screed yelled from a bullhorn at the Million MAGA March, white nationalist Nick Fuentes delivered the following remarks:
“From now on, I identify not as a Republican; I identify as a Trump Supporter! I am no longer a Conservative; I am a Nationalist! From now on, I am only going to vote for Republicans that support an end to all legal and illegal immigration in this country!”
A racial essentialist masquerading as a “nationalist” who opposes immigration is nothing new. What is worrisome is the common ground Fuentes seems to have with many disaffected MAGA types who believe Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud.
In the best case scenario, those in the crowd chanting “Destroy the GOP” along with Fuentes did not understand the ideological baggage he brought to the march. Unfortunately, Fuentes seems to have been wholeheartedly embraced by the broader election truther coalition.
The infiltration of Fuentes’s views into the MAGA world became evident when the official twitter account of the Million MAGA March celebrated Fuentes’s appearance, first deeming him “a true American patriot,” and then agreeing with him to “vote out every Republican who refuses to stand with President Donald Trump.”
White nationalists have been powerless within the Republican party and its downstream activist groups for generations. Unable to leech off of the legitimacy of mainstream right-wing organizations, the alt-right had remained a largely fringe movement, attracting fewer than 2,000 supporters to its national “Unite the Right” rally in 2017.
These institutional barriers to entry aren’t present in the coalition of disaffected Republicans who believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump. As the “Stop the Steal” movement is a conspiracy theory in and of itself, it’s unsurprising that it would embrace QAnon conspiracy theorists, Fuentes, and other bad actors previously outside the Overton window.
It has always been a goal of neo-Nazi adjacent groups in the U.S. to cannibalize or destroy the GOP. In 2016 they saw Trump, an ideologically fluid outsider with a tendency for political incorrectness and racial insensitivity, as a potential avatar for their disgusting politics. Trump even appeared to court their vote when he refused to denounce David Duke in a 2016 interview.
Thankfully for the country, Trump failed to live up to the hopes of Fuentes and his lot. While Trump did limit immigration to an extent, most of his accomplishments in office were standard GOP policy priorities like tax cuts and originalist judicial appointments. Richard Spencer, a prominent alt-right figure and a vigorous Trump supporter in 2016, refused to endorse Trump in 2020 or the “ineffective, useless, and traitorous” GOP he leads.
Their ideological dissatisfaction with Trump seems to be at odds with the enthusiastic support Trump is now getting from alt-right figures. However, their newfound support for Trump is actually a deft political ploy.
Following Trump’s attacks on the legitimacy of the electoral process, those in the GOP who oppose these baseless claims have been labeled RINOs (Republicans in Name Only) and traitors. Trump has fired Bill Barr for failing to conjure evidence of widespread voter fraud. He has also viciously criticized state-level Republican officials who refuse to go along with his charade.
This combined with the rise of QAnon conspiracy theorizing and an increased distrust of mainstream institutions has led Trump’s supporters to be more critical of establishment Republicans. In the growing calls to purge the GOP of those disloyal to Trump, figures like Fuentes see an opportunity to insert themselves into right-of-center politics by aligning with those who feel betrayed by the GOP.
Considering this political context, the diabolical intent of Fuentes’s calls to “Destroy the GOP” is crystal clear. The chaos of the Trump era has already allowed QAnon supporter Marjorie Taylor Greene to enter Congress. It seems entirely possible that alt-righters could piggyback on the stew of conspiracy theorizing and anti-RINO sentiment to enter the halls of power.
Alt-righters wouldn’t have to win any kind of popular mandate to do massive damage to the GOP and our broader discourse. Imagine a squad-like group of white nationalists or QAnon supporters; they would introduce politically unworkable legislation, attract unending adversarial media coverage, and stain moderate GOP congresspeople with their extreme policy and rhetoric.
All this could have been avoided if Republicans had refused to kowtow to Trump throughout his presidency, or if they at least had taken a firm stand against his ridiculous voter fraud allegations.
Despite similar ideological agitation on the left, Democrats have been able to largely rein in calls to defund or abolish the police. Biden and other moderate Democrats have called for relaxed rhetoric and reformist policy, hoping to insulate Democrats against the radicalism of their activist fringe.
For Republicans, the activist fringe has both hands on the wheel, with Trump mainlining conspiracy theories into the body politic on a daily basis and establishment figures cowed into silence or tacit endorsement. From the chaos, previously marginalized groups like QAnon and the alt-right are gaining new traction.
The ultimate irony of Fuentes’s grifting is the true nature of Trump’s base of support. According to exit polls, Trump increased his support among African Americans and Latinos between 2016 and 2020, while he lost a significant portion of the white male vote. Without unprecedented Latino turnout for Trump in Florida, he likely would have lost the state.
While Trump made deep inroads into minority communities, his would-be successors are poised to shut the door on this multiracial appeal. If they succeed in infiltrating the GOP, we should expect a Republican electoral apocalypse.
Featured image: Trump supporter waves Betsy Ross flag at the first Million Maga March in Washington, D.C. Unmodified photo by Elvert Barnes used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/2FPsrzq)