Many critics of the GOP like to focus on figures like Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebert, and Louie Gohmert. But it’s important to recognize those are a fringe subset of Republicans just like AOC and Omar are fringe figures among the Democrats. The two parties and their house media like to portray these kinds of figures as representative of “the other side” but that’s not how it works at all. While there is a “Christian nationalist” element to the Republicans, and a white nationalist element on the margins, for the most part, Republicans are willing to embrace minorities who share Republican politics, even someone like Caitlin Jenner. And most Democrats are fine with economic conservatives and foreign policy hawks with liberal social views.
The Most Dangerous Republican of All
The way the GOP is structured today is multi-dimensional. At the top level (upper 15%, such as their leading politicians and donor class), they’re still the same alliance of Kshatriyas and Vaishyas they always were, primarily capitalist interests in the Sunbelt, traditional manufacturing and industrial capitalist sectors (e.g. “Big Oil,” “Big Ag”), and the arms merchants. I didn’t say Trump is fringe. He and his family seem to have become what the Le Pens are to the French right, a family fiefdom that is the leadership of a permanent right-wing populist opposition.
MTG holds to some Alex Jonesish conspiracy theories that I agree were on the far fringe 20 years ago, but have become more mainstream. She represents a centuries-long tradition in US politics that Richard Hofstadter called a “paranoid style” in the sense of embracing implausible conspiracy theories and other bizarre claims, although most of her views just seem to be standard issue Republican talking points. But I don’t agree that 74 million Americans voted for Trump because they think Sandy Hook was a hoax or contaminated water turns frogs gay or whatever the latest bit of loopiness is.
Trump’s electoral performance actually improved in 2020 among virtually every population demographic other than white males lacking a college education. In other words, it was only among the population group that the media considers Trump’s core demographic that his electoral performance actually declined. Trump managed to improve his performance among women, gays, minorities, Muslims, blue-collar workers, and others normally considered to be core Democratic voting blocks. Additionally, Trump seems to have attracted at least some liberal or left-leaning voters who feel, whether rightly or wrongly, that “political correctness” has gone overboard, as evidenced by the “Walk Away” project, a movement of disaffected Democrats founded by a young gay man.
Trump voters included the full range of conventional Republican interests, casual Republican voters, independents, moderates, Democratic swing voters, and voters favorable to Trump’s Ross Perot-like rhetoric on trade. All of these folks didn’t vote for Trump because they think a cabal of Satanists are running the government whatever the latest conspiracy line is. MTG is certainly very fringe compared to all of these people.
In my opinion, the most dangerous person on the Republican side of the fence is not Trump or MTG but Tom Cotton, who is something of a bridge between the neocons, Likudniks, Saudis, MIC, supply-siders, Reaganites, Trumpists, evangelicals, nativists, and conspiracists. He is also smarter, shrewder, and more calculating than similar figures like Cruz, Rubio, and Hawley. Cotton has far more impulse control than Trump and is not nearly as openly unhinged as MTG, Boebert, or Louie Gohmert. He’s a Harvard-educated attorney who appeals to both the right-wing of the traditional ruling class and the populist right to a significant degree. He appears to me to be an unabashed authoritarian who would gladly be an American Erdogan, Modi, or Bolsonaro given the opportunity. Fortunately, he also has the personality and charisma of a bowl of mashed potatoes, but then dementia patient Biden got elected so who knows? Cotton is the dangerous right-wing figure to watch.