- The America First Caucus “draft” platform is loaded with white nationalist dog whistles.
- It was so embarrassing that the members of Congress behind the caucus claimed to have had nothing to do with it.
- But thanks to Trump, strident ethnonationalism is mainstream — and it’s a serious problem in the military.
- This is an opinion column. The thoughts expressed are those of the author.
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The “fringe” of the Republican Party continues to edge ever further toward unabashed ethno-nationalism, they just haven’t quite figured out the most effective way to package it yet.
The instantly-notorious America First Caucus Policy Platform showed that the conspiracy theory-obsessed Trumpists in Congress still need to find a medium between dog whistling and bullhorning its white nationalist-friendly policy agenda.
But what’s supremely disconcerting is that the people and ideas girding the America First Caucus appear to be growing in numbers, boldness, and stature.
Message to white nationalists: “We care.”
Rep. Matt Gaetz — currently under investigation for a litany of potential issues, including sex trafficking — will also be taking part in the nascent congressional group which just happens to share the moniker of an early 1940s isolationist movement rife with racists and antisemites.
So how does “America First” plan to make America great again, again?
A section in the “draft” platform devoted to opposing legal immigration argues that America is built on “a culture, strengthened by a common respect for uniquely Anglo-Saxon political traditions.”
In case anyone missed America First’s commitment to hypernationalism, the nominally conservative group’s document says the bedrock of Republican economic philosophy — free trade — “accomplishes many of the same nefarious economic goals that mass immigration does.”
If these dog whistles hadn’t yet driven home the point, a section on infrastructure argued that America’s crumbling bridges and plumbing need to be rejuvenated in a way “that reflects the architectural, engineering and aesthetic value that befits the progeny of European architecture.”
The fetishization of “classical architecture” is a big deal among both white nationalists and run-of-the-mill Trumpist xenophobes like former Alex Jones sidekick Paul Joseph Watson, who posted a video in 2019 in which he said, “Modern architecture is inherently globalist … It rejects tradition, beauty and local and national identity.”
Much as Tucker Carlson’s regular rants about immigration making America “dirtier” have evolved into openly embracing the “Great Replacement Theory,” the America First Caucus is making sure the white nationalist constituency knows they’ve been heard.
These nods are fan service to the ultra-nativists, but they come with a cost.
Republican congressional leadership might have looked the other way when Gosar recently spoke at a white nationalist political conference, but House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy wasted no time condemning the America First platform.
That’s how bad it was.
The fringe is getting too big to be called fringe
There was a time not too long ago when explicit white nationalism was rightfully shunted to the furthest margins of American political discourse.
Instead of small trickles of this kind of poisonous identity politics seeping into the party, over the past decade the dam has burst.
Former President Donald Trump amplified white nationalist memes, slogans, and accounts on Twitter while he was president. It doesn’t get more mainstream than the White House.
And this can’t be dismissed as harmless “own the libs” trolling. And nativists have always believed whatever wave of immigrants was coming to America was going to be the one that finally sullied our “cultural identity” to the point of no return, whether it was the Irish in the mid-1800s, the Germans not too long after that, or the Italians around the turn of the 20th century.
The lesson: hardcore nativist Americans will always have room in their hearts to irrationally fear and loathe unfamiliar immigrants.
The difference is that these America First troglodytes in previous generations didn’t have a president signal-boosting them, courting their votes, and painting a false portrait of a country under siege from violent foreigners.
Far-right groups have always recruited from the ranks of the military. What’s especially distressing right now is how prevalent white nationalism appears to be in America’s armed services.
Roughly one-third of active service members say they’ve seen white nationalist or racist imagery among their fellow troops, according to an August 2020 Military Times poll.
Active duty troops even put white nationalism as a greater threat to the US than “ISIS, Al Qaeda, and Foreign Terrorists,” that same poll found.
These are among many other reasons why the Greene/Gosar/Goehmert/Gaetz contingent shouldn’t be brushed off as irrelevant kooks. They represent a dangerous constituency.
The “draft” of America First’s mission just said it a little too bluntly for them to get away with it. For now.