After it was over, Department of Homeland Security Secretary (DHS) Kirstjen Nielsen got most of the attention for the astonishing barge of deceptive nonsense she piloted into the Homeland Security Committee’s immigration hearing last Thursday, and justly so. Leave it to a Trump appointee to refuse to acknowledge that children who are clearly being housed in cages at the southern border are actually being housed in cages at the southern border.
Rep. Clay Higgins (R-Louisiana) very nearly upstaged the DHS secretary, however, when he delivered a truly antic braincramp analogy to the assemblage. “Perhaps the most famous invasion in the history of the world — D-Day — 73,000 American troops landed in the D-Day invasion,” intoned Higgins. “We have 76,103, according to my numbers, apprehensions along our southern border last month. We have D-Day every month on our southern border.”
Yes, because men, women, and children undertaking a long and perilous journey to flee economic chaos and unchecked violence in search of a better life with little more than the clothes on their backs are exactly like thousands of soldiers running headlong into a wall of flying steel in order to defeat Nazis. Thank you for your input, Representative Higgins. If you listen very closely, you can hear the souls interred at Colleville-sur-Mer whirling in their graves.
Representative Higgins does not have to reach all the way to the U.S.-Mexico border to find a metaphor related to Nazis. According to a disturbing report by Splinter News, overt Nazis (or their close cousins) may be more present than we realized in Higgins’s own caucus. Members of the far-right white nationalist organization Identity Evropa (IE) are laboring to make the Republican Party an even better home for white supremacists.
“More than 235,000 logs on the chat platform Discord show users claiming to be members of the group Identity Evropa openly discussing their desire to infiltrate and take over the GOP,” reports Erin Corbett for Splinter News. “The group, now led by Patrick Casey (who has been a member of the group since its early days and previously used the name Reinhard Wolff), currently focuses its efforts on recruiting white college-aged men through campus flyering campaigns and banner drops, and specifically chooses to brand itself as a pro-white, ‘identitarian’ organization.”
The leaked Discord chat logs provide a harrowing glimpse of the goals of white nationalist organizing. “What are our long range goals? Other than taking over the GOP and spreading white identity?” asks “@Steven Bennet,” an apparent pseudonym for Casey, in a Discord post from October 2018. One telling reply reads, “We have 6 years until he [Donald Trump] is out of office — 6 years that shouldn’t go to waste. 6 years we should all spend on taking over our local GOP in every locality we can.” Another reads, “Not that I’d ever advocate for something underhanded. But seriously: remove the old fossil GOPe [sic], insert America First.”
There can be no doubt that Trump was a vivid inspiration for white nationalists, white supremacists and fascists even before the violent calamity in Charlottesville, Virginia. Within white nationalist circles, however, the consequences stemming from that far-right protest have served to separate the wheat from the chaff, so to speak.
Faced with arrests, lawsuits and loss of employment after their involvement in Charlottesville was publicly exposed, some white supremacist groups scattered to the four winds. Jeff Schoep, former leader of a neo-Nazi organization called the National Socialist Movement (NSM), was so overwhelmed by the bad press and legal consequences of the Charlottesville rally that he signed control of the group over to a Black attorney named James Hart Stern just to get out from under. Beautifully, Stern intends to convert the NSM’s website into a Holocaust memorial.
Identity Evropa and groups like it, on the other hand, have chosen to take a different tack. While initially inspired to act by Trump’s dog-whistle racism, the shine came off the apple after the president was defeated and humiliated in his quest to build a wall at the border. No longer looking to their Oval Office savior, Identity Evropa has begun bending its efforts toward recruiting new members on college campuses. Perhaps more ominously, the group intends to move covertly into the Republican Party by disguising their intentions beneath strategic silence and some MAGA gear.
“Today I decided to get involved with my county’s Republican party,” reads another “Bennet” post from October of 2017. “Everyone can do this without fear of getting doxed. The GOP is essentially the White man’s party at this point (it gets Whiter every election cycle), so it makes far more sense for us to subvert it than to create our own party. If we’re going to win this, it’s going to take time, effort and sacrifice. If you’re unable to do activism for various reasons, I’d like to encourage you to join your local Republican party. Present as a Trump supporter/nationalist. No need to broadcast your radical views.”
Translation: Even the laziest white supremacist can make a difference by joining the GOP. “It’s actually quite easy to run for and win local offices,” concludes “Bennet.” “Let’s make this happen!”
To be fair, a number of local Republican organizations have been confronted with overt white nationalists who have boll-weeviled their way into the party, and have summarily bounced them. “One person involved with both IE and College Republicans had relative success making his way through the ranks of his county GOP,” reports Splinter News, “though he was promptly ejected.” A white nationalist YouTube personality named James Allsup managed to get himself elected as a precinct committee officer for the Whitman County GOP in Washington State before he also was discovered and ejected.
“Nonetheless,” continues the Splinter News report, “Allsup set a precedent for other members of IE. As one member of the Discord server said in an October 2018 conversation: ‘Once I graduate I plan to infiltrate my local GOP Allsup style.’” While Republican organizations may be credited for purging these people from their ranks, it is easy to believe that more than a few fish have slipped the nets. Indeed, one look at men like Stephen Miller, Sebastian Gorka and Steve Bannon leaves you wondering if that infiltration has not already reached the highest levels of government.
Plenty of ripe examples of vocal, overt racists can already be found in Congress. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) has made a career out of being a bog-standard white nationalist, and makes no bones about his leanings. Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas) has made his own form of brazen racism into a kind of performance art. On Thursday, 23 House Republicans voted against a resolution condemning racism because it contained language denouncing anti-Muslim hatred. Included in that list were two of the three top House Republican leaders, Committee Chairwoman Liz Cheney and House Minority Whip Steve Scalise.
The Republican Party has itself a problem here, and it isn’t going away. As that Discord poster correctly noted, the GOP is becoming whiter with every election cycle. It is also becoming older and more out of touch with the actual mainstream in the U.S. the party incorrectly believes it represents. Meanwhile, propaganda efforts and infiltration attempts by the fascist right have increased exponentially under Trump even as the GOP finds itself slowly but steadily running out of voters.
It would be political suicide for the GOP to publicly embrace these people, not to mention morally repugnant. However, if the slow bleed the Republican Party is enduring continues, which it will according to every available data point, they may well entertain the idea of a surreptitious merger with the far right, assuming they haven’t done so already.
The demographic numbers are self-evident, and the party has already shown itself to be almost comically bumbling in its attempts at rebranding. Hard times make for hard choices, and the fascists already have their MAGA hats. It’s a match made in Hell.
I’ve never been a Republican staring political extinction in the face, so my perspective may be skewed. All I’m saying is this: If someone tipped me off about a bunch of online white nationalists who were planning to sneak into my house because they thought I wouldn’t notice, I would burn the house down and leave town, asking myself some hard questions as I poured the gasoline about what made my home attractive to them in the first place. Take a memo, GOP: Groucho Marx was right.