Gabriel Sterling, a Georgia election official, gave an impassioned speech against the death threats and intimidation aimed at election workers. He also noted the threats of violence against Chris Krebs, who was fired from his position as the head of the US Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency. Krebs was fired for not backing Trump’s election fraud lies. Sterling himself is now under police protection and the wife of Georgia’s Secretary of State has been receiving calls making threats of sexual violence. Sterling called on Trump to stop inspiring people to make threats and commit acts of violence. Trump’s response was to tweet that the election is rigged and to ask “ What is Secretary of State and
@BrianKempGA afraid of. They know what we’ll find!!!” That is, Trump doubled down on his lies about election fraud and used the rhetorical style he uses against his enemies when asking what the Georgia officials were afraid of. This is exactly as one would expect from Trump.
While Trump only occasionally directly advocates violence (and purports that he is only joking), he routinely encourages hate groups and political violence. When asked to speak out against violence and hate, Trump remains silent, offers a vague and lukewarm condemnation, or doubles down (as he has done in the case of Sterling’s speech). His followers get the message: in 2016 counties that hosted a Trump rally experienced a 226% increase in hate crimes. While Sterling is rightfully angry about what Trump has done (and not done) it seems that some Republicans are reaping the Trump whirlwind they helped sow.
While many establishment Republicans mocked and dismissed Trump before he won in 2016, they have aided and abetted him in transforming the GOP into Trump’s party. While the Republican party was obviously well prepared for authoritarianism, fascism, and autocracy, Trump proved to be the “charismatic” leader who was able to make this happen. Some even argue that Trump has not only captured the GOP but has created a cult with himself as the leader. In any case, Trump presents the world in terms of loyal servants and enemies. He does not, as noted above, shy away from harming and encouraging others to harm his enemies—even when they are fellow Americans or even fellow Republicans. Out of fear of Trump and his supporters, most Republicans are backing his lies about widespread voter fraud—just as they aided and abetted his misdeeds over the past four years. What is happening in Georgia and elsewhere shows that this fear is warranted.
Trump has supporters who are loyal to him and are willing to threaten fellow Americans and even fellow Republicans when they do not serve the will and whims of Trump. As such, we are seeing violence and the threat of violence being used as political tools to support Trump—and Trump is encouraging this. Since the Republican party aided and abetted him, they are now reaping the whirlwind: Trump supporters are now threatening Republicans with violence because when they follow the law and refuse to obey the will of Trump without question.
The use of violence and the threat of violence as a political tool is obvious nothing new in the United States. Violence has been used (and is still used) as a political tool against minorities, workers, women, the poor and others who are not among the ruling classes. As others have noted, Sterling taking a stand against Trump is at least four years late: Trump has been encouraging violence and getting the results he desires since he took office. He has also been busy committing crimes and misdeeds with the aid of the Republicans. His lies and cruel indifference in the face of the pandemic also demanded criticism. But the Republicans remained silent. It is only now that Trump supporters are threatening to kill Republicans that these Republicans are speaking out against him—which will presumably result in more threats. As such, they do deserve proper credit for taking a stand now, especially knowing that doing so will cause Trump to attack them more, thus leading to his followers escalating their response.
To some Republicans, these threats must be shocking. As noted above, political violence and threats of violence are generally used by the ruling classes against minorities, the poor, and others outside the upper classes. Trump supporters are violating the “natural order” by threatening members of the ruling class, that is, white Republicans holding high offices. While such threats are to be condemned, they are to be expected—they are the natural outcome of what Trump has done to the Republican party with the aid of the Republican leadership. Some of them realize that they must obey the will of Trump or face the wrath of his followers—and these Republicans are taking the coward’s path and appeasing Trump. Others have made the mistake of thinking that they would somehow be exempt from the consequences of feeding the monsters and they are shocked when the beasts now howl threats at them. But those who sow the wind reap the whirlwind.