When even Facebook finally objects, you know the MAGA madness has gone way too far.
A political ad from Eric Greitens, the disgraced former Missouri governor, now a Republican Senate candidate in that state, was yanked Monday from the social media site by its parent company Meta for “violating our policies prohibiting violence and incitement.”
More than the usual arsenal of GOP lies and nonsense, there’s an actual arsenal in the campaign spot. Heavily armed men in full military gear use a battering ram and toss flash grenades into an empty house. Holding a shotgun, Greitens says, “Today, we’re going RINO hunting.” Then he encourages viewers to “Join the MAGA crew, get a RINO hunting license.”
RINO stands for “Republicans in Name Only.” That term was once applied to Republicans who didn’t always toe the party line. Now any GOP member who engages even the slightest brush with reality is met with derision, primary challenges, and warnings of violence from hard-core Trumpublicans.
Greitens’s incendiary ad dropped days after Texas Republican convention delegates turned on two of its own conservative stalwarts. Senator John Cornyn was loudly booed because he’s leading 10 Republicans negotiating with Democrats on a very modest gun reform bill after massacres last month at a Buffalo supermarket and a Uvalde, Texas, elementary school.
Then Representative Dan Crenshaw and some staff members were jostled and heckled by the Proud Boys and other right-wing extremists. They called Crenshaw, a Navy Seal who lost an eye during an explosion while serving in Afghanistan, “eyepatch McCain,” an insult Tucker Carlson debuted on his nightly Fox News hate hour last month. In a video, a man in a “45″ hat shouts that Crenshaw is a “traitor” who “needs to be hung for treason.”
Once considered a GOP rising star, Crenshaw has been roasted by some in his party for debunking Donald Trump’s lies about widespread voter fraud in an election he soundly lost.
Texas Republicans ended their convention with an aggressively far-right party platform that “rejects the certified results of the 2020 presidential election,” condemns “homosexuality” as an “abnormal lifestyle choice,” wants schoolchildren to “learn about the humanity of the pre-born child,” and wants the already gutted 1965 Voting Rights Act to be “repealed” and “not reauthorized.”
The Lone Star state should change its unofficial motto “Don’t Mess with Texas” to “Texas Is a Mess.” But such off-the-rails extremism isn’t confined to one state. We’re deep into the part of “Psycho” where “Mother” has completely overtaken Norman Bates.
“Mother,” of course, is Trump — twice impeached, booted from the White House by more than 81 million voters, and (if Attorney General Merrick Garland can be roused to act) perhaps some day facing indictment for his multiple schemes to subvert democracy and overturn the 2020 election. Instead of rejecting Trump in 2015, Republicans saw an opportunity to regain executive power by coddling white supremacy and this nation’s most base instincts. Now the monster they unleashed is turning its fangs on the party that created it.
We saw this during the 2020 election aftermath when state officials, many of them Republicans who voted for Trump, were inundated with death threats for refusing to cheat for him. What’s happening now has upped the ante, and it’s a direct result of Trump whipping up a violent mob to go after his vice president for disobeying his unconstitutional demands. If a president in a tweet can willfully endanger the well-being of his No. 2 during an insurrection, any guardrails have been dismantled and discarded. There’s not a big leap from insurrectionists yelling “Hang Mike Pence” to someone bellowing that Crenshaw should be hanged for treason for recognizing Joe Biden as the legitimately elected president.
Republicans brandishing guns as conservative signifiers is nothing new. Representative Lauren Boebert of Colorado has posted so many photos of herself with firearms, her critics on social media call her “Klannie Oakley.” Greitens, however, has been accused of violence. His former wife alleges he had physically abused her and one of their children. Now he is encouraging harm against Republicans who aren’t sufficiently obedient to Trump. He’s echoing not only the insurrectionists, but Ronna McDaniel, Republican National Committee chair, who called Jan. 6 violence “legitimate political discourse.”
There’s little daylight between rank-and-file Republicans and the party’s most outrageous elements. To cover their political hides, some Republicans try to cling to Trump with one hand and gather what’s left of their shredded credibility with the other. Or they just stay silent. But their far-right counterparts feel no need for such cosplay since the GOP belongs fully to the vengeful former president. None of these people are unwilling hostages. They’re co-conspirators.
Deriding Republicans for choosing party over country now seems quaint compared with the doctrinaire depths to which this nation has plunged. Trumpublicans don’t want to revert back to the 1950s. They’re aiming to revive antebellum America. And in openly embracing violence as their running mate they’re demanding cultish devotion to the Big Lie, Trumpism, and Trump — or else.