As the Republican Party gives off an increasingly strong stench of fascism — with the anti-Semitic, racist and xenophobic attitudes inherent in that ideology — the party establishment looks more and more like the "Junker" conservatives of Germany in the 1930s. While those monarchists and militarists felt distaste for Hitler and his Nazi thugs, many of them nevertheless abetted his rise to power.
A disturbingly similar scenario is now visible in what was once the party of Lincoln, where the spineless Rep. Kevin McCarthy, conniving Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell and sundry other "leaders" say little or nothing as fascists openly conspire to take over. Rather than confront the repeated provocations by their Nazi-adjacent colleagues over the past year, those timid figures are instead allowing the authoritarian cancer to grow out of control. Both McCarthy and McConnell know what's happening in the GOP, but their weak character will likely prevent them from acting with any resolve until it is far too late, if ever.
Instead, the scandalous connections continue to metastasize between far-right Republican officials and a motley assortment of neo-Nazis, white nationalists, and fascist thugs.
In Pennsylvania, state Sen. Doug Mastriano, an election-denying insurrectionist and Christian nationalist, won the party's gubernatorial primary last spring. Mastriano, a state senator, then proceeded to bring a vocal and aggressive anti-Semite named Andrew Torba into his campaign, along with Torba's followers. Torba operates Gab, the tiny social media site that serves as a headquarters for unsavory rightists — notably including the maniac who murdered 11 people at Pittsburgh's Tree of Life synagogue just after posting a diatribe on the website.
To save face, Torba denounced that massacre and insisted he opposes violence. But he isn't shy about expressing his desire for a nation free of Jews, which he frames in furious terms. He promotes violently anti-Semitic material, and recently opined that Jews can no longer be accepted as conservatives.
In this appalling saga's latest development, Mastriano declared that he opposes anti-Semitism and that Torba "doesn't speak for me or my campaign." But a few weeks ago, Mastriano, who rarely speaks to mainstream outlets, sat down for an interview with Torba and gushed: "Thank God for what you've done."
Reacting to the erupting controversy, Torba denied being a Mastriano consultant and — in a revealing remark — explained that the Republican was merely buying advertising on Gab. "The campaign paid Gab as a business for advertising during the primary," he wrote. "The campaign posts on Gab, as do 50-plus other campaigns from around the country."
So more than 50 Republican candidates are buying ads to entice the troglodytic Nazi subscribers on Gab — and providing many thousands of dollars in revenue to its obnoxious proprietor.
The official Republican response to this filthy tableau has been feeble indeed. The Republican Jewish Coalition, such as it is, tweeted its pathetic "hope" that Mastriano would reject Gab. Of all Mastriano's GOP colleagues in the state legislature, exactly one has spoken up to condemn Torba and demand his "total rejection" by Mastriano, which isn't happening. The Republican Governors Association, the Republican National Committee, the GOP congressional leaders, and the entire party apparatus evidently see no cause for alarm.
Sadly, it would be foolish to expect anything better from the Republican Party, because its Dear Leader Donald Trump has created a permission structure for fascism and even anti-Semitism, despite the fact that his oldest daughter and a couple of his grandchildren are Jews. Trump's own anti-Semitic emissions long ago became notorious, along with his coddling of neo-Nazis.
Why? Principally because those scum constantly praise his bigotry and bullying, so he sees nothing wrong with them. It's always and only about him — and the Nazi sympathizers are his most faithful fans, dating back to Richard Spencer's "Heil Trump" salute during the 2016 Republican convention.
But the white nationalist disease within the GOP now extends far beyond Trump and will surely outlast him. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) talks about Jewish space lasers and repeats anti-Semitic slurs about George Soros, as do so many of her colleagues. She and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-AZ) both spoke before the neo-Nazi America First Political Action Committee, an outfit run by Holocaust denier Nicholas Fuentes. So did Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers, another raving Republican anti-Semite who called Fuentes "the most persecuted man in America."
The list of anti-Jewish and racist offenders in the GOP could take up many more pages, ad nauseam. There are less blatant but equally dangerous figures closer to the party's power centers, such as billionaire Peter Thiel, the would-be kingmaker who has courted a white nationalist leader and revealed his disdain for democracy — and is now financing U.S. Senate candidates in Arizona and Ohio.
The question remains whether decent Republicans, of whom there must still be many, intend to save their once-great party from slime and shame. So far, they've only demonstrated blindness and cowardice. And they seem fated to end like the Junkers, who waited until 1944 to act against Hitler — and ended up on the gallows.
They can't say nobody warned them.
Joe Conason is editor-in-chief of The National Memo and editor-at-large of Type Investigations. To find out more about him and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate website at www.creators.com.