Identity Politics: When patriots cheer a legally defined sexual predator and twice impeached insurrectionist
“Is @CNN still going to do a town hall with the sexual predator twice impeached insurrectionist?” – Lt. Colonel Alexander S. Vindman, retired
On CNN’s May 10 broadcast Donald Trump doubled down on his lies in support of the White Supremacist haters convicted of violently killing one police officer and sending 140 others to the hospital on January 6.
This should not surprise us. He is getting ready to repeat January 6th after the 2024 election, and in the meantime is encouraging more hate crimes and violence against Americans whose skin is not White, are queer, or simply support the basic values this nation has claimed and worked toward since its founding.
A new report from the Leadership Conference Education Fund documents how hate crimes have more than doubled in the United States since Donald Trump entered politics in 2015, a spike that follows an initial eruption that coincided with the election of Barack Obama as president in 2008.
“Hate crimes,” as in “violence.”
Hate and violence have become the main political tools used by today’s Republican Party, which has reinvented itself in the mold of Trump and his political mentor and benefactor, the fascist leader of Russia, Vladimir Putin.
Recruitment, fundraising, and electoral victories all turn — for today’s GOP — more on defining enemies and focusing hate and threats of violence at them than on putting forth policy goals or a vision for America’s future beyond simple “Christian” White male supremacy.
“Owning the libs” is the highest value in the Republican Party now, and its biggest stars are those willing to lay down the most outrageous lies about supposed evils perpetrated by Democrats like “abortion right up to the moment of birth” or calling gays “groomers.” All to justify intimidation and threats of violence.
In the past two years more than 350 “anti-critical race theory” legislative proposals banning American History have been put forward in Republican-controlled states, with 33 passed into law. There is to be no discussion of the racial and gender violence that has echoed through years of conservative movements from the era of the Confederacy and the Klan to this day.
Just last year Republicans introduced over 315 anti-queer pieces of legislation, with 29 having passed into law. The violence that has characterized assaults against the LGBTQ community for centuries is essentially being ratified in law by the GOP.
When Trump entered the presidential race in 2015, anti-Muslim hate crimes jumped nearly 70 percent. One day after he signed his “Muslim ban” executive order, fascists in Victoria, Texas burned a mosque to the ground.
Today’s Republican hero is an accused rapist who is ridiculed the disabled, told cops to beat up people, separated parents from their children at the border, and launched a violent coup attempt against America. His language is drenched in violence.
“You’re nasty, you know that!”
As anybody who has worked in more than one or two companies can tell you, culture generally flows from the top down. When the head guy is an ass, the culture becomes asinine. When the head guy is a fascist, the culture becomes fascistic.
As long as Trump — or someone who shares his fascistic worldview — is at the head of the Republican Party, this country will continue to be in crisis. And since Trump’s arrival on the scene, this cancer has spread.
There are now over 160 groups philosophically aligned with Trump’s worldview openly pushing to strip Civics, sex education, and American History out of our classrooms, many supported by fascist-leaning rightwing billionaires.
This is how fascism takes over nations.
School boards and election workers are under siege while naked expressions of White Supremacy like the “Great Replacement Theory” have moved from Nazi sites on the dark web into mainstream venues including the Murdoch family’s Fox “News” and public protests in Charlottesville, Virginia and elsewhere.
The FBI began tracking hate crimes in 1991, although reporting by local police agencies is voluntary and has seen a steady decline in participation since Trump’s entry into politics. Nonetheless, the FBI’s admittedly under-reported statistics showed that the month of November, 2016 — the month Trump was elected — “saw the highest number of hate crimes reported in more than a decade.”
In 2020 there was a 13 percent overall increase in hate crimes over 2019, fueled in part by Trump’s “Kung Flu” rhetoric that produced a near 150 percent increase in hate crimes against Asian Americans. As we emerged from the pandemic, 2022 saw a 31 percent increase in overall reported hate crimes over 2020, the highest number ever reported in America.
On average, a hate crime is today committed every two minutes in America — and those are just the ones identified and then reported to the FBI.
We need to discuss the violence and threats of violence now endemic within the GOP, because they signal a hopefully reversible — but possibly terminal — slide into fascism.
Fascism is violence.
Its philosophy is rooted in violence: the domination of the many by a few, whether the main instrument of that domination is personal physical violence; the violence of great wealth; the violence of political power being used to destroy one’s political “enemies”; or unjustified violence inflicted by the state under color of law.
But at its core, fascism is rooted in physical violence, intimidation, and murder. It is war brought into politics and governance.
Violence like this has its own power and its own attraction.
The media is drawn to it, making it the most powerful recruiting tool a fascist movement has.
Insecure, frightened men (and the occasional woman) participating in fascist violence find a sense of agency, of individual power and meaning, a sort of orgasmic release from a life of ordinariness and political impotence. They view their use of violence as heroic, and try to frame it in the context of historic violence like the American Revolution and Civil War.
And make no mistake: the GOP has become the party of political violence.
Democrats too often treat the violence associated with today’s Republican Party as if it were coming from outliers, as if it is “a few bad apples,” as if it os simply a troublesome weirdness on the extreme periphery of the conservative movement that is best ignored.
We see this in their response to the violence of January 6th, to the threats of violence directed at members of the January 6th Committee, and to the frequent but scattershot violence that erupts across the country daily.
Democrats watch threats of violence against school board members; against nurses and hospitals treating Covid; against abortion providers; against racial minorities and queer people who Republican legislators declare — and then put into law — are to be treated as less than human or “aberrations” that must not be tolerated in a “free society.”
The media continues to largely ignore those frequent moments when fascist-infiltrated police — the only group within our society who are legally authorized to use violence without consequence — overlook or overtly encourage the violence that breaks out when Americans dare stand up to fascist militias.
“It’s the exception,” the media noted, and moves on to the next story.
In fact, these displays of violence and the willingness to use violence are declarations. They are statements of purpose. They are spoken and executed with pride.
They are assertions by Republican-aligned fascists that they intend to exercise violence and its power up to and including the ultimate: the power to take human life.
Republicans and their media lionize violence and even murder. They have been doing it since the days of Tim McVeigh.
Just two weeks ago the Republican Party of Bonneville, Idaho hosted a “Trigger Time With Kyle” where donors could shoot with Rittenhouse himself — the guest of honor — with the same type of semiautomatic weapon he used to end the lives of two BLM protestors and grievously wound a third.
They celebrate police violence with “thin blue line” flags, and wave the all-black US flag that signifies willingness to kill one’s political opponents.
They show up at protests heavily armed, wearing tee-shirts evoking General Pinochet with the slogans “Free helicopter rides for liberals” and “Right Wing Death Squad.”
Their leader said there are “very good people on both sides” after he learned his fascist followers murdered a young woman named Heather Heyer.
Republicans running for office feature guns or imply threats to kill people in their television and online advertising. Eric Greitens is just the latest in a long list of GOP shooters glorifying assault weapons and implying political violence.
Kentucky Republican Thomas Massie’s Christmas Card shows his entire family brandishing assault weapons of war, as did Tennessee’s Andy Ogles and — in a particularly gut-wrenching photo — Colorado’s Lauren Boebert.
These are all expressions of raw fascism.
When men like Rusty Bowers and Brad Raffensperger — who dared stop Trump’s criminal attempts to steal the 2020 election — describe how they were and continue to be threatened with violence, elected Republicans fall silent.
Arizona Republican and House Speaker Bowers endured violent threats outside his home through night after night as his daughter lay dying: this kind of violence is devoid of compassion. It is evil.
Not a word from Ronna Romney McDaniel about the embrace of violence by the base of the Republican Party she leads; not a word from congressional Republicans about the violence their own fellow conservatives now face; not a word from Republican media other than to cynically mouth phony excuses and justifications.
Because violence is now their brand. They revel in it.
They boast of it in ways that are often misinterpreted as either hyperbole or jokes, like when Sharron Angle (and others) warned of “Second Amendment solutions” to Democratic efforts, or when Donald Trump said he could murder someone on Fifth Avenue and still get elected.
Their fascist followers know better: these are proud statements of their willingness to use or endorse violence, and carry explicit threats. This is an old playbook.
Hitler rose to power on the wings of violence, first in the Beer Hall Putsch and later, when he became Chancellor, through his volunteer militia the Brownshirts terrorizing gays, Jews, and union members. Paul von Hindenburg thought Hitler would set aside the violence, as promised, if he was given the power he demanded. Hindenburg did not understand fascism.
Violence is the cardinal characteristic, the logo, the brand identity of fascism. Every fascist movement in history has lifted itself to power on the scaffold of violence. And then continues to rule with violence until it is overthrown, typically also with violence.
Fascist media revel in the language of violence. They dehumanize the victims of their violence with words like “invaders” and “vermin” and “illegals.”
To justify the violence at the heart of their movement, Republicans squeal a phony claim to victimhood.
They say Democrats are trying to take their tax dollars. They claim to fear gays are trying to “groom” their children. They profess to believe teachers are “indoctrinating” their youth.
Violence, they say, is their only option.
Over the past two decades, as this fascist movement has arisen in America and taken over the GOP, more than three-quarters of all politically motivated murders have been committed by rightwing Republican-aligned terrorists.
For the Republicans in Congress, this is not a problem until violence is threatened against one of their own: when a lone mentally ill man calls police to confess he is hallucinating voices telling him to kill Brett Kavanaugh — although he has taken no steps whatsoever to carry that out — legislation is passed within three days to protect the Court’s Republican justices.
Two years earlier, when “men’s rights” advocate Roy Den Hollander murdered the 20-year-old son of Democratic appointee Judge Esther Salas and was carrying detailed plans to kill Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayor next, Republican Senator Rand Paul blocked legislation in the Senate to provide federal judges with that same protection.
Not even one Republican objected to Paul’s obstruction, and Mitch McConnell let it stand. Violence is their brand.
Fascists justify their violence as necessary to protect their faith, their families, and the “identity” of their homeland. They will tell you it’s the unfortunate last-ditch “necessity” provoked by the “others” who “threaten our way of life.”
In reality, violence is not the fascist’s final, last-gasp option: it is their first.
- It is their most powerful recruiting tool, showing, as it does, their dominance of society and society’s institutions.
- It is how they cow dissent.
- It is the weapon that provokes action, and fascists are all about action.
- It creates chaos, and fascism needs chaos to tear down the existing structures of governance and law they intend to replace with strongman rule.
The final cause to which fascist violence is directed is what Jefferson (and Hobbes) called bellum omnium in omnia: war of all against all.
Every murderous act is designed intentionally to bring society closer to breakdown, so the fascists can openly kill their enemies — particularly people of color, queer people, and “liberals” — in the streets of the nation.
It has happened over and over, in country after country, in each nation that has adopted 21st-century fascism. Every single time.
It is why Tim McVeigh blew up the Oklahoma Federal Building in 1995, killing 168 people and injuring another 680. It appears to be what motivated both the Las Vegas shooter who killed 58 people and the Boston Bomber. It was claimed by the Buffalo killer of 20 Black people in a supermarket, and the 2019 El Paso shooter who murdered 23 Hispanics.
It is the story line of the two best-selling books within the militia movement, Camp of the Saints and The Turner Diaries. Each ends with mass slaughter leaving a nation of “pure” White Christian survivors, most holding well-used assault rifles as they stand atop piles of bodies.
President Biden has been outspoken in warning America of the dangers of “MAGA Republicans” and even used the phrase “semi-fascist” to describe them.
Tragically, our media continues to normalize the GOP’s slide into fascism and treats the upcoming election as if it is a normal Democrat versus Republican contest, as we saw last night on CNN.
It will be nothing of the sort.
The chances of the GOP — now entirely in the thrall of Putin’s man Trump — backing a candidate for president next year who is not an open fascist are close to impossible, even if it is not Trump himself. It is what Republican primary voters openly say they want.
The only way to stop a fascist takeover is to defeat them totally and irrevocably. To wipe them out at the polls, to expose their financial and intellectual backers, and to reveal the rot and violence in their hearts and at the core of their philosophy.
And that starts with you and me getting politically active, spreading the word of what is really happening today in this country, and making sure every American we know of good will is registered to vote.
Wіll Lаnzоnі (CNN) and Evan Vucci (AP)
© Thom Hartmann, used with permission. Originally published on The Hartmann Report as Trump Proves Hate & Violence Is Not the Fascist’s Final, Last-Gasp Option: It’s Their First
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