GOP’s problem begins with their private army of homegrown terrorists who form their base…
In a report released by the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on murder and extremism on Thursday, it was noted that right-wing extremists committed all ideological mass shootings in 2022. The statistics also show that right-wing domestic terrorists have been on a rampage since 2015- a violent spree has roughly coincided with the rise of the “Tea Party” and the Trump takeover of the Republican Party:
The report released Thursday found that last year, domestic extremists killed at least 25 people in the U.S. in 12 separate incidents. 18 of those 25 killings were committed in whole or in part with ideological motives. And the remaining seven either had no clear motive or were committed for a non-ideological reason.
…The number of extremist mass killings across the U.S. in the past decade is at least three times higher than any decade since the 1970s, according to the ADL.
Between 2010 and 2020, 164 people died in ideological extremist-related mass killings, more than in any other decade except the 1990s, in which almost all the deaths were caused by the Oklahoma City bombing — when a domestic terrorist bombed a federal building and killed 168 people.
- Talking Points Memo (TPM), “Report: Every Extremist Mass Killing In The US In 2022 Was Tied To The Far-Right.”By Emine Yücel, February 24, 2023 1:36 p.m.
While the report acknowledges that the 2022 total reflects an actual reduction in the number of mass murder incidents over the past 7 years, the ADL’s report points out that right-wing extremists were responsible for all such killings last year. It is no accident that white nationalist groups commit politically motivated murders, it is a response to the growing frustrations of their movement whose influence has always relied on a theory of white supremacy.
Today’s Republican Party harbors extremist groups within its base out of fear- and has accepted members and adherents of extremist groups as candidates and party functionaries because that is what remains after the party exorcised its moderate and liberal wings. What is left at present are the folks who admire and support Kevin McCarthy’s Chaos Caucus. Filling the void are state and local party leaders who advocate violence and anti-democratic practices like voter suppression laws, anti-abortion legislation, and gay-bashing in order to remain in power.
When trying to determine the extent to which extremism is integral to GOP politics, one only needs to look at the policies promulgated by current Republican leaders like Ron DeSantis in Florida and those party officials supporting baseless election denial activities throughout the GOP politisphere. Domestic terrorists are in many respects the activist front which actualizes policies promoted by the far-right wing of the party.
Since the rise of the Tea Party, the precursor to the fascist leanings of the Trump era, the anger within the conservative movement has taken over. The base of white supremacists has replaced governance as a political goal with power. Relegated to minority status among voters, the party’s core has turned to violence because it is no longer competitive in the battle of ideas:
While the white nationalist platform of racist, anti-government, religious, and conspiracy theory-oriented elements long predated Donald Trump, through his own rhetoric and through the policies of his administration, Trump reified the notion that the U.S. is a land of white people, by white people, and for white people. His recurring campaign slogan of “Make America Great Again” was not a mere phrase, but a call to arms, encapsulating the ethos of his vision for the nation.
- Fortune, “Don’t be shocked by the GOP’s embrace of white nationalism-it’s nothing new for the party”by Sara Kamali, May 27, 2021
The power of the violence far outlasts the headlines and the calls for “thoughts and prayers”. The main ingredient is the introduction of intimidation and fear into the political process. The tactic is taken directly from the fascist playbook in which fear is the point- violence, the tool. It depresses the power of the community to fight back by dampening personal involvement in the political process and curbing dissent. The ADL report cites the almost exclusive role that firearms play in domestic terrorist incidents. The bigger the gun and the more deadly the circumstances are part and parcel with their plans. Tied as they are to the NRA, Republicans are placed in the awkward position of trying to explain their refusal to pass sensible gun legislation:
Almost all the killings in 2022 (93%) were committed with firearms. This has been a consistent fact of extremist violence for years. Although many people may think of extremists as employing weapons such as bombs and explosives, it is firearms-plentiful, accessible and often laxly-regulated in the U.S.-that are actually the deadly weapon of choice for American extremists. Indeed, in each of the past five years over 80% of the victims of deadly extremist violence were killed with firearms, a consequence of the country’s failure to take meaningful action to deal with gun violence.
Political violence does not occur in a vacuum. The mass shootings at schools, shopping malls, synagogues, gay clubs, and the violence witnessed at the January 6 insurrection, force the GOP in principle to support weapons at the expense of innocents. More worrisome is the accompanying fusion of politics and religion and a renewed uptick in antisemitism which identifies the root of the evil that the GOP has subscribed to in return for power. Right-wing violence is a product of its hate and intolerance. The party’s participation in creating the environment in which hate was an appropriate motivator for political disagreements is more than regrettable, it marks their acceptance of a fascist alternative to our democratically constituted national identity. They have chosen this as a remedy for their own inability to compete in the world of ideas- a determination to impose their own political will.
To the extent that these extremists aid the political aims of their party, the GOP has entered into a tacit agreement with them as its private army- armed stormtroopers patrolling our neighborhoods, serving political masters. However, the reality is even darker. This is a case of the tail wagging the dog. The GOP has been captured by the extremist whose only allegiance is to the chaos they have introduced into the body politic. The ADL report identifies a deeper motive for the attacks on racial groups and minorities in service to their white-nationalism. It is a belief system known as accelerationism:
Some of the reasons for the alarming increase in extremist mass killings are clear. Attacks by right-wing extremists were driven primarily by white supremacist attacks against racial and religious minorities, many motivated by the rise of white supremacist accelerationism, a belief among some white supremacists that they must use violence to hasten the collapse of modern society so that they can build a new white supremacist civilization from its ashes. Whereas other white supremacists may or may not support violence, or only in certain circumstances or against certain targets, accelerationist white supremacists actively promote extreme violence and celebrate killers such as Timothy McVeigh, Dylann Roof, Brenton Tarrant and Patrick Crusius, among others, hoping to inspire more such perpetrators of mass killings. 17
- ADL Report
What is lacking at the moment is the realization among Republicans that they are being had. The party of Lincoln is hostage to the ideals Lincoln among others gave his life for. No current Republican leader seems willing to “decelerate” the rot within their ranks. In one of the great ironies of their fascist bent, the politics of the right exhibits a consistency with the contradictions of modern fascism which holds contempt for the weak in society. As their influence wanes and as they demonstrate a propensity for losing voters and elections, the GOP as currently constituted is the very definition of a weakened political system. It is a movement that requires violence to sustain power, that surrenders its own autonomy to fringe actors whose lineage is tied to our darkest past:
The “mobilizing passions” of fascism are hard to treat historically, for many of them are as old as Cain. It seems incontestable, however, that the fevers of increased nationalism before World War I and the passions aroused by that war sharpened them. Fascism was an affair of the gut more than of the brain, and a study of the roots of fascism that treats only the thinkers and the writers misses the most powerful impulses of all.
- Robert O. Paxton, Anatomy of Fascism
What Paxton gets right is that fascism is rooted in emotion, in competing feelings of superiority and its opposite. The inner fears of worthiness give rise to a mutual fear-inspiring hatred of oneself and others. The GOP’s current wars on Black history and its roots in our culture lay bare their own realization that Blacks have experienced the effects of American fascism over generations through the indignation of slavery and the systemic racism that has followed it.
SLAVERY AS FASCISM
In his recent NYTimes guest editorial, Professor Henry Louis Gates quotes Harvard historian Carter G. Woodson, as he reflects on the effects of slavery on Blacks since our founding:
“It was well understood,” Woodson continued, “that if by the teaching of history the white man could be further assured of his superiority and the Negro could be made to feel that he had always been a failure and that the subjection of his will to some other race is necessary, the freedman, then, would still be a slave.”
“If you can control a man’s thinking,” Woodson concluded, “you do not have to worry about his action.”
— NYTimes, “Who’s Afraid of Black History?” b y Henry Louis Gates, February 17, 2023
Fascists have grown up with our nation- and vice versa. The movement we are experiencing at present is a reaction to a loss of control. We are prone to believe that the extremists react to troubled times. That the Civil War, for example, created the racist fever throughout the south that followed it… or that the hardships of the Great Depression gave rise to an American form of antisemitism that fueled the isolationists who made excuses for Nazi aggression and the resultant Holocaust.
Perhaps, it is as now, just the opposite. Fascist tendencies have always been with us. They wait patiently at times, for just the right moment- just the right circumstances. The homegrown fascists wildly proclaim “they will not be replaced” but are in fact being replaced as diversity has finally caught up with them. Their guns and hateful rhetoric are an attempt to make up for their unwillingness to accept their fate.
Sinclair Lewis’ quote is both illuminating and relevant to this discussion:
“When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross.”
- Sinclair Lewis
And so it has now, only it has been true not just for America, not simply for our times, but for the millennia. The link between the fanatical right and terrorism is not a casual one- it is causal. It follows as surely as fear breeds ignorance, as surely as fanaticism leads to senseless killing.