Donnie Bolena and the Reality of Today’s Republican Party

I will admit that as someone who lives well outside of “The Donut,” I don’t always clue in on races this far out that affect only the metro area. However, Donnie Bolena is one of those cases who you can’t miss, even if you try. Bless his heart.

I’ve had a lot of emotions surrounding this candidacy for the GA-6 race, anywhere from eye rolling to embarrassment. I finally landed on pity with strong touches of sadness and wistfulness, as well as a wide streak of annoyance. Let’s talk about why. 

I keep a Google alert for “georgia” so that when big news happens, I’m liable to come across it quickly. Such was the case for Mr. Bolena after he made national news on August 15th for calling himself a “white nationalist.” If you spend any amount of time looking into Mr. Bolena’s propaganda, you’re going to come across his Facebook page. Since his proverbial “15 Minutes” ended, he has attempted to clarify in these videos that he didn’t mean “white nationalist,” he meant “white” and “nationalist,” but not “white supremacist” or “racist” (2:22).

However, listening to him, it becomes clear very quickly that Mr. Bolena believes that whites are a superior culture (which, of course, is the definition of “white supremacy,” which goes hand in hand with “racism”). In one video, he talks about how he belongs in Congress rather than Rashida Tlaib or Ilhan Omar because he looks like “a American” (25:10). The indication is clear that he believes that these two women do not. In additional videos, he discusses pulling Colin Kaepernick around by his “nappy afro” (14:17) and the trial of “having to deal with all this” at his community pool when a Muslim family comes wearing traditional clothing (4:19). In the story, the women don’t interact with Mr. Bolena. The offensive act according to him is that they go to the pool with their heads and faces covered.

Mr. Bolena’s latest video features a moment in which he says (all) white Americans deserve respect because they (some Americans) built this country (20:47). In a different video, though, he wants African Americans to get over slavery because slaves and slave owners are dead (28:11). (Warning: You will hear some very offensive language.) Obviously, logic does not follow here, but if we were to be logical, we should point out that today’s whites should not expect to ride the coattails of past white ancestors if African Americans must disassociate from the experiences of their ancestors, all things being equal. Yet, that is not what Mr. Bolena wants.

Within the past week, he has declared himself the “Martin Luther King for white people.”  He doesn’t seem to have any real understanding of Dr. King’s accomplishments regarding African Americans’ struggle for civil rights (or otherwise), or possibly even what civil rights are, as all whites have been enfranchised since 1920, and I’m not even sure he cares that much about those of us who were not for the time before that.

In watching all of his videos from the past month, I have heard women called terrible things. “Ugly” (30:46), “whore” (5:31), and “stupid” (29:40) are just a few. These are usually hurled at women who have crossed him in some capacity. They must be demeaned for daring to challenge him. He is also very determined that we all know there is one woman who sent him nude pictures, and that she has very large breasts (39:09). This is mentioned in most of the videos.

Mr. Bolena is similarly determined for us to know he is a “true patriot,” and he feminizes and then feels up the American flag (21:02) in a manner that made me – a DAR member – uncomfortable. I love me some Stars and Stripes, but… not ever like that.

Greg Blustein gets called a lot of terrible things (10:40), and there are multiple references to the “Lame Stream Media,” which, according to Mr. Bolena, is dishonest and the enemy of the people. In recent videos, he has taken to heavily criticizing Fox News, too.

Might this all sound just a touch too familiar? Perhaps?

Mr. Bolena rants a lot, yells aplenty, and tells his viewers that he’s out for revenge against the Georgia GOP. He was asked not to run as a Republican after making the national news cycle over those “white nationalist” comments, so he created the Ultra Conservative Party and is running as an independent instead. He does seem to be aware that someone within the party structure gave the media the clip in question.

In viewing all of the past month of Mr. Bolena’s videos, I have no idea what he stands for policy-wise, other than he’s pro-Second Amendment and anti-abortion (17:17), which his brand of voter may think are the only issues that count. No details, and no other stances on other issues, are provided.

I still have not a clue what he hopes to accomplish in Congress, other than he wants to go up there to “fight.” I do know that he’s not very clear on elections law, particularly Georgia ballot access for independents. He might want to do some Googling. There is no such thing as a “primary for independents” (41:01) should someone else run as an independent, for example, and it’s not just as easy as paying the fee.

Now, I’m sure some of you are wondering why in the world I’ve spent so much time on this candidate. No, I don’t think he’s the dark horse that’s going to win GA-6. No, I’m not just aiming to punch down at someone who has put him or herself out there as a candidate, no matter how questionable their grasp of the duties of the office they hope to attain may be. Rather, I want to clearly point out that this is who you chose, Republicans.

Many of y’all know that I worked for Republicans and conservative grassroots organizations for 11 years, give or take, during the years 2001-2012. I was quickly labeled a RINO at the rise of the Tea Party due to my discomfort with the shift from fiscal to social issues and the not forceful enough rebukes when some people coopted those Tea Party rallies as their outlet to do hateful things, like show up with signs depicting racist slogans and caricatures of President Obama or hurling racial slurs at Members of the Black Caucus.

I left the Hill when I did because I thought it was going to be a nightmare working with the new Members elected in 2010 who didn’t seem to care a whiff about compromising to get things done, but more about grandstanding. They wanted to “fight” rather than to legislate. Turns out I was right. We’re on our third leader of the Republican (now) minority within the decade, and it’s no longer a viable race for who wants the job when the previous one gets so fed up that he resigns. It’s a hot potato situation, and Kevin McCarthy was the loser in the last round.

It’s probably no surprise that I have been a #NeverTrumper since 2015, and that feeling has not changed. I finally left the Republican Party in 2017 after the guns on campus bill became law, but that was merely the straw that broke the camel’s back. Somewhere between the obsession with telling others how to live, narrowly defining what and who constitutes a “real patriot” and demonizing anyone who falls short, and the constant punching downwards, all the while refusing to put forth any constructive ideas to move us forward as a people, I finally had had enough.

This gloomy, aggrieved version of what used to be the “Party of Ideas” is an iteration with which I cannot identify. It’s an uncomfortable place for someone who believes America’s strength comes from its people – all of its people – working together despite differences and our sheer determination and ingenuity.

And make no mistake, Mr. Bolena – though he’s obviously very hurt by the Georgia GOP’s decision to exclude him (12:45) – is very much a product of the “America First” vision and years of resentment allowed to fester from the formation of the Tea Party to the years of using the word “socialism” to scare voters at every turn.

In case you’re unsure where you might find the political figure that Mr. Bolena so closely copycats, one who disparages minorities, degrades and obsesses about the appearance of women, calls the American media “the enemy,” and awkwardly touches American flags in public, I must kindly ask, what rock are you under? He’s emulating the current President of the United States.

Two cycles ago, the Donnie Bolenas of the world would be the punch line in a political joke about the “fringe.” It would have made sense for them to be asked not to run on the party ticket. Now, they’re the Republican Party’s reality to bear. It is wholly unfair to condone (or ignore, and thereby permit) the behavior of the head of the party, and then penalize others running down ticket for the exact same thing.

People like Mr. Bolena are no longer just minority voices within the Republican Party, so it’s become impossible to ignore them or shove them in the attic as has been done in the past. Mr. Bolena is reaching thousands of people on his Facebook page, and he’s telling them in no uncertain terms about his poor treatment from the party while wearing a Trump 2020 hat and posting positive things about the President and First Lady between videos and memes about fed up white people. This is someone who’s running as an independent, except that he’s clearly a Republican and proud of it.

There’s nothing more to be done about it for Republican operatives except watch it unfold and hope he doesn’t figure out Georgia ballot access laws. Trying to make Mr. Bolena look like the embarrassing uncle who gets drunk at their Thanksgiving dinner and says wildly inappropriate things only to not be seen for another twelve months has backfired spectacularly.

This race will perhaps one day be a study in why a party cannot police candidates at the local and state level and allow the candidate at the national level to run roughshod over common decency. The national level is what sets the tone for every other race, including GA-6, which is why they’ve drawn this type of candidate and can’t embarrass him out of the race.

On top of that, the Georgia GOP needs Mr. Bolena to win – not to run as a candidate, but definitely to vote because the top of their ticket has alienated so many others that Georgia could very possibly turn prematurely blue this next cycle. Since they’ve hurt his feelings, Mr. Bolena could indeed cost them GA-6 if he’s able to get on the ballot and peel enough votes from similarly aggrieved whites away from the undoubtedly more traditional Republican candidate who isn’t going to appeal to those voters in the first place. But he’ll likely still vote for the rest of their slate, so I cannot imagine they tangle with him further, lest it inflict more damage.

What a tragic state for a political party.

I miss the “lift up everyone,” “education is the pathway to success,” “the American dream is attainable by anyone” version of the Republican Party more than I can express in words. Mr. Bolena serves to remind me it’s never, ever coming back. Or, perhaps worse, that it ever only truly existed in my mind.


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