It has become impossible to keep track of the warning signs emanating from Donald Trump and radicals within the Republican party. Over the last few weeks alone they have telegraphed their support for threats against political candidates, implicitly mocked the American armed forces, threatened to burn books, encouraged Russia to attack NATO, erased previous condemnation of those who attacked the U.S. Capitol on January 6, 2021, moved to limit civil liberties, refused further military assistance to key allies Israel and Ukraine, and blocked the most serious attempt at reforming the immigration system and addressing the crisis on our southern border in the last thirty years. And yet, inexplicably, these are also the people who control more than half of all state legislative seats nationally and either lead or are in a dead heat in the most recent presidential election polls. Just as alarming, their threats and outrageous actions have become so regular, so routine, that they lack the ability to outrage many Americans. They are normalizing the destruction of civilized behavior, the erosion of freedom, and the decline of the United States on the world stage.
In just the first month and a half of this year we have witnessed the following;
• Nikki Haley, the sole remaining challenger to Donald Trump for the Republican nomination to run for President of the United States, requested protection for herself and her family because of a dramatic increase in death threats from Trump supporters.
• At a rally in South Carolina, Trump mocked Haley because her husband did not accompany her on the campaign trail. Major Michael Haley cannot do that because he serves in the South Carolina Army National Guard and is currently deployed to Africa. Haley has served since 2006 and completed a tour of duty in Afghanistan as well. Trump either didn’t know that or didn’t care, and the latter is far more likely given his long track record of mocking military veterans and the armed forces in general.
• Trump also said that while he was president, he told the leader of a major American ally he would encourage Russia to attack NATO countries that had not paid their bills. He apparently believes NATO is a protection racket run by the United States as opposed to the most important defensive alliance in world history, one that has ensured American security for more than 70 years. NATO members do not pay dues to the United States, though they are committed to spending a minimum portion of their GDP on defense. Since the Russian invasion of Ukraine most have done so. But balanced against the aid and comfort Trump gave to Vladimir Putin, who is the Adolf Hitler of our time, and the accompanying fear of American abandonment he induced in the minds of our European allies, those facts mean little. The comments were reckless and unpatriotic and put the lives of American military personnel at risk, and Trump could care less.
• In Iowa, Republican Representative Jeff Shipley proposed a bill to remove gender identity as a protected category under the state civil rights law, threatening a minority with second class citizenship.
• In Missouri, Republican state senator Bill Eigel, who aspires to become governor, posted a video of himself burning boxes with a flamethrower alongside friends. Initially, critics said the boxes contained books, which turned out not to be the case. But Eigel said he would absolutely burn “woke” books on the front lawn of the governor’s mansion if given the opportunity.
• In Washington, the Republican controlled House of Representatives has refused to authorize more military aid for both Ukraine and Israel, and refused to even consider bipartisan legislation to tighten immigration laws and address the problems on our southern border that were negotiated in part by Oklahoma’s own Senator James Langford. Republican leaders initially said more aid to Ukraine had to be tied to border reform, and then when Democrats cooperated they changed their minds because Trump told them to. He wants the border to remain in crisis so he can use it as an election issue, and does not care what is best for the United States or any of our border states.
• And, finally, Republican Representative Elise Stefanik of New York, who is shamelessly prostrating herself in hopes of being named Trump’s running mate, announced that she would not have acted as Vice President Mike Pence did on January 6, 2021. In other words, in the same situation she would ignore the Constitution. Then, when former Wyoming Republican representative Liz Cheney pointed out that Stefanik’s website included a press release from January 6, 2021, forcefully condemning the attack, Stefanik responded by taking the statement down. The statement said that “violence in any form is absolutely unacceptable and anti-American,” and that “The perpetrators of this un-American violence and destruction must be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.” Apparently, she no longer feels that way.
And on and on and on. A laundry list detailing all the outrageous and damaging behavior unleashed on the American public would be enormous, and it promises to be even longer by election day. It is so long, and so demoralizing, that Patti Davis, Ronald Reagan’s daughter, wrote a poignant opinion piece for the New York Times entitled “Ronald Reagan Would Weep for America.” She contrasted the nihilism and the negative, crass behavior of today’s Republican Party with her father’s own world view, which was unabashedly optimistic and pro-America. Ronald Reagan believed in our country, sought to unite our people, fervently believed in NATO and the mission of the United States to support democracies around the world, understood that Russia represented evil on the world stage, and would never have coddled our enemies or sought to abandon our allies the way Donald Trump does. She said that she cried when she thought about what we have become, and closed with the warning that “…dictatorships aren’t created by one person; they’re created by all the people who fall in line and say yes.”
Trump and his minions are telling you want they want to do. The question is whether you will say yes.
David Searcy holds a master’s degree from Oklahoma State University and a PhD in political science from Southern Illinois University.