When New York Republicans nominated Mazi Pilip to run against moderate Democratic Tom Suozzi in last month’s special congressional election, I noted that it was about to give us two months of weirdly normal politics. Pilip was chosen by the GOP machine to replace the fabulist George Santos, and local party leaders religiously scrutinized the candidates’ records and backgrounds. It was an homage to the long-lost days of smoke-filled rooms and machine politics, in the very best way.

And I also warned we shouldn’t get used to it. Last night’s Republican gubernatorial primary in North Carolina is a good example of why Pilip’s selection was so exceptional.

Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson easily won the GOP nomination for governor. Robinson’s political outlook is a conspiracy addled rabbit hole of paranoia, a blackout cocktail of crazy statements about Jews, women, abortion, Muslims, Communism, Communism, and Communism.

The Marvel hero Black Panther, he once said, was “created by an agnostic Jew and put to film by satanic Marxist” in order to “pull the shekels out of your Schvartze pockets.”

Apparent Jewish influence in Hollywood is a particular obsession of his. In a 2017 post on Facebook, where many of his controversial statements were posted, he wrote: “The 1977 version of ‘Roots’ is one of the most vile things EVER filmed. It is nothing but Hollywood trash that depicts the ignorance and brutality of the goyim, and the helplessness and weakness of the shvartze.”

He also agreed with a pastor who claimed the Rothschild family was one of the four horsemen of the apocalypse. And he seemed to cast some doubt on aspects of the Holocaust by putting scare quotes around the numbers in one post: “There is a REASON the liberal media fills the airwaves with programs about the NAZI and the ‘6 million Jews’ they murdered.”

Robinson has refused to disown the comments, or even to say he no longer believes them. “When I made those posts as a private citizen, I was speaking directly to issues that I’m passionate about,” he said after becoming lieutenant governor. “As a public servant, I have to put those opinions behind me and do what’s right for everyone in North Carolina. I’m grown enough to do that.”

I imagine that even more than his anti-Semitic outbursts, it’ll be his comments on abortion that come back to haunt him this year, as the post-Roe landscape continues to be one of peril for Republicans: “I don’t care if you’re 24 hours pregnant. I don’t care if you’re 24 weeks pregnant. I don’t care. If you kill that young’un, it is murder.”

Say what you will about smoke-filled rooms, but the likes of Mark Robinson aren’t making it out of them as the nominee.

Of course the GOP has had success without resorting to the kind of closed process that resulted in Pilip’s nomination in New York. Glenn Youngkin won the 2021 Republican nomination for governor in Virginia after a hybrid process in which the state convention was opened up to remote voting in select polling places, to account for Covid restrictions. Mitt Romney won Utah’s Senate primary in a runoff after a split-vote result at a delegate convention.

North Carolina will be a closely contested race this year. Although the state hasn’t given its electoral votes to a Democrat since Barack Obama in 2008, it was close again in 2020, with Biden within a point and a half of taking the state from Trump. Republicans enacted, and then overrode Democratic Gov. Roy Cooper’s veto of, a restrictive abortion law last year. That might mobilize Democratic voters to punish Republicans in the state, as they have done elsewhere.

North Carolina’s Republican senators are surely relieved they don’t have to run this year on the ticket with Robinson, but no doubt they understand the amount of trouble Robinson can cause for the state party. Thom Tillis endorsed Robinson’s long-shot primary opponent this year.

Robinson sees himself as the purely distilled MAGA spirit. It’s a reminder that although Democrats have been reeling from the explosion of extremism in their party, Republicans still have plenty of work to do as well.

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