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The Gay-Bashing Email Splitting Colorado’s Republican Party

1 week ago 19

Opinion|Colorado’s Trumpified G.O.P. Says to Burn Pride Flags


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Michelle Goldberg

A person’s silhouette is seen on a Pride flag.
Credit...Jason Connolly/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

Michelle Goldberg

The Colorado Republican Party last week sent a mass email with the subject line, “God Hates Pride.” The missive denounced Pride Month as a time when “godless groomers” attack what is “decent, holy and righteous.” It included a clip of a sermon by a famously misogynist pastor named Mark Driscoll, with thumbnail text proclaiming, in a nod to the slogan of the obscenely anti-gay Westboro Baptist Church, “God Hates Flags.” The party also posted on the social media platform X, “Burn all the #pride flags this June.”

These messages, which have rocked Republican politics in Colorado, are the latest demonstration of how Donald Trump’s MAGA movement has thrown state parties into turmoil. But they’ve also set off a furious backlash from within the party, an indication that beneath a thin veneer of pro-Trump unanimity, old-school Republicans are locked in a power struggle with the fanatics, trolls and conspiracy theorists Trump has empowered. It’s a strange dynamic: a bloc of conservatives who’ve mostly capitulated to Trump are still fighting Trumpism, as if the two things can be separated.

In Colorado, Dave Williams, who was elected party chair last year, embodies the Trumpist takeover of the Republican Party. In 2021, as ProPublica reported, Steve Bannon called on election deniers to flood Republican parties at the local level, and in Colorado as elsewhere, they listened. “There was kind of a movement in the party, I think it was propelled by Steve Bannon, to really take control,” said Chuck Broerman, a longtime Republican official in El Paso County, where Williams lives.

These new party activists, said Broerman, elevated Williams, a hard-right figure known for his anti-gay politics since he was an undergraduate student body president who was impeached for discriminating against an L.B.G.T.Q. campus group.

Williams quickly set about making the state party a tool of the MAGA movement. The party used to stay neutral in Republican primaries, but under Williams, it started endorsing candidates. The party’s candidate questionnaire asks, “Do you support President Trump’s populist, America-first agenda?” Those who want the party’s endorsement must also say whether they “denounce” Americans for Prosperity, the organization established by the billionaire brothers Charles and David Koch, which supported Nikki Haley in the recent Republican presidential primary.

One of the candidates the party endorsed was Williams himself, who is running for Congress in Colorado’s very Republican Fifth District. He’s facing Jeff Crank, regional vice president of Americans for Prosperity, in the primary, and, as The Colorado Sun has reported, using party money to support his campaign. Williams is backed by Trump and the House Freedom Caucus, while Crank, the favorite in the race, was endorsed by the House speaker, Mike Johnson. Except for a few issues like funding for Ukraine, which Williams opposes and Crank supports, the split isn’t exactly ideological. It’s more about ethics — a lot of people are furious at Williams’s appropriation of party resources — and style.

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