Las Vegas Sun

September 22, 2021

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Republican Party’s civil war in Nevada: Moderates vs. violent extremists


John Locher/AP

Former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt speaks during a news conference in front of the Clark County Election Department, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2020, in Las Vegas.

When your party meeting ends with at least eight police cars and a K-9 unit rolling in to disperse an angry crowd, you know things have gone seriously wrong with the organization.

And so it is with the Republican Party in Nevada, as shown a couple of weeks ago when the Clark County Republican Party (CCRP) met to select leaders. The scene that unfolded demonstrated the courage of the CCRP’s moderate, responsible leaders in their battle to keep the state party from devolving into Big Lie extremism and right-wing violence.

Tensions within the party have been running high since last month after the CCRP leadership sounded an alarm over reports that the state party’s extremist director, Michael McDonald, had recruited members affiliated with the violent Proud Boys hate group to establish a significant presence in the state GOP.

On July 20, the situation boiled over when the CCRP met to choose new officers and a large and angry crowd — which included those individuals associated with the Proud Boys — showed up and demanded to take part.

It was an ugly scene with echoes of the Jan. 6 riot, except instead of Big Lie insurrectionists trying to take over the Capitol, they were trying to bully their way into a takeover of the county party’s moderate leadership. Egged on by the Proud Boy members, the crowd broke into angry chants of “Stop the steal” and “Let us in.” Security officers had to face down crowd members rushing the meeting room entrance before a small army of Metro officers arrived to quell the situation and break up the crowd.

Again, we see the horrifying spectacle of extremists in the Republican Party trying to introduce violence and intimidation into our politics. This time these incipient terrorists were targeting fellow Republicans, which makes one wonder: If this is how they treat their own, what level of brutality would they sink to when confronting political opposition?

Fortunately, no one got hurt. But the meeting was disrupted, and the leadership selection had to be postponed. Afterward, the party issued an email to committee members saying the following: “In the lead-up to the May meeting, individuals who are known associates of the Proud Boys extremist group had reportedly threatened elected officials and planned to physically block entry into our meeting venue to deliberately cause chaos and disrupt the meeting. They attempted to do the same on Tuesday and succeeded.”

This is what moderate Republicans are facing, and it’s to their credit that they’re continuing to resist the forces that are trying to steer the party to the violent far-right.

Keep this in mind too: The CCRP scheduled the July 20 meeting at a school expressly because it’s a legally sanctioned gun-free zone. Yes, this is where things stand with the Republican Party and guns. Due to decades of GOP resistance to any and all gun-safety measures, party members can’t even feel safe around each other.

All of this, however, offers a taste of the threatening and intimidation being experienced by any Republican who rejects the Big Lie and the party’s plunge into fascism.

It also shows the shocking level to which the state party’s leaders — McDonald and the likes of former Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt — are being irresponsible by not rooting out the violent elements of their party or tamping down the Big Lie.

For the record, McDonald denies recruiting the Proud Boys. But also for the record, he hasn’t done what any reasonably responsible leader would do and kick anyone associated with this violent group out of the party. This is a binary issue: if you don’t stand against hate groups, then you offer them aide and comfort. McDonald’s hands are filthy with cowardice and tacit endorsement of inter-party thuggery. If he had a shred of honor, McDonald would resign his position in the party.

Meanwhile, the tensions remain.

Given this dangerous environment, the growing number of GOP members who are willing to stand up to the extremists and return their party to a constructive and principled organization deserve praise. So far, the Clark County GOP has proven to be steadfast in standing for traditional American values despite the threats by factions of their party that border on neo-fascism.

They’re dealing with a huge challenge, given that the party’s top leadership is trading in lies, propaganda and hatemongering to undermine democracy and establish single-party rule. But to their credit, they understand that our nation needs a strong and responsible Republican Party to thrive, as democracy works best when individuals representing diverse interests and needs come together to hammer out policies.

They’re doing the right thing for the nation in countering the extremists.

The state party’s leadership, on the other hand, is 180 degrees opposite.

Mr. McDonald and Mr. Laxalt, you and your fellow travelers have aligned yourselves with thugs who would destroy what’s great about this country. And you have done so willingly and with a full understanding of the consequences. By doing so, you have brought dishonor to a once-proud Nevada GOP.

You cannot be trusted in positions of power and you owe it to Nevada to recant and leave public life forever.