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Tag: cpac 2021

CPAC’s Insane Extremism Is A Warning For 2022

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Many Never Trump conservatives were hoping that when now-President Joe Biden won the 2020 election, Republicans would abandon Trumpism. Instead, they doubled down on it, and the recent 2021 Conservative Political Action Conference in Dallas was a celebration of Trumpian extremism — from anti-vaxxer paranoia to the Big Lie about the 2020 election to praising the January 6 insurrectionists as heroic. According to liberal Washington Post opinion columnist Greg Sargent, CPAC 2021 should serve as a wake-up call for Democrats and encourage them to do everything imaginable to prevent a red wave in the 2022 midterms.

SargeNT explains, "Back in the dark ages of the last century, the right-wing culture war was often described with a reference to the three Gs: God, guns and gays. These days, the right-wing culture war is perhaps better described with three Vs: vaccine derangement, validation of White racial innocence, and valorization of insurrectionists. Over the weekend, the Conservative Political Action Conference treated the nation to a parade of such obsessions."

The lineup at CPAC 2021 in Dallas ranged from former President Donald Trump to Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas to a QAnon supporter: Rep. Lauren Boebert of Colorado.

"We were told the large percentage of Americans who remain unvaccinated against COVID-19 is a cause for ecstatic celebration," Sargent notes. "We were told 'Marxist' Democrats want to indoctrinate your children to be ashamed of their whiteness. And, of course, we were told that the election was stolen from Donald Trump. This zombie lie was delivered to CPAC by the former president himself, who previewed this by telling Fox News that the January 6 rioters were 'peaceful people' and that they are this current moment's true victims of injustice. If there's one thing that all this lunacy confirmed, it's that such culture-warring will be central to GOP efforts in 2022."

Sargent notes that the 2010 and 2014 midterms — back when Barack Obama was president — far-right Republicans successfully used culture war fear-mongering to rally their base.

"Today's vaccine denial and valorization of insurrectionists carry serious echoes of the Tea Party during the Barack Obama presidency," Sargent recalls. "In 2010, protesters confronted Democratic lawmakers with vile slurs, and Republicans told endless lies about 'death panels.' In 2014, the GOP went all-in on the lie that Obama would allow terrorists to import Ebola across our border. Republicans were in no way penalized for any of this. Instead, they won two smashing midterm victories."

Sargent wraps up his column by urging Democrats to put Republicans "on the defensive" in the 2022 midterms.

"This might include asking anti-critical race theory Republicans why they think our cadets are such snowflakes that they must be shielded from hard truths about their country's past," Sargent writes. "Or asking why Republicans are doing far too little to encourage GOP voters to endure a little pinprick to protect their friends, relatives, and neighbors from dying of a deadly disease. Or why they're trying to bury the truth about their own party's complicity in an effort to sack the U.S. government with mob violence."

The columnist adds, "Ask yourself this: Why is it that Democrats spend far more time denying lies — that they want to indoctrinate your children with White shame and send jackbooted government thugs to kick down your doors and force vaccines on you — than Republicans spend denying any of those charges against them, which are true?"

Don Jr Delivers Hilariously Self-Owning CPAC Speech

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Speaking to attendees at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), Donald Trump, Jr. focused on attacking Hunter Biden.

Trump Jr. accused Biden of being a drug addict. Hunter Biden acknowledged his challenges with addiction in a memoir released earlier this year.

"I totally understand addiction," Trump Jr. told the crowd. "It's terrible. We all know people that have suffered from it. It doesn't absolve you from being a total piece of garbage in every other aspect of your life."

"It doesn't absolve you from selling access to the highest levels of government. It doesn't absolve you from selling out your country," he added.

Many responded offering remarks like these:

Mo Brooks Urges CPAC Crowd To Fight ‘Like Our Ancestors At Valley Forge’

Reprinted with permission from Alternet

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-AL), who was one of the very first leaders of Donald Trump's January 6 insurrection, on Friday urged GOP voters at a conservative conference to fight and die for America, just like George Washington's soldiers did at Valley Forge, and telegraphing to them their very "survival" is at stake.

Brooks was the first member of Congress to declare he would vote against certifying the results of the Electoral College and vote to overturn the free and fair presidential election. On January 6 he also delivered a speech, telling Trump supporters at the Trump-financed, Trump-produced, and Trump-promoted rally prior to the violent attack on the Capitol, "Today is the day American patriots start taking down names and kicking ass."

On Friday Brooks told attendees at CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, that the "choice is simple: We can surrender and submit. Or we can fight back, as our ancestors have done."

The use of the word "ancestors" appears quite intentional, and may have been used in an anti-immigrant whitewashing to make his audience feel even more connected to America's founders.

"Think for a moment about our ancestors who fought at Valley Forge," Brooks continued, repeated that key word. "They didn't fight the British, they fought for survival."

"12,000 Continental soldiers arrived, five, six months later 2000 had died. Think about what they went through, burying your brothers, your fathers, your sons, 10 to 15 a day, every day for six months."

"That's the kind of sacrifice that we have to think about and I ask you, are you willing to fight for America? Are you willing to fight for America? Well, the choice is simple: This is how you fight for America. This is what America needs you to do, and you as members of CPAC being here today, you're the corps. You're the ones that have to be the Energizer Bunny."

Brooks use of the word "corps" can be taken as a military reference, or he could claim he simply meant "core," but either way his speech is yet another example of his attempt to incite violence, as he has been accused of doing on January 6.

He concluded his address by again urging conservatives to "fight."


Rep. Gosar Reiterates Support For Neo-Nazi ‘America First’ Group

During this year's Conservative Political Action Conference held in Orlando, Florida, Rep. Paul Gosar,( R-AZ), and former Rep Steve King of Iowa spoke at the nearby America First Political Action Conference, where AFPAC founder Nick Fuentes delivered white nationalist and Christian nationalist messages.

Having a sitting member of Congress address AFPAC gave a credibility boost to Fuentes's efforts to recruit young conservatives to his far-right ideology. And Gosar's appearance on AFPAC's stage wasn't the last of it.

Gosar, who sat through Fuentes' speech emphasizing the importance of preserving a white "demographic core," praising the Jan. 6 insurrection as "awesome," and mocking Republican Rep. Madison Cawthorn's disability, met with Fuentes the next day.

Gosar responded to criticism by saying that he denounced "white racism," but a week after the conference, he posted a tweet containing a slogan frequently repeated at AFPAC: "America First is inevitable."

An op-ed in the Arizona Republic condemned Republican officials' silence on Gosar's appearance at AFPAC. Rep. Liz Cheney (R-WY), already on the outs with Trump supporters, was one of the few Republicans to criticize Gosar for appearing at the "clearly racist" AFPAC event.

Gosar skipped a House vote on the COVID-19 relief package to make it to Florida in time for his AFPAC appearance. Although Fuentes' record of bigotry and extremism has led to him being banned from CPAC and some social media platforms, Gosar's appearance at AFPAC did not disqualify him from speaking at CPAC the following day.

Prior to the conference, the hard-right Gosar was a promoter of Trump's false stolen-election claims and a supporter of the "Stop the Steal" movement. MSNBC's Steve Benen noted Tuesday that "House Administration Committee Chair Zoe Lofgren (D-CA) issued a 2,000-page report late last week 'exposing thousands of social media posts by GOP lawmakers attacking the presidential election and spreading lies before and after the deadly storming of the U.S. Capitol by Donald Trump supporters seeking to overturn the results.'" Gosar's messages took up 177 pages.

As Benen reported, Gosar has a history of extremist rhetoric. A few years ago, Gosar visited an Arizona chapter of the Oath Keepers. When asked if the U.S. was headed for civil war, Gosar reportedly replied, "We're in it. We just haven't started shooting at each other yet." Oath Keepers' founder Stewart Rhodes, who repeatedly warned that militias would wage bloody civil war if Trump did not remain in power, was identified by federal prosecutors this week as playing a role in the January 6 insurrection.

A month before Gosar's appearance at AFPAC, a New York Times article on Republican representatives' associations with extremists noted:

In July, Mr. Gosar, a dentist, posed for a picture with a member of the Proud Boys. Two years earlier, he spoke at a rally for a jailed leader of Britain's anti-immigrant fringe in London, where he vilified Muslim immigrants as a "scourge." And in 2014, he traveled to Nevada to support the armed standoff between law enforcement and supporters of the cattle rancher Cliven Bundy, who had refused to stop trespassing on federal lands.

On Thursday, the Southern Poverty Law Center published its report on the AFPAC gathering, detailing speakers' white nationalist rhetoric.


Reprinted with permission from Right Wing Watch

Rep. Greene Thinks U.S. Territory Guam Gets Too Much ‘Foreign Aid’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) included the U.S. territory of Guam when listing foreign nations that she says are receiving American tax dollars.

Greene made the comments on February 27, the second day of the annual Conservative Political Action Conference, in Orlando, Florida, in one of the event's side sessions.

"We believe our hard-earned tax dollars should just go for America. Not for, what? China, Russia, the Middle East, Guam, whatever, wherever," said Greene.

Guam has been a part of the United States since 1899, ceded to the United States by Spain in accordance with the Treaty of Paris that ended the Spanish-American War in 1898.

People born in Guam are U.S. citizens. More than 160,000 Americans live in Guam, and 7,000 members of the American military are stationed at U.S. Naval Base Guam and Andersen Air Force Base on the island.

While citizens of Guam cannot vote in presidential elections, in 2020 Republicans in the territory caucused during the primaries and awarded 9 delegates to Donald Trump, helping him to secure the Republican presidential nomination.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

In Trump’s GOP, They Can’t Handle The Truth

Reprinted with permission from Roll Call

Even if you don't like or have never seen the 1992 film, or if you judge Jack Nicholson's acting technique as, shall we say, a bit much, you can probably recite his signature outburst from "A Few Good Men," with appropriate volume: "You can't handle the truth!"

Why are so many in the GOP still insisting that the presidential election was rigged and that Donald Trump, the main attraction at the recent Conservative Political Action Conference, is the "real" president? Why would a 9/11-style commission to investigate the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol — to avoid a repeat by the same forces who believed an election fraud lie — be a bad idea? Why all the squawking and attempts in some states to censor a social studies curriculum that presents a nuanced and complete history of a United States that has not always acknowledged the accomplishments and sacrifice of all its citizens?

Say it louder, Jack. I don't think the Republicans present and represented at CPAC can hear you.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt tried to reassure a justifiably fearful country, in the midst of a crushing Depression, by being honest and positive about "our common problems."

"Let me assert my firm belief," he said, "that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself — nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror, which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance."

Actions motivated by that emotion, by fear, can easily take a toxic turn, away from the truth toward full retreat from anything that acknowledges "common problems" or a willingness to solve them.

At CPAC, speaker after speaker repeated a lie that widespread voter fraud, not the votes of more than 81 million Americans, put Joe Biden in the White House. Though that lie fueled the pro-Trump riot of Jan. 6 that left five people dead, too many GOP lawmakers refuse to face that truth, fearful that Trump will name them, as he did every one of the House and Senate Republicans who supported his impeachment in his CPAC speech. This acquiescence is coming from some who were witness to the chaos.

It's a soulless transaction that views democracy as expendable.

And it's leading to an avalanche of additional attacks on democracy, in the form of voting restrictions in states across the country by legislatures dominated by Republicans.

A Return To Form

Newly minted swing states Biden won are clearly in the crosshairs. Arizona Republicans are floating a law that would allow the state Legislature to overturn the results of a presidential election. And sweeping election changes under consideration in Georgia would, among other things, limit Sunday voting — a move certainly aimed at the "Souls to the Polls" events popular with predominantly Black churches.

Additionally, in Georgia, Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, praised for defying Trump's effort to hold up the state's valid 2020 vote count, has made it known that his office will enforce the rule preventing folks from providing food or water to anyone standing in line to vote.

Enough GOP senators, looking more and more like those who once set up literacy tests and poll taxes, seem all too ready to stop House legislation proposed to make voting easier because of fear that a multiracial and multicultural America will reject what the party Trump still leads is offering.

With the Supreme Court looking primed to further shrink the effectiveness of the Voting Rights Act, if the justices' questions this week in important voting rights cases are any indication, maybe the GOP shouldn't worry too much about its battle on that front, though voters of color might truly have something to fear.

Fear Laid Bare

"Election integrity" was the focus of Trump's weekend speech, as well as many of the sessions at CPAC. The fear behind that slogan has been laid bare by the continued attacks on voters in Atlanta, Philadelphia, Detroit, and other majority-minority centers, presenting a scary "other" instead of an America that's bending toward justice. Listening to the concerns of all Americans, to the truths about needed police reform, health care inequities in the communities most devastated by COVID-19, and environmental injustices on view just weeks ago in Texas, must be a step too far for lawmakers who won't believe the Trump-appointed director of the FBI when he warns of domestic terrorism by far-right groups.

At a Senate Judiciary hearing this week to address concerns about the intelligence leading up to January 6, as well as the threat of domestic terrorism, Christopher Wray's repeated declarations about the outsize role of militia and white supremacist groups and the danger that has his agency chasing more than 2,000 cases met GOP ears that would rather deflect.

While Sen. Chuck Grassley did not go full Ron Johnson, which would mean echoing the Wisconsin senator's wild and false claims of "fake Trump protesters" who ruined a "jovial" pro-police gathering on January 6, the Iowa Republican tried and failed in his effort to make Wray view domestic terrorism through a lens of antifa and leftist protests of last summer.

"We're not serious about attacking domestic extremism if we only focus on white supremacy movements, which isn't the only ideology that's responsible for murders and violence," Grassley said, though, according to Wray and anyone with eyes, those movements were most responsible for January 6.

The Republican Party of now was on view at CPAC, with Trump the star and a soundtrack of "Y.M.C.A" and "Macho Man," amusingly ironic for anyone familiar with the Village People's ethos and the anti-LGBTQ turn of today's GOP. Stereotypically tough "macho" talk marked speech after speech, though deception was rampant and the fear so thick you could cut it with a knife.

The scene was ridiculous, really, especially that golden Trump idol that had some worshippers bowing down. Don't Trump's white evangelical followers recall Moses, a golden calf, and false gods?

But it's not funny, as endless examples prove.

FDR seemed to forget his own wise words during World War II, when he signed an executive order that sent people of Japanese descent — men, women and children, most of them American citizens — to isolated internment camps. The racism-fueled decision, not extended to Americans of German and Italian descent, was eventually reversed by the Supreme Court, which once had given it a pass.

That whole chapter, which no telling of American history should cancel, remains a stain on professed American ideals.

It's not just the truth, it's a warning of what fear can lead to.

Mary C. Curtis has worked at The New York Times, The Baltimore Sun, The Charlotte Observer, as national correspondent for Politics Daily, and is a senior facilitator with The OpEd Project. Follow her on Twitter @mcurtisnc3.

CQ Roll Call's newest podcast, "Equal Time with Mary C. Curtis," examines policy and politics through the lens of social justice. Please subscribe on Apple, Spotify or wherever you get your podcasts.

Rep. Cheney Blasts GOP Members For ‘False Statements’

Reprinted with permission from American Independent

House Republican Conference Chair Liz Cheney is publicly criticizing more than a dozen members of her own caucus who skipped work last week and lied about it. The GOP Congress members claimed in official filings that they were absent due to the coronavirus pandemic, but they actually were attending a right-wing political convention.

"No member should be filing false statements," the Wyoming representative told CNN on Friday. "When you get into a situation where members are signing letters, no matter if they're Republicans or Democrats, saying that they can't be here in person because of the public health emergency and then going someplace else, I think that raises very serious questions and I think it's an issue that has got to be addressed."

Thirteen House Republicans took advantage last Friday of proxy voting rules — designed to let members work from home to curb the spread of the pandemic — to attend the CPAC conferencein Orlando, Florida.

Reps. Jim Banks (IN), Lauren Boebert (CO), Ted Budd (NC), Madison Cawthorn (NC), Matt Gaetz (FL), Paul Gosar (AZ), Mark Green (TN), Darrell Issa (CA), Ronny Jackson (TX), Mike Kelly (PA), Ralph Norman (SC), Devin Nunes (CA), and Greg Steube (FL) each filed a letter last week with the House clerk certifying that they were "unable to physically attend proceedings in the House Chamber due to the ongoing public health emergency."

Each designated a colleague to serve as their proxy, skipping Friday's lengthy debate on whether to pass the American Rescue Plan, President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion pandemic relief package.

According to CNN, each also attended the Orlando conference.

Rep. Don Bacon (R-NE) told the network on Friday that he had hoped to take a vacation in Tucson, Arizona, and considered using the proxy voting system, but felt that it would be dishonest to do so. "Trust me I was tempted, but I didn't think it would be right because I knew in the end I would have to answer was it COVID related? No, it's not."

Rep. Ann Wagner (R-MO) also questioned whether it was a legitimate use of the rule. After learning that Gosar would be skipping votes for CPAC, she told CNN she urged him to "find someone else to carry your proxy," explaining, "I was not going to vote anyone's proxy who was traveling for other reasons and not to come vote."

Last year, House Democrats adopted the temporary proxy voting system — over the fervent opposition of the Republican minority — after several members tested positive for the coronavirus.

At the time, the House Republican caucus filed a lawsuit to stop the proxy voting system, arguing that it was unconstitutional. The majority of GOP members signed on as named plaintiffs.

Since the start of this year, all but 21 of the plaintiffs have withdrawn their names from the suit. Several of the lawmakers who previously signed on as plaintiffs have since taken advantage of the proxy rules themselves — either when they themselves were absent or to cast votes on behalf of absent colleagues.

Cheney's position as the No. 3 House Republican has been on tenuous ground since she voted to impeach Donald Trump in January. She survived an attempt to remove her from the leadership post on Feb. 3, but has since faced more criticism inside the GOP for her comment that Trump has no "role in the future of the party or the country."

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.

When Matt Gaetz Met Up With White Nationalists At CPAC

Reprinted with permission from Daily Kos

Trumpist Republican politicians like Florida Congressman Matt Gaetz appear to be mimicking their role model's ability to send comforting signals out to white nationalists while managing to keep them at arm's length for the sake of plausible deniability. He showed how it's done this past weekend at the Conservative Political Action Committee's annual convention in Orlando.

A cluster of young white nationalists attending the simultaneous America First Political Action Committee convention—organized by notorious "Groyper Army" leader Nicholas Fuentes—invaded the CPAC gathering, where Fuentes has been banned, on Saturday. They managed to find Gaetz, who took photos with one of the group's leaders—an outspoken neo-Nazi who uses the nom de plume "Speckzo"—and briefly conversed with them, apparently acknowledging his familiarity with Fuentes.

The video of the interaction shows one of the Groypers asking Gaetz if he was familiar with Fuentes. Gaetz made an indistinct reply while walking away with an aide, pointing a raised index finger in the direction of the young men.

Gaetz has a history of such dalliances with far-right extremists. In 2018, he invited notorious white nationalist Chuck Johnson to the State of the Union address, giving Johnson one of his tickets to the event. Gaetz claimed disingenuously that Johnson had just happened to drop by his office the day before to discuss their mutual political interests—which Johnson claimed were marijuana, bitcoin, Trump, and animal welfare—and a spare ticket had become available.

In 2019, Gaetz hired a white nationalist named Darren Beattie to work in his office as a speechwriter. Beattie had been previously fired from the Trump administration after his connections to white-nationalist organizations was exposed. Beattie later was appointed by Trump to an international commission that oversees preservation of Holocaust-related historical sites, much to the dismay of the Anti-Defamation League. Gaetz later ran into trouble with House ethics rules for using taxpayer funds for Beattie's salary.

Fuentes himself had attempted to enter the CPAC convention hall last Saturday with a group of fellow "Groypers," but was turned away by organizers and security. "CPAC sucks. It's gay," Fuentes told the people who had gathered to watch the confrontation. "We made our point. Masks don't work. CPAC is gay. They're not conservative."

As Twitter user Sarlacc Attack posted afterward, a number of the Groypers posted photos and videos from their excursion on Telegram. One of the most prolific of these is the man who uses the "Speckzo" pseudonym, who posted photos of himself with both Gaetz and Fuentes.

"Speckzo," whose identity is currently unknown but who has boasted on social media that he lives in New York and makes $100,000 annually from his online video rants, is noteworthy for openly embracing Nazism, denying the Holocaust, and expressing sympathy for Adolf Hitler. He also has said he considers electoral democracy a failure, blaming women's suffrage and allowing poor people to vote, adding that he considers monarchy the best political system. In one of his online rants, he also defended the enslavement of Black people, claiming they were better off under the system of slavery.

"Speckzo" also managed to get a selfie portrait with Arizona Congressman Paul Gosar, who addressed the America First crowd on Saturday, a day after sharing a panel at CPAC.

Fuentes' "Groyper Army" has been intimately involved in the extremist right's efforts to keep Trump in the presidency. Fuentes—who vowed to "destroy the GOP" if it failed to defend Trump adequately—spoke at both pro-Trump "Stop the Steal" rallies in Washington, D.C., on November 14 and on December 12, accompanied by his followers, and was present on January 6 at the pro-Trump rally preceding the attack on the U.S. Capitol. A member of the "Groyper Army," 22-year-old Riley Williams of Pennsylvania, faces multiple charges for her role in the January 6 insurrection, and is believed to have stolen a laptop computer from House Speaker Nancy Pelosi's office.

Gaetz no doubt will claim he had no idea who he was posing with on Saturday and brush off the association. But the problematic aspect of the selfies he took is less who he associates with, but instead the kind of people who seek out his approval.