Republicans may have to deliberately lose an election in order to save their party.
In our 1999 book, WAVES OF RANCOR: TUNING IN THE RADICAL RIGHT (M.E. Sharpe Publishers) Michael C. Keith and I detailed the existence, philosophies and activities of America’s major radical right organizations. While they represented different principal concerns, their common mantras were hate and white supremacy. Their main targets were African-Americans and other people of color, Latinos, Jews, homosexuals, feminists and abortion rights advocates, and federal, state and local governments.
In recent years hate groups have added immigrants and Muslims to their principal targets list. Some of the most active hate groups have been the Ku Klux Klan, Neo-Nazis, Skinheads, Christian Identity, Survivalists, and armed militias. Their key influences were through direct contact with members in cells throughout the country and through widespread use of the media. Radio was a major conduit for reaching mass audiences with their beliefs, recruiting members, especially disaffected young people, and in many instances promoting violence against their targets.
With the growth of the Internet by the end of the first decade of the 21st century as many as 2,000 web sites operated by these hate groups were estimated to be active in the U.S. during a given period. As many as 20,000 internet hate sites were thought to be active throughout the world.
The Southern Poverty Law Center’s annual survey of hate groups showed 838 organizations to be operating in 2020. There are likely double or triple that number of unorganized, loosely knit associations ready to participate in what hate groups call “Armageddon,” an upcoming war to preserve white supremacy.
Although there were frequent crossovers of members between and among these hate groups, there was little coordination. They relied principally on their individual projects, from bank robberies to bombings, from beatings to murder. There was no national hate groups leader in the United States who commanded comprehensive loyalty until 2015, when Donald Trump announced his candidacy for president. These neo-Nazi, racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, anti-government hate groups found that Trump’s rhetoric, philosophies and actions reflected much of their own. His authoritarian presidency solidified the loyalty of the radical right. His followers organized on local levels to successfully make a difference in Republican primaries, forcing most traditionally conservative Republican office holders to cater to the radical right to hold on to their municipal, state and national elected positions
The radical right is in de facto control of the Republican Party today. Make no mistake, their continuing control will lead to further erosion of American democracy. As much as we would not like it to be true, the January 6, 2021, insurrection at the Capitol, attempting to overthrow the results of the presidential election, was neither coincidental nor incidental.
Traditional Republican voters who do not support the radical right are now faced with a Sophie’s Choice. Sophie’s Choice, for those who do not remember, was the dilemma of a Jewish woman hiding with her infant child along with other Jews from Nazi soldiers. Any sound would alert the Germans and result in the deaths of all of them. Her baby started to cry. To prevent their discovery, Sophie covered the baby’s mouth. The Germans left. Sophie had saved many lives. But the smothered baby was dead.
Republicans face a Sophie’s Choice in their 2022 and 2024 voting. To save their party and its traditional conservatism, they first have to let its present radical right incarnation die and rebuild it as the Grand Old Party it once was.
Robert Hilliard, Ph.D., is a former journalist, federal government official, and college dean. An author and playwright, he lives on Sanibel.
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