Dear Democrats: Start treating Republicans like the violent extremists they are

·5 min read

OPINION: The Republican National Committee’s resolution that dubbed the January 6 attack “legitimate political discourse” only confirmed that the GOP are liars and violent extremists, and Democrats need to act accordingly.

So are Democrats really about to pretend that the Republican Party didn’t overwhelmingly spread Trump’s 2020 election lies, fan the flames of a deadly insurrection, or vote against convicting Trump during his second impeachment trial one year ago this week?

That can’t really be their move here, especially during midterms.

But that’s what it sounded like when Speaker Nancy Pelosi said last week that Republicans should “take back their party from this cult,” as though the GOP hasn’t been functioning as a cult for years under Trump’s leadership and throughout this pandemic.

Speaker Pelosi went on to say that the Republican Party had “hit rock bottom” in response to the Republican National Committee’s resolution that dubbed the January 6 attack “legitimate political discourse.” But she got it wrong. The Republican Party hit rock bottom a long time ago.

Apparently, at least in Pelosi’s eyes, “rock bottom” didn’t include Republicans calling the insurrection a tourist visit, Republicans voting against certifying the 2020 election, or Republicans whipping votes against forming a bicameral commission to investigate January 6. I guess “rock bottom” also doesn’t include Republican senators with no shame like Josh Hawley, who is now selling mugs of his raised fist, the same fist he raised to rile up the crowds already gathering outside of the Capitol building the morning of January 6.

But Pelosi’s description of “rock bottom” can’t only be focused on January 6. This has to expand to include the collective harm of Republicans’ actions. For example, consider the fact that Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and House Republicans fought tooth and nail to prevent Rep. Paul Gosar from being removed from his committee positions after he posted a violent video that depicted President Joe Biden being attacked and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez being killed. Or the fact that core themes for the GOP are banning history and Black authors in the name of white comfort and suppressing Black and brown votes. This is about the fact that Rep. Lauren Boebert used racist, anti-muslim slurs against Rep. Ilhan Omar in her stump speech and threatened to bring a gun to the House floor. This is also about the fact that Rep. Marjorie Taylor Green harassed Rep. Cori Bush to the point of compromising her safety and prompting her to move offices.

In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)
In this Jan. 6, 2021, file photo insurrections loyal to President Donald Trump rally at the U.S. Capitol in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana, File)

This is the GOP. Republicans comprise the cult. If anything, the RNC’s resolution only reiterated the fact that they are the liars and violent extremists, and Democrats need to start treating them like they understand this fact as we go into the midterms.

Politically and strategically, that means holding up the mirror in every single election ad and drawing a contrast between the violence and extremism of the Republican Party and the ongoing efforts of Democrats to respond to Americans’ needs. Democrats must replay every racist, violent statement Republicans made, every threat towards Black prosecutors Trump makes at his rallies, and every lie Republicans have told about the 2020 election and the January 6 insurrection.

Remind voters that this is what the GOP does, and will do, day in and day out. Remind voters that this is their platform for 2022. Senator Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and McCarthy all but confirmed that by choosing not to release a 2022 legislative agenda or platform, instead betting on Trump, racism and violence yet again this election cycle. And, they’ve been explicitly clear about what Congress will look like if Republicans win five seats to flip the House and one seat to flip the Senate.

McConnell will resume his beloved grim reaper posture in the Senate, continuing to obstruct Biden’s agenda. In the House, McCarthy has already threatened baseless impeachment proceedings against President Biden as retribution for Trump’s two impeachments; he’s threatened to remove Democrats from committee positions as payback for removing Reps. Gosar and Taylor Greene from their committees, and he will launch investigations into public figures like Dr. Anthony Fauci, all in the name of targeting the same people Trump targets.

That’s it. That’s the GOP platform. Republicans have already told us who they are and what they will do, and Democrats need to act like they know.

Now, some will say, hold up, the 2021 Virginia gubernatorial race showed Democrats that they shouldn’t focus on Trump, and it’s not a winning posture. And I completely agree. But the focus for 2022 won’t only be Trump; it will be an indictment on the entire Republican Party and their harmful, violent behavior. It will be about disqualifying the Republican cult and adopting their tactic of using fear as a mobilizing factor and emphasizing what Democrats have been able to deliver, with a side of empathy as recommended by former President Barack Obama.

Show voters at the district level what they would get from their Republican representatives. Tell a national narrative about how Republicans are so bloodthirsty that they are incapable of prioritizing the needs of Americans over the egotistical needs of Trump. Use their own words and their own actions to paint a clear picture of the harm they will continue to do to all of us, especially Black and brown people, LGBTQ people, people who are disabled or poor or women.

Because I promise you, Republicans will live out their dreams of vengeance and violence if they’re given the chance.

Juanita Tolliver is a veteran political strategist and MSNBC Political Analyst who previously served as National Political Director at Supermajority and Director of Campaigns at the Center for American Progress. Follow her on Twitter: @juanitatolliver.

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