Joshua Tait: Will Thiel-Backed Extremists Torpedo GOP Senate Hopes?Historians in the News
tags: conservatism, far right, Peter Thiel
After Blake Masters triumphed in Arizona’s GOP Senate primary, he quickly set about erasing the foul stains of Trumpism that powered his victory. Having campaigned on violent imagery and an ugly, dishonest version of “great replacement theory,” he began running more cheerful, uplifting ads. He whitewashed his website’s absolutist antiabortion stance.
Now all this shape-shifting appears to be imperiling Masters’s effort to oust Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly. The New York Times talked to a bunch of independent voters in Arizona and found that they see him as “inauthentic, slippery on the issues and not truly dedicated to Arizona.”
Masters’s struggles underscore a little-noticed fact about this moment: Crafting a right-wing populist nationalism for the post-Donald Trump era — one with broad appeal — is turning out to be a harder political project than its boosters surely expected.
Though this sort of rhetoric has long been standard GOP fare, the Masters-Vance-Thiel approach laces it with overtly authoritarian appeals. As Vanity Fair’s James Pogue reports, Masters and Thiel belong to a New Right movement that believes the United States is already sliding into cultural and demographic catastrophe and our institutions are corrupted beyond repair, requiring the robust use of state power as a corrective against enemies who are engineering U.S. decline.
But this viewpoint has not proven to be politically popular. Joshua Tait, a scholar of conservatism, says it’s hard to package this catastrophism for the mainstream, because it paints a profoundly “negative” and “critical” picture of what “the United States is.”
“I don’t think that necessarily flies with a lot of normal people,” Tait told me.
Die-hard believers are “absolutely convinced of their own apocalyptic rhetoric,” Tait continued, but “are we right at the verge of a collapse? I don’t know if that resonates.”
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