January 27, 2023

By Sid Schwab / Herald columnist

If historians (assuming people still exist) try to understand the fall of the Republican Party a few hundred years from now, followed closely by the fall of the United States, they would find that it was perfectly within the killings of a few weeks is encapsulated in an LGBTQ nightclub in Colorado. It’s all there.

Since the election of Ronald Reagan, increasingly desperate for a catch to lure voters to whom they had nothing to offer, leaders and media spokesmen have turned to this once-respectable party of denigration. Aimed at the LGBTQ community, immigrants, people of colour, and – just confirmed down the Mar-a-Lago trail – Jews. Except in some states, Trump’s voter fraud lie is losing traction, so he’s not attacking straight, non-white, non-Christian, non-native born people.

Whenever hate crimes are committed against these groups, the flamethrowers deny responsibility. Tucker Carlson makes millions by spreading lies about “care” for children. Screaming Marjorie Taylor Greene and gun-toting Coloradan Lauren Boebert are voted in. Ron DeSantis hopes to become president. Right-wing media marinate in it. But when someone takes their hideous mendacity seriously and murders about it, the purveyors’ rehearsed response is, “Who, me?” Followed by cries of “politicizing a tragedy” when guilt is suggested.

How ingrained is their inflammatory, malicious, anti-LGBTQ rhetoric? The killer’s father, himself a former porn star, said upon hearing what his son had done: “I find out it’s a gay bar. I got scared, ‘S*** is he gay?’ And he’s not gay, so I said, phew… I’m a conservative Republican and we don’t do anything gay.” Phew, indeed. Just an assassin. For a Foxified “Conservative Republican” there are obviously worse things to do. Data for historians.

A war veteran and Hispanic, the man who butchered the gunman was there with his wife, adult daughter, and daughter’s boyfriend (who was among those killed). After all he had seen and done in battle, he had forsworn weapons; took the guy down with his bare hands. This embarrassed the crowd of good guys-with-the-gun (and white supremacists) who, instead of praising him like they did the delusional, self-righteous killer Kyle Rittenhouse, attacked him for helping his family brought to a drag show. Because, you know, something-something drag shows. Had he stopped the massacre with a gun, he would have been all over the right-wing media; Offered positions, encouraged to run for office. Like Rittenhaus.

Colorado has “Red Flag” laws. The shooter had previously shown numerous warning signals. But after the local sheriff, after declaring his district a “Second Amendment Sanctuary,” along with several others in other Colorado counties (and now, sadly, some in neighboring Oregon), vowed not to enforce those laws. And not. Historians take note.

To the historical record came the aftermath. Uber dealer Tucker had a woman on his show saying, “The tragedy that happened in Colorado Springs the other night was expected and foreseeable.” Was she referring to Tucker’s previous tirades? Of course not. “I don’t think it will stop until we end this evil agenda that attacks children,” she added, referring to helping trans children while all but excusing the criminals’ motives. Regarding the victims, former Trump attorney Jenna Ellis interjected: “There is no evidence that they were Christians. … They are now reaping the consequences of eternal damnation.” God is obviously on the side of the murderers. Historians may find this instructive.

Which brings us back to Mar-a-Lago, where Trump last week dined with outspoken anti-Semite Kanye West alongside white supremacist, Holocaust denier and participant in the “Jews Won’t Replace Us” rally in Charlottesville, Nick Fuentes. Trump claims he had no idea who Fuentes was. However, he knew Kanye’s anti-Semitic views and invited him. He now also knows everything about Fuentes. Did he disavow him? nope praised him. “He gets me.”

At this point, some readers are writing letters accusing me of characterizing all Republicans as racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, and xenophobic. Rather than address her unconfirmed projection, this week we want to celebrate the passing of the imperfect but important Respect for Marriage Act. While 70 percent of Senate Republicans voted no, about 30 percent said yes. There are non-hate Republicans, and if they’re willing to work with Democrats, it doesn’t take a majority of them to make good things happen.

Fox News and the rest of the right-wing media are all in the process of nurturing haters. That’s Trump. Nothing will persuade these anti-democracy sheriffs and other absolutists without regulation to listen to reason. But if true conservatives spent less time being insulted by critics and more time transforming their unconservative party from within, Republican leadership could re-enter our democracy. And, in time, rid us of their traffickers in performative hate who are willing to waste the next two years doing nothing but “hanging it on the rights.”

Historians could study this happier phenomenon.

Email Sid Schwab at [email protected]ail.com.

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