*The following is an opinion column by R Muse*
It’s difficult to imagine exactly why a fair segment of the population appears to want to reclaim “their country” and revert to another era reminiscent of what television informed them was the Wild West. Of course the National Rifle Association has had its influential hand in convincing Republican voters that until every living American is a gunslinger and there are daily gunfights in the streets to resolve ‘good guy versus bad guy’ disputes, America will never be really exceptional.
This concept of solving disputes with violence is currently an emerging political tactic, or suggestion, by an increasing number of Republicans. Recall that the official Republican presidential candidate Donald J. Trump suggested those “Second Amendment” folks were the only remedy to a Hillary Clinton presidency and the appointment of a non-conservative Supreme Court Justice. Now, Arizona Republicans have adopted the “we’re only suggesting gun violence” tactic and targeted the candidate challenging the one-time sane Republican Senator John McCain for his seat in the upper chamber of Congress.
In what appears to be a desperation move, the Arizona Republicans released the Wild West-looking “Wanted” poster because reports are that Senator John McCain is in the “fight of his political life.” The upstanding Arizona Republicans sent the wanted poster, replete with bullet holes surrounding the face of McCain’s challenger, directly to Representative Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ). Whether sending it to Ms. Kirkpatrick was a not-so-veiled Republican threat isn’t entirely clear, but the bullet holes around McCain’s opponent’s head leaves little to the imagination as to its intent.
What is not surprising is that despite a public outcry over yet another Republican implying gun violence against yet another Democrat, and another female Arizona Democrat to boot, Arizona Republicans refused to take back the poster. And, in keeping with his four year pivot towards teabagger extremism, Senator McCain has not condemned or called the tactic for what it is: despicable, dangerous and more representative of politics in Somalia or Afghanistan than America.
Apparently it has become the GOP’s modus operandi to “unknowingly and innocently” incite gun fanatics to take electoral matters into their own hands and decide an election’s outcome sans polling places and ballot boxes. This increasingly common occurrence truly represents America’s descent into barbaric Third World politics and an atrocious “if you can’t beat em’ at the ballot box, just shoot them” mindset. The Arizona Republicans are terrified that one-time honorable Republican and Senior Arizona Senator McCain’s tenure may end due to polling showing him neck and neck with Ms. Kirkpatrick; so they’re bringing in the literal big guns.
The GOP leaders Responsible for the poster, after hand-delivering it to Ms. Kirkpatrick’s campaign office and putting it on the Internet, defended the atrocity and accused Ann Kirkpatrick of using the GOP gun imagery as a distraction. In fact, a spokesman for the Arizona Republican Party blamed Kirkpatrick for connecting the bullet imagery around her face with violence. The Republican official actually said that “no-one” in the Party ever thought to connect the bullet hole imagery with violence “until the Kirkpatrick campaign tried to use it as a way to distract the media. Ann Kirkpatrick has decided once again to make something out of nothing.”
That comment is dangerously similar to Sarah Palin’s remarks during criticism over her use of gun-sight targets on Democrats seeking re-election, including Arizona Representatives Ann Kirkpatrick and Gabriel Giffords. Of course Palin quickly removed the gun sight poster after an assassination attempt on Ms. Giffords life occurred in open-carry Arizona. The latest GOP poster must have been a nightmare for Giffords who is a living example of what happens when Republicans insinuate Second Amendment remedies as a substitute for free and fair elections. Ms. Giffords commented on the Arizona Republican poster:
“In a state and country that know the toll of gun violence too well, there is no room for invoking the use of firearms in our politics. Our political leaders have the responsibility to avoid a descent into messages that might suggest that elections are settled anywhere else than at the ballot box.”
It is unfortunate, but Giffords and the rest of civilized American society will have to get accustomed to Republican political leaders descent into messages that suggest elections are settled someplace other than the ballot box. Republicans know that their ‘call to arms’ is not only a winning campaign ploy, it fits into their supporters’ dream of America as the Wild West where any and all disputes are settled with gun violence. Republicans also know that, as noted by the Atlantic, “Rhetorical extremism…can and has led to violence and murder.” As Psychology Today observed five years ago, the Gabriel Giffords assassination attempt “did not occur in a vacuum” or simply due to the shooter’s mental issues; Sarah Palin’s gun-sight map, like extreme rhetoric has consequences.
The travesty of this incident is that it came directly from the Arizona Republican Party and not some malcontent from the lunatic sect affiliated with the militia movement. That they hand delivered the “Wanted Poster” to Ann Kirkpatrick’s campaign office prior to releasing it for public consumption reveals that not only are they proud of their handiwork, they are desperate and want to send a powerful message that they are not bound by civility.
That Senator John McCain is not condemning the poster created for his benefit is yet another sign that the entirety of the Republican movement is devolving into something resembling a violence-prone Third World banana republic or South American dictatorship where politics and government are defined by which side is more adept at using guns to win elections. But no-one should be too surprised by McCain’s silence because he knows that even a hint that he is not in league with the extremists who have taken over the party, including Donald Trump, will be his electoral death knell.
It is almost certain that the state of American politics since pathological liars, avowed fascists and violent extremists took control of the GOP has never been so dysfunctional and dangerous. It is bad enough that any form of compromise, or civility, or informed debate has been wholly abandoned by Republicans to make governing virtually impossible. But when one of the two major political parties continually and unabashedly uses threats of violence and bullet images on a candidate’s head shot, especially in a state like Arizona, it is fairly certain that it isn’t the Wild West Republicans lust for, it is Taliban-controlled Afghanistan where bullets decide who wins an election.