The fallout from the ill-fated Mar-a-Lago dinner date between Donald Trump, the antisemite Ye, and the young white nationalist Nick Fuentes is exposing a schism between the MAGA faithful and even-further-right extremists who think the time may have come time to embrace a new Dear Leader.
Ye, fresh off his cancellation for making virulently antisemitic remarks — which cost him his deals with Adidas, the Gap, and his talent agency, among other lucrative contracts — has apparently tired of handing out “White Lives Matter” t-shirts on Skid Row, and is now flirting with a run for the presidency.
The prospect of the rapper campaigning against Trump from the right is bringing glee to the deplorables set. They see Ye as — if not a viable candidate — a political force that could keep Trump from drifting away from the extremes as he prepares for electoral combat with Florida’s anti-woke governor, Ron DeSantis. In his own recap of his Mar-a-Lago meeting with Trump, for example, Ye claims he pressed Trump: “Why, when you had the chance, did you not free the Jan. 6-ers?”
Politically, Ye appears to hit a sweet spot for extremists, combining America First politics, Christian nationalism, and naked discrimination against Jewish people. Ye — in a video that made the rounds on Telegram over the weekend — paints himself as a reluctant political leader: “I’m constantly looking to see if someone could do the job better than me. I just haven’t found anybody yet,” he said. He then criticized Trump for a lack of piety. “Trump would be a great president, but he’s gotta put God first in everything he does. God first. Then America,” Ye said, adding a pregnant pause before continuing, pointedly: “Then Israel.”
Ye announced his supposed campaign for president on Friday via tweet. As of now no statement of candidacy has been filed with the Federal Election Commission. Ye, however, has begun staffing his campaign, allegedly tapping disgraced alt-right political commentator Milo Yiannopoulos, a noxious right wing troll who has also been working as an intern in Marjorie Taylor Greene’s congressional office, as his campaign manager.
Andrew Torba, founder of the alt-right social media company Gab, wrote on Telegram that Ye’s candidacy is useful to his goal of shifting “the Overton Window further right.” Torba added: “That won’t happen with 2022 Trump, but it could continue to happen with Ye.” As a strategy, Torba proposed his followers shift “all of our memetic energy for the 24 primaries to Ye if he announces a run.” (Torba made the hatefulness of his agenda clear in a separate Telegram post, casting the Republican party as beholden to Jewish interests: “It really is this simple. We will destroy the GOP before we allow another Zionist bootlicker in office to ‘represent us.’”)
Lauren Witzke, a Christian nationalist who ran as the GOP Senate nominee in Delaware in 2020, laid out the case for a Ye candidacy on Telegram by pointing to far-right frustrations with Trump — ranging from “the vaccines” to “the establishment” — while declaring herself “exhausted” by “making excuses for him.”
Witzke warned that a contest between Trump and the (still remarkably-right-wing) DeSantis would only pull Trump “to the left.” She then embraced Kanye: “The Ye campaign will force him [Trump] to embrace his pro-life, pro-medical freedom, pro-nuclear family, pro-Christian values.” And if Trump fails to re-root himself in the right? “I do believe God gave Trump the presidency in 2016,” Witzke wrote. “But just as God can give, God can take it away.”
Fuentes — an open white supremacist who denies the Holocaust and marched at the 2017 rally in Charlottesville — laid out similar logic in a weekend Telegram post: “When I say that Trump vs. DeSantis is the wrong ‘dialectic,’ I mean that they are both inferior to the campaign that Trump ran in 2016. DeSantis is a moderate, and he would moderate Trump,” Fuentes wrote, calling the setup a: “lose-lose.” Instead, Fuentes argued, “We need Trump and a NEW candidate who will outflank him on his Right.” In a separate post, Fuentes reaffirmed his antisemitic beliefs, writing that he wanted to vote for a candidate that “isn’t on the ‘Republican Jewish Coalition’ speaker list.”
Alt-right live streamer Tim Gionet, known by the pseudonym “Baked Alaska,” celebrated the meeting between Trump, Ye, and the 24-year-old Fuentes, who he considers a close ally. Gionet touted claims that Fuentes has been named Ye’s communications director. (Gionet celebrated on Telegram Monday after billionaire Elon Musk tweeted, then deleted, a photo of him, posting “Jews Mad” after his extremist connections were pointed out on social media.)
The burst of far-right support for Ye has sparked a spirited defense from the 45th president’s loyalists. Writing about a potential Ye candidacy, the lawyer and prominent 2020 election denier Lin Wood called on his Telegram followers to “Reject this errant nonsense.” He insisted conservatives should “Support President Trump in 2024 for a third consecutive term as President of the United States.”
Laura Loomer, the failed Florida GOP congressional candidate and semi-professional troll, called out the political operatives behind Ye’s emergent campaign, including Yiannopolous and Fuentes. She also laid into Greene for playing both sides of this emerging MAGA-world split. “It bothers me and should bother all of you that MTG is claiming to be pro-Trump and using Trump to boost her profile,” Loomer wrote, “while she and her team are secretly undermining him by using Milo as a political operative to make Trump look bad.”
Trump himself has been hesitant to condemn Fuentes and Yiannopoulos as what they are: virulent racists fueled by hateful self interest. The former president allegedly rebuffed calls from his advisers to disavow Fuentes, a move that echoed his previous failures to condemn white nationalists during his presidency, including the actions of white supremacists at the 2016 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, which Fuentes participated in.
It’s not the first time Fuentes’ interactions with prominent Republicans have spurred public condemnation. Greene and Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) were lambasted by party leadership in February for participating in Fuentes’ white-nationalist heavy CPAC alternative America First PAC.
Despite this, Republican leadership has by-and-large remained mum on their former president dining with antisemites. Instead, condemnation from within the party has come primarily from figures who’ve publicly rebuked Trump in the past. Louisiana Sen. Bill Cassidy, one of seven Republicans who voted to impeach Trump after Jan. 6, tweeted that “Trump hosting racist antisemites for dinner encourages other racist antisemites.” He added: “These attitudes are immoral and should not be entertained.”
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), vice-chair of the House Jan. 6 committee, wrote that Greene and Trump “hanging around with this anti-Semitic, pro-Putin, white supremacist,” was “indefensible.”
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Neither Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) nor House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), the country’s highest-ranking Republicans, have addressed the meeting publicly. McCarthy is currently embroiled in a dispute with members of his own party who oppose his bid to assume the position of House speaker.
Amid the overwhelming silence from mainstream Republicans, the racket from the extremist fringe will continue to grow. Ye’s bid for the presidency remains an unbalanced stunt that right-wing fever swamps will seek to capitalize on. But the fervor with which some of the alt-right’s most prominent weirdos have embraced Ye as a potential force with which to push the party rightward echoes the rise of Trump’s own political cult. The growing schism within the party over its future — and its continued hesitancy to disavow the right’s most hateful factions — once again shows no lessons have been learned.