The big story coming out of the 2024 election might be the end of American democracy. That’s because the man already twice impeached and under indictment for trying to overturn the last presidential election is becoming even more extreme in promoting violence and sowing distrust in government.
“America is grappling with the biggest and most sustained increase in political violence since the 1970s,” Reuters wrote in a special report earlier this month. The news service reported that “threats of violence and intimidating rhetoric soared after former President Trump lost the 2020 election and falsely claimed the vote was stolen.” Reuters cited threats to election officials, judges, witnesses and politicians.
The U.S. Department of Homeland Security is also concerned that extremist political violence is now a “persistent and lethal threat.” This “lethal threat,” now comes mostly from the political right under the banner of populist grievance and support for Trump as a candidate who sees benefit in promoting political anger by delegitimizing the election system.
The Republican Party is already breaking up along the fissure between Trump supporters and Republicans more loyal to their party’s brand of traditional conservatism. This has left several state Republican parties in dire straits financially.
As Politico reported last month, “Michigan’s Republican party is broke. Minnesota’s was, until recently, down to $53.81 in the bank. And in Colorado, the GOP is facing eviction from its office this month because it can’t make rent. Around the nation, state Republican party apparatuses — once bastions of competency that helped produce statehouse takeovers — have become shells of their former machines amid infighting and a lack of organization.”
“Current and former officials at the heart of the matter blame twin forces for it,” the article continued. “The rise of insurgent pro-Donald Trump activists capturing party leadership posts, combined with the ever-rising influence of super PACs.”
The Georgia State Republican Party is spending millions of dollars to help the legal defense of Georgia Republicans caught up in Trump’s fake electors scheme. Meanwhile, Trump is raising record funds for his legal defense, which is taking money away from state parties.
More evidence of the split damaging the party can be seen in the weak Republican candidates set to run in 2024 for the U.S. Senate.
In the Arizona Senate race, for example, Kari Lake, a Trump supporter who claims the 2020 election was stolen, seems to have a lock on the state’s GOP Senate nomination if she decides to run. She has already lost a race for governor, and she concedes that top Republicans view her as a “bad candidate.” For this, she blames not herself but Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.).
“I don’t think he can even control what comes out his mouth anymore,” she told Steve Bannon in a podcast interview, calling attention to a news conference during which McConnell’s speech had faltered. “I don’t know what it is, there’s something medically [wrong] when you freeze up like that…and he’s going to make all the decisions about who represent the people of Arizona.”
Montana offers another example of the party’s troubles.
Party leaders are desperately trying to stop Rep. Matt Rosendale, an election-denying House Freedom Caucus Member who lost to incumbent Sen. John Tester (D-Mont.) in 2018, from running against their preferred candidate.
As McConnell warned before the 2022 elections, “candidate quality matters.” But Trump would rather nominate candidates solely on the basis of their fealty to Trump. This was how Lake and Blake Masters in Arizona; Mehmet Oz and Doug Mastriano in Pennsylvania; and Herschel Walker in Georgia all lost.
Even before Trump came to dominate the Republican Party, there was evidence of the party’s inability to deal with extremism.
Let’s name the shooting stars of recent vintage and imagine a world where the extremists did not have the party line.
Polls showed that moderate Republican Rep. Mike Castle (R-Del.) would have easily won Joe Biden’s Delaware Senate Seat in 2010. But Republicans nominated conservative activist Christine O’Donnell, who famously denied being a witch.
That same year, Nevada Republicans blew their chance to knock off then-Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid by nominating Sharron Angle, a far-right candidate who ominously hinted that “Second Amendment remedies” might become necessary if the vote was not enough to remove Reid from office.
In 2012, Missouri Republicans nominated Rep. Todd Akin (R-Mo.), who contended that women could not get pregnant from what he called “legitimate rape.”
Similarly, Indiana Senate Candidate Richard Mourdock (R) lost a Republican Senate seat in deep-red Indiana with talk of pregnancies from rape being “ordained by God.”
All these candidates won Republican nominations before Donald Trump’s hostile takeover of the party.
While these candidates stirred passions on talk radio, social media, cable news, and attracted small dollar donors, they pushed away moderate Republican voters.
To the delight of Democrats, Republicans continue to nominate unelectable extremists.
Beyond any one race, there is a real problem for a nation built on a two-party democracy when one of the major parties is breaking down and increasingly becoming the home for angry people, many of whom increasingly see violence as acceptable.
Juan Williams is an author and a political analyst for Fox News Channel.
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