On the campaign trail, Republicans see a civil war

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Days before the July 19 primary in Maryland, Michael Peroutka got up in an Italian restaurant in Rockville and imagined how a foreign enemy might attack America.

“We would expect them to make our borders porous,” Peroutka told the crowd, who came to hear the Republicans running for state attorney general. “We would expect them to make our cities unsafe places to live. You would expect them to try to ruin our economy. The country was “at war”, he explained, “and the enemy co-opted members, agencies and agents of our government”.

On Tuesday, Peroutka easily dispatched a more moderate Republican to win the nomination. State Deputy Dan Cox, who won Donald Trump’s endorsement after backing the former president’s effort to overturn the 2020 election, also sent a Republican endorsed by popular state Governor Larry Hogan.

Both candidates described a country that was not simply in trouble, but destroyed by leaders who despise most Americans. – effectively part of a civil war. In swing states and safe seats, many Republicans say liberals hate them personally and can turn rioters or a police state into people who disobey them.

Referring to the coronavirus and the 2020 protests against police brutality, Cox told his supporters at a rally last month, “We were told 14 days to bend the curve, and yet antifa was allowed to burn our police cars in the streets.” He continued: “Do you really think, with what we’re seeing – with the riots that have happened – that we shouldn’t have something to defend our families? That’s why we have the second amendment.

The rhetoric is invigorating, if not entirely new. Liberal commentators have made liberal use of the word “fascism” to describe Trump’s presidency. The baseless theory that President Barack Obama was undermine US power as a foreign agent was popular with some Republicans, including Trump, who succeeded Obama in the White House.

Many Democrats saw Obama’s backlash as race-specific and saw Biden as unlikely to inspire mass opposition to Trump in the presidential election. But many Republicans also paint Biden as a malevolent figure — a vessel for a left-wing hate campaign aimed at weakening America.

“It helps,” said former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin, who is running in next month’s special election for the state’s only House seat, in an interview with the former adviser to Trump, Stephen K. Bannon. “This is about America’s fundamental transformation. You are basically only transforming something that you have disdain for.

This argument has been dramatized in advertisements which, for example, show an armed candidate appearing to rush into the house of a political enemy, and another Attention of “the mob” that threatens ordinary Americans. In many cases, candidates brandish guns while threatening to harm liberals or other enemies.

Guns are all over GOP ads and social media, drawing criticism

In central Florida, U.S. Army veteran Cory Mills ran ads about his business selling tear gas that was used to quell riots in 2020. ‘You may have seen some of our work,’ he says, presenting a montage of what’s labeled ‘antifa’ , “radical left” and “Black Lives Matter” protesters fleeing the gas.

In northwest Ohio, a campaign video for Republican congressional candidate JR Majewski shows it crossing a ramshackle factory, holding a semi-automatic weapon, warning that the Democrats will “destroy our economy” with willfully bad policies.

“Their agenda is bringing America to its knees, and I’m ready to do whatever it takes,” says Majewski, who is seeking a House seat in a neighborhood around Toledo that has been redesigned to make Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D-Ohio) beatable. . “If I have to kick down doors, that’s exactly what the Patriots do.”

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

Fearing heavy losses in November, some Democrats have spent money to help Republican candidates who speak this way under the theory that they will be easier to beat in November. The Democratic Governors Association spent more over $1.1 million on positive ads for Cox, as he told voters that they might one day have to fight antifa with their own weapons.

Candidates like Majewski, however, won without the help of Democrats, aided instead by high turnout and grassroots energy. The idea that the Biden administration’s policies are designed to fail — to raise gas prices or raise the cost of food — is a popular campaign theme.

Pollsters found that Americans fear the country will stay united; a YouGov poll published last month had the majority Democrats and Republicans agreeing that America “will one day cease to be a democracy”.

Republican victories since 2020, including a sweep in the Virginia state election and a victory in a special election in June between two Hispanic candidates in South Texas, have not lightened the GOP’s mood. Andy Surabian, a Republican strategist who works with Trump-backed U.S. Senate candidates JD Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona, said last year’s vaccine or test mandate for big business was a turning point in the opinion of the Biden administration, even after being blocked by the conservative majority of the Supreme Court.

“That was the first thing that made people go from ‘maybe it’s incompetence’ to ‘there’s something else going on here,'” Surabian said. “For example, do these people really want a Chinese-style social credit system?”

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

“People paid a lot of attention to the truckers,” Shaftan said, referring to Canadian protests against vaccination mandates that occupied Ottawa this year and briefly closed an international bridge. “Canada is supposed to be a democracy. … People worry: can it happen here?

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

At a town hall in southwest Washington in early July, Republican congressional hopeful Joe Kent told his audience that the Jan. 6 “fake riot” was “gunned against anyone opposes what the government is telling us”. parents angry over education in public schools to people who had questioned the outcome of the 2020 election.

“These are the types of tactics I would see in third world countries when I was serving overseas,” Kent told the crowd gathered at a gazebo in Rochester, a city currently represented by Rep. Jaime Herrera Beutler (R -Wash.). “You would see the praetorian guard or the intelligence services seizing the opposition and throwing them into the dungeons. I never thought I’d see that in America.

Trump himself has frequently accused President Biden of trying to ruin the country and create conflict to maintain power.

“Joe Biden helped lead his party’s despicable campaign against our police officers, and then he took the rioter agenda right to the White House,” Trump told supporters at a rally in Las Vegas last month, joined by Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, the GOP Gubernatorial Candidate. “The streets run with the blood of innocent victims of crime.”

After a draft opinion from the Supreme Court in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization overturning federal abortion rights was leaked in early May, a group being called Jane’s Revenge took credit for the vandalism of crisis pregnancy centers, where women are discouraged from terminating their pregnancies. These incidents quickly became political advertisements asking why Democrats weren’t condemning the violence more strongly.

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

“Radical liberals are behaving like terrorists, calling for a summer of rage,” says a narrator in a new ad of Catholic Vote, a conservative group spending $3 million this month to target vulnerable Democratic members of the House. “An assassination attempt against a Supreme Court judge. Domestic terrorists call it “open season”. ”

Several echoed Vance, the author of “Hillbilly Elegy,” who argued that the rise in fentanyl deaths looks like an “intended” result of the Biden administration’s border policies — a way for an unpopular president. to “punish people who didn’t vote for him.

The argument is not just that Democrats disagree with conservatives, but that they despise and hurt them on purpose. 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 the governor. Kathy Hochul (D).

But local Republicans have suggested that Democrats had actually encouraged the attack, pointing to a Democratic press release about the rally “encouraging people to hunt down” the nominee, according to a county GOP official. Although the district attorney who let the abuser out of jail was a Zeldin supporter, the candidate and his party argued that the Democratic bail revisions, passed in 2019, let the abuser off the hook. unscathed.

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

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