This insanity really does have to stop. Cole County Assessor Christopher Estes reflects the new attitude among Republican supporters of President Donald Trump that no inflammatory language or incitement to violence is out of bounds when it comes to advancing the myth that the election was stolen from Trump. Public officials like Estes are stifling their better judgment while publicly calling for treason trials and even the execution of anyone who dares to speak the truth that Trump lost to Joe Biden, now the president-elect, in a fair-and-square election.
Estes last week skated on the edge of issuing a thinly veiled death threat in response to a Georgia state senator’s Facebook remark debunking claims of election fraud: “What you have done is to enable a coup. Illegally removing a legally elected President. Pretty sure that is called treason. Punishable by death,” Estes posted.
Speaking to The New York Times Wednesday, Pennsylvania state Senate Majority Leader Kim Ward was blunt about the pressures she and other Republican leaders are facing. A letter circulated among Republicans in the General Assembly urging the state’s congressional delegation to reject Pennsylvania’s Electoral College votes for Biden. Ward said she was pressured to sign, adding, “If I would say to you, ‘I don’t want to do it,’ I’d get my house bombed tonight.” She didn’t appear to be joking.
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It appears the nation has reached a point where post-election bitterness has turned into a call for vigilante action. Last week, Georgia election official Gabriel Sterling veered from his normal daily briefing on that state’s vote-recount process to express his anger over the threats election officials and workers have received — including against Republican Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger and his wife.
“It has to stop,” Sterling said. Directing his remarks to Trump, he added, “Stop inspiring people to commit potential acts of violence. Someone is going to get hurt, someone is going to get shot, someone is going to get killed. And it’s not right.”
Lest any members of the public fail to understand: Certifying the winner of a presidential election, as Sterling (a Republican) did, is not an act of treason. It is the fulfillment of America’s centuries-old tradition of upholding the nation’s most fundamental democratic values.
It’s no longer clear whether Trump’s base is lashing out on its own, or whether the statements by Trump, Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Estes and a vast army of other GOP officials are what’s inciting Trump supporters to take vigilante action. What is certain is that the rhetoric is out of control. These are, of course, representatives of the party that claims to support a “pro-life” agenda — even while their words are moving ever closer to driving families from their homes and getting someone killed.
No, really, this has to stop.