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Mainstreaming Radicalism
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It is getting harder to tell the right-wing nut jobs who shoot law enforcement officers from the right-wing politicians running for president. America has always had its share of John Birchers hoarding guns for a coming revolution. What’s new is that the GOP has mainstreamed radicalism and turned violently anti-government rhetoric into Republican Party doctrine.
This kind of thing has been bubbling in the Republican Party stew since Barack Obama won in 2008, and it used to be a bigger deal. When Nevada Senate candidate Sharon Angle repeatedly said in 2010 that the Second Amendment was there to keep the federal government honest, it made national news. Likewise in 2011 when Rick Perry called quantitative easing by Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke “treasonous” and famously threatened, “We would treat him pretty ugly down in Texas,” his warning seemed like an important early signal that the Governor was not ready for prime time.
Now that kind of talk seems ordinary. At the Faith and Freedom Coalition conference, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal-widely assumed to be preparing a presidential run-said, “I can sense right now a rebellion brewing amongst these United States, where people are ready for a hostile takeover of Washington, D.C., to preserve the American Dream for our children and grandchildren.” Now that kind of violent, inflammatory language seems ordinary, at least for Republicans.
And this is Bobby Jindal we’re talking about, the nerd king of the bayou who rose to prominence as a Medicaid policy wonk. This is the same guy who bravely told the Republican National Committee’s 2013 winter meeting, “We’ve got to stop being the stupid party. It’s time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults.”
Well, that didn’t work. But you know what they say: If you can’t beat ‘em, BENGHAZI!!
Dressing sedition up in revolutionary garb would just be embarrassing for Republicans if it did not parallel a rise in domestic terrorism. More Americans have died at the hands of radical, anti-government Americans since 9/11 than because of Islamic jihadist terrorism, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, one reason that the Justice Department recently reopened its domestic terrorism working group.
In other words, the call is coming from inside the house, America. A neo-Nazi killed three residents of a Jewish Community Center in Kansas. In January, a right-wing extremist shot a Bureau of Land Management ranger and a California highway patrolman. Militia members pointed guns at federal officers at the Bundy ranch in Nevada, and anti-government “patriots” murdered two Las Vegas policemen. These would-be revolutionaries are taking back this country one body bag at a time. We have met the enemy, and he is us.
Pres. George Bush, the elder, quit the National Rifle Association when they called agents of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms “jackbooted thugs” for enforcing gun laws. Bush said the anti-government language “offends my own sense of decency and honor,” but decency and honor don’t poll very well with Republican primary voters these days.
Now we’ve reached a point where you can confuse the speech of a Republican presidential aspirant and the following, which came from the Facebook page of Jerad Miller, one of the Las Vegas shooters:
“We can hope for peace. We must, however, prepare for war. We face an enemy that is not only well funded, but who believe they fight for freedom and justice.”
After he and his wife murdered the police officers, Miller draped a “Don’t Tread on Me” Gadsen flag-a well-known Tea Party symbol-over their bodies. How many domestic terrorists need to align themselves with a radical, anti-government wing of the Republican Party before prominent Republicans speak out against them, much less quit the party?
Tea Party darling Ted Cruz likes to quote Margaret Thatcher’s saying, “First you win the argument, then you win the vote.” But Republicans and like-minded domestic terrorists speak of “taking back this country” because they are losing the arguments-and the elections. Reading from the same script as those who would take up arms against our country because you lost the White House doesn’t make you a patriot. In fact, it makes you a traitor.
Jason Stanford is a Democratic consultant who writes columns for the Austin American-Statesman and The Quorum Report. He can be reached at and on Twitter @JasStanford.