by Rep. Kristine Howard (D-167)
The arrest earlier this week of 31 men from 11 states affiliated with a known hate group planning to violently disrupt a gay pride event in Idaho is only the latest manifestation of the dark turn conservative politics has taken since 2016.
Extremists continue to be emboldened by the irresponsible rhetoric of political leaders on the right and the apparent mainstreaming of fringe ideas and conspiracy theories.
Not your grandpa’s Republican Party
Today’s Republicans are no longer serious about governing or policy. Instead, the new MAGA GOP embraces and exploits culture war issues, wild conspiracy theories and bigoted attitudes in a shameless effort to gain and hold power at all costs. The nomination of Christian Nationalist ideologue Doug Mastriano for Governor and the rudderless, opportunistic celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz for United States Senator only serves as proof of the downward spiral of the Republican Party in Pennsylvania.
One does not have to look too closely to see the cruel and nakedly opportunistic path Republican leaders are taking to win elections by dividing us, misleading us and sowing hate.
It’s a hot mess
Republican extremists at all levels are cooking up a hot mess. For example, more than a few Republican leaders have called for withholding baby formula from immigrant infants, decertifying the 2020 election, forcing women to have babies, banning all abortions and, in some cases, contraception. Republicans in our state legislature are pushing for no-permit-required, concealed carry of firearms. A key Republican United States Senate leader has called for sunsetting Social Security and Medicare while increasing taxes on the poorest Americans and the middle class. And, the Washington Post just reported 108 “big lie”- embracing Republicans have won primaries for statewide or congressional office throughout the country so far this election cycle, including the Republican nominee for Governor in Pennsylvania.
Republicans who should know better are exploiting outrageous conspiracy theories. Leaders in their party are allowing their base to believe Democrats are part of a worldwide pedophilia ring that victimizes children. They did not push back against the recent right-wing documentary falsely claiming 2000 “ballot mules” were used to stuff ballot drop boxes for Joe Biden. Some Republicans embraced de-worming horse paste as a cure for COVID. There seems to be no limits on nonsensical theories and policy positions Republican leaders will embrace to increase their chances to have and hold power.
Red is the new fringe
If this stuff sounds ridiculous, that’s because it is. There are no longer fringe prophets of doom pushing wild conspiracy theories on the outside of the mainstream of America’s political parties. The conspiracy outliers are now wholly owned subsidiaries of the Republican Party.
The incessant drip of information in our 24/7 news cycle causes us to lose track of the cumulative impact the outrageous behavior and baseless, hateful statements has on whole. Any one of the disgraceful conspiracy theories and contemptibly radical policy positions espoused by Republican extremists, when taken by itself, seems laughable and mostly harmless. However, collectively the far-out, far-right propaganda weaves a pattern that is disturbing and threatening.
Voters must make a choice
If we want to keep our democracy, it is imperative we make our upcoming elections about making a choice between the extreme and outlandish views of Republican extremists personified by Donald Trump and his followers or the more moderate and consensus-based approach of Democrats in sync with the majority of Americans on most issues.
We cannot allow our elections to simply become a referendum on President Biden, inflation or endless Republican grievances. It must be about choosing between two very different visions for our Commonwealth and country.