Us vs. Them 3.0
Having mastered the politics of division, the GOP is now at war with itself
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In the decade after 9/11—during Us vs. Them 1.0—the story Republicans told themselves was that America was united against an external enemy.
During the 2010s—US vs. Them 2.0—Republicans (and Fox News) used the election of Obama to stoke the politics of white grievance—and combined that messaging with precisely focused gerrymandering and racist voter suppression laws to cling to the levers of power despite a growing popular vote disadvantage.
Now, in the new era of Us vs. Them 3.0, Republicans are allowing their own party to be taken over by the Cult of Trump, demanding purity not to the Constitution or conservative principles, but to a “guns and religion” MAGA movement intent on using violence, intimidation and oppression to enforce white minority rule.
A “sick and dangerous” new ad.
We saw exactly what Us vs. Them 3.0 looks like in a sinister new ad from Eric Greitens, a GOP candidate hoping to replace the retiring Roy Blount as the US Senator from Missouri.
In the ad, Greitens invites his supporters to apply for a “RINO Hunting Permit.” And then (because RINOs scare him so much?) teams up with an armed SWAT team to go hunt them. Fortunately, in this ad at least, Greitens’ bloodlust remains unquenched. He only manages to complete an illegal home invasion of an otherwise empty house.
Not sure who exactly are the targets of this psychopathic ad (incels and future mass shooters?). But Greitens does encourage them all to apply for his RINO hunting permit, telling them: “There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”
The ad is one way to distract voters from the fact that Greitens has been accused by his ex-wife of not only being violent with her, but also brutalizing his then-three-year-old son, too. A real tough guy.
Like Trump before him, Greitens is being warned that his “sick and dangerous” rhetoric will get people killed. And, like Trump before him, Greitens is behaving like a psychopath who doesn’t care who gets killed as long as it isn't him.
How did we get here?
Let’s take a quick review of the last 20 years of how Republicans have ignored their own repeated failures and lack of new ideas to concentrate instead on “Us vs. Them” strategies to hold on to power.
It began with a “clash of civilizations” after 9/11… it morphed into a white nationalist backlash against our first Black President and America’s changing demographics… and today it has degenerated into an internal battle within the conservative movement where allegiance to the party is everything and where any willingness to debate has been overtaken by a need to dominate.
Us vs. Them 1.0: The War on Terror
After eight years of prosperity and relative peace under Bill Clinton, in the year 2000 Fox News and the Supreme Court helped second-place finisher George Bush thwart the will of the people and become President in January 2001.
Warned by Clinton that Bin Laden was a looming danger, Bush nevertheless decided that the clearing brush on his Texas ranch for a whole month in August 2001 was more important than reading the memo warning about the planned Bin Laden attack, which he tossed aside as casually as Trump would later dispose of Obama’s pandemic playbook. “You’ve covered your ass now,” he said, getting back to his tumbleweed.
The shock of 9/11 allowed Bush and Liz Cheney’s dad to seize the moment and go to war with those who had attacked us and also Iraq because they had been meaning to do that anyway.
“The War on Terror” pitted America and its allies against “radical Islamic terrorists” and helped Bush in 2004 become possibly the last GOP President to finish first in the popular vote.
By 2008, though, things weren’t going quite so well. The wars were dragging on and it had finally sunk in that we had been lied to about WMDs.
Then Bush crashed the markets. McCain picked Palin. Obama became America’s first Black President. And the Us vs. Them 1.0 era was over.
Us vs. Them 2.0: The Rise of White Nationalism
A lot of white people weren’t happy that Obama was their President. But they were still too polite to admit it was because they were total racists. So deficits suddenly mattered again. And the Tea Party was born.
The Bush financial crash and the “Great Recession” that followed gave Republicans (and UK Conservatives, and others) the excuse they needed to push “austerity politics.”
“Austerity politics” is, of course, the way for rich people to argue that the rich should keep all the money while pitting the other 99% against each other.
What’s worse? (a) Warren Buffet paying a lower tax rate than his secretary; or (b) a fake news story about “Obama phones”?
For Fox News viewers, the answer was obvious. Obama was to blame for everything, even giving them healthcare.
When Obama beat Romney by 5 million votes in 2012 (about half the margin by which he beat McCain in 2008), the GOP publicly conducted a “post-mortem” on why they were failing to win over non-white voters.
More quietly, they simply doubled down of gerrymandering and racist voter suppression.
Before long, Putin, Mark Zuckerberg, Robert Mercer, James Comey, Lorne Michaels and CNN teamed up to help America elect the openly racist conman Trump. Meanwhile, following similar foreign intervention and propaganda campaigns, UK voters were choosing Brexit instead of being sensible.
Of course, electing a man best known for failing at everything didn’t work out that well. Trump didn’t build a wall. Mexico didn’t pay for it. His trade wars bankrupted farmers and plunged manufacturing into a recession. And when Covid arrived, the pandemic playbook had long since been thrown out.
By the time November 2020 rolled around, America was eager to say “you’re fired” to the lazy, incompetent, and clearly mentally feeble Trump.
Us vs. Them 2.0 had ended in failure. But instead of a post-mortem, Trump gave Republicans something else to talk about.
Us. vs Them 3.0: Fascists vs. RINOs
On January 6th 2021, Trump launched an attack on America. And because Mike Pence kept his mouth shut, the details of the deadly coup attempt—and the violence it unleashed in DC and beyond—are only now being fully explained.
In the meantime, the still-Trump-controlled GOP has reached the Us vs. Them 3.0 stage. Which means, in addition to remaining an enemy of all those identified in phases 1.0 and 2.0, Republicans are now being told they are either one of:
“Us”… a loyal member or supporter of the Radical Christian Extremist MAGA Cult willing to win all future elections by any means necessary;
“Them”… a RINO in the mold of Rusty Bowers, the current Republican House Speaker from Arizona, or Liz Cheney, daughter of the artist formerly known as Darth Vader.
Never mind that Bowers, as Elie Mystal pointed out on Twitter, was fully on board with the GOP’s war on US democracy during the US vs. Them 2.0 years: “helping to pass a boatload of voter suppression bills targeting Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans in his state.” After Trump lost Arizona, Bowers refused to participate in Trump’s coup, so Dear Leader attacked him as a RINO ahead of Bowers’ June 21 testimony to the January 6th Committee.
And who cares that Liz Cheney voted with Trump 93% of time when he was in office. She also drew the line at a coup attempt so she’s now a RINO who must be hunted. Contrast her with NY Congresswoman Elise Stefanik, who voted with Trump only 78% of the time, but declared her loyalty to Trump when democracy was at stake. “Ultra MAGA” Stefanik is now in Cheney’s old leadership spot in the House GOP and Trump-loving sex trafficker Matt Gaetz is in Wyoming to support Cheney’s primary challenger.
In 2018, Tucker Carlson was outraged when Pete Davidson mocked GOP Congressman Dan Crenshaw’s eyepatch on SNL, forcing Davidson into an apology the following week. In 2022, Carlson is attacking the veteran Crenshaw, who lost his eye in Afghanistan, as “Eyepatch McCain”—a nickname that was hurled against him recently in a public assault by fellow Republicans at the Texas GOP Convention. At the same event, formerly rock-solid Republican John Cornyn was booed for turning “RINO” on gun control for some minor concessions he agreed to in a new bipartisan Senate package, all of which, in the world beyond the terrorist wing of the GOP, have overwhelming popular support.
Even corporations, whose “personhood” and rights to “free speech” were previously sacrosanct, are now expected to fall in line. Especially in Florida, where Ron DeSantis has cracked down hard on Disney and the Tampa Bay Rays for not supporting his anti-gay and pro-mass-shooter policies. The MAGA backlash against Disney may even have affected ticket sales of the new Pixar blockbuster Lightyear (which has some less-than-scandalous “LGBT” content”). The film “remained stubbornly Earth-bound in its box office debut.”
Us vs Them 3.0 began with a loyalty test—one that forced Republicans to place allegiance to Trump above their Oath to the Constitution. But it no longer needs Trump himself to survive. Tucker Carlson and Ron DeSantis, plus the “Dark MAGA” wing of the GOP, have enough momentum to keep things going even if (especially if) Trump (and Rudy Giuliani and Steve Bannon) were to get arrested tomorrow.
The new populist “leaders” of the GOP are no longer content to rely on voter suppression laws and gerrymandering to get what they want. They plan on using brute force, violence and intimidation to crush all those in their way. Yesterday’s January 6th Committee hearing showed how well their plan is working, with witness Shaye Moss detailing how she and other election workers in Georgia have quit their jobs after relentless online abuse and physical threats to their own lives and to their loved ones.
Even if you still think you’re a Republican—even if you’re a Republican and a veteran who served five overseas deployments, including two after you lost an eye to an IED in Afghanistan—if you don’t fully identify as a Radical Christian Guns-And-Religion-F**k-the-Constitution MAGA Extremist, you’re the enemy now.
And these Republican maniacs are ready to go RINO hunting.
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