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An ex-senator called Trump backers "brownshirts," in case you wondered how the RNC's going

Dylan Matthews is a senior correspondent and head writer for Vox's Future Perfect section and has worked at Vox since 2014. He is particularly interested in global health and pandemic prevention, anti-poverty efforts, economic policy and theory, and conflicts about the right way to do philanthropy.

Former Sen. Gordon Humphrey (R-NH) hasn’t been a major national political figure for some time. While he was a leading conservative in the Senate from 1978 to 1990, he faded away after he declined to seek reelection that year, launching two failed gubernatorial bids and then seemingly retiring from politics altogether.

But he surged back into the limelight as a leading #NeverTrump delegate to the Republican National Convention. He told CNBC, "Trump is a sick sociopath. He has no conscience. No feelings of guilt, remorse, empathy or embarrassment. He has never apologized to Carly [Fiorina], the disabled reporter or Senator McCain on the horrible things he said about them. He has severe personality disorders and is not fit to be president."

And Humphrey was part of an unsuccessful effort to change the rules on the opening day of the convention to unbind delegates and thus, he and NeverTrumpers hoped, prevent the presumptive nominee from actually getting nominated. After much chaos on the convention floor the effort failed, with Republican leaders blocking a roll call vote on adopting the rules.

Afterward, Humphrey spoke to MSNBC's Jacob Soboroff and proceeded to all but call Trump and his supporters Nazis:

I sought to be recognized to raise a point of parliamentary inquiry and was immediately drowned out by people I would refer to as brownshirts in my surroundings. … You just saw the second most important item of business rushed through in a split second with no opportunity for debate, no opportunity for questions, no opportunity for points of order and no roll call vote although nine states under the rules requested a roll call vote, demanded a roll call vote, and should have been accorded that. So this was pretty shocking and shameful, I’ve seen a lot of, but this is not a meeting of the Republican National Committee. This is a meeting of brownshirts.

When Soboroff asked what Humphrey meant by "brownshirts," he made clear that he was referring to the Nazi SA paramilitary group:

I mean people who act like fascists. They might not be fascists, but they act like fascists they have the lack of manners of fascists, and in this respect they are only too reflective of Donald Trump himself.

Humphrey is no one’s idea of a moderate Republican and in particular is a very vocal social conservative. He infamously attacked Ronald Reagan for appointing an openly gay man to a White House panel on AIDS, saying, "Homosexuality, that is the practice of homosexuality, is immoral. And the consequences to our society from that immoral practice is AIDS." During the 1988 Republican convention, he promised to block any insufficiently conservative vice presidential pick, influencing George H.W. Bush’s selection of Dan Quayle. He was one of the most vocal anti-abortion senators of his time, and opposed a Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on the grounds that it was too expensive.

There are plenty of social conservatives in the NeverTrump world; Trump is, after all, a serial philanderer who flip-flopped on abortion and seems pretty comfortable with gay and even trans rights. But Humphrey’s fascism rhetoric ties the social conservative critique of Trump to that of neoconservatives, who couldn’t care less about abortion law but similarly zero in on the idea of Trump as a uniquely dangerous demagogue with dictatorial tendencies.

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