Monday, February 22, 2021

A Fact Of Life For Politicians/Judges: To Disagree With Trumpism Is To Put Your Life At Risk

Shelley Inglis, Executive Director, University of Dayton Human Rights Center, University of Dayton
The Conversation, January 26, 2021
As the impeachment trial of former President Donald Trump approaches, federal officials are investigating threats to attack or kill members of Congress. This comes in the wake of the Capitol riot, when a mob stormed the building where members of the House and Senate were preparing to certify the presidential election. Some rioters reportedly threatened the lives of elected officials in both parties.

When the House took up impeachment proceedings, Republican members of the U.S. House of Representatives reportedly felt afraid to vote to impeach Trump – even fearing for their lives. A video also captured a group accosting Republican Lindsey Graham, a U.S. senator from South Carolina, screaming that he was a "traitor" after he declared that Joe Biden had been lawfully elected president.

These threats do not simply reflect increased levels of anger and depravity among individual Americans. Rather, they appear to be evidence of a more systemic use of fear and intimidation in U.S. politics, seeking to force fealty from Republicans and reinforce the authoritarian turn that defined Donald Trump's leadership. . . .

With the advent of social media and the Trump presidency, however, the risks for public officials have grown substantially. As a professor of human rights and a practitioner of democracy-building and the rule of law, this trend symbolizes the depth of deterioration of democracy in the U.S. . . .

Trump altered the norms of acceptable rhetoric and behavior within the Republican Party. He increased the tolerance for intimidation, hate and bullying, and demonized the Democratic Party and social justice movements, like Black Lives Matter, as unpatriotic dangers to America.

Before the 2020 election, evidence showed that the Republican Party had fewer democratic traits than almost all governing parties in the world's democracies and "its rhetoric was closer to authoritarian parties, such as AKP in Turkey and Fidesz in Hungary." These parties seek to build power by undermining democratic institutions, such as fair elections, independent judiciaries and media, and by using threatening rhetoric and being disrespectful of opponents.

Trump also legitimized preexisting extremist groups that use violence and intimidation. . . . The unifying narrative for them was the false idea that American democracy is under attack by Democrats and traitors, and that violence could be justified as part of patriotic self-defense.

The Republican Partywith a few notable exceptions – embraced Donald Trump's post-election rhetoric and the massive lie about election fraud. This is as a result of Trump’s control throughout the party, from its general members up through party leadership and affiliated media outlets – who felt obligated to support Trump no matter what he said or did. . . .

As extremism rises, moderates who are willing to challenge the group's direction are the first to be intimidated or silenced. Party leaders who have now called out the "Stop the Steal" lie and voted for impeachment are facing repercussions. . . .

Nearly 9 out of 10 Republicans approved of Trump's job performance even after the Capitol attack.

Republicans may continue to support Trumpism out of fear.

More than likely, they do so because they support Trumpism.

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