Republicans see civil war on the campaign trail

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Days before the Maryland primary on July 19, Michael Peroutka stood up in an Italian restaurant in Rockville and envisioned a foreign enemy invading America.

“We would expect them to make our borders porous,” Peroutka told the crowd that had come to hear the Republican nomination for attorney general. “We would expect them to make our cities unsafe places to live. We would expect them to try to ruin our economy.” The country is “at war,” he explained, “and the enemy has co-opted members, agencies and agents of our government.”

On Tuesday, Peroutka easily sent a more moderate Republican to win the nomination. Prosecutor Dan Cox, who won Donald Trump’s support after backing the former president’s efforts to undermine the 2020 election, also dispatched a Republican backed by the state’s popular Governor Larry Hogan.

Both candidates described a country not only in trouble, but devastated by leaders most Americans despise – effectively part of a civil war. In both swing states and safe seats, many Republicans say liberals hate them personally and may turn rioters or a police state against people who disobey them.

Referring to the coronavirus and the 2020 protests against police brutality, Cox told supporters at a rally last month: “We were told to turn the corner for 14 days and yet Antifa were allowed to open our police cars burn in the streets.” He continued, “Do you really think that with what we’re seeing — with the riots that’s been happening — that we shouldn’t have anything to defend our families with? That is why we have the Second Amendment.”

The rhetoric is refreshing, if not entirely new. Liberal commentators used the word “fascism” liberally to describe Trump’s presidency. The unfounded theory that President Barack Obama was a foreign agent undermining American power was popular with some Republicans, including Trump, who succeeded Obama in the White House.

Many Democrats saw the backlash against Obama as racially specific and unlikely that Biden would evoke mass opposition to Trump in the presidential election. But many Republicans also portray Biden as a malevolent figure — a vessel for a hateful left-wing campaign to weaken America.

“It’s purposeful,” former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is running for the state’s sole seat in the state’s House of Representatives in next month’s special election, said in an interview with former Trump adviser Stephen K. Bannon. “It’s about the fundamental transformation of America. You only fundamentally transform what you despise.”

This argument has been dramatized in ads showing, for example, an armed candidate seemingly storming into the home of a political enemy and another warning of “the mob” threatening ordinary Americans. In many cases, candidates brandish guns while harming liberals or other enemies.

Guns are all over GOP ads and social media, leading to criticism

In central Florida, US Army veteran Cory Mills has posted ads about his company that sells tear gas used to quell riots in 2020. “You may have seen some of our work,” he says, introducing a montage of what’s being labeled “Antifa,” “far left” and “Black Lives Matter” protesters running in front of the gas.

In Northwest Ohio, campaign video for Republican congressional candidate JR Majewski shows him walking through a ramshackle factory with a semi-automatic weapon and warning that the Democrats will “destroy our economy” with deliberately bad policies.

“Your agenda is bringing America to its knees, and I stand ready to do whatever it takes,” said Majewski, who is seeking a House seat in a district around Toledo that was redrawn to include Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D -Ohio) to make beatable. “If I have to kick down doors, that’s what patriots do.”

In Missouri, Republican Senate candidate Eric Greitens ran two ads this summer in which he holds or fires guns, in one ad vows to “RINO hunt” – for “Republicans in name only” – and the “political establishment” targets second.

Fearing deep losses in November, some Democrats have spent money to help Republican candidates who talk like that under the theory that they will be easier to beat in November. The Democratic Governors Association spent more than $1.1 million on positive indicators for Cox when he told voters that one day they may have to fight Antifa at their own game.

However, candidates like Majewski won without the support of Democrats, aided instead by high turnout and grassroots energy. The idea that the Biden administration‘s policies are doomed — to raise gas prices or raise food prices — is a popular campaign theme.

Pollsters have found that Americans are concerned that the country is holding together; In a YouGov poll released last month, a majority of both Democrats and Republicans agreed that one day America would “cease to be a democracy.”

Republican victories since 2020, including a victory in the Virginia state election and winning a June special election between two Hispanic candidates in South Texas, have not lifted GOP sentiment. Andy Surabian, a Republican strategist who works with Trump-backed U.S. Senate nominees JD Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona, said last year’s vaccination or testing mandate for large companies marked a watershed moment, even from the perspective of the Biden administration after it was blocked by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court.

“That’s the main thing that got people going from ‘maybe that’s incompetence’ to ‘there’s something else going on here,'” Surabian said. “Do these people actually want a Chinese-style social credit system?”

Rick Shaftan, a conservative strategist working with Republican challengers this cycle, said the party’s voters are nervously watching crime rates in cities and questioning whether public safety is being deliberately downgraded. He also pointed to government responses to the pandemic as the reason these voters and their candidates are nervous.

“People have been paying a lot of attention to the truckers,” Shaftan said, referring to Canadian anti-vaccination mandate protests that occupied Ottawa this year and briefly shut down an international bridge. “Canada should be a democracy. … People are worried: can this happen here?”

The arrest of hundreds of rioters who stormed the Capitol on January 6, 2021 has often been cited by Republican candidates as evidence of a government war on its people.

In early July, at a town hall meeting in southwest Washington state, Republican congressional hopeful Joe Kent told his audience that the Jan. 6 “fake riot” “served as a weapon against anyone who disagrees with what the government is telling us.” . Parents upset about public schooling to people who questioned the 2020 election result.

“These are the types of tactics I would see in third world countries when I served abroad,” Kent told the crowd gathered at a pavilion in Rochester, a city currently controlled by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-Wash.) is represented. “You see the Praetorian Guard or the secret services grabbing the opposition and throwing them in the dungeons. I never thought I would see that in America.”

Trump himself has frequently accused President Biden of trying to bankrupt the country and creating conflict in order to stay in power.

“Joe Biden helped lead his party’s heinous campaign against our cops, and then he took the rioters’ agenda straight to the White House,” Trump said at a rally in Las Vegas last month, along with the Clark County Sheriff , Joe Lombardo, the supporters GOP nominee for governor. “The blood of innocent victims of crime flows in the streets.”

According to a draft opinion of the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization In early May, with federal abortion laws lifted, a group calling itself Jane’s Revenge boasted of vandalizing crisis pregnancy centers where women are discouraged from terminating their pregnancies. These incidents quickly made political ads asking why Democrats didn’t condemn violence more strongly.

Some Republicans also point to a California man’s alleged assassination plot against Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, who was among the majority Dobbs.

“Radical liberals are acting like terrorists and calling for a summer of anger,” says a narrator in a new ad from Catholic Vote, a conservative group spending $3 million this month targeting vulnerable Democratic members of the House of Representatives . “An assassination attempt on a Supreme Court Justice. Domestic terrorists calling it “open season”. ”

Several have echoed Hillbilly Elegy author Vance, who has argued that the spike in fentanyl deaths looks like a “deliberate” result of the Biden administration’s border policies — a way for an unpopular president to “push people to punish those who have not voted for him.”

The argument is not just that Democrats disagree with conservatives, but that they despise and intentionally hurt them. Last week, after a man attacked Rep. Lee Zeldin (RN.Y.) at a rally for his gubernatorial campaign, Biden and Vice President Harris condemned the violence, as did Gov. Kathy Hochul (D).

However, local Republicans suggested that Democrats effectively encouraged the attack, citing a Democrat press release about the rally that “encouraged people to go after the candidate,” according to a GOP district executive. Although the district attorney who released the attacker from prison was a supporter of Zeldin, the candidate and his party argued that the 2019 revisions to the Democratic bail had let the attacker off scot-free.

“If you love America, they hate you,” says Jim Pillen, the Republican nominee for governor of Nebraska, in a television ad. “If you support the police, they call you a racist.”

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