Republicans Welcome Harm To America
Whether it's economic hardship or epidemic disease or extremist violence, they're here for it!
You might’ve missed this if you were traveling or checked out for Thanksgiving, but a week ago, a car careened out of control in Niagara Falls, NY, on the U.S. side of the United States-Canada border, flew through the air into the Rainbow Bridge checkpoint complex, and exploded.
It didn’t take long for authorities to conclude it was a tragic accident, but for several hours, all the public knew about the incident was that there was a suspicious blast near an entryway to the U.S.
And in that information gap it’s not much of an exaggeration to say conservatives were elated—ecstatic, even—at the opportunity to blame President Biden and engage in other forms of demagoguery.
Fox News spent much of Wednesday afternoon breathlessly telling its viewers there’d been a “terrorist attack,” a term the network reserves exclusively for jihadi and left-wing political violence, and many GOP leaders played along. Donald Trump, Jr., tweeted, “How bad will it have to get in our country before even Democrats decide it’s probably not a great idea to import terrorists?”
Kari Lake was even more explicit, though comically hedged. If this was a terrorist attack, she tweeted, then, “our worst fears are being realized. @JoeBiden is inviting this kind of chaos into our country. It was only a matter of time before bad people took him up on his offer.”
Unclear what happened but if it was bad, then Joe Biden’s to blame. That construction allowed Lake to follow up hours later with a clarification: “Multiple outlets are walking back the initial reports of a terror attack. While I mourn for the two men killed, I’m thankful this appears to have been a tragic accident. The sad reality is that an attack on this country seems inevitable with our border crisis.” Her original tweet may have been false, but, wasn’t it true in a larger sense? (Answer: no; and neither was her second one—the deceased were a man and his wife.)
For brevity’s sake, I’ll stick with those two citations. But similar statements abounded, and in their shamelessness they crystalized a fascistic quality that seeped into right-wing politics even before Donald Trump: a palpable desire for the country to experience turbulence, even horrible traumas, under Democratic presidents, and for the world to be a disordered and dangerous place at all times.
In the Trump era, this kind of thinking has undergone his patented quiet-part-loud transformation. Republicans no longer try to contain their excitement when the wrong kinds of people do bad things, or foreign adversaries take actions that harm the United States and its interests. But it’s been elemental to GOP politics for well over a decade now, and the drift toward a more shameless manifestation is most unsettling when viewed against a backdrop of growing international cooperation between far-right political parties and movements.