First Sessions, Now Kobach: ‘America First’ Candidates are Flopping at the Voting Booth

(Image Art: Jared Holt / Sources: Shutterstock, Flickr Commons)

Far-right a​nti-immigra​tion​ hardliner ​Kris Kobach lost the Kansas Republican Senate primary to ​Rep. Roger Marshall by more than 50,000 votes, marking the latest defeat for far-right “America First” candidates at the ballot box.

In 2020, several high-profile Republican candidates championed by far-right and white nationalist political activists have been rejected by their constituencies. Right Wing Watch reported in January that white nationalists were excited by the prospect of Kobach​, the former secretary of state of Kansas, serving in the Senate. White nationalist podcaster James Allsup told listeners at the time that “having somebody like Kobach in the upper house, in a position of power, as an anti-immigration, as an immigration restrictionist leader, that would be immensely powerful going forward​.”

On Tuesday night the race was called, and the far-right activists who had supported Kobach’s bid mourned his electoral loss online. Many “America First” white nationalist movement figures blamed the GOP for Kobach’s defeat.

“Back to the hills. Of course, we’ve been there before,” Peter Brimelow, editor of the anti-immigrant​, ​white nationalist publication VDARE, said. He added that it was “annoying” that far-right commentator Ann Coulter was right about President Donald Trump. Coulter, once an avid supporter of Trump, has attacked the president in recent years and called Trump the “most disloyal actual retard” after he endorsed former Attorney General Jeff Sessions’ Republican primary opponent Tommy Tuberville ​in Alabama.

“Fuck the weak Kansas Republicans who are looking at this primary as a ‘victory.’  No matter what you’re electing a member of the monoparty in November who hates you and will continue to sell you out to our globalist elites,” far-right Kansas State student Jaden McNeil said. “Enjoy your state’s continued degradation.”

Scott Greer, a former editor at The Daily Caller who was revealed to be writing alt-right columns under a pseudonym, only offered one comment on Kobach’s loss: “Damn.”

White nationalist and alt-right poster boy Richard Spencer theorized that Kobach’s loss reflected the unpopularity of “conservative nationalism.” Spencer has been vocal in his disdain for the elements of the far-right that overtook him in popularity and the flaws he sees in those ranks.

“Steve King . . . Jeff Sessions . . . Kris Kobach . . . then Donald Trump in November . . . The’America First’ conservatives and supposed ‘immigration hawks’ are falling like dominos,” Spencer tweeted. He later added, “You can blame Trump’s tactical failures—and there are many—you can blame Jared and Ivanka, etc. At some point you must conclude that conservative nationalism isn’t going anywhere, and it’s simply not very popular.” ​

Joshua Foxworth, a Republican “America First” candidate in Texas who was trumped by incumbent Rep. Randy Weber in  a blow-out loss in March, blamed Kobach’s loss on the media.

“The loss of Kobach in Kansas is upsetting but not surprising,” Foxworth said. “Almost no one can overcome a media that constantly promotes or opposes a candidate. Deplatforming of supporters doesn’t help. The GOP is in danger of becoming a party without core issues and without a base.”

But Kobach’s loss does not exist in a vacuum. Other far-right supported candidates, like Sessions, Iowa Rep. Steve King, and Arizona former sheriff Joe Arpaio have seen their hopes for high office dashed.

Sessions’ campaign attempted to earn the support of far-right and anti-immigration​ voters, going so far as to tap far-right columnist Michelle Malkin to author a fundraising letter in May. Malkin made the play obvious, opening the letter by calling Sessions “an old friend of the America First movement.” But President Donald Trump, nursing a grudge against Sessions for recusing himself from the probe of Russian influence in the 2016 election, urged Republican voters to reject Sessions. Last month, Sessions lost Alabama’s Republican runoff election to Tuberville by more than 100,000 votes.

King, who has a sordid history of racist remarks during his nine terms serving in the U.S. House, lost the Iowa Republican primary to Randy Feenstra by nearly 10 percentage points.

An​d in Arizona, former Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio is facing a close contest against challenger Jerry Sheridan in a race to get his old job back after receiving a pardon from Trump in 2017​. (Arpaio was convicted of criminal contempt in going after undocumented immigrants.) With 90 of 99 vote centers counted at the time of publication, Sheridan is shown slightly ahead. Arpaio has not yet conceded the race.

William Gheen, president of the anti-immigrant Americans for Legal Immigration PAC mourned the loss of Sessions, Arpaio, Kobach, and King.

“All four of America’s top illegal immigration fighters have fallen.  Farewell Joe Arpaio, Kris Kobach, Jeff Sessions, and Rep. Steve King,” Gheen said. “ Who would have ever guessed after four years of Trump our top voices against illegal immigration would [be] gone.”

“America First is inevitable,” white nationalist and anti-Semitic podcaster Nick Fuentes declared on July 7.

​It would seem that it’s actually anything but.

​However, these far-right losses at the ballot box are not indicators that extremism in the Republican Party is retreating, rather the opposite appears to be true. For certain far-right causes​—like the “America First” movement—the defeats may prompt an exploration of options beyond electoral politics. ​And while extremists gaining legislative power can have disastrous consequences for a democracy, history has​ shown that extremists seeking solutions outside of the political system can also prove to be dangerous.​