THE ENEMY WITHIN: State and local Republican parties have been taken over by white supremacists, conspiracy mongers, and insurrectionists.

AuthorRyan, Melissa
PositionMike Shirkey

"I was in Lansing and members--the leaders, the so-called leaders--of three of the groups met in my office, and we talked about their messaging, their purpose, what they are trying to accomplish, and how they could improve their message," Shirkey explained to a local radio host. "They're not uniquely different than you and I. They bleed red, white, and blue, but they feel like they are not being heard."

After members of one of the militias were charged in the Whitmer plot, Shirkey changed his tune, claiming he was just asking the militia leaders whether "they have codes of conduct, so they can hold themselves accountable and so the public can hold them accountable."

In fact, Shirkey has multiple ties to militia groups in the state, as The New York Times reported. The paper found thai Shirkey had been advising militia groups as early as April 2020 on the "optics" of coming armed to the #Reopen protests at the state's capitol. Shirkey went on to speak at some events with the same groups, saying at one: "Stand up and test that assertion of authority by the government. We need you now more than ever."

Shirkey's militia ties are hardly unique. Across the nation, state Republican parties have become pro-Trump safe spaces that welcome militia members, conspiracy theorists including QAnon believers, and those with white supremacist and other extremist views. Donald Trump lost the presidency and cost his party a majority in the U.S. Senate, but the far-right white and male supremacist takeover of Trump's Republican Party is secure.

The same forces within these parties have pushed out more moderate Republican voices and even censured Republican elected officials and prominent commentators in their states for offenses such as acknowledging that Biden won the election and voting for the second impeachment of Donald Trump.

This takeover has led to the election of even more Republicans with these radical political ideologies at the federal, state, and local levels. Two QAnon believers, Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia and Lauren Boebert of Colorado, now serve as members of Congress, while militia members are running and winning municipal offices across the land. But nowhere is this takeover more obvious than in state legislatures and state parties.

While there's no metric for how many extremists currently serve in America's statehouses, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee keeps a running list of state legislators who participated in Trump's efforts to overturn the election. It has found that:

More than 400 state legislators have signed on to letters or resolutions calling to overturn the results of the election;

Fifty-five state legislators have spread conspiracies and disinformation, claiming to their supporters that Joe Biden stole the election;

Nineteen state legislators were at Trump's rally in Washington, D.C., on January 6 and at least one has resigned his office for storming the Capitol.

I am a former digital strategist for Democratic campaigns and advocacy groups who has tracked the interactions of far-right groups online for the past several years. Two years ago, I wrote an article for The Progressive warning of such a takeover of the GOP, starting at the local level. I warned that this development "puts American democracy in danger, makes America vulnerable to attack from hostile foreign actors, and leaves the American public less safe."

At the time, my warnings seemed dire, but now, in a post-insurgency United States, they feel inadequate. Looking at the current landscape, I now wonder how U.S. democracy can continue to function when so many people holding elected office seek to destroy it from within and have the infrastructure in place to do substantial damage, especially at the state level.

However shocking it may be, Shirkey's high comfort level with Michigan militias should come as no surprise. Michigan has a long history of self-organized militia groups that neither national nor local law...

To continue reading

Request your trial

VLEX uses login cookies to provide you with a better browsing experience. If you click on 'Accept' or continue browsing this site we consider that you accept our cookie policy. ACCEPT