The GOP’s gun-flaunting ads, apocalyptic messaging, and demonization of opponents are steering its followers.
By Mitchel Zimmerman
A MAGA “patriot” broke into the home of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi in order to kidnap her, break her kneecaps, and perhaps beat her to death with a hammer.
When he didn’t find her, he fractured the skull of her 82-year-old husband. “Where’s Nancy? Where’s Nancy?” the attacker demanded of Pelosi’s husband, echoing the chant of the January 6 insurrectionists who sought to lynch Pelosi.
Echoing him, Republican Marjorie Taylor Green “liked” a Facebook comment that “a bullet to the head would be quicker” than removing Pelosi through elections.
Republicans have devoted $40 million to ads that demonize Nancy Pelosi in terms far beyond political disagreement. Little wonder someone took these attacks seriously and sought to kill her.
Republican leaders are responding with more conspiracy theories or, at best, feeble denunciations. “There’s no place for violence,” said the Republican governors of Virginia and Maryland.
In reality, the GOP has plenty of room for violence. Indeed, Trump’s Republican Party has become the party of violence, glorifying and benefiting from threats, intimidation, and force.
Violent groups like the Proud Boys were among Trump’s most reliable storm troopers at the Capitol insurrection. Heavily armed racist “militias” act as armed auxiliaries for state Republican Parties, seeking to intimidate legislators, election officials, and voters with armed demonstrations.
Republican leaders denounce Democrats as enemies of the people who hate and want to destroy America. They deride Democrats as “radical” leftists, opponents of God and Christianity, and even as pedophiles and child traffickers who promote the “grooming” of children for sexual abuse.
By early 2021, a majority of Republican voters believed “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.” More than a third believed “it may be necessary at some point soon for citizens to take up arms against the government.” Almost one in five Republican men consider violence justifiable “right now.”
Since 2017, when Trump took office, threats against members of Congress have increased tenfold. And actual incidents of far-right terrorist activities have skyrocketed.
Armed MAGA protestors picketed the homes of secretaries of state who declined to overturn voting results after 2020—some even broke into the homes of officials’ relatives and threatened sexual violence. Still others tried to make a “citizen’s arrest” of election workers.
Those who administer elections have endured two years of terroristic threats from Trump supporters (“you and your family will be killed very slowly,” one said), and many have resigned.
The Republican Party is central to these developments. The Republican National Committee calls the murderous January 6 insurrection “legitimate political discourse” and decries any investigation of the assault as the “persecution of ordinary citizens.”
Meanwhile Republican candidates glorify and model the political use of guns. Hundreds of Republican ads feature candidates brandishing and shooting assault weapons, with one declaring “open season” on opponents and dedicating AR-15s to the “fight against tyranny and evil.”
Of course, the GOP also has nonviolent plans to thwart the will of the people should voters reject them, such as electing secretaries of state prepared to refuse to certify outcomes they don’t like. But such efforts may well be augmented by guns.
In 1863, Abraham Lincoln wrote: “Among free men, there can be no successful appeal from the ballot to the bullet.” Today’s Republican Party is dedicated to proving Abe wrong.