Once again, the dark side of the national Republican mainstream has been put on display. The rush to calls for payback following the Federal Bureau of Investigation enforcement of a warrant at former President Trump’s Florida resort-retreat, have been saddening but not surprising. Talk of civil war has been a staple in far-right media. The impulse for violence runs deep in the United States, as in other places around the world; it is up to our system of democratic government to protect us from it. That, though, has been methodically undermined by a new strain of American authoritarianism that found its avatar in Mr. Trump.
Social media has given a new, broader voice to those inclined to literally fight, as opposed to metaphorically, through the political process. “Lock and load” has become a rallying cry for the radical extremists. As detailed in the Jan. 6 hearings, many among Mr. Trump’s supporters came to Washington that day armed. In June, the House Select Committee played recordings of police radio transmissions identifying weapons, including assault rifles. Other accouterments of war included knives, pistols, hunting rifles, bear spray, body armor, spears, and flagpoles with sharpened tips.
“Three men walking down the street in fatigues carrying AR-15s . . . at 14th and Independence.”
“Elevated threat in the trees . . . American flag face mask . . . weapon on the right-side hip.”
These reports should be chilling to every American who values their personal safety and the rule of law. Mr. Trump, who had been told of the danger, was not worried. “ ‘They’re not here to hurt me . . . Take the effing mags away . . . Let my people in, they can march to the Capitol from here,’ ” Cassidy Hutchinson said he replied in her testimony under oath to the Jan. 6 committee.
Even while the F.B.I. was still going through Mar-a-Lago, the extremists erupted. Steve Bannon, the close Trump advisor, declared, “We’re at war!” The Republican House leader Kevin McCarthy said that the Justice Department was guilty of “an intolerable state of weaponized politicization.” This all despite a federal judge approving a search warrant, having been adequately convinced by investigators that a crime had been committed — and that Mr. Trump had already been found to have improperly taken classified documents with him to Florida when he left office. It is one thing to have mostly anonymous right wing agitators talking about violent retribution, it is quite another that it has crossed over to mainstream Republicans like Mr. McCarthy.
No country should be allowed to fall under the drunken spell of lawlessness, but that is what has gripped one of the United States’ two major political parties. Democracy hangs in the balance.