I’ve never forgotten their threats of violence: for opposing his lies, bigotry, and abuses of power, one of Donald Trump’s supporters tweeted me publicly that he’d like to physically beat me. Still another wished our country would fall into a civil war so he could find me on a battlefield to kill me.
Donald Trump’s violent tweet on July 2nd tells me these threats did not occur in a vacuum. They come, I worry, from a party that is embracing violence as a means to ram their agenda and beat the Resistance movement against Trump into submission through fear.
Trump’s now infamous tweet depicted our authoritarian Commander-in-Chief beating a wrestler with the CNN logo covering his head to the ground. Seeing something so violent coming from an American president left me shaken. It also left me deeply concerned that the man with our nuclear launch codes was modeling violence not just for his supporters, but to America’s impressionable children.
Donald Trump has a history of inciting and condoning such violence. On the campaign trail, Trump once bragged that he “could stand in the middle of 5th Avenue and shoot somebody and [he] wouldn’t lose voters.”
After his supporters attacked protesters at one of his rallies, Trump went so far as to claim “he should have been, maybe he should have been roughed up.” At another rally, Trump told his supporters that if they saw a protester about to throw a tomato that they should “Knock the crap out of them, would you? Seriously.” More recently this year, Trump branded media outlets like CNN and the New York Times the “enemy of the American people.” In his July 2nd tweet, Trump told the world the fate that should befall such an “enemy.”
In context of Trump’s numerous incitements of violence, and the spike in hate crimes following Trump’s election, the message is clear: If you dare to challenge Trump’s twisted distortion of reality, correct him on his “alternative facts,” or counter his kleptocratic agenda, you deserve swift and immediate violence. If you oppose Trump, there is a target on your head.
This is no joke. “Seriously.”
Known for his “love of getting even with people,” I’ve seen firsthand that Trump’s message is one that his supporters in the GOP have heard loud and clear.
As a voice of opposition, I’ve heard from many others how violent and intimidating Trump’s supporters can be. Threats of violence against those of us in the Resistance are disturbingly common. Some have even told me they’ve been sent pictures of guns.
Trump’s supporters hear his twisted message, and, ever loyal to their Dear Leader, routinely make it clear that they, too, are not joking.
To be sure, as we saw with the shooting of Congressman Steve Scalise by a supporter of Bernie Sanders, who is sometimes identified as an Independent or a Democrat, violence sees all parties. It’s also true that not everyone in the GOP endorses Trump’s flagrant brutality. My grandmother was a Republican, so I know some of them are decent and caring people who deserve our respect. But it’s hard to see Trump’s repeated incitements of violence, and so many in the GOP standing by, doing little or nothing, and not conclude that the modern GOP has become a party that welcomes and encourages—or, at the very least, is willing to tolerate—such brutality and violence.
Normally, I’d say that the actions of one person should not be seen as reflective of an entire group. But it’s an entirely different thing when that person is that party’s leader, the one they look to for guidance and direction. It’s another thing entirely when, despite some notable Republican voices of dissent, nearly 63 million people voted for Trump despite the violence he incited at his campaign rallies. It’s totally different when multiple world leaders have compared Trump to Adolf Hitler and when David Duke, a former imperial wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, has said he and Donald Trump share the same message. And when the response from many Republicans has been deafening silence, it’s hard to look at what’s happening and not conclude that the GOP’s silence doesn’t equal consent.
That’s why I fear that the GOP is becoming the de facto party of violence. I see Trump’s tweets, his followers’ behaviors, and Congressman Greg Gianforte (R-MT) getting away with body slamming a reporter as part of a larger pattern. Voices of opposition are there, to be sure, but they are outnumbered and outgunned by those whose actions show that they are bent on ramming their agenda no matter the cost―and attacking those who resist.
If we are to move forward as a country, we need Donald Trump to accept responsibility for the violence he has incited. For once in his political career, we need him to stop with the self-serving lies and aggressive propaganda and admit that he has become part of the problem. We especially need the GOP to take responsibility for the political monster they’ve created, to start putting their country before their party, and take immediate action to remove Trump from office before he can do more damage.
DaShanne Stokes, Ph.D. is a political sociologist and pundit who writes about politics, culture, and civil rights. Follow him on Twitter @DaShanneStokes .