The Trump Legacy: Threats and Violence

“Those who make peaceful revolution impossible will make violent revolution inevitable.”

– President John F. Kennedy, March 13, 1962

Republicans are eating their own, chewing out 13 of their brethren for helping Democrats pass a bipartisan-negotiated $1 trillion infrastructure bill because they cared more about their constituents and their country than their party.

That legislation sorely was needed because major fixes to the nation’s roads, bridges, ports, tunnels and airports have been ignored for decades. A bridge between Ohio and Kentucky is in such bad shape that even obstructionist Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of the Bluegrass State voted for the bill.

Good for the Maverick 13 for shining a light on a despicable cabal of cowards who shamelessly follow the wicked whims of the former president who thinks, or pretends he thinks, he won the election. Trouble is, he’s persuaded a hefty percentage of Republicans that he did.

Some House Republicans have threatened the 13 for voting for the bill even though not an objection was raised publicly when 19 GOP senators joined Democrats in passing the legislation in August.

Republicans who condemned the 13, all Trump loyalists but many who are members of the public, followed their leader’s example of denouncing and cursing those who cross him. Here’s what I mean:

“Based on the fact that the Old Crow [McConnell] convinced many Republican Senators to vote for the Bill, greatly jeopardizing their chance of winning re-election, and that he led the way, he should go to the signing and put up with the scorn from Great Republican Patriots that are already lambasting him,” Trump said in a statement Saturday, according to The Hill newspaper.

Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., one of Trump’s most enthusiastic backers, tweeted before the vote that whichever Republican supported the infrastructure bill would be “a traitor to our party, a traitor to their voters and a traitor to our donors.”

She described the bill, which passed 228-206, as “Joe Biden’s Communist takeover of America.” Biden is a Communist? She’ll say anything.

Greene tweeted the phone numbers of 12 of the 13 House members, making possible the threatening calls.

Rep. Fred Upton, R-Mich., one of the 13, became the target of many death threats. He played a recording of one of them on CNN:

“You’re a f****ing piece of s*** traitor. I hope you die,” the male caller said. He added he hoped his entire family would die.

“I regret this good, bipartisan bill became a political football in recent weeks,” The New York Times quoted Upton. “Our country can’t afford this partisan dysfunction any longer.”

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy of California has not uttered a word in the face of threats against his colleagues or defended the right of the 13 to vote as they choose. Maybe he doesn’t want to make enemies because of fears he wouldn’t get elected speaker if the Republicans win back the chamber next year.

The relentless Republican vitriol, perhaps a script to be followed to attract their base for the 2022 and 2024 elections, not only has been aimed at GOP members.

Rep. Paul A. Gosar, R-Ariz., attacked progressive New York Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Biden in a vicious tweet with a 90-second video that altered a version of the Japanese anime series in which his character strikes her in the neck with a sword. He swung two swords at Biden. AOC tweeted a response.

“A creepy member I work with who fundraises for neo-Nazi groups shared a fantasy video of him killing me and he’ll face no consequences because [McCarthy] cheers him on with excuses.”

Gosar, she wrote, is “just a collection of wet toothpicks anyway.”

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi of California said “threats of violence against members of Congress and the president of the United States must not be tolerated.” She urged McCarthy “to join in condemning this horrific video.”

A Public Religion Research Institute poll said 30 percent of Republicans agree with the statement that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.” It rises to 40 percent among who most trust far-right news sources and 32 percent among those who most trust Fox News. It’s 11 percent among Democrats.

“Among the most fervent conservatives,” the Times said, “the belief that the country is at a crossroads that could require armed confrontation is no longer limited to the fringe.”

Political violence has been part of the country since its founding, it said, noting there were “more than 70 brawls, duels and other violent incidents” among members of Congress from 1830 to 1860.

Historians and those who study democracy warn that “the Republican Party is mainstreaming menace as a political tool,” the paper said.

Omar Wasow, a political scientist at Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., compared past turbulence like the approach of the Civil War and the 1960s antiwar and civil rights movements with current political strife.

“What’s different about almost all those other events is that now, there’s a partisan divide around the legitimacy of our political system,” he told the Times. “The elite endorsement of political violence from factions of the Republican Party is distinct for me from what we saw in the 1960s. Then, you didn’t have – from a president on down – politicians calling citizens to engage in violent resistance.”

Jonathan Karl, ABC’s chief Washington correspondent, is out with a book, “Betrayal: The Final Act of the Trump Show.” He notes:

The continued survival of our republic may depend, in part, on the willingness of those who promoted Trump’s lies and those who remained silent to acknowledge they were wrong.

Good idea. But don’t hold your breath.

Richard C. Gross, a correspondent, bureau chief and foreign editor of United Press International at home and abroad, retired as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.