While Mastriano lost the Pennsylvania governor’s race to Democrat Josh Shapiro by double digits, the fact that a man who openly embraced election denialism, gun fetishism, racism, and antisemitism was the Republican nominee at all is disturbing and evidence of a massive sea change in both Pennsylvania and American politics.
Over the course of Doug Mastriano’s campaign for governor in Pennsylvania, he did not shy away from his extremist views. In fact, he made them a centerpiece of his campaign.
From election denialism to gun fetishism to racism and antisemitism—if it was an extreme point of view, we could almost certainly find it in the front of the Mastriano playbook.
But Mastriano appeared to have a special interest in antisemitic tropes and in the people who propogate them. For example, back in July, Mastriano linked his campaign to a far-right social media platform called Gab, a place where racism and antisemitism are not policed in any recognizable way. It is a place where the worst forms of hate are given a megaphone by the site’s founder, Andrew Torba.
Mastriano hired Torba as a consultant for his campaign, paying him for privileged access to the Gab platform and the small army of racists that can be found and recruited there. Mastriano later severed this connection, but only after the signal to the extremists was clear and inescapable.
In his campaign’s home stretch, Mastriano’s wife got in on the hate, making an odd, hamfisted dual loyalty claim at an event in response to a question from Israeli journalist Nathan Guttman.
“[A]s a family, we so much love Israel. In fact, I’m going to say we probably love Israel more than a lot of Jews do, I have to say that.”
While Mastriano lost the race to Democrat Josh Shapiro—who attended a Jewish day school in Montgomery County that Mastriano labeled as a school for elites in fairly loaded language— by double digits, the fact he was the Republican nominee at all is disturbing and evidence of a massive sea change in both Pennsylvania and American politics.
For example, when former Grand Wizard of the KKK David Duke ran for governor of Louisiana in 1991, he achieved just over 38% of the vote in a red state with a long history of voting for candidates who ran on some of the worst forms of hate. Mastriano, running a similar campaign in a blue state 31 years later, received over 42% of the vote.
What’s clear in all of this is that there is a new brand of Republican politics, or at least the veneer of legitimacy has been peeled away from the old brand, and while not everyone is as open about the hate as Doug Mastriano, no one is pushing back on it from the inside. Republican leaders are quiet about it, and the base is still, according to the polls, voting for the party regardless of the candidate.
While Duke and Mastriano lost their races, it is hard to see their brands of hate as anything other than a growing problem in the United States.
Hate is accelerating. That’s what the numbers tell us.