[Update — the Oath Keepers are guilty! Stewart Rhodes and four co-defendants just got found guilty by the jury.]
The fallout from Trump’s Dinner With Fuentes continues. I didn’t think it was that much of a departure from his past behaviors to have caused this much of a ruckus. At TPM Josh Marshall posts a letter from a reader who argues that this wouldn’t have been a big deal before the midterms. TPM notes that a right-wing group called the Zionist Organization of America, which has supported Trump all along, is now shocked (!) over his association with Fuentes. The TPM reader comments,
Now? Now they turn on Trump? Oh yeah, it was a bridge too far to be with West and Fuentes. Give me a break. Even Michael Oren figured this out 3 years ago. They smell the stench of a loser on him just like some of these others, that’s all. There are tons of ex-neoconish Republicans out there who are the hard core of #NeverTrump who are so exactly because of his constant footsie playing with antisemites, among other things. It’s not like this was some massive deception we are only now awake to.
Trump’s dinner has been criticized by some Republicans but not other Republicans. The other Republicans tend to be those who might challenge Trump for the nomination in 2024, and also Herschel Walker, who is still in campaign mode and arguing that the use of pronouns decreases military readiness. The other Republicans have either said nothing or else released some boilerplate rhetoric condemning anti-Semitism without naming Trump. Or else they blame Trump’s staff, not Trump. For example,
Among those Republicans who have been silent on the matter so far, the most conspicuous is Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, where the dinner took place. DeSantis is often eager to jump into national political controversies. But he’s also Trump’s rival for control of the Republican Party and eager to court (and win) the former president’s supporters.
You’ll notice, in all of this, that while Republicans are willing to condemn Fuentes and Ye and Trump’s decision to eat dinner with them, they are not willing to go so far as to draw any conclusions about Trump himself. Even Pence — who had, in this group, the strongest words for Trump — took care not to impute any malice to his former boss. “I don’t believe Donald Trump is an antisemite. I don’t believe he’s a racist or a bigot,” he said. “I think the president demonstrated profoundly poor judgment in giving those individuals a seat at the table.”
Republicans who might want to run for office in the future can’t piss off Trump or his base. They don’t want to totally alienate anti-Semites or White supremacists, either. Sometimes they have to say something, but they have to make statements bland and fuzzy enough so that various factions can hear in them what they want to hear.
I honestly didn’t know who Nick Fuentes was until last week. Have you caught some of the videos of him ranting about how white male Catholics should rule the world? What a pathetic, whiny little man-baby. He and pathetic, whiny man-baby Trump probably did hit it off. Peas in a pod.
The irony here is that in spite of all their long-standing criticism of identity politics, it’s the Republicans who are pretty much exclusively practicing identity politics. It’s all about catering to various factions of bigots and signaling to them that the party is on their side against those other people.
See also Greg Sargent, How Trump is handing white supremacists huge propaganda victories.