How Republicans are grappling with their own 'completely nuts' far-right extremists behind closed doors
Dentist Paul Gosar of Arizona becomes confused and angry during congressional testimony/Screenshot

Joe Scarborough, the former Republican congressman and Never Trump conservative who hosts "Morning Joe" on MSNBC, recently commented that the 2021 GOP ranges from those who are very, very conservative — such as Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming — to QAnon extremists who are totally off the deep end such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia. Reporters Melanie Zanona and Olivia Beavers, in an article published in Politico this week, take a look at Republican insiders who, behind closed doors, are grappling with the kooks and crazies who have found a home in their party.

"The House GOP's No. 3 leader, (Cheney) recently urged Republicans to make clear they're not the party of White supremacy," Zanona and Beavers explain. "Two days later, one of their members, spoke at a conference organized by a known White nationalist. The whiplash between Rep. Liz Cheney's (R-Wyo.) plea and Rep. Paul Gosar's (R-Ariz.) public speech underscores just how tough it is for GOP leaders to rein in members who cater to the extreme wings of the party."

Gosar, on Feb. 21, spoke at the America First Political Action Conference — which is organized by extremist Nick Fuentes and has been described as a White nationalist alternative to the Conservative Political Action Conference. Although CPAC 2021 was full of wingnuts and far-right conspiracy theorists, AFPAC 2021 was even worse.

Cheney has been highly critical of Gosar's decision to speak at AFPAC. The congresswoman, who is the daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, told Politico, "I think the organization that (Gosar) spoke to is one that has expressed views that are clearly racist…. This is not the kind of an organization or an event that other members of Congress should be participating in. I've been very clear about the extent to which we have to stand against White supremacists, stand against anti-Semitism, and that should not be part of our public discourse."

A GOP lawmaker, quoted anonymously, told Politico that AFPAC is the type of event Republicans need to distance themselves from.

According to that Republican, "It's always been lurking in the shadows, and then they have a convention.... It is completely nuts…. It's really disgusting, nefarious stuff, and this is the stuff you have to just actively beat back."

Another GOP lawmaker, also quoted anonymously, told Politico, "I think most people are going out of their way to distance themselves from the extremists, but some people are embracing it. And other people may be not paying enough attention to what they're doing. We all need to pay more attention to the things we say and do, and where we say and do them."

But extremists, Zanona and Beavers report, now feel at home within the Republican Party.

"The GOP's rightward drift toward extremism has been years in the making, but the violent insurrection on Jan. 6 — when White supremacists, Holocaust deniers and QAnon believers stormed the Capitol to stop Congress from certifying Joe Biden's win — has only amplified a bitter internal debate about the direction of the party," the Politico reporters observe. "Democrats argue that moves like Gosar's speech prove that extremists are winning the battle for the GOP's soul."