A new report by the Associated Press reveals the extent to which hardcore Trump loyalists have seized control of local GOP parties.
The power of the extremists is so extensive that any who defy their core beliefs, including that the election was stolen and an unwavering loyalty to Trump, face near impossible odds of winning primaries in many deeply red districts. This will nearly inevitably lead to a rise in radical GOP representation nationally.
The AP report reviewed social media accounts of nearly one thousand federal, state, and local elected and appointed GOP officials nationwide, then followed up with interviews.
Some of these officials actually participated in the rally and insurrection riot on January 6. The Republican Women's Federation of Michigan vice president Londa Gatt, for example, helped organize Trump supporters into buses to join her in Washington on January 6.
At the rally, she climbed the scaffolding outside the Capitol building that day, but claimed to authorities that it was only "to take a picture of the whole view." She told FBI agents that she did nothing wrong then left the scene right away as things turned violent. Gatt frequently posts QAnon hashtags and repeats debunked conspiracies.
Other local officials communicated with GOP national leaders on January 5, the day before the riot.
Idaho RNC delegate Doyle Beck posted a photo of himself on Facebook with Donald Trump Jr., which he captioned with "TRUMP 2020, Stop the Steal." Beck says he went to a meeting at Trump International Hotel that night with many GOP dignitaries including Donald Trump Jr., Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville, Trump adviser Peter Navarro and Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani, then attended the rally the next day.
Some local officials appears to support violence on their social media accounts.
Two days after he joined the Capitol attack, GOP Assembly President Jorge Riley of Sacramento, California posted on Facebook:
"I won't say I stood by. Come take my life. I'm right here."
Then he posted his home address, according to court documents, followed by "You all will die."
Idaho's Kootenai County Republican Central Committee Chairman Brent Regan posted on Facebook, "People who DON'T own a gun should register and pay a fee. Per the Idaho Constitution Article 14 Section 1, all able bodied males between the ages of 18 and 45 are part of the militia and should arm themselves ... That is the LAW."
These officials have large followings that they were able to grow quickly—meaning more donations and even more amplification of their conspiracies and misinformation. And because the lie about a "stolen" election is coming from people with actual authority, it gains a stronger foothold among online audiences. Currently two-thirds of Republican voters believe that the election was stolen or fraudulent.
There are some painful similarities between what is happening now and what happened nearly 150 years ago in the Reconstruction South, where the KKK rose up in violent response. Only after a concerted effort, led by a newly formed Justice Department, were authorities able to arrest the KKK leadership and enough of its members to cripple it, at least for a time.
We should keep in mind the second lesson of that era, too.
In the election of 1876, elections marked by fraud and violence led to dual slates of electors being sent from three Southern states to Congress. After protracted chaos, and as part of an electoral compromise, Rutherford Hayes was elected after he agreed to remove all federal troops from the South. This led to an era of terror against African Americans that lasted for generations— and which continues today in large measure through the new Jim Crow voter suppression by GOP-controlled state legislatures.