In 2016, when Donald Trump bragged that he could shoot someone on Fifth Avenue and he wouldn't lose voters, few Republican leaders assumed he was talking about targeting them. Well, the MAGA chickens have finally come home to roost. They're super-sized, waving Confederate flags, doing one-finger Q salutes, and armed with AR-15s.
Fast forward to 2022, the twice-impeached vulgarian posted over the weekend what any reasonable person would read as death threats against Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell. Not to be outdone, he also hurled ugly racist insults against McConnell's wife, Elaine Chao, who had been Trump's first Secretary of Transportation.
McConnell, apparently, offended the perpetually aggrieved Trump by working with Democrats to keep the government funded and open. Trump accused McConnell-known as the Senate's "Grim Reaper" for being an avowed obstructionist-of "approving all of these Trillions of Dollars worth of Democrat-sponsored Bills." For this, and other perceived acts of insufficient loyalty, Trump wrote that McConnell "has a DEATH WISH," and advised him to "immediately seek help and advice from his China-loving wife, Coco Chow."
It's Time to Call MAGA a National Security Threat
On Twitter, I predicted that instead of condemning Trump, Republicans would instead line up and request insults for themselves and their spouses. On cue, Sen. Rick Scott on CNN defended Trump by saying, "He gives people nicknames. I'm sure he has a nickname for me." Sens. Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio would surely seethe with jealousy and nurse their broken hearts if indeed this were true.
Regardless, we have sadly become numbed to expect a "thank you, may I have another?" from masochistic Republicans who voluntarily allow themselves and their wives to be humiliated by Donald Trump as part of their Faustian bargain for "relevance" and political power.
However, it would be a grave mistake for Americans to simply chalk this up as one of Trump's latest examples of logorrhea, leading us to shrug our shoulders and move on to the next inevitable scandal.
In the past month, Trump has openly embraced QAnon-which the FBI calls a domestic terror threat, and which has radicalized several individuals who have committed violence in the belief that liberals are part of a global, Satan-worshipping, child-trafficking ring. Even Trump's racism, which is so commonplace now that it doesn't even merit headlines, has coincided with violence. During the start of the pandemic, Trump deliberately misidentified Covid-19, a virus with no ethnicity or zip code, as "Kung Flu" and the "China Virus." Since then, there's been a spike in anti-Asian hate crimes in America.
At the very least, Sen. Scott added, "I don't condone violence, and I hope no one else condones violence." Except, of course, he condones Trump's violent rhetoric with his silent complicity. And Scott doesn't seem to be paying much attention to his extremist Republican colleagues, such as Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene. The Georgia congresswoman spoke at a recent Trump rally and recklessly incited the crowd by falsely saying, "Democrats want Republicans dead. They've already started the killings."
Greene's brazen lie coincided with a terrifying New York Times feature that reported a rise in violent political speech and threats against members of Congress-who have endured assaults, intimidation, and armed visitors. "I wouldn't be surprised if a senator or House member were killed," said Republican Sen. Susan Collins, who added, "what started with abusive phone calls is now translating into active threats of violence and real violence." And yet seven years after the ascension of Trump, Collins can only muster an occasional "concern," "shock," and "disappointment" whenever Trump or the RNC (which refers to the Jan. 6 insurrection as "legitimate political discourse") doubles down on divisive lies, hate, and antisemitic conspiracy theories.
Unsurprisingly, the three members of Congress who have received the most threats, according to the Times report, are the three women most frequently targeted by Trump: Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who was actively hunted by MAGA members on Jan. 6.
The GOP Will Never Give Up on the Big Lie
It is worth recalling that the insurrectionists also intended to hang Vice President Mike Pence-arguably the most white, conservative, Christian man on Earth-because he wouldn't go along with the failed coup attempt. For his part, Trump agreed they should kill him.
If they were willing to kill Pence, imagine what they'd do to McConnell and his wife?
The GOP has nurtured, enabled, and unleashed a violent monster for political expediency, one that now terrorizes them into submission and compliance.
As we approach the 100-year anniversary of the March on Rome, which consolidated Mussolini's fascist power over Italy, we should recall that he couldn't have done it without the help of his violent brownshirts. Using his militia as enforcers, Il Duce stomped his fascist boots for two decades on the necks of critics, dissidents, and fellow allies who weren't sufficiently obedient. To not look at Jan. 6-when Trump unleashed his own MAGA brownshirts upon the nation's capitol to usurp power-as a kind of reboot of the March on Rome is to engage in willful ignorance.
At a 2020 presidential debate, Trump told the Proud Boys-themselves a neo-fascist street gang, with uniforms-to "stand back and stand by." They took him literally and seriously, and their leaders are currently being prosecuted for seditious conspiracy against the United States.
When Trump places a target on his enemies, his base responds with violence. After the ex-president blasted the FBI for its perfectly legal search of Mar-a-Lago, threats against law enforcement skyrocketed, culminating with one unhinged idiot attacking an FBI office in Ohio. Journalists and reporters-some of Trump's favorite targets-have reported an increase in bullying and intimidation for the past seven years coinciding with Trump and right-wing media referring to them as "fake news" and "enemy of the state." At the Jan 6 hearings, former Georgia election workers Shaye Moss and her mother, Ruby Freeman, tearfully testified that Trump targeting them resulted in death threats and forced them to quit their jobs and become reclusive.
Law Enforcement Has an Extremist Problem in Its Own Backyard
So what will it take for Republicans to condemn Trump's recent embrace of death threats and violent conspiracies?
Republicans have made themselves into cannon fodder. This is a toxic love story, a mutual death spiral with intertwined fates. However, Trump has multiple lives. GOP leaders and donors keep thinking they'll ride Trump and dump him for Govs. Ron DeSantis or Greg Abbott, but for now and in the near future, Trump is the dominant partner who humiliates and berates with impunity.
Republicans like Sen. McConnell are learning that as MAGA extremism continues to overtake the party, he is no longer the lion, but instead a male kaluta-a tiny marsupial who quickly dies after mating. That's the price of mating with Trump.
If I were Mitch, I'd enjoy my cigarette, watch my back, tell Elaine Chao, "We're on our own," and sleep with one eye open.
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