Is Donald Trump Following the Doug Mastriano Playbook?

Former President Donald Trump, left, is joined Pennsylvania Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

By Brett Pransky

November 29, 2022

The former president’s dinner with known white supremacist Nick Fuentes is the kind of flirtation with white nationalism Pennsylvanians are familiar with after watching Doug Mastriano’s failed campaign for governor.

While Doug Mastriano lost his race for Governor of Pennsylvania by double digits in a clear rejection of his extremist views, his campaign, and its trademark racism in particular, appear to be taking a firmer hold of Republican politics nationwide.

Last week, Donald Trump hosted a dinner at his Mar-a-Lago estate attended by Kanye West, who recently made headlines for spouting a number of antisemitic conspiracy theories. Also in attendance was Nick Fuentes, a known white supremacist and Holocaust denier who hosts a grievance-filled podcast that caters to other white supremacists.

While flirtation with white nationalists is nothing new for the former president, the dinner is a much bolder move than the usual “wink and nod” kinds of attention the openly racist part of the GOP base is accustomed to. But Pennsylvanians recognize these moves after a year of watching Doug Mastriano cynically attempt to take the Governor’s mansion by putting hate at the very center of his campaign. Trump’s endorsement of Fuentes looks very much like Mastriano’s embrace of Andrew Torba, the openly antisemitic CEO of Gab, a social media platform commonly used by white supremacists as a “safe space” for racism and conspiracy theories.

While many are calling the 15-point beating delivered to Mastriano by Governor-elect Josh Shapiro a clear rejection of the vileness offered by the likes of Torba, West, and Fuentes, it should not be overlooked that this same vileness won nearly 42% of the vote in Pennsylvania, and it did so after winning a Republican primary in the state.

Also, it should not be overlooked that, to this point, no one in the leadership of the GOP has condemned Trump’s dinner meeting, and while Trump is now saying he “knew nothing about” Fuentes, and that one of America’s most known white supremacists simply “showed up” for the dinner unannounced, that claim is being met by journalists with the exaggerated eye roll it deserves.

But while Trump is feigning damage control for his Mastriano-like courtship of white nationalists, the numbers tell us the dinner may just bring Trump a step closer to the GOP nomination for President. And the party’s reluctance to condemn it shows us they see these numbers, too.

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