More and more GOP state parties embrace right-wing extremism after Trump's defeat
State Republican parties have censured their own members for disloyalty to Donald Trump.
Since Donald Trump’s loss in the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden, any thoughts that the Republican Party would moderate its ideological stances or distance itself from Trump have been proven wrong in states across the country. From Arizona to Hawaii, state party organizations have embraced conspiracy theories about voting and fraud in the election, the Qanon conspiracy theory, and leaders affiliated with extremist militias.
The Arizona Republican Party has been one of the more high-profile state organizations to embrace an increasingly fringe outlook.
Led by twice-failed Senate candidate Kelli Ward, the party voted to censure members who have spoken out against Donald Trump. In January, it censured Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain; former Sen. Jeff Flake; and Gov. Doug Ducey.
Arizona Republicans have wholeheartedly embraced multiple election conspiracies. Even after the state’s electors had cast their ballots for President Joe Biden, who flipped the formerly Republican state into the Democratic column, Ward tweeted, “This election is far from over.”
During the attack by Trump supporters on the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, Ward falsely tweeted,claimed “Congress is adjourned. Send the elector choice back to the legislatures,” echoing Trump’s rhetoric at the time to deny Biden’s win.
She repeated the false assertion at a rally a few days later that the people who stormed the Capitol were plants designed to make Trump supporters look bad.
Reacting to social media bans of Trump for posting election falsehoods, Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Republicans in the state Legislature have proposed fines against social media companies for enforcing their own rules.
They have proposed fines of $100,000 per day against companies that deplatform politicians “until the candidate’s access to the platform is restored,” DeSantis said in a Feb. 2 press conference.
In Florida, the GOP’s pro-Trump fervor has continued to the point of denying reality.
As of early March, according to the website of Treasure Coast Newspapers, at least 10 of the official websites of county-level Republican organizations in Florida still had Trump listed as the current president, including that of the GOP in Miami-Dade County.
In December 2020, after the Supreme Court rejected a Texas lawsuit to overturn Biden’s election win, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party suggested the state secede from the United States.
“Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the constitution,” Allen West wrote in a statement.
West has also expressed opposition to the Biden administration by sharing a rally stage with Stewart Rhodes, founder of the Oath Keepers right-wing militia. At the anti-immigration event, after West had spoken, Rhodes claimed that Trump is still the president and that Biden had been installed in his office by “the Chinese.”
The Wyoming Republican Party voted in February to censure Rep. Liz Cheney, despite her conservative voting record and rhetoric, because she voted to impeach Trump.
Cheney was one of a few Republicans in the House of Representatives who broke ranks to support Trump’s impeachment over his role in inciting the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol with a rally speech filled with election falsehoods.
Only eight of the party’s 75-member central committee openly opposed the measure to censure Cheney when it came up for a vote.
“We need to honor President Trump,” said Darin Smith, who lost the 2016 House primary against Cheney. “The Republican Party needs to put her on notice.”
Edwin Boyette, vice chairman of the Hawaii Republican Party, tweeted praise in January for the QAnon conspiracy theory, the long-ranging claim that the world is run by pedophile politicians, leaders, and celebrities involved in massive child trafficking and abuse networks and cannibalism, among other schemes.
“We should make it abundantly clear — the people who subscribed to the Q fiction, were largely motivated by a sincere and deep love for America. Patriotism and love of County (sic) should never be ridiculed,” Boyette wrote.
He also tweeted that “people who followed Q don’t deserve mockery.”
After media coverage, the tweets were deleted and Boyette resigned from the party.
Oregon Republicans in February elected state Rep. Dallas Heard as the party’s new chair despite his past affiliation with an armed militia group.
Heard visited the militia run by Ammon Bundy, son of notorious anti-government activist Cliven Bundy, as it occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in Oregon in March 2016, an occupation that went on for 40 days and led to a confrontation with law enforcement in which one person was killed.
Heard is also connected to an Oregon group called Citizens Against Tyranny that opposes safety measures designed to slow the spread of COVID-19. Heard demonstrated his sympathy to the anti-mask movement by removing his own mask during a speech in the state legislature.
In December 2020, Heard attended a rally at the state Capitol and expressed “full support” for members of the crowd entering the locked building. The crowd stormed the building in a preview of the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, and in fact at least one man who attended Heard’s rally and was filmed standing near him was part of the group that invaded the U.S. Capitol a month later.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.
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