Former President Donald Trump and his MAGA movement’s full-throated embrace of violent extremism and hateful conspiracy theories has given President Joe Biden and Democrats a perfect opening to officially declare MAGA and its allies as an active terror threat.
Ideally, President Biden would have made this announcement at the United We Stand Summit held at the White House, attended by diverse community leaders from across the nation to discuss best strategies and practices to counter hate-fueled violence affecting our democracy and public safety. But the opportunity remains.
If we are to be blunt and honest, this “hate-fueled violence” that is threatening all of our communities is primarily coming from a single source: an incestuous network of MAGA actors, promoted by the GOP and right-wing media, who have increasingly threatened law enforcement, Democrats, educators, poll watchers, doctors, Republicans who don’t support Trump, and anyone and every institution that stands in the way of their white Christian nationalist utopia.
Earlier this week, Igor Lanis, a 53-year-old Trump fanatic in Michigan, murdered his wife and badly injured one of his children. He, in turn, was killed after firing his shotgun at the police. His daughter, Rebecca Lanis, told The Daily Beast that her father’s embrace of the QAnon conspiracy theory was a “very big contributor to what happened.” She said he was once an “extremely loving” father with no history of violence but all of that changed after Trump’s loss in 2020. According to Lanis, her father latched on to the Big Lie and started going down “crazy rabbit holes” which eventually radicalized him and culminated in bloodshed.
It’s worth remembering that Ashli Babbitt, who was shot and killed by the Capitol police on Jan. 6 after attempting to illegally enter the Capitol building, was also radicalized in part by QAnon conspiracies. She is now praised by Rep. Paul Gosar, an ally of white nationalists, and seen in some right-wing quarters as a martyr.
In 2019, the FBI declared QAnon a domestic terror threat in an internal memo. The hateful conspiracy theory believes a deep state of liberals is secretly conducting an international pedophile sex trafficking ring. The FBI warned that QAnon had the potential to radicalize individuals or groups leading up to the 2020 election.
The year is now 2022 and the former president has spent the past weeks promoting QAnon content on his Truth Social platform, ever since the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago residence and found hundreds of top secret, highly classified documents. Media Matters Senior Researcher Alex Kaplan reports that Trump has boosted at least 50 QAnon-supporting accounts to his 4 million followers. Since the summer, more than a dozen QAnon-supporting Republican candidates have won their primaries. It is very likely that some of these potential terror threats will be roaming the halls of Congress in 2023.
Influential right-wing peddlers of hate—such as the woman behind the Libs of TikTok account and Matt Walsh of The Daily Wire—have picked up the “groomer” panic and used it to attack medical professionals and hospitals.
On August 11, Libs of TikTok falsely claimed Boston’s Children’s Hospital was performing hysterectomies on children. On August 15, Matt Walsh falsely said the hospital was putting “every toddler…on a path to sterilization and butchery before they can even talk.” Unsurprisingly, the hospital has since faced a deluge of threats, hate mail, and harassment ever since. (This Thursday, the FBI announced the arrest of a Massachusetts woman for one of the bomb threats.)
A quick recap: a domestic terror threat is being amplified by the former President of the United States, who is the figurehead of the GOP—a party that is currently supporting and championing extremist candidates, and working with pundits who promote hateful conspiracies that have radicalized individuals to harass, intimidate, and threaten violence.
One would think these revelations in light of the recent violence would be leading the news cycle. However, since Trump is a white man, and the criminal suspects aren’t Muslim, there is no War on Terror. Instead, some media outlets are bending over backward to court Republican viewers and criticize President Biden for speaking in front of U.S. marines, like Republican and Democratic presidents have done many times before him.
The lesson is that it’s good to be a white MAGA extremist. Just look at Arizona state Rep. Mark Finchem.
If you’re MAGA, you can hold office, be an active member of a far-right hate group that took part in the Jan. 6 coup attempt, and inch ever closer to becoming the secretary of state of Arizona. Finchem, who actively promotes the Big Lie, recently accused former Vice President Mike Pence of orchestrating a coup against Trump. He is also a proud member of the Oath Keepers, whose leaders are headed to trial this month on seditious conspiracy charges for allegedly helping Trump in his failed coup.
The year is now 2022 and the former president has spent the past weeks promoting QAnon content on his Truth Social platform, ever since the FBI searched his Mar-a-Lago residence and found hundreds of top secret, highly classified documents.
Last week, the Anti-Defamation League Center on Extremism identified more than 370 Oath Keeper members that they believe currently work in law enforcement agencies. Last year, BuzzFeed News reported that 28 elected officials were tied to the violent anti-government group that believes the “deep state” has taken over the federal government and is plotting to enslave them.
In August, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security issued a joint intelligence bulletin warning about the rise of threats and attacks against law enforcement following the lawful seizure of highly classified and sensitive documents found at Mar-a-Lago. Fox News and right-wing media jumped on the story and promoted “deep state” conspiracy theories which inevitably inspired one Darwin Award winner to launch a fatal attack at the FBI office in Ohio.
That news item is already in the dustbin. Thankfully, I keep receipts.
According to the FBI, domestic terrorism is defined as “violent, criminal acts committed by individuals and/or groups to further ideological goals stemming from domestic influences, such as those of political, religious, social, racial, or environmental nature.” In case you’ve forgotten, thousands of Trump’s supporters were, in part, incited by him to attack the nation’s Capitol on Jan. 6 as part of his failed coup attempt to overthrow our democracy. They were armed with guns, baseball bats, stun guns, flagpoles wielded as clubs, pepper spray, rope, and one suspect allegedly planted bombs. Their actions fit the FBI’s definition to a T.
We can’t dismiss them as outliers. They are not the exception. They are the GOP’s base.
More than half of Republican Senate candidates have “rejected, cast doubt upon or tried to overturn the 2020 election results.” This includes retired U.S. Army Brig. Gen Don Bolduc, who just won the GOP primary for the New Hampshire senate seat—despite a super PAC aligned with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell spending $4 million to support Bolduc’s less crazy GOP primary opponent, Chuck Morse. Buldoc, for his part, channeled Leonidas and celebrated his victory with cosplay—appearing with a small shield with arrows to symbolize his triumphant victory over the GOP establishment. (Bizarrely, two days after winning his primary, Buldoc flip-flopped, admitting Biden is the “legitimate” president.)
The sad reality is that Bolduc, Finchem, Gosar—along with Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene, Lauren Boebart, Matt Gaetz, and Pennsylvania GOP candidate Doug Mastriano are the present and future of the Republican Party.
If we don’t speak out, then we will be complicit in normalizing their antisemitic conspiracy theories, hate, threats, and “wanton” recklessness simply because they are conservative, white, and Republican. If MAGA’s radicalized violence is not terrorism, then the word should be retired for good, or we should finally admit we’re only comfortable using it when the suspects are Black and brown people.
Nonetheless, President Biden, elected officials, law enforcement, and leaders from various institutions now have an opportunity to build upon Biden’s bold statements and go step a further to save our fledgling democracy: Declare MAGA as an active terror threat to our nation and finally treat them as such— instead of coddling them under the pretense of civility, the delusion of bipartisanship, and the hope for good TV ratings.