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It’s a reflection of Trump’s influence on the Republican Party, but also evidence of the breadth of interests seeking to define Trumpism in the vacuum left by his November defeat.

“It’s insane,” said Katie Williams, a Republican school board trustee in Nevada’s Clark County, where party officials canceled a meeting at a church this week, citing security concerns about extremists trying to take over the party. “We can’t have people acting the way they’re acting. That’s the problem. … It’s like an election hangover.”

The uproar in Nevada, which came on suddenly, suggests how far the GOP is from being finished with its post-election reckoning. After the Republican Party’s state central committee voted narrowly last month to censure Nevada’s Republican secretary of state, Barbara Cegavske — for “failing to investigate” Trump’s baseless allegations of widespread voter fraud — Clark County party officials accused the state party chair, Michael McDonald, of tipping the scales against Cegavske by adding extremist members to the county’s roster at the state central committee meeting.

The state party, in turn, accused the Clark County chair, David Sajdak, of spreading “slanderous lies.” But one self-described member of the Proud Boys, Matthew Anthony Yankley, who goes by Matt Anthony, said on a recent episode of the Johnny Bru Show, a Las Vegas-based podcast, that he participated in the censure and that “our votes absolutely made the difference.”

Meanwhile, the Las Vegas Review-Journal published an exhaustive account detailing an effort by Anthony and other far-right activists to gain control of the party in Las Vegas’ Clark County through its elections in July.

For Nevada Republicans, the timing of the feud is fraught. The state Legislature has been tilting Democratic in recent years, but Republicans picked up several seats in November anyway, while Trump lost to President Joe Biden by just more than 2 percentage points — a narrower margin than widely expected.

A well-organized Republican Party could help candidates who have at least an outside chance of upsetting Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — or first-term Gov. Steve Sisolak next year. Instead, state and local party officials are at one another’s throats — and the GOP’s connections to the Proud Boys are in the headlines.

“I’m really disheartened by this,” said Carrie Buck, a Nevada state senator and the establishment-backed candidate for chair of the Clark County GOP. “If we don’t get this fixed, we don’t win our state back.”

The conflict in Nevada is about more than just a loyalty test to Trump, which is the motivating concern behind Cegavske’s censure. There’s a more fundamental question about what kind of Republican is welcome in the post-Trump GOP. The Trump era not only mainstreamed conspiracy theories — a large majority of Republicans believing Trump’s baseless claims that the election was rigged — it also gave rise to militant, pro-Trump groups like the Proud Boys, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a hate group. Nationally, several members of the Proud Boys are facing charges for their involvement in the insurrection at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

Last year, the group was emboldened when Trump declined to explicitly condemn white supremacists and militia groups during the first presidential debate, telling the Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” (He later adjusted his tone, saying “they have to stand down.”) And other Republicans have struggled more recently with how accommodating to be to extremists within the party. In Washington, GOP leaders this week criticized Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) for comparing coronavirus vaccine and mask requirements to the Holocaust, but they are not disciplining her, much less excommunicating her from the party.

In Clark County, Republican Party leaders are attempting to draw a rare line in the sand. Officials said they have barred seven people, including Anthony, from membership due to their associations with groups they said have disseminated racist and other hateful messages.

Noting the majority-minority composition of Clark County — the state’s most populous county, and a Democratic stronghold — Sajdak said at a news conference this week that “we welcome everyone that is a reasonable and decent human being” but that “I will never tolerate racist or hateful speech.”

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Stephen Silberkraus, the party’s vice chair, said after the press conference, “This isn’t a problem within our party. It’s one at the gates that we have to fend off.”

Republicans in the state Senate appear to be following that reasoning, calling for a review of the vote to censure Cegavske.

“News reports that state party leaders may have formed a relationship with members of the organization known as the Proud Boys to sway the censure vote of a public official is profoundly concerning,” the caucus said in a prepared statement. “If there is a determination that any member or employee of the Nevada Republican Party conspired with these individuals or had knowledge of any wrongdoing in the party vote, Senate Republicans call for their immediate removal and resignation.”

Amy Tarkanian, a former chair of the state party, said there may be enough frustration with McDonald among Nevada Republicans “to possibly not reelect him finally. So, he very well may just be either so desperate that he’s willing to bring in literally anyone of any background, such as the Proud Boys, to help boost up his numbers, or just let the whole ship burn and sink if he doesn’t get reelected.”

She said, “It makes no sense to be bringing people like that into the fold where they’re not welcome.”

McDonald did not respond to requests for comment. Nor did Anthony.

McDonald told the Review-Journal he does not condone hateful or antisemitic rhetoric. Anthony said on the Johnny Bru Show that the Proud Boys are unfairly maligned and that he is “against hate of all kinds.”

In Clark County, the dispute over who can belong is now playing out in court. Anthony and several other activists filed a lawsuit against the Clark County GOP last week complaining they had “arbitrarily been denied membership” or are having their memberships in the party withdrawn, accusing the county party of “discriminatorily and arbitrarily picking and choosing what applicants to approve for membership in the committee.” County party officials said the lawsuit has no merit.

“What they’re clearly afraid of,” said Ian Bayne, a co-founder of No Mask Nevada, which has been supportive of the effort to challenge the local party, is that new activists will “take the entire party out from under them.”

Bayne said he does not know the local Proud Boys members, but added that denying Republicans membership in the local committee is discriminatory. Bayne’s group, though not part of the lawsuit, was encouraging its members to join the county committee to “replace the failures who now run the Clark County GOP,” promising that an unnamed former Trump staffer would be running for chair, likely announcing his candidacy next week.

Bayne said the intra-party tension in Nevada — as in the GOP elsewhere — is little different than past upheavals within the party, dating back to the days of Barry Goldwater and Ronald Reagan.

In Clark County, he said, “the establishment is running and canceling meetings because they’re scared.”

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Politics

How Republicans Became the ‘Barstool’ Party

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A half-decade ago, the originally Boston-based site and its rabid fan community wouldn’t have scanned as “political” at all. But now, its proudly Neanderthal, reactionary ethos aligns perfectly with the side of our political binary that Trump reconfigured: the one whose common denominator is a tooth-and-nail, middle-finger unwillingness to accept liberal social norms.

If you looked at Portnoy circa 2010 — a budding bro-entrepreneur, popping champagne with models in cheesy photo shoots — you’d have to squint pretty hard to see a potential Republican standard-bearer. If you look now, it’s hard not to. It’s commonplace by now to observe that the Trump presidency “changed everything” for Republicans, from conventional wisdom on policy to how their internal politics are conducted. But first and foremost, it changed the face the party presented to the world. Where onetime nominees like Mitt Romney and John McCain tried and failed to subordinate cultural grievance to a more professionalized, inclusive style of politics, Trump succeeded by placing it right on the front of the tin. And when he casually dismantled that old fusion of free-market economic fervor and country-club traditionalism, Barstool was ready.

The rise of the “Barstool Republican,” to coin a phenotype, doesn’t necessarily explain Trump. It is, however, a useful way to understand what’s happened to American politics without constantly invoking the former president’s name. Portnoy’s devotees aren’t MAGA fanatics or Q fans who live to torment liberals, and they’re certainly not part of the GOP’s evangelical base. (One could imagine the last thing they’d want is a Supreme Court that strikes down Roe.) But the Barstool Republican now largely defines the Republican coalition because of his willingness to dispense with his party’s conventional policy wisdom on anything — the social safety net, drug laws, abortion access — as long as it means one thing: he doesn’t have to vote for some snooty Democrat, and, by proxy, the caste of lousy deans that props up the left’s politically-correct cultural regime.

The backlash to liberal domination of pop culture and the past decade’s transformation of speech norms created the Barstool Republican long before Portnoy’s name was bandied about in jest as a political candidate. And if you’ve been paying attention, their cultural revolution dates back to a time when such antics were more likely to get you kicked out of Mar-a-Lago than installed as its lifelong “El Presidente.”

***

Lost in the annals of a time when culture wars weren’t quite as central to our national politics is a nomenclature that now seems almost quaint: the so-called “South Park Republican.”

As far back as 2001, the gadfly conservative blogger Andrew Sullivan was using the term to describe members of his political tribe who shared the anti-P.C., socially libertarian views of “South Park” creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker. Stone and Parker, true to form, loudly protested their hatred of both major parties. Still, the label stuck, inspiring sparring New York Times columns and even a book-length exploration of the concept by conservative writer Brian C. Anderson.

In the political climate of the mid-2000s, the concept’s appeal was obvious: As Gen X-ers and younger Baby Boomers entered the ranks of the political elite, it made sense that they would dispense with the blue-blooded stuffiness and social conservatism of the Reagan-Bush imperium in favor of a vaguely countercultural, post-Sixties tolerance. W traded his father’s country-club affect for a pair of cowboy boots, but he wasn’t fooling anyone: The cultural energy in the Republican Party, to the extent that it had any, was in its feather-ruffling libertarian wing, whose influence would soon reach its zenith with the self-proclaimed Ron Paul Revolution. But like so many would-be revolutions, this one was denied — or at least delayed and mutated.

Paul’s 2012 bid to become the Republican Party’s presidential standard-bearer fizzled out in spectacular fashion, failing to convert internet hype into any meaningful primary support. Romney won the nomination and invited the youthful Wisconsin congressman Paul Ryan along for the ride (whose rad workout gear and politically inscrutable love of Rage Against the Machine, alas, failed to inspire a Romney-Ryan youth movement).

Crashing on the rocks of both Barack Obama’s megawatt cultural celebrity and the looming coronation of Jeb Bush as the post-“autopsy” face of the GOP, the Rude Republican cohort was at loose ends — until an unlikely salvation came in the form of a 6’3” reality show host and frequent Howard Stern guest descending his golden escalator into the first paragraph of 21st-century American history.

Trump was at first an uneasy fit for both the more culturally-sophisticated, libertarian-leaning members of the Republican coalition as well as their staid religious counterparts. But at the same time he was hotwiring Republican culture and pushing it to the limits of street-legality, anti-P.C. critics saw another revolution happening within liberal politics — and, by the transitive property, pop culture writ large. In their eyes, Hillary Clinton’s campaign represented the triumph of a pro-establishment cultural nanny state that rejected Obama’s attempted de-escalation of the culture wars in favor of a rigid new etiquette of social justice: A rainbow flag hoisted, in effect, over the Bushes’ Kennebunkport compound.

One of Trump’s early adopters articulated the mindset perfectly in August 2015, back when Jeb! was still his closest primary threat: “I am voting for Donald Trump. I don’t care if he’s a joke. I don’t care if he’s racist. I don’t care if he’s sexist. I don’t care about any of it. I hope he stays in the race and I hope he wins. Why? Because I love the fact that he is making other politicians squirm. I love the fact he says shit nobody else will say, regardless of how ridiculous it is.”

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No points for guessing the author: Dave Portnoy, birthing the Barstool Republican with a single 200-word blog post. Trump transformed the political landscape by tapping into a powerful desire for freedom from criticism or censure — a desire that Portnoy shared, and which has only grown more intense and widespread as the panopticon of social media becomes the primary stage for not just national politics, but civic life at every level.

In a column this February for The Week, the Catholic social conservative writer Matthew Walther referred to “Barstool conservatives” as primarily sharing a “disdain for the language of liberal improvement, the hectoring, schoolmarmish attitude of Democratic politicians and their allies in the media, and, above all, the elevation of risk-aversion to the level of a first-order principle by our professional classes.” In other words: culture-war issues.

Oddly enough, despite the inherent thirst for conflict that it brings, the ascent of Barstool-ism within the Republican Party can be chalked up to ideological diversity within the GOP. What could unite free-market libertarians, revanchist Catholics, Southern evangelicals, and working-class Reagan Democrats but their shared hatred of… actual Democrats?

With that as the party’s guiding principle, and no clear policy agenda to speak of — the 2020 RNC literally did not have a new policy platform — those willing to trash the Democratic cultural regime most loudly and consistently are firmly in command, with more staid Republicans forced to at least provide cover, if not actively follow their cues.

They’re forced to defend freshman North Carolina Rep. Madison Cawthorn in the face of his attention-seeking tweets and allegations of sexual harassment from his (very recent) college days, while he ranks in the top 10 members of Congress in missed votes. They’re forced to defend Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz as he faces his own allegations of sexual impropriety — not to mention his frat-boy antics, like showing up to Congress in a gas mask in the earliest days of the coronavirus pandemic. They’re forced to defend Colorado Rep. Lauren Boebert as she fends off complaints from constituents about her “embarrassing” freshman term in Congress, after winning a primary and general election largely on the strength of her, well, bar ownership.

So just as anti-P.C., vaguely amoral Barstool-ism can be a strength, it can also be a weakness. In a media environment built to reinforce and intensify one’s ideological beliefs, being on the attack all the time can leave you in an exhausting state of constant defense. Yes, it can galvanize — nearly 75 million people voted to re-elect Donald Trump, the Stoolie-in-chief — but it can also exasperate and infuriate in turn — a record 81 million Americans voted for Trump’s purposely less-pugilistic opponent, Joe Biden. It also runs the risk of all novelty: that people might just bore of it. Yesterday’s provocation becomes today’s status quo, and in turn tomorrow’s epic cringe.

When Republican voters made Trump their presidential nominee in 2016, they chose gloves-off culture war over either Jeb Bush’s earnest compromise or the imitations of a careerist provocateur like Sen. Ted Cruz. Trump tapped into a very real dissatisfaction in the American electorate with the liberal status quo around speech and culture, and reaped both the attendant rewards and backlash. Someone like Dave Portnoy is, if not a viable presidential candidate, at least a credible successor to the role of the office’s last Republican occupant: Trump, Gaetz, Boebert, Cawthorn and their ilk all share Portnoy’s single-minded obsession with scoring headlines and affirming their constituents’ cultural identities at any cost.

In a media-obsessed world, it’s a powerful, intoxicating skill. And now that it’s proven a viable pathway to electoral success, Republicans are — perhaps wisely — clinging to it for dear life. As a creation of Judd Apatow, the 21st century’s great dorm-room comedy auteur, once said: “Pandora doesn’t go back in the box, he only comes out.”

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Ted Cruz EXPLODES on Senate Floor with BRUTAL Speech Aimed DIRECTLY at Creepy Joe

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Martin Walsh from Trending Politics reports, Texas GOP Sen. Ted Cruz went after Joe Biden and Kamala Harris this week for their failure to do much of anything to address the border crisis their policies created.

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Democrats

YES! Republicans TORPEDO Pelosi After She Was CAUGHT Trying To SLAM 2 Bills Through The House

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Mike LaChance from American Lookout reports, Republicans managed to take the wind out of Nancy Pelosi’s sails this week. She was using a procedural trick to fast-track two bills through the House but Republicans didn’t play along.

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