In recent years, the Republican Party has been drifting toward authoritarian nationalism. The globalists within the party are moving toward retirement, and younger people who are deeply skeptical of the previously dominant neoconservative wing of the party are replacing them. I am also skeptical of neoconservativism, but do not believe that authoritarian nationalism is the answer.

Consider the sort of rhetoric that is becoming increasingly widespread:

Republican leaders in Congress are torn over what to do with Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene after the congresswoman spoke at a weekend event organized by a white nationalist who marveled over Russia’s invasion of Ukraine as the crowd erupted in chants of “Putin!”

House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy called the congresswoman’s speech on the same stage “unacceptable.” Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell said “there’s no place in the Republican Party for white supremacists.”

Clearly there is a place within the GOP for white nationalists, although Greene is certainly an extreme case. But much more influential figures use rhetoric that is almost as inflammatory:

The House of Representatives has passed legislation aiding three U.S. allies: Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan. Senator Mike Lee, the Utah Republican, has called this “the warmonger wishlist pushed through by Speaker Johnson.”

I wonder how Senator Lee would have felt about the US providing aid to countries defending themselves against Hitler.

To be clear, I have no problem with people arguing against providing aid to Ukraine.  Perhaps it will end up being a waste of money.   But Lee goes too far when he suggests that those helping a small country fight for its survival are somehow “warmongers”.  Putin is the one who launched the invasion.

You hear similar views expressed by influential pundits:

Tucker Carlson is not a Republican Party official, but he is an influential Trump supporter, and Carlson has often echoed Russian propaganda. At least once, he went so far as to say he hoped Russia would win its war against Ukraine.

Last month, Carlson aired a two-hour interview with Putin in which Putin made false claims about Ukraine, Zelensky and Western leaders with little pushback from Carlson. In a separate video recorded inside a Russian grocery store, Carlson suggested life in Russia was better than in the U.S.

And the single most influential figure within the GOP is clearly ambivalent about Putin:

Trump has also avoided criticizing Putin for the mysterious death this month of his most prominent domestic critic, Aleksei Navalny, and has repeatedly praised Putin as a strong and smart leader. In a town hall last year, Trump refused to say whether he wanted Ukraine or Russia to win the war.

All of this has echoes of the “America First” movement in the lead up to the US entry into WWII.  One important difference is that back in 1940, neither major party nominated Charles Lindbergh to run for president.

Where did the nationalist wing of the GOP begin to lose its way?  I don’t believe the problem is in their rejection of neoconservatism—American foreign policy has made a number of serious mistakes in attempting to remake the world in our image.  Rather they seem to have misinterpreted the nature of Putin’s regime.  Conservative fans of Putin often point to his opposition to woke forms of liberalism, such as gay rights.  He is seen as someone who defends traditional (religious) values.  But Putin is not merely opposed to left wing forms of liberalism; he rejects all forms of liberalism, including classical liberalism.  Republican fans of Putin don’t seem to understand that he also opposes liberal values such as pluralism, freedom of speech and assembly, and free elections. They are making the classic mistake of assuming that the enemy of my enemy is my friend.