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General News    H3'ed 6/30/22

Tomgram: Andrea Mazzarino, The Right-Wing's Attempt to Militarize American Politics

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This article originally appeared at TomDispatch.com. To receive TomDispatch in your inbox three times a week, click here.

Once upon a time, if you had told me about it, I would have thought you were joking " and I would have considered it among the worst jokes ever told. On my mind is the ad recently posted on Facebook and Twitter by the Republican Senate campaign of former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens (who resigned less than two years after taking office "amid allegations of sexually assaulting and blackmailing a woman with whom he had an extramarital affair"). In it, you see him standing on the front porch of a house, dressed normally but holding a shotgun. Around him are what look like well-armed Special Operations forces. He identifies himself as a former Navy SEAL and then his companions promptly bust down the front door, as explosions go off. Greitens walks into the house, saying, "Today, we're going RINO hunting" Join the MAGA crew, get a RINO hunting permit. There's no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn't expire until we save our country."

RINO, of course, stands for "Republican in name only," the insulting term for any Republican " think Adam Kinzinger or Liz Cheney on the House January 6th committee " who doesn't back to the hilt former President Trump and his mad election claims. And MAGA, in case you've forgotten, was The Donald's 2016 election slogan, Make America Great Again " emphasis on that "again." At the time, it was an American politician's unique implicit admission that this country was on the decline, a claim that turned out to ring a distinct bell among so many voters.

And keep in mind that, in the America of 2022, Greitens is anything but alone in such a vision of armed madness personified. Consider it a sign of what TomDispatch regular Andrea Mazzarino, co-founder of the invaluable Costs of War Project, calls our "anger problem." Let her explain. Tom

America's Anger Problem
Dealing with Trump's Occupation of All Too Many American Hearts and Minds


Increasingly, it seems, Americans have an anger problem. All too many of us now have the urge to use name-calling, violent social-media posts, threats, baseball bats, and guns to do what we once did with persuasion and voting. For example, during the year after Donald Trump entered the Oval Office, threats of violence or even death against lawmakers of both parties increased more than fourfold. And too often, the call to violence seems to come from the top. Recently, defendants in cases involving extremist violence have claimed that an elected leader or pundit "told" them to do it. In a country where a sitting president would lunge at his own security detail in rage, I guess this isn't so surprising anymore. Emotion rules the American political scene and so many now tend to shoot from the hip without even knowing why.

Increasing numbers of us, however, respond to the growing extremity of the moment by avoiding the latest headlines and civic engagement, fearful that some trauma will befall us, even by witnessing "the news." As a psychotherapist who works with veterans and military families, I often speak with folks who have decided to limit their news intake or have stopped following the news altogether. Repeated mass shootings in places ranging from schools to houses of worship combined with the increased visibility and influence of militias at theoretically peaceful demonstrations can be more scarring than the wounds soldiers once sustained in combat zones.

I must admit that my family and I have sometimes practiced a similar form of political avoidance. Recently, I considered taking my two young children to the March for Our Lives gun-control event on the National Mall in Washington. However, my spouse, an active duty servicemember, urged me to reconsider. If extremists showed up, it might prove difficult for me alone to get our children out of danger. I thought better of it and stayed home.

In a country where a Republican senatorial candidate can run an ad featuring himself with an armed military tactical unit on a residential street, urging Americans to hunt "RINOS" " Republicans in Name Only, or those who criticize Trump " without widespread censure from his party, I believe my family's fears are well founded.

The question "What if something happens?" at a protest would never have occurred to either my spouse or me when we first met more than a decade ago.

As a human rights activist who spent years working in Vladimir Putin's Russia, I can say that I'm now more afraid of the hair-trigger responses of right-wing Americans than I was of that Kremlin strongman's far more carefully targeted violence. I guess the memory of the January 6th Capitol riot, insurrection, coup attempt (or any descriptor of your choice) by a mob of angry Trump supporters still weighs heavily on me.

The Devil's in the Details

These days, it's the mundane stuff like Republican Party meetings that contain the details we'd do well to notice. Such proceedings reveal a new level of combativeness as party leaders attempt to shape state and local laws and policies to their ever less democratic desires. For instance, Politico recently obtained recordings of Republican National Committee (RNC) operatives training thousands of volunteer poll watchers to disrupt future elections in Democratic districts of swing states like Michigan by actively challenging the eligibility of voters.

The RNC and its affiliates are linking those poll watchers to hotlines and websites that list party-friendly lawyers, police officers, and district attorneys who might be ready to stage real-time interventions during voting and vote counts. For example, district attorneys recruited by the right-wing organization the Amistad Project will be able to start investigations and issue subpoenas ever more quickly.

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Tom Engelhardt, who runs the Nation Institute's Tomdispatch.com ("a regular antidote to the mainstream media"), is the co-founder of the American Empire Project and, most recently, the author of Mission Unaccomplished: Tomdispatch (more...)

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