Tarl Warwick & Colonel Shirlene Ostrov -- Lessons from the Hawaii GOP's Promotion of a Holocaust Truther

The Hawaii State Capitol in Honolulu (Marco Garcia/Reuters)

Being represented by Mazie Hirono in the United States Senate is enough to drive anyone mad, but the Hawaii Republican Party has perhaps allowed itself to slip a bit too far. Take their promotion of YouTuber Tarl Warwick. In a since-deleted tweet, the state party urged its followers to pay attention to his work, saying:

Content warning @Styx666Official has an edgy name and frequently uses profanity – his commentary and analysis is generally high quality.It is is good to periodically step outside the “bubble” of corporate commentators for additional perspective.

Warwick has appeared on Richard Spencer’s podcast, called himself “sort of on the fringes of the alt-right,” and asserted of the Holocaust, “What’s not clear is if this was a deliberate extermination effort on a grand scale or whether they were primarily focusing on eliminating criminals and the sick.” This last aspect of Warwick’s worldview — in conjunction with a few other controversial recent tweets — prompted the state party chair, Colonel Shirlene Ostrov, to take down them down and issue the following statement:

I accept full responsibility for the recent unauthorized tweets posted by our former Vice Chair of Communications. He has resigned effective January 24, and pending official party action.

Our party believes in free speech, but it is a responsibility that each of us must carry in order to maintain a good and just society. Promoting content for the purpose of shock value does not help us build a more perfect union, nor does it help a divided nation heal.

To our friends in the Jewish community, we find the comments to be deeply disturbing and offensive and have no place in our party much less our country.

To supporters across our pae’āina, we are committed to creating a better Hawaii and discussing the policies that affect our everyday lives.

Moving forward I will make sure the Hawaii GOP and its communications accurately reflect the values we stand for as a Country and as the Aloha State.

It’s a good apology, one that Chairwoman Ostrov deserves credit for making. Still, there are two lessons to be learned from this mishap.

The first is hinted at in the above statement. In too many state parties, shock value has been prioritized over persuasion. In these institutions, leadership has prioritized satisfying the base and reinforcing its worldview over building a winning coalition. Some states, Texas for example, have so far been able to afford these excesses since conditions in the state continue to favor Republicans. In others (Arizona, Virginia, etc.) this transition from persuasion-oriented to turnout-oriented politics has coincided with a transition from being the advantaged party to one content with holding permanent minority status. The atrophying of state parties tends to be particularly acute where the party’s hopes for the future seem particularly bleak, as is the case in Hawaii. The answer to this problem, however, is not for them to swerve into the skid, but to modulate their behavior. In New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Maryland, and Maine, the GOP has proven able to consistently elect governors and U.S. senators, changing the political trajectory of both state-level and national politics. These candidates may not be the movement conservatives that those of us here at National Review would like to see inhabit every office, but they fit the state and are far preferable to the alternative. Hopefully Colonel Ostrov means what she said about rejecting shock-jock politics, and will commence with the hard and boring work of building a conceivably competitive state party.

Second, let’s zoom in on the claim in the original offending tweet that it’s “good to periodically step outside the ‘bubble’ of corporate commentators for additional perspective.” Sure, there are plenty of independent content creators with interesting thoughts on a wide variety of topics who are not propped up by corporations, but too often the independence of these larger entities is taken in and of itself as evidence of an independent commitment to the truth. This is not the case. As Warwick’s example makes plain, some of these people are beholden to certain communities — small in absolute terms, but large enough to pay the bills and achieve a kind of cult-hero status within.

In any case, we should all be encouraged by Chairwoman Ostrov’s statement, try to hold her to her word, and hope that it will mark a turning point for the Hawaii GOP.

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