Why the threat of 'Trumpist violence' must not 'be discounted': political science professor
On Friday, March 24, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office received a threatening letter containing what the New York Times described as a "suspicious white powder." The letter followed a Truth Social post in which former President Donald Trump threatened "potential death and destruction" if he faces any type of criminal prosecution from Manhattan DA Alvin Bragg, Jr. in connection with alleged hush money payments to porn star Stormy Daniels.
If Trump faces some type of indictment, however, it won't necessarily come from Bragg's office. The former president and 2024 presidential hopeful is also being investigated at the federal level by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) and special counsel Jack Smith and at the state level by Fulton County, Georgia District Attorney Fani Willis.
In an article published by the conservative website The Bulwark on March 27, Nicholas Grossman (a political science professor at the University of Illinois) poses the question: How seriously should we take threats of "Trumpist violence" if Trump is criminally indicted? And he concludes that the threats should not be taken lightly.
"Trump and his more radical supporters are unsubtly attempting to extort state and federal prosecutors into putting him above the law," Grossman argues. "That leads to fears of political violence — after all, they've done it before — and to questions whether prosecuting an ex-president and current presidential candidate for the first time in American history is worth it…. How worried should we be about violence? At the extreme end, could a prosecution spark a civil war, or some terrible string of events America could avoid by letting Trump off the hook?"
The University of Illinois professor adds, "We should take seriously the potential for violence, but we should also take care not to overstate it…. The possibility of violence from lone actors, including deranged individuals, cannot be discounted."
Grossman is especially worried about the potential for violence in 2024 if Trump is the GOP presidential nominee and loses again.
"It's important to remember that the biggest outburst of Trumpist violence arose from him losing reelection and lying about it," Grossman explains. "That suggests that the 2024 election and its aftermath present the highest risks. If there's violence, it will likely be because national power is on the line, and Trump's followers are riled up by lies, grievances, and conspiracy theories, not because Trump faces legal accountability for his lawbreaking."
Meanwhile, in an article published by The Guardian on March 26, journalist David Smith takes a look at the impact that right-wing "online influencers" are having on the Republican Party — influencers who, he warns, "now shape the far right." And the "influencers" Smith is talking about aren't old-school conservative pundits like Washington Post columnist George Will and the late National Review founder William F. Buckley, but rather, far-right MAGA figures such as Jack Posobiec, Laura Loomer and Steve Bannon (the former White House chief strategist who now hosts the "War Room" podcast).
In response to a Semafor article predicting that Posobiec, known for the bogus Pizzagate conspiracy theory, will eventually have the type of influence on the GOP that Will had in the past, conservative CNN pundit Alyssa Farah Griffin tweeted, "We're doomed." And she isn't the only one who finds the rise of Posobiec and other MAGA influencers troubling.
Former Rep. Joe Walsh (R-Illinois), an ex-Tea Party Republican turned Never Trumper, told The Guardian, "Ten years ago, going on CNN and MSNBC, you had great influence. Now, not a lot of people watch any more…. It's a completely different world now where influencers have great say…. It has nothing to do with ideas."
Walsh continued, "It has nothing to do with intellect. It's all about trolling people, getting clicks and being outrageous. There's a whole cast of characters that has sprung up over the last five to six years and they have great influence now. The Jack Posobiecs and all the rest of these guys are not fringe; they speak for a big chunk of the base."
Will is so disdainful of Trump and the MAGA movement that he left the GOP in response. But Walsh laments that 2023's GOP base is more likely to pay attention to Posobiec than to a traditional conservative like Will.
The former congressman lamented, "The base no longer knows who the f*** George Will is, and that's an absolute shame."
In the 2022 midterms, MAGA Republicans lost of lot of statewide races in key swing states such as Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin and Arizona. Republicans flipped the U.S. House of Representatives with a small single-digit majority, but Democrats slightly increased their small effective majority in the U.S. Senate. Abortion was an issue that worked well for Democrats in 2022, but Republicans have responded by doubling down on their anti-abortion position.
On top of that, Republicans are pushing bills designed to encourage people to have really large families — proposals that journalist Erin Gloria Ryan describes as "wacky" in an op-ed published by the Daily Beast on March 26.
"I call the schemes wacky because they do not seem like they were cooked up with the input of anybody who is on the fence about wanting kids, or wanting more of them," Ryan explains. "Scheme One originates — where else? — in Texas, where conservative lawmakers introduced a bill last week that would give massive property tax breaks to straight couples who owned property and had many, many children. HB 2889 would give heterosexual couples with four children a 40 percent break on their property taxes, and all the way up to a 100 percent property tax break for families with 10 or more children, provided the parents were married."
Ryan adds that such "homophobic and creepy" proposals would be terrible for public education, which is largely funded by property taxes in many places.
"So, who is this incentivizing?" Ryan argues. "I cannot envision a world in which avoiding paying property taxes would be worth the physical and emotional toll that having 10 f*****g kids would have on me…. A 'baby bonus' and 'free property taxes in exchange for pumping out 10 kids' are two of the stupidest plans I've ever heard to encourage people to have children."
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