GOP Flirts With Notion That Fighting Extremism Is A Threat To Political Survival

WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Protesters gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times)
WASHINGTON, DC - JANUARY 06: Protesters gather storm the Capitol and halt a joint session of the 117th Congress on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021 in Washington, DC. (Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)
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February 4, 2021 5:46 p.m.

It started off as false equivalence.

But it’s turned into something much darker, as Republican politicians suggest that attempts to enforce any kind of accountability for or reckoning with the events that led to Jan. 6 are threats to their political freedom.

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) said on Jan. 22 that he was “concerned” that the “74 million Americans who voted for President Trump” would be “labeled as insurgents,” as a Fox News chyron reading “Domestic Terror Proposal Raises Fear Of Overreach” blared beneath him.

“I think what we’re witnessing is the cancel culture purge being kicked into overdrive here,” Johnson said.

Sen. Josh Hawley (R-MO), who played his own well-known role in challenging legitimate election results, fanning the flames on Jan. 6, has flirted with a similar idea.

“Joe Biden and the Democrats talk about unity but are brazenly trying to silence dissent,” said Hawley (R-MO) in a statement on Jan. 21. “Democrats appear intent on weaponizing every tool at their disposal — including pushing an unconstitutional impeachment process — to further divide the country.”

Hawley later blocked the nomination of Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas, accusing him of being weak on immigration, but prompting consternation from specialists in far-right extremism.

Others have responded to proposed DHS programs to help people walk away from being radicalized by arguing that those initiatives constitute examples of tyrannical government overreach.

One proposal in particular would see the government fund “deprogramming” initiatives, efforts to convince people that extremist belief systems like QAnon, which envisions mass executions of supposedly baby-eating Democrats, are incorrect.

Deprogram these people? Into what, conservatives want to know? Little totalitarians? Little socialists?” wrote Tony Perkins of the influential evangelical Family Research Council.

Rep. Jim Jordan (R-OH) on Thursday invoked the specter of “cancel culture” to describe the effort to hold Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) accountable.

Others have responded directly to attempts to investigate what led to Jan. 6 by describing them as unfair attacks on the political equality of the Republican party.

After Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) of the House Oversight Committee sought a briefing on the FBI’s investigation of Parler and its role in Jan. 6, Republicans on the panel suggested that she was persecuting the network because it was a hub for the right.

“Casting blame on a single social media company known for its conservative username while simply ignoring other social media companies known for sympathizing with liberal causes is blatantly and overtly partisan,” reads the letter, sent to Maloney by Reps. James Comer (R-KY) and Greg Steube (R-FL).

It’s not a new tactic. But after the Jan. 6 insurrection, there’s a real prospect of ongoing, slow burning far-right violence in the U.S. that didn’t exist before, fed largely by the myth that Trump actually won the 2020 election.

“We are living Orwell’s 1984,” Don. Jr. tweeted after his father was banned from social media.

But Tucker Carlson, the Fox News host, arguably summed the view up the most succinctly.

“American citizens are more dangerous than foreign terrorists,” he said last week, after DHS issued a bulletin warning of ongoing threats from the far-right. “Press a little and you’ll find the Department of Homeland Security, which has been amping up the domestic threat for the past week at great cost to people’s sanity, DHS has no actual evidence that Trump voters are planning to hurt anyone.”

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