The GOP's Brazen Embrace Of Violence Is A Precursor To Authoritarianism, If Not Civil War
Late last night, as the votes in Maryland’s GOP gubernatorial primary were still being counted, it became clear that the candidate from the fascist end of the party, sociopath Dan Cox would be the party’s nominee. When AP called the race for him, he led mainstream conservative Kelly Schultz 132,428 (56.2%) to 94,850 (40.3%), beating her in all but Howard and tiny Kent counties. Covering the race for the Washington Post, Erin Cox, Ovetta Wiggins and Antonio Olivo reported that Cox is “a first-term delegate who embraced Donald Trump’s rhetoric and tried to impeach Republican Gov. Larry Hogan… The Republican primary race for governor tested the potency of the former president’s influence in a state that’s also embraced the pragmatic conservatism of term-limited Hogan, who won two terms by appealing to independents and Democrats.” He's a crackpot but remember we talked about another violent freak the other day, Michael Peroutka? He won too. "Their wins show how radicalized and conspiracy theory-minded a significant segment of the Republican base has grown in response to COVID and Trump’s lies about the 2020 election— even in a Democratic-leaning state like Maryland... Cox’s win comes after a vocal endorsement from Trump, whose long-running feud with Hogan helped sink Hogan’s handpicked successor, former Maryland Commerce Secretary Kelly Schulz, in the primary. Cox also benefited from millions in campaign ads from Democrats highlighting his ties to Trump in a successful bid to help him win the primary so they’d face a significantly less electable candidate in the general election. Peroutka has repeatedly said he believes public education is a communist plot, and during his campaign argued that Maryland laws protecting both gay marriage and abortion are illegal and unconstitutional because they violate “God’s law.” He called the Confederate song “Dixie” the “national anthem,” and is a former board member of the League of the South, an neo-Confederate organization whose explicit aim is for the South to leave the U.S. and form its own country."
Meanwhile CNN had just reported that Courtney Holland, who hasn’t been arrested, is the new communications director for right-wing nut Adam Laxalt, the Republican Senate nominee in Nevada had taken part on the J-6 insurrection as part of the violent Oath Keepers contingent. One of her companions “has been charged with sedition and another with breaking into the Capitol and at least two others who were charged for illegally entering the building.”
This morning around dawn, Rosalind Helderman reported that the Select Committee investigating the insurrection has shown that Trump’s choices were behind the violence (something even a growing number of Republicans are starting to become wary of in retrospect). She wrote that “At each moment when Trump could have soothed an agitated nation, he escalated tensions instead, the committee has illustrated through its presentation of 18 live witnesses, scores of videotaped depositions and vast documentary evidence. At each moment when longtime loyal advisers offered their view that his election loss was real, he refused to listen and found newcomers and outsiders willing to tell him otherwise. On at least 15 different occasions, the president barreled over those who told him to accept his loss and instead took actions that sought to circumvent the democratic process and set the nation on the path to violence, according to the committee’s evidence. The resulting attack on the Capitol was not spontaneous, the committee has argued, but instead a predictable outcome that Trump enabled even after learning the crowd he was addressing that day was armed and baying for blood.”
It’s becoming an integral part of Republican Party ideology that democracy is not something to back. Among my academic friends, there is no journal to be published in that is more prestigious than Science. Last night a Science piece looked at the increasing danger of political violence in America. “Violence can seem to be everywhere in the United States, and political violence is in the spotlight, with the 6 January 2021 insurrection as exhibit A. Now, a large study confirms one in five Americans believes violence motivated by political reasons is— at least sometimes— justified. Nearly half expect a civil war, and many say they would trade democracy for a strong leader, a preprint posted today on medRxiv found.”
Firearm deaths in the United States grew by nearly 43% between 2010 and 2020, and gun sales surged during the coronavirus pandemic. Garen Wintemute, an emergency medicine physician and longtime gun violence researcher at the University of California, Davis, wondered what those trends portend for civil unrest. “Sometimes being an ER [emergency room] doc is like being the bowman on the Titanic going, ‘Look at that iceberg!’” he says.
He and his colleagues surveyed more than 8600 adults in English and Spanish about their views on democracy in the United States, racial attitudes in U.S. society, and their own attitudes toward political violence. The respondents were part of the Ipsos KnowledgePanel— an online research panel that has been used widely, including by Wintemute for research on violence and firearm ownership. The team then applied statistical methods to extrapolate the survey results to the entire country.
Although almost all respondents thought it’s important for the United States to remain a democracy, about 40% said having a strong leader is more important. Half expect a civil war in the United States in the next few years. (The survey didn’t specify when.) “The fact that basically half the country is expecting a civil war is just chilling,” Wintemute says. And many expect to take part. If found in a situation where they think violence is justified to advance an important political objective, about one in five respondents thinks they will likely be armed with a gun. About 7% of participants— which would correspond to about 18 million U.S. adults— said they would be willing to kill a person in such a situation.
…“The findings are scary, but not surprising,” Kurt Braddock, who studies the psychology of extremist communication at American University, wrote in an email to Science. In recent years, he says, the United States has seen an increase in individual willingness to engage in violence— homicides in cities increased 44% between 2019 and 2021, for instance— an attitude he says is likely to spill into the political sphere.
…Wintemute and colleagues found that conspiracy theories, some rooted in racism, are helping shape views about political violence. They found roughly two in five adults agreed with the white nationalist “great replacement theory,” or the idea that native-born white voters are being replaced by immigrants for electoral gains. And one in five respondents believed the false QAnon conspiracy theory that U.S. institutions are controlled by an elite group of Satan-worshipping pedophiles. Respondents’ belief in conspiracy theories might partially explain their views on democracy and political violence, Walter says, but she wishes the survey went deeper to explain the particular reasons why the participants would choose to engage in violence.
…To reduce the threat of political violence, Braddock says, the first step is to call out the disinformation online and in right-wing media, some of which is taken directly from extremist propaganda. “We need to call that out for what it is before we can begin to address the problems it is causing.” Regulating social media to avoid “incendiary” misinformation from spreading could also help, Walter says.
I don’t see any Democrats— not one— running for office while promoting violence or supporting domestic terrorists. Republicans? Maybe a third of the party? Half? How many Democrats— besides Joe Manchin, who isn’t really a Democrat anyway— make campaign ads featuring themselves shooting guns or advocating political violence? None. And among Republicans? It isn’t just psychopaths like Marjorie Traitor Greene, Lauren Boebert and Eric Greitens. The Republican primary audience loves those ads and they are metastasizing rapidly and lethally. This is an important video report; you should watch it: