BY FROMA HARROP
If there was one place where the moderate Republican could make a brave last stand, it was at the Metropolitan Republican Club on Manhattan’s Upper East Side. New York County [Manhattan] was one of the few counties outside Ohio to prefer John Kasich over Trump in the 2016 primaries.
The club was home base for John Lindsay, the legendary liberal Republican mayor of the 1960s. Michael Bloomberg was a member when he was elected mayor in 2001. [He’s now a Democrat.] The club’s past speakers tended toward the likes of Jeb Bush and foes of the estate tax.
As the Republican Party became the Party of Trump, the club had two choices: stick to its genteel tradition, offering solace to the few moderate Republicans left, or go native. It chose the latter, causing grief to many members.
Across blue America, neither variety of Republican did particularly well on Election Day. In the Northeast, Republicans were nearly wiped out. Not long ago, their party held half of New Jersey’s 12 congressional seats. They’re now down to one.
Staten Island was the only New York City borough to vote for Donald Trump and the only one to send a Republican to Washington. But then Rep. Dan Donovan, who bragged about his ties to Trump, lost to a Democrat.
Most of the Republican survivors walked the other way. Long Island’s Pete King, an exemplary moderate, won another term, though barely. He ran ads touting his bipartisanship and leaving out the words “Donald Trump.”
You may have read about the brawl outside the Metropolitan Republican Club after it hosted the founder of the alt-right Proud Boys as the featured speaker. Gavin McInnes had just entertained the assemblage with a samurai sword dance re-enacting the assassination of a Japanese socialist leader.
Antifa-type left-wingers were protesting on the street. When the Proud Boys emerged, a rumble ensued. The police arrested violent members of both groups.
The club’s leadership conceded that McInnes’ act had been “a bit edgy.” But President Deborah Coughlin held that members found the speaker’s views to be in the range of conservative “civil discourse.”
The Proud Boys present themselves as Western chauvinists. There may be something immature about holding what some would call a “pissing match” with other civilizations, but there’s nothing wrong with praising the achievements of the Western one.
The Proud Boys, however, don’t stop there. They have become fixtures at white supremacy marches. In one Proud Boys video, a group leader refers to American Muslims as “literally a virus.” The club member who arranged McInnes’ talk appears in the video.
PayPal has just canceled the Proud Boys’ account and a separate account used by McInnes. It has also booted several antifa groups from its service. The radical groups used the online payment system to raise a lot of money, which is what they are largely about.
“We do not allow PayPal services to be used to promote hate, violence, or other forms of intolerance that is discriminatory,” a PayPal spokesman said.
A former club president, who did not want to be named, told BuzzFeed News that the current leaders have only the haziest idea of what the Proud Boys are about. “It sounds like the Gangs of New York,” he said.
Over recent years, the moderate Republican has been pretty much insulted, primaried or otherwise exorcized from power. The Trump era may be the iceberg, but this grand tradition of fiscal conservatism and social forbearance was already taking on water.
Still, locals didn’t expect the Metropolitan Republican Club to surrender to the dismantling of their party as they knew it. The sad reality may be that the Republicans who maintained the old standards are no longer Republicans.
– Froma Harrop’s columns appear regularly in The Oklahoma Observer