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Ultimately, It's Up To The Voters To Reject Political Violence By Rejecting The Republican Party

I could easily walk to The Griffin from my house. It’s a tavern on Los Feliz Blvd in Atwater and local lore says it’s the birthplace of the domestic terrorist group, the Proud Boys. It wasn’t really where the Proud Boys got its start… the fascist group originated… on Broadway (really). Gavin McInnes and (FBI informant) Enrique Tarrio had already been plotting to overthrow the government before the notorious 2018 Proud Boys meeting at The Griffin. Since then, the tavern tried chasing them away with a charity event to benefit the Southern Poverty Law Center, by a change of ownership and even an announcement that the stain would be wiped away by changing the name to The Moon Room and by making it a live music venue. It’s still just The Griffin and people in the area still eye it suspiciously when they drive by on the way from Los Feliz to Glendale.

Yesterday, the editor of the NY Times reminded its readers of how the most establishment GOP watering hole in the country, the Metropolitan Republican Club on the Upper East Side (founded in 1902 by Teddy Roosevelt supporters and the place where Fiorello La Guardia and Rudy Giuliani went to announce their campaigns) invited McInnes to give a speech at there in 2018. “The McInnes invitation was controversial,” wrote the editors, “even before a group of Proud Boys left the building and violently confronted protesters who had gathered outside. Two of the Proud Boys were later convicted of attempted assault and riot and given four years in prison. The judge who sentenced them explained the relatively long prison term: ‘I know enough about history to know what happened in Europe in the ’30s when political street brawls were allowed to go ahead without any type of check from the criminal justice system,’ he said. Seven others pleaded guilty in the episode.”

And yet Republicans at the New York club have not distanced themselves from the Proud Boys. Soon after the incident, a candidate named Ian Reilly, who, former club members say, had a lead role in planning the speech, won the next club presidency. He did so in part by recruiting followers of far-right figures, such as Milo Yiannopoulos, to pack the club’s ranks at the last minute. A similar group of men repeated the strategy at the New York Young Republicans Club, filling it with far-right members, too.
Many moderate Republicans have quit the clubs in disgust.
… In conflicts like this one— not all of them played out so publicly— there is a fight underway for the soul of the Republican Party. On one side are Trump and his followers, including extremist groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers. On the other side stand those in the party who remain committed to the principle that politics, even the most contentious politics, must operate within the constraints of peaceful democracy. It is vital that this pro-democracy faction win out over the extremists and push the fringes back to the fringes.
It has happened before. The Republican Party successfully drove the paranoid extremists of the John Birch Society out of public life in the 1960s. Party leaders could do so again for the current crop of conspiracy peddlers. Voters may do it for them, as they did in so many races in this year’s midterm elections. But this internal Republican Party struggle is important for reasons far greater than the tally in a win/loss column. A healthy democracy requires both political parties to be fully committed to the rule of law and not to entertain or even tacitly encourage violence or violent speech. A large faction of one party in our country fails that test, and that has consequences for all of us.
Extremist violence is the country’s top domestic terrorist threat, according to a three-year investigation by the Democratic staff members of the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs, which reported its findings last week. “Over the past two decades, acts of domestic terrorism have dramatically increased,” the committee said in its report. “National security agencies now identify domestic terrorism as the most persistent and lethal terrorist threat to the homeland. This increase in domestic terror attacks has been predominantly perpetrated by white supremacist and anti-government extremist individuals and groups.” While there have been recent episodes of violent left-wing extremism, for the past few years, political violence has come primarily from the right.
… It is impossible to fully untangle the relationship between conspiracy theories and violence. But what Americans do know should sound alarms: A survey this year found that some 18 million Americans believe that the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and that force is justified to return him to power. Of those 18 million, eight million own guns, and one million either belong to a paramilitary group or know someone who does. That’s alarming because violent people who belong to communities, online or offline, where violence is widely accepted are more likely to act. A portion of the GOP has become such a community.
[O]ne of the most effective ways to deter political violence into make it unacceptable in public life. To do that, all political leaders have an important role to play. In a speech in September, President Biden did his part, when he identified the threat that the dominance of specifically “MAGA Republicans” poses not just to the Democratic Party but to the entire country. “They promote authoritarian leaders, and they fan the flames of political violence that are a threat to our personal rights, to the pursuit of justice, to the rule of law, to the very soul of this country,” Biden said.
A couple of months after that speech, Americans voted in midterm elections in which hundreds of “MAGA Republicans” who had enthusiastically spread extremist statements, lies and conspiracy theories ran for local, state and federal offices. Voters rejected many of them, and while that is encouraging, elections alone are not enough.
The campaign season was marked by numerous incidents in which many Republicans used speech that has been linked to violence. They depicted gay and transgender people as “groomers”; they helped spread the racist so-called great replacement theory that has inspired numerous mass shootings; they promoted the QAnon conspiracy theory, not to mention ubiquitous lies about fraud and the 2020 election, which led to the Jan. 6 attack.
Despite voters’ repudiation of many of his acolytes, Trump has announced his return to the campaign trail, a move that promises to dial up the enthusiasm of his most devoted adherents. They include, of course, members of the Proud Boys. During a debate during the 2020 campaign, Trump refused to disavow them or their movement and instead told them to “stand back and stand by.” And so they did until Jan. 6.
Trump’s reinstatement on Twitter means not only further proliferation of “degrading and dehumanizing discourse,” as Brian Ott, an author of The Twitter Presidency: Donald J. Trump and the Politics of White Rage, warned in these pages a few days ago, but also a greater likelihood of violence. As Ott explains: “Social media generally and Twitter specifically lend themselves to simple, urgent, unreflective and emotionally charged communication. When the message is one of intolerance and violence, the result is all but certain.”
Leaders in politics, law enforcement, the media and elsewhere have an obligation to do everything they can to remove from public life those who participate in or endorse political violence.
The onus falls on Republicans. While voters this month rejected some of the most extreme candidates, the party is still very much under the spell of Mr. Trump and his brand of authoritarianism. Two prominent Republicans who have been outspoken about right-wing extremism and baseless lies, Representatives Liz Cheney and Adam Kinzinger, have been driven out of office. Meanwhile, the spread of conspiracy theories that have already inspired violence continues unabated from politicians and conservative media.
Even if Trump doesn’t become the party’s nominee for president, the party and many of its supporters seem to have convinced themselves that the spread of extremism in service of their causes is not an urgent concern. Those who can influence the direction of the party— its voters and its biggest donors and supporters— must do everything they can to convince them otherwise. American democracy depends on it.

Early this morning, reporting for Politico, David Siders asserted that Trump no longer controls the GOP and that Republicans are collectively shrugging off his campaign announcement. “Ever since he steamrolled through the 2016 presidential primary, and even after his defeat four years later, Trump had bent the GOP to his will— reshaping the party’s infrastructure in Washington and the states to serve his interests, tearing down Republican dynasties and hand-picking congressional and statewide nominees. Now, leading Republicans are no longer cowering before Trump, and for the first time since he rode down the escalator in 2015, many aren’t listening to him at all. They are dodging questions about Trump’s candidacy, or openly defying him by rallying around DeSantis. Even if the Florida governor is not yet, as Sen. Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming declared, the ‘leader of the Republican Party.’”

Wyoming is the most politically backwards and most Trump-infested state in America. In 2020, Trump won a landslide victory there against Biden— 193,559 (70%) to 73,491 (27%). Trump won all but 2 of the state’s 23 counties. Crook County was not named for Trump but he won 88.6% of the vote there. He also won over 85% of the vote in 4 other counties. Do you think Lummis, who voted to overturn the election but rejecting the certification of Pennsylvania’s electoral votes, is going to stand up against Trump when push comes to shove?

In an interview published today by The Guardian, Rick Wilson said “The greatest danger in American politics is not recognising that there are great dangers. The same people in 2015 and 2016 were confidently asserting Donald Trump could never, ever under any circumstances win the Republican nomination, and there were never any circumstances where Donald Trump could beat Hillary Clinton, and then he could never have almost a million people die because of his mishandling of Covid and on and on and on and on. I know that the Republicans who right now are acting very bold and the donors who are acting very frisky— as Trump starts winning primaries, they will bend the knee, they will break, they will fall, they will all come back into line.”

Wilson continued, “He controls a quarter, at the minimum, of the Republican base. Even if it’s 15% and he goes into Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina, and he wins primaries because he has 15% going in, that’s the ballgame. It’s over. It’s done. Everybody else, it’s all over bar the crying. Right now they’re all talking so much shit: ‘I’m not going to get with Trump. I’m going to be with the hot new number, DeSantis.’ When DeSantis gets his ass handed to him, when he gets his clock cleaned in a debate or forum or just by Trump grinding away at him, eating him alive mentally for weeks on end, and suddenly Donald Trump’s numbers start posting up again, all the conservative thinkers who are right now like, ‘We will never vote for Trump again, we have integrity!’ will find themselves some excuse. ‘Well, you know, we don’t like Trump’s tweets, but otherwise it’s pure communism!’ It’s all bullshit, it’s all a fucking game, and that game is going to play out in a way that does not result in the outcome that the donor class thinks they’re going to get.”

Many of the most high-profile MAGAts were defeated this month: Palin and Tshibaka in Alaska; Blake Masters, Kari Lake, Mark Finchem and Abraham Hamadeh in Arizona; Darren Bailey in Illinois; Paul LePage in Maine; Dan Cox, Michael Peroutka and Neil Parrott in Maryland; Geoff Diehl in Massachusetts; Tudor Dixon, Matthew DePerno, Kristina Karamo and John Gibbs in Michigan; Adam Laxalt in Nevada; Don Bolduc, Karoline Leavitt and Robert Burns in New Hampshire; Bo Hines in North Carolina; Mehmet Oz, Doug Mastriano, Jim Bognet, Lisa Scheller and Jeremy Shaffer in Pennsylvania; Joe Kent in Washington; and Tim Michaels in Wisconsin. But plenty of MAGAts won, from Sarah Huckabee Sanders (AR), Anna Paulina Luna (FL), Ryan Zinke (MT) and Joe Lombardo (NV) to Ted Budd (NC), JD Vance (OH), Ron Johnson (WI) and Harriet Hageman (WY).

A loss by QAnon sociopath Lauren Boebert in a deep red Colorado congressional district would have been bad news for Trump, the NRA and violent domestic terrorists but even though he scraped by with the closest race in the country (0.06%— 554 votes— a win is a win and a close call barely matters.

A loss— likely— in the December 6th runoff between Trump-recruited Herschel Walker and Senator Raphael Warnock will be another very high profile blow against Trump, but expect him to say that Walker would have won if the GOP establishment hadn’t kept him out of the state and away from the campaign. Republicans who worry about Trump's power inside their party, should encourage him to campaign for Walker in Georgia so that it is even clearer that he owns the defeat.

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