Most of us in this country, who have chosen life during a pandemic, are asked to coddle the unhinged temper tantrums and violent extremism of a conservative base that continues supporting the Jan. 6 violent insurrection and attacking our voting rights, and is willing to sacrifice our children as canaries in the COVID coalmine to fuel their endless culture war during a pandemic that has killed over 600,000 Americans.
Yet their elected leaders and mouthpieces, like Rep. Steve Scalise, are still treated as credible sources and normalized by being invited on news channels and by papers of record to criticize President Biden’s Afghanistan withdrawal. Rep. Dan Crenshaw, a cartoonishly hardcore Trump loyalist, and ridiculous pseudo-intellectual Ben Shapiro, whom The New York Times once referred to as “the cool kid’s philosopher” and whose Daily Wire is hugely influential in pushing vaccine misinformation on Facebook, still get coveted platforms in Politico.
Welcome to the Upside Down. Democracy might not survive, but the ratings will be great as the GOP base has become so unhinged and radicalized on a feed bag of disinformation to the point that Crenshaw, a slavish MAGA man, got heckled for refusing to say the election was stolen. Even Trump, their god-king, was booed by his adoring cult at a recent rally in Alabama. Did he praise Muslims? Hug an undocumented immigrant? Compliment Obama? Nope. He simply gently recommended that they take a life-saving vaccine, like he did, that will protect them from suffering a tragic, unnecessary death.
You can’t “win over” these folks anymore. They are too far over the bend to get brought back around by Hillbilly Elegies, FDA vaccine approvals, sympathetic profiles of voters in rust belt diners, or town halls with undecided voters. Facts, common sense, and good-naturedness will not sway their fragile, terrified hearts.
Enough coddling. It’s time to say enough is enough.
Thankfully, Democrats are flexing their slim congressional majorities—a result of Republican gerrymandering—and trying to push back. The 13-person House panel selected to investigate the Jan. 6 riot announced Wednesday that it’s requesting communications from within the Trump White House and other agencies to determine information about the planning and funding of the Jan. 6 insurrection that left five people dead. This includes asking telecommunication companies to preserve phone records of congressmen to ascertain what, if anything, they knew about the unfolding riots and when.
Republicans like GOP House “leader” Kevin McCarthy have already dismissed the investigation as a political witch hunt. I mean I also would be dismissive of an investigation that would potentially incriminate myself. After all, McCarthy has already admitted he was in touch with Trump from inside the Capitol on the day of the insurrection, and Rep. Jordan has also acknowledged he was in conversation with Trump. Even though a recent report said the FBI found “scant evidence” that the insurrection was a result of an “organized plot,” one of the main organizers of the “Stop the Steal” rally, conservative activist Ali Alexander, has claimed he worked in tandem with three GOP lawmakers. “We four schemed up of putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander confessed in a since-deleted video, pointing to Reps. Andy Biggs, Mo Brooks and Paul Gosar.
When he isn’t busy giving keynote speeches at white nationalist rallies and tweeting white supremacist talking points, Gosar is busy accusing Capitol police of “lying in wait’” to “execute” Ashli Babbitt, a radicalized insurrectionist who was transformed after her death into a “martyr” by Trump and the GOP. “I know that day I saved countless lives,” veteran officer Lt. Michael Byrd said in an interview with Lester Holt on NBC Nightly News finally revealing his identity after enduring months of racist hate and death threats. Thankfully, Officer Byrd was just internally cleared by his department for any wrongdoing, but that didn’t stop Tucker Carlson and Russian state TV from weaponizing his Blackness and attacking him and alleging that he “executed” Babbitt.
Meanwhile, Brooks had more to say in support of the failed terrorist and Trump voter who streamed his pathetic attempt to blow up the Library of Congress last week than he did about Officer Brian Sicknick, who died trying to protect the Capitol. Recently, Brooks confirmed he was wearing body armor during his Jan. 6 speech to the Trump supporters who would later overrun the nation’s Capitol.
“Should I wear a striped tie? Cuff links? Bow tie? Body armor?” is a totally normal, daily sartorial debate for elected officials. Meanwhile, his colleagues who didn’t get the memo and were barricaded, protected by Capitol Hill officers, fearing for their lives.
Those include Rep. Andrew Clyde, a hypocrite whose commitment to his extremist base and their attack on our democracy is so great that he tried to gaslight the world by claiming afterward that the riot was a “normal tourist visit.” In reality, new reports reveal that the Secret Service warned Capitol Police about violent threats a day before the insurrection, but due to intelligence lapses did not prepare for a large-scale assault.
Meanwhile, the same 21 GOP officials who’ve attacked the Squad for supporting “defund the police,” voted against awarding congressional medals to the Capitol Police officers who saved their lives. Along with Matt Gaetz and Marjorie Taylor Greene, some of these congressmen are holding rallies in support of the individuals who were arrested for their part in the insurrection.
It’s not surprising any more to hear white supremacist conspiracy theories parroted by GOP elected officials and mainstreamed by Fox News hosts, or domestic terror threats like QAnon embraced by former Trump National Security Adviser Michael Flynn and tolerated by Kevin McCarthy.
But it is still shocking, and should be a big news story, to hear these pols embrace a lunatic conspiracy that just radicalized a young father who speared his two daughters to death because he was convinced his wife “possessed serpent DNA and had passed it onto his children.”
These radicalized Republicans fighting to maintain minority rule do so in no small part thanks to the aid and comfort provided by “moderate” Democrats like Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin. Even though the House just passed the John Lewis Voting Rights Act to strengthen federal oversight of state election laws, it has no chance of passing thanks to Senate Republicans who will filibuster it to death. And instead of voting to kill the filibuster, an archaic instrument of Jim Crow, these Democrats will instead maintain the fiction of “bipartisanship” with colleagues who are actively supporting a radicalized cult that supported a violent coup that could have killed them.
If there’s a silver lining to these dark clouds, perhaps it’s that death and economic pain are great motivators for the majority to wake up and say “enough” to the right wing’s multi-pronged culture war. With the FDA approval of the Pfizer vaccine, government agencies and private entities are moving forward with vaccine mandates. Meanwhile, these enraged zombies for white supremacy are now assaulting and harassing doctors who are simply providing health guidelines at town halls, bullying our teachers and school boards, fighting mask mandates, resisting vaccine mandates and doing everything to combat the overwhelming majority—nearly 70 percent of us—who have decided to choose life.
Delta Air Lines said it will begin charging unvaccinated workers $200 per month, citing steep hospital bills for their unvaccinated employees who got COVID-19. Tyson is now requiring all of its U.S. employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 1, even as thousands are employed in Arkansas, which just ran out of ICU beds.
It’s too late to convince people determined to believe otherwise that the pandemic is real, deadly, and requires them to wear masks and take vaccines. It’s been nearly two years. We could have reopened safely by now, saved thousands of lives, and protected our front-line workers if we simply followed social distancing and masking.
Instead, a radicalized minority enabled by demagogic governors continues to choose death, which Republicans are trying, insanely, to rebrand as “freedom.”
To quote Batman Begins, “I won’t kill you, but I don’t have to save you.” That minority may have a right to choose death, but they certainly don’t have a right to infect us with their virus by coming to work, to sporting events and into our children’s schools.
Also, it’s encouraging to see U.S. Capitol Police officers fight back against Republicans who are trying to gaslight the Jan. 6 insurrection. Seven officers are now suing Trump and those who organized the Stop the Steal riot that killed five people and injured more than 140 officers.
We are the majority. We have the numbers. However, it’s not enough for the rest of us to be complacent and simply acknowledge the multiple threats to our democracy. It’s time to flex and fight back on all fronts to save lives and our democracy from a conservative hate machine willing to attack truth, science, safety, and democracy in its desperate, violent attempt to preserve white rule.