WASHINGTON -- Behold, a new breed of Republican for the Trump era.
Seth Grossman won the Republican primary last month for a competitive House seat in New Jersey, running on the message “Support Trump/Make America Great Again.” The National Republican Congressional Committee endorsed him.
Then, a video surfaced, courtesy of American Bridge, a Democratic PAC, of Grossman saying “the whole idea of diversity is a bunch of crap.” Grossman then proclaimed diversity “evil.” CNN uncovered previous instances of Grossman calling Kwanzaa a “phony holiday” created by “black racists,” labeling Islam a cancer and saying faithful Muslims cannot be good Americans.
Grossman gave an interview claiming that he supports diversity in part because he likes “to go to Chinese restaurants.” He called the oppression of African-Americans “exaggerated.” And this week, the liberal group Media Matters found that Grossman had previously posted a link on Facebook to a white-nationalist website’s piece claiming black people “are a threat to all who cross their paths.”
After weeks of delay, the NRCC finally withdrew its endorsement.
Many such characters have crawled out from under rocks and onto Republican ballots in 2018: A candidate with ties to white nationalists is the GOP Senate nominee in Virginia (and has President Trump’s endorsement); an anti-Semite and Holocaust denier is the Republican candidate in a California House race; a prominent neo-Nazi won the GOP nomination in an Illinois House race; and overt racists are in Republican primaries across the country.
Many will lose primaries, and the rest will lose in November. GOP officials have disavowed this crop of unsavory candidates, though sometimes hesitantly. It is an indication of where Trump has taken the party that Republicans need the support of people like this.
By the president’s own standard, it is fair to identify these candidates with the national Republican brand. Trump has called Rep. Maxine Waters, D-Calif., “the Face of the Democrat Party” because she advocates harassment of administration officials -- an irresponsible opinion shared by few Democratic lawmakers.
Some of these candidates go well beyond the bounds of anything Trump has said or done, but many have been inspired or emboldened by him. Corey A. Stewart, the Republican Senate nominee in Virginia, said he was “Trump before Trump.”
The party won’t back Stewart, but Republican lawmakers are tiptoeing. Rep. Scott W. Taylor, R-Va., declining to disavow Stewart, noted to the Virginian-Pilot newspaper that people won’t see him as racist because “my son is named after a black guy.”
In California, the Republican facing Democratic Rep. Mark DeSaulnier, John Fitzgerald, has appeared on neo-Nazi podcasts, claimed the Holocaust is a lie and alleged an international Jewish conspiracy. In Illinois, the Republican nominee against Democratic Rep. Daniel Lipinski, Arthur Jones, has a campaign website that mixes anti-Semitic propaganda and support for Trump, and has pictures of him speaking at a neo-Nazi rally for Trump in 2016.
Russell Walker, Republican nominee for a North Carolina state House seat, is a white supremacist whose personal website is “littered with the n-word” and states that Jews are “satanic,” Vox reports.
Running in the Republican primary for Speaker Paul Ryan’s congressional seat in Wisconsin is Paul Nehlen, who calls himself “pro-white” and was booted from Twitter for racism.
Neo-Nazi Patrick Little ran as a Republican in the California Senate primary, blaming his loss on fraud by “Jewish supremacists,” according to the website Right Wing Watch.
The party establishment has no use for any such figures, thankfully, but it supports some with other eye-popping views. In North Carolina, nominee Mark Harris, in the NRCC’s “Young Guns” program for top recruits, has suggested that women who pursue careers and independence do not “live out and fulfill God’s design.”
Another Young Guns candidate, Wendy Rogers of Arizona, has said the Democratic position on abortion is “very much like the Holocaust” and the Cambodian genocide.
The Kansas GOP asked state Sen. Steve Fitzgerald, a Republican congressional candidate, not to repeat his claim that Planned Parenthood is worse than the Nazi death camp Dachau. Fitzgerald did it anyway -- and also declared that “outside of Western civilization, there is only barbarism.”
What makes so many think such exotic views are welcome?
Maybe they see the wife of former Fox News executive Bill Shine defending racists on Twitter. Her account was deleted when her husband became Trump’s deputy chief of staff for communications.
Or perhaps they see Rep. Steve King, R-Iowa, retweeting a Nazi sympathizer, refusing to delete it and saying he doesn’t want Somali Muslims working at a meatpacking plant in his district because they think people go “to hell for eating pork chops.”
Is it any wonder the likes of Seth Grossman think this party is theirs?
Follow Dana Milbank on Twitter @Milbank.