'Real men don’t eat soybeans': How the 'weird right' is hijacking conservative think tanks
Dixon for Governor on Facebook.

When the results of 2022 midterms came in on Election Night, one saw some patterns emerging. Democrats were performing much better than expected, and many of the Republicans who were defeating Democrats in statewide races in swing states tended to be traditional conservatives rather far-right hyper-MAGA conspiracy theorists.

Hyper-MAGA, ultra-Trumpian candidates, in fact, lost key gubernatorial races in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Wisconsin and Michigan, while many of the GOP governors who were reelected — Ohio’s Mike DeWine, Georgia’s Brian Kemp, New Hampshire’s Chris Sununu — were more traditional conservatives. One saw some ticket splitting in New Hampshire; Sununu was reelected by around 15 percent, while far-right MAGA conspiracy theorist Don Bolduc lost to incumbent Democratic Sen. Maggie Hasan by 9 percent.

DeWine and Sununu are often slammed as RINOs (Republicans In Name Only) by the MAGA crowd, but unlike Arizona’s Kari Lake, Michigan’s Tudor Dixon or Pennsylvania’s Doug Mastriano — Republican gubernatorial nominees who ran on ultra-MAGA platforms — they won. Conservative Washington Post opinion columnist Henry Olsen had a blunt comment in his November 22 column: “College-educated voters just aren’t into MAGA.”

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But “weird” Republicans, The New Republic’s Graham Gallagher emphasizes in an article published on November 25, aren’t going away. In fact, they have achieved more and more prominence in the GOP and are making their presence felt in some right-wing think tanks such as the Claremont Institute.

“The ascendant weird right will likely struggle to sell its deeply anti-patriotic vision to many voters,” Gallagher explains. “In these segments of the mostly young, online-influenced American right, the optimistic vision espoused by Ronald Reagan’s ‘morning in America’ has been discarded. The elite educated right has moved even beyond the overt pessimism of Donald Trump’s ‘American carnage’ — now, disgust with equitable citizenship, personal liberty, and democratic self-governance is commonplace. Fed by an endless outrage cycle and a motivated and well-resourced donor class willing to pour money into increasingly reactionary think tanks like the avowedly anti-democratic Claremont Institute, right-wing thinkers and activists have begun to identify the foundational pillars of the United States itself with immorality and adopted a new fascination with medieval Catholicism and imported European extremisms.”

Gallagher points to “the right-wing embrace of (Russian President Vladimir) Putin” and former Rep. Allen West’s obsession with the Medieval Knights Templar as examples of how “bizarre” the “online weird right” can be. Others include beliefs that “real men don’t eat soybeans, seed oils are dangerous, meat substitutes will turn men into women and…. the best diet is all-meat.” And Gallagher cites some specific examples of how “weird” MAGA candidates could be in the 2022 midterms.

“Blake Masters and J.D. Vance — two Republican candidates for Senate funded in part by tech billionaire and new-right linchpin Peter Thiel — have embraced new-right ideas and actively courted the ‘weird right,’” Gallagher observes. “Vance has questioned whether women should leave violent marriages; Masters has praised domestic terrorist Theodore Kaczynski’s infamous manifesto, argued against legal access to contraception, and openly said that democracy is a smokescreen for the masses ‘stealing certain kinds of goods and redistributing them as they see fit.’ Americans on balance like democracy; legal contraception is almost universally popular; and Kaczynski’s unpopularity is so widely assumed that pollsters rarely ask about him. Masters, perhaps unsurprisingly, lost his bid to unseat Mark Kelly, and Vance badly underperformed in his blood-red home state.”

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