bureaucracybusters

VIOLENCE: IT’S THE REPUBLICAN WAY: PART ONE (OF FOUR)

In Bureaucracy, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Military, Politics, Social commentary on November 23, 2021 at 12:27 am

It was a moment both poignant and prophetic: Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) responding to a brutal virtual attack on her by a fellow member of Congress.

Representative Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.) had tweeted a doctored anime video depicting him killing Ocasio-Cortez and then turning his sword towards President Joseph Biden.

Paul Gosar official portrait September 2016.jpg

Paul Gosar

As a result, the Democratically-controlled House of Representatives was now meeting to decide if he should be censured over that video.

“What is so hard, what is so hard about saying this is wrong?” asked Ocasio-Cortez. “This is not about me. This is not about Representative Gosar. This is about what we are willing to accept. If you believe that this behavior should not be accepted, then vote yes. It’s really that simple.”

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Official Portrait.jpg

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

And the Republican response was equally telling: Of the 213 Republicans serving in the House, only two—Liz Cheney (Wyoming) and Adam Kinzinger (Illinois)—dared to support censure of Gosar. 

A censure resolution is the most severe form of punishment in the House, and stripping a member of committee assignments removes a powerful platform to influence legislation and give voice to constituent priorities.

The resolution approved by the House removed Gosar from the House Oversight and Reform Committee, which Ocasio-Cortez also serves on, and the Natural Resources Committee.

“We cannot have a member joking about murdering each other or threatening the President of the United States,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in a floor speech.

“Disguising death threats as a video doesn’t make it less real. It’s a sad day for the House of Representatives, but a necessary day.”

Official photo of Speaker Nancy Pelosi in 2019.jpg

Nancy Pelosi

Before the vote which censured him, Gosar said: “I have said decisively there is no threat in the cartoon other than the threat that immigration poses to our country. And no threat was intended by my staff or me.

“I voluntarily took the cartoon down not because it was itself a threat, but because some thought it was. Out of compassion for those who generally felt offense, I self-censored.”

Yet only minutes after the House voted to censure him, Gosar retweeted the video. He also retweeted Right-wing podcaster Elijah Schaffer’s tweet of the video: “Really well done. We love @DrPaulGosar, don’t we folks?”

This marriage of violence with Right-wing ideology is not new.

Rolling Stone magazine writer Jeb Lund noted in a June 19, 2015 editorial: “The Republican Party has weaponized its supporters, made violence a virtue and, with almost every pronouncement for 50 years, given them an enemy politicized, racialized and indivisible.

“Movement conservatives have fetishized a tendentious and ahistorical reading of the Second Amendment to the point that the Constitution itself somehow paradoxically ‘legitimizes’ an armed insurrection against the government created by it. “

“This is no longer an argument about whether one party’s beliefs are beneficial or harmful, but an attitude that labels leftism so antithetical to the American idea that empowering it on any level is an act of usurpation.”

Increasingly, Republicans have repeatedly aimed violent—-and violence-arousing—-rhetoric at their Democratic opponents. This is not a case of careless language that is simply misinterpreted, with tragic results.

Republicans like Paul Gosar fully understand the constituency they are trying to reach: Those masses of alienated, uneducated Americans who live only for their guns and hardline religious beliefs—and who can be easily manipulated by perceived threats to either.

If a “nutcases” assaults a Democratic politician and misses, then the Republican establishment claims to be shocked—-shocked!—that such a thing could have happened.

And if the attempt proves successful, then Republicans weep crocodile tears for public consumption.

The difference is that, in this case, they rejoice in knowing that Democratic ranks have been thinned and their opponents are even more on the defensive, for fear of the same happening to them.

Consider the following:

  • Florida GOP Congressional candidate Allen West, referring to his Democratic opponent, Representative Ron Klein, told Tea Party activists: “You’ve got to make the fellow scared to come out of his house. That’s the only way that you’re going to win. That’s the only way you’re going to get these people’s attention.”
  • Representative Michelle Bachmann (R-MINN.) said she wanted her constituents “armed and dangerous” against the Obama administration.
  • Former Governor (R-Alaska) Sarah Palin told her supporters: “Get in their face and argue with them.  No matter how tough it gets, never retreat, instead RELOAD!”
  • Right-wing pundit Ann Coulter: “My only regret with Timothy McVeigh is he did not go to the New York Times building.”
  • Senator Phil Gramm (R-TEX.) “We’re going to keep building the party until we’re hunting Democrats with dogs.”

Republicans in past decades tried—and often won—elections on the basis of ideology and/or appeals to racism. 

During the 1960s and 1970s, the “enemy” was blacks. The key to winning votes of racist whites without appearing racist lay in what Republicans called “the Southern Strategy”—stoking white fears of blacks.

It was this that won Richard Nixon the Presidency in 1968 and 1972 and the White House for George H.W. Bush in 1988.

In a now-infamous 1981 interview, Right-wing political consultant Lee Atwater explained how this worked.   

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