It's Not Both Sides
Political violence is now part of conservative/Republican ideology, from the grassroots, to the intellectual elites, to the elected politicians.
1. Political Violence
Last week Charlie wrote about the right’s fascination with political violence and today he unpacked more of it, with Trump talking about Mitch McConnell having a “death wish” and Marjorie Taylor Greene’s claim that Democrats have “started killing” Republicans.
I want to keep hammering this subject, though, because the infatuation with violence truly does extend throughout the entire Republican/conservative vertical.
At the grassroots level we have the Michigan militia guys storming the state capitol with long guns. Remember that? And then the Michigan guys plotting to kidnap the governor. And it wasn’t just Michigan. Here’s the AP:
In Wisconsin, about a dozen men, several wearing camouflage, carried what appeared to be assault rifles and other long guns and stood around a makeshift guillotine at a protest attended by about 1,500 people. In Arizona, a group of men armed with rifles were among hundreds of protesters who demonstrated at the Capitol last month demanding Republican Gov. Doug Ducey lift his stay-home order. Many in the crowd also carried holstered pistols.
And then there are the randos making death threats:
Kinzinger shared a compilation of threatening messages his office has received in response to his work on the committee investigating the attack on the Capitol.
"We know where your family is, and we're going to get you you little (expletive)," another said.
"Gonna get your wife. Gonna get your kids," one threat said.
Death threats are a part of political life. There will always be unbalanced and/or evil people in the world. But what has happened over the last six years is entirely different. It has turned the affect of the unhinged rando into a major mode of expression.
Go look at this multi-part investigation by Reuters at the wave of death threats washing over low-level election officials all across the country.
At the professional level, you have think tankers ranging from Michael Anton arguing that violent revolution is an important part of the American tradition to Julie Kelly claiming that police provoked the insurrectionists on January 6, to the Claremont Institute’s attempt to co-opt sheriffs into selectively enforcing laws.
Then there are the actual Republican politicians dancing around the glorification of violence. You remember the Eric Greitens ad, right? Where he and armed men breach a house “hunting” for RINOS?
That’s not a one-off. The Center for American Progress has been keeping track of violence in campaign ads this cycle:
[A] new analysis from the Center for American Progress Action Fund finds at least 104 political ads from Republican candidates running for U.S. Congress, governor, or attorney general this year that display and feature firearms or weapons. Many even include implicit or explicit threats against political opponents or the government. This list excludes ads that only include law enforcement with firearms or pictures from a candidate’s time in the armed services unless they make explicit references to the displayed guns. . . .
Of the 104 identified ads:
More than half feature sniper rifles, blowtorches, or assault weapons similar to those used in the Uvalde, Texas; Highland Park, Illinois; and Buffalo, New York, shootings.
Roughly a quarter include threats of various kinds. (In this analysis, an ad was considered as making a threat if a candidate metaphorically targeted individuals, political affiliations, institutions, or agendas with their weapons and/or if they displayed a firearm while declaring their willingness to do anything to “fight” their opponents.)
At least 11 level threats against the government.
Five promote an AR-15, “Tommy” gun, or .50-caliber sniper rifle giveaway.
Four feature minors with guns.
Now maybe you don’t buy that every one of the ads CAP flags really counts as a flirtation with violence, let alone a violent threat.
Still—many of them are. More than enough to be more than coincidence.
Then there are the elected Republicans who sent out Christmas cards picturing the entire family—ma and pa and all the chillins’, too—brandishing their freedoms.1
And it’s not just lib-owning fun. On a podcast last March, Arizona Senate candidate Blake Masters was asked on a podcast to name a “subversive” thinker he admired. He chose Ted Kaczynski—the American terrorist known as the Unabomber.