Missouri Senate Primary Highlights Rise of Violent Right-Wing Rhetoric | Republicans
On April 25, former Missouri Governor Eric Greitens, currently running for the US Senate, posted a video on Twitter of him and Donald Trump Jr firing semi-automatic rifles from a distance.
“A striking fear in the hearts of liberals around the world,” said the former president’s son.
In the accompanying article, Greitens wrote, “Stimulating fear in the hearts of liberals, RINOs and fake media.”
Greitens, a former Navy Seal, shared the video even though a woman he was having an affair with accused him of tying her up and ripping her clothes off without her consent, and his ex-wife, Sheena, accused him of knocking her down and hitting one of their sons hard enough to knock out a tooth, according to an affidavit filed in a child custody dispute.
She also alleged that he bought a gun, refused to tell her where she was, and threatened to kill himself unless she expressed her public support for him.
According to researchers who study the links between communication and political violence, Greitens’ gun-focused messages are concerning, not only because more than a third of mass shooters in recent years also had a history of domestic violence, according to a Bloomberg Report.
But it’s also part of a significant increase among politicians — largely Republicans — in recent years of references to guns and threatening language in campaign ads, researchers say.
This rhetoric contributes to the polarization of our society and can translate into physical violence, they say.
Given the tense political climate, researchers expect the rhetoric of right-wing politicians to continue to escalate and lead to more violence before the pendulum swings back to less charged times.
“Violence is in politics as a violation of the idea that people have a say in the political process of choosing their governments and being able to express themselves freely,” said Nathan Kalmoe, professor of political communication at the Louisiana State University and author of Radical American supporter. “Obviously this type of message, where you call out political opponents while you’re shooting at a shooting range, is some kind of violent threat.”
Since Donald Trump became president in 2016, the number of threats against members of Congress has skyrocketed, according to data provided by the Capitol Police to press organizations. That year, there were 902 threats against lawmakers. In 2021, there were 9,600.
Republicans are also more likely than Democrats to think civilians might need to fight to save America. A majority of Republicans support the possible use of force to preserve the “traditional American way of life”, according to a 2021 report George Washington University Political Poll. Among Democrats, the number was 15%.
When asked if a time will come when “patriotic Americans will have to take the law into their own hands,” 47% of Republicans agree, compared to 9% of Democrats.
About a third of Republicans also agreed that “because things have gotten so off the rails, true American patriots may have to resort to violence to save our country,” according to a 2021 survey from the Public Religion Research Institute. Among Democrats, the number was 18%.
But the use of inflammatory rhetoric to annoy supporters of a democracy didn’t start with Trump.
“Certainly, we have known such divisive and polarized times in the United States as we do today,” said James Piazza, a political science professor at Penn State University. “It kind of goes in waves. And if you look at the type of speech and rhetoric that politicians used in those previous eras of polarization and division, it looks a lot like what you see today; it is a dehumanizing speech.
Trump and other Republicans are using threatening language to tap into anger over shifting US demographics and a sense that a Christian way of life is under threat, political scientists say.
“Trump played into that anger and amplified it and went much further than most Republican leaders, especially prominent ones, had gone very explicitly in making these statements, not just rejecting the election, but also other types of anti-democratic statements, including hostility towards various racial, ethnic and religious minority groups,” Kalmoe said.
According to Helio Fred Garcia, professor of professional development and leadership, one of the main differences between the Trump era and other highly polarized times is the advent of social media, which amplifies speech by sending it instantly to people. millions of people and often strip the nuances of a statement. at Columbia University and author of Words on Fire: the power of incendiary language and how to deal with it.
“There’s a giant megaphone over there,” said Piazza, who author of a study on the link between political hate speech and domestic terrorism. “There really is a whole new area of ability to mobilize people, to radicalize people, to get more marginal voices to play an outsized role in national discussions.”
Greitens is not alone among Republicans in using such inflammatory language. For example, Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, a Republican from Georgia, recently told Real America’s Voice, a media group, “The Democrats are the party of pedophiles. The Democrats are the party of the predatory Disney Princesses… Their identity is the most disgusting, evil, horrible thing happening in our country.
In interviews, political scientists said such language occurs primarily but not exclusively on the right. But they struggled to provide examples of Democrats doing the same.
In 2018, former Attorney General Eric Holder, who served in the Obama administration, said, “When they go down, we kick them. That’s what this new Democratic Party is all about.
“Immediately the right jumped on him and said, ‘He’s causing violence.'” Garcia said. “Interestingly, the same people who said, ‘No, Trump doesn’t promote violence,'” Holder criticized.
Given the charged political climate, academics say more violence like — or worse than — the Jan. 6 Capitol Riot is inevitable. Piazza said this wave of division and polarization is reminiscent of the pre-Civil War era when “you had similar political rhetoric to mobilize voters and demobilize and demonize the other side that resulted in political violence.”
That said, Piazza doesn’t expect anything like Civil War to break out.
“We actually have pretty strong political institutions in the United States, and we have strong security institutions. The US military is extraordinarily professionalized, and the US military has done a very good job of being apolitical,” he said.
Garcia also foresees more violence. He thought the United States could return to a more normal place after the end of Trump’s presidency, but since Trump still insists he won, Garcia thinks it will take more than eight years and carnage. extra to get the pendulum back to a more normal place.
To prevent this, Piazza and others are calling for more regulation of social media. He is encouraged by bipartisan efforts to hold businesses accountable.
He hopes the government will introduce regulations so that a politician “trying to excite people for political gain or attention, or to raise money, can’t get away with it on social media. They really should do careful what they had to say in terms of demonizing others and hate speech,” he said.
Meanwhile, Greitens ranks third in the Republican Senate primary ballot but still leads against the Democratic candidates, according to FiveThirtyEight. Greitens and his main opponents did not respond to requests for comment.
In the campaign ad, Greitens and Trump switch from semi-automatic rifles to handguns.
It ends with them firing more shots and Greitens saying, “Liberals beware.”