At a time when anti-Semitism is spiking due to the Israel-Hamas war, the Texas Republican Party appears to be worried that angering open neo-Nazis and Holocaust deniers will cost them some of their base. At a committee vote on Saturday, a ban on associating with such people was stripped out of a pro-Israel measure.
While the Texas Republican Party has danced around various white supremacist talking points before—including racist rhetoric from Governor Greg Abbott that is unsettlingly close to the “Great Replacement” theory—this new crisis of conscience comes from one man: Nick Fuentes. Fuentes is an open white supremacist who praises Adolf Hitler, denies the authenticity of the Holocaust, and thinks the United States should be run by a “Catholic Taliban.” He considers white Americans to be in holy war against Jews.
He is also very well connected with high-ranking members of the Republican Party. In 2022, he had dinner with former President and current Republican frontrunner Donald Trump. Earlier this year, he was seen leaving a building where a major conservative political strategy meeting was happening. Kyle Rittenhouse, who killed several Black Lives Matter protesters but was acquitted for murder, was in the building at the same time, as was Texas GOP chair Matt Rinaldi.
The building is the headquarters for Pale Horse Strategies, a powerful consulting firm owned by Jonathan Stickland, a close ally of Rinaldi. Rinaldi has denied even knowing that Fuentes was in the building at the time.
The presence of one of the country’s most prominent Nazis in Texas Republican circles has put the party in a rough place, particularly as they try to keep conservative Christian support by supporting Israel in the war. That the party has indulged in bigotry for political gain over the last several cycles is inarguable, but there has always been a line between status quo racism and blatant praise of National Socialism.
Still, the actions of the Texas GOP show that the line between business-as-usual anti immigrant and anti-LGBT policies and outright Nazis is getting quite perforated. A party unable to safely say it refuses to associate with Nazis is a party that clearly needs Nazi votes.
According to The Texas Tribune report on the vote, some members felt that the clause was a “slippery slope” that would lead to “Marxist” thinking. Rinaldi said in the meeting that anti-Semitism was not a serious enough problem on the right to warrant such a clause. House Speaker Dade Phelan referred to the loss of the ban as “despicable.”
It may seem like the Texas GOP supporting Israel itself would be proof enough that anti-Semitism is not a problem as Rinaldi claims. However, many Nazis consider the existence of Israel to be a good thing as it creates a place that Jewish people can be deported to. This is a popular Nazi talking point related to Holocaust denial, with some claiming that Israel was Adolf Hitler’s plan all along rather than the extermination of Europe’s Jewish population.
Since support of Israel is not necessarily antithetical to Nazi viewpoints, it would seem like having open language denouncing anti-Semitists would be a handy thing to have in a draft of official support. It’s quite disturbing that Texas Republicans found “Nazis are bad” to be too politically dangerous a statement to make.