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Mark Anthony Aguirre, a retired Houston Police Department Captain, was finally ready to make his move for Trump. After tailing his subject for four days this month, Aguirre, who was determined to prove that massive voting fraud had cost Republicans the election, decided to apprehend one of the election masterminds. Ramming his SUV into the back of the target's van, Aguirre was sure he'd find 750,000 fraudulent ballots, a discovery that would expose the Democratic plot to deny Trump his second term.
Part of a group of private citizens called the "Liberty Center," and who were conducting a civilian investigation into the alleged ballot scheme, the retired cop pointed his gun at the van's driver after he got out of the rammed vehicle, forced him to the ground, put his knee on the man's neck, and waited for the police to arrive. When they did, the police found no ballots. The air conditioner mechanic’s van was filled with parts and tools. Aguirre was arrested and charged with aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, a second-degree felony punishable by up to 20 years in prison.
These disturbing acts of vigilante violence have become regular occurrences among Trump supporters, as have death threats against public officials who refuse to overturn November's election results. Drawing a direct link from the demented PizzaGate conspiracy that emerged in the wake of the 2016 election (Democratic leaders are pedophiles), and then the rise of the online QAnon cult, Republicans now tacitly endorse a violent view of politics that encourages followers to take actions into their own hands.
"QAnon is a conspiracy theory that posits President Donald Trump is leading a secret war against a group of political and Hollywood elites who worship Satan and abuse and murder children," as NBC News reports. The FBI has declared QAnon a domestic terrorism threat.
The Republican Party has become unglued, as more members embrace an Alex Jones view of the world, and the press isn't sure what to do about it. Committed for decades to portraying Democrats and Republicans as mirror opposites of each other situated on different sides of the political spectrum (center-left vs. center-right), the idea that one of two major political parties in this country is committed to overturning elections and to mob rule is not a challenge the Beltway press wants to address. That requires making difficult choices and hard truth telling. It also opens up the news media to more hysterical claims of "liberal media bias," which reporters and producers don't want to deal with.
It’s now clear that PizzaGate represented a turning point for the conservative movement, the GOP, and the willingness to embrace dangerous, sprawling untruths. The original, delusional claim was that key Democrats, including Hillary Clinton, were running a child sex ring out of a pizza restaurant in a tony, Washington, D.C. neighborhood. On December 4, 2016, a 28-year-old man drove up from North Carolina, entered the restaurant armed with a Colt AR-15 assault rifle, a .38-caliber Colt revolver and a folding knife in order to "self-investigate" the enslaved sex workers who were allegedly being held in the basement. He found none and was arrested.
Little did we know that not only would PizzaGate continue to mutate, but that its conspiratorial cousin QAnon would emerge, or that most astonishingly, the dark, fringe, twin-headed monsters would soon find refuge within the Republican Party.
Dozens of the conspiracy theory’s supporters became GOP congressional candidates this year, and one recently secured a spot in Congress.
Trump's treacherous campaign against election integrity has sparked delusional vigilantism:
• During Pennsylvania's protracted ballot count in November, two armed QAnon supporters were arrested near Philadelphia's convention center where votes were being tallied. The duo had traveled from Virginia and were carrying concealed weapons, and had an AR-15 style weapon in their truck. One of the men tagged QAnon “as a positive military operation” on Facebook, and suggested a judgment day was fast-approaching.
• Six right-wing militiamen were charged with plotting to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. The men cased her vacation home and made plans to blow up a nearby bridge so police could not quickly respond to the abduction.
• The office building at Michigan's state Capitol in Lansing was closed on the day that Michigan's 16 electors cast their votes for President-elect Joe Biden. Offices were shuttered due to "credible threats of violence."
• Michigan state Rep. Laurie Pohutsky says state lawmakers and their staffs receive "at least dozens" of death threats every day in the wake of Rudy Giuliani’s recent testimony before the Legislature, where he aired countless lies.
• A masked man claiming to have a bomb set fire to the office of the Spokane County Democrats in Washington this month.
• One person representing Trump's campaign in court recently retweeted a call for Biden and Kamala Harris to "confess their crimes on national TV," or be executed.
• The daughter of Georgia Republican Governor, Brian Kemp, has had to deal with demented Trump followers who have been sending, "hate-filled messages about inane false conspiracies about the death of her long-time boyfriend, who was killed in a traffic accident this month," according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Kemp refused Trump's demand that he call a special session of the Georgia state legislature so that it could overturn the state's election results.
“It’s fine to disagree on policy,” the governor told the newspaper, adding: “We’re just not going to go down the road of enticing violence.”
It's too late. The GOP already has.
⌨️ GOOD STUFF:
I wrote repeatedly this year about how poorly the press did covering the Covid relief bill, which took nine months to pass because Republicans blocked it at every turn. A deal was tentatively struck this week, and the Washington Post’s Greg Sargent helpfully reminds readers of the GOP’s radical obstruction at every turn:
The last time Congress acted was last spring when it passed the $2 trillion package, including $1,200 stimulus checks and $600 in weekly supplemental unemployment benefits. It also included aid to state governments and small businesses.
But after that, as a Democrat points out, McConnell repeatedly said over the course of months that he thought many Senate Republicans would not support anymore action of any kind going forward.
🎄 FUN STUFF — BECAUSE WE ALL NEED A BREAK:
Bing Crosby, “Christmas is a-Comin’”
Yes, Crosby is most famous for that other Christmas offering, “White Christmas,” which remained No. 1 for 11 weeks in 1942. But this overlooked, jolly gem is my all-time favorite. I’ll miss the annual sing-along this year with my cousins, aunts, and uncles. But I’m already looking forward to the 2021 family gathering.
When I'm feeling blue and when I'm feeling low
Then I start to think about the happiest man I know
He doesn't mind the snow and he doesn't mind the rain
But all December you will hear him at your window pane
Singing again and again and again and again and again