Sunday, November 19, 2023

Right-Wing Extremism, antisemitism, and a fractured Texas GOP


If you've not kept up, the Republican Party of Texas is battling internal divisions. A fallout occurred after a meeting between the then-president of the Defend Texas Liberty PAC and former State Representative, Jonathan Stickland, and white supremacist Nick Fuentes. The meeting took place in early October in Ft. Worth at a business owned by Stickland.

Fuentes, who frequently praises Adolf Hitler and is a Holocaust denier, leads the extremist America First Movement. Stickland is associated with the Defend Texas Liberty (DTL) PAC that receives money from far-right oil tycoons,Tim Dunn and Farris Wilks. Read, for example, this piece posted to this blog by Diane Ravitch titled, "Texas: Two Billionaires Want to Destroy Public Education and Replace It With Christian Schools."

Folks should also know that the DTL PAC gives millions to both Attorney General Ken Paxton and Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick. You can read about this in a Texas Tribune piece titled, "Pro-Paxton group gives $3 million to impeachment trial judge Dan Patrick. Because DTL is now associated with Nick Fuentes and America First, Texas House Speaker Dade Phelan asked the Lt. Governor to hand back the money. You can read about this in the Oct. 9th Texas Tribune piece titled, Conservative PAC leader’s meeting with white supremacist Nick Fuentes leads to condemnations, escalates GOP infighting. Matt Rinaldi himself took $132,500 from this very same PAC for the Texas GOP. Unless you're an extremist or a member of the KKK, all of this is a terrible optic for the Texas Republican Party. 

All in all, the DTL has contributed around $15 million dollars to right-wing, extremist candidates for office. To my knowledge, none of this money has been handed back to the DTL. In response, rather than giving back the money, Lt. Governor Dan Patrick called for Phelan's resignation.

To drill down a bit further, it's pretty obvious to me that if recipients of DTL monies want to clean up their image and not get caught up with Nick Fuentes and his America First PAC, they should hand back the money. Phelan isn't exploiting an opportunity. He's representing the views of a majority of Texans who find both the DTL and Nick Fuentes revolting.

This shift toward the far right highlights a departure from the Republican party's previous focus on fundraising and supporting local Republicans. Under Chairman Matt Rinaldi, who assumed leadership in 2021, the party has challenged elected Republicans deemed insufficiently conservative. Rinaldi's outspokenness increased after the Texas House voted to impeach Attorney General Ken Paxton in May, triggering months of internal conflict. You can learn more about Rinaldi, a former Texas State Representative, here.

Hard-right Republicans contend that Rinaldi is aligning the party with grassroots conservatism and promoting conservative policies. On the other side, led by House Speaker Dade Phelan, critics argue that Rinaldi is neglecting party responsibilities and fostering division, particularly before a contentious primary season where Rinaldi-backed candidates will challenge incumbent House Republicans.

My educated guess is that while this internal conflict impacted vouchers that have failed to pass session after session, harsh, unconstitutional immigration bills did pass in the fourth-called special legislative session with votes falling strictly on party lines. What should not get lost in the mix here is that as per another Texas Tribune piece that is also mentioned below, Chris Russo, founder of an organization named, Texans for Strong Borders, escorted Nick Fuentes to the Stickland-Rinaldi meeting in Ft. Worth. Hence, when involving immigrants at the U.S.-Mexico border, hate unites even a fractured Republican party.

These are interesting times. I shudder to think of where we would be right now without a press that is doing its job of investigating these truly consequential developments in the Texas GOP.

-Angela Valenzuela

By Cayla Harris,Houston Chronicle, Austin Bureau Updated Matt Rinaldi, left, chairman of the Republican Party of Texas, asks questions of the parlimentarian and rules officials during the third and final day of this year’s Republican Party of Texas Convention Saturday, June 18, 2022, held at the George R. Brown Convention Center in Houston, TX.Michael Wyke / Contributor

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