Trump & GOP Embrace of Political Violence Threatens to Extinguish Democracy

Interview with Rachel Bitecofer, political strategist, analyst and author, conducted by Scott Harris

For the first rally of his 2024 presidential campaign, Donald Trump chose Waco, Texas – the site of the federal siege of the Branch Davidian compound there 30 years ago, where religious cult leader David Koresh resisted arrest on weapons charges, led to a standoff that killed 86 of his followers, including 26 children, many by suicide. The 1993 Waco siege became a call-to-arms for many right-wing militia and domestic terrorist groups, including Timothy McVeigh, who bombed the Oklahoma City federal building that killed 168 people on the second anniversary of the fire that destroyed Koresh’s Waco compound.

In the days before his Waco rally, Trump warned on social media posts of “death and destruction” if he’s criminally charged in a New York hush money case. He issued repeated stochastic terrorist calls for his cult supporters to “remove the animal” Manhattan District Attorney Alvin Bragg—including Truth Social post of himself poised to swing a baseball bat next to a photo of Bragg. During his Waco speech, Trump hailed the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as patriots — those who committed a security breach where 5 died and injured more than 100 Capitol police officers — and promised to deliver “retribution” for the supposed wrongs inflicted on his overwhelmingly white Christian nationalist supporters.

Many Republican politicians have echoed Trump’s threats by angrily condemning Bragg’s prosecution of the former president or remained silent in the face of Trump’s blatant call for violence. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Rachel Bitecofer, a political strategist, analyst and author who assesses the danger for U.S. democracy as Donald Trump explicitly embraces political violence while facing multiple indictments for state and federal crimes.

RACHEL BITECOFER: Well, it certainly is impossible seeming to all of us here who reside on Earth One. But I mention that because there is an Earth Two and that Earth Two is an articulated echo chamber that was created, for pretty honest purposes — its initial inception of conservative media was, Oh, you know, the culture is leaving us behind and we need a safe space, right?

But it ended up evolving into a Frankenstein. And what has occurred now is that we’re not dealing with a nomination that’s going to occur in an electorate in which, you know, candidates are going to have competing ideas for hearts and minds, and the best candidate will prevail. What we’re dealing with on the political right, right now is a long term and pretty intensive mass psychosis event that comes from this information silo.

And it’s very important for people to understand that because if you engage with MAGA at all on social media or in real life, you’re going to find that they’re very insistent about certain facts. And no matter what you say to them, factually wise, it doesn’t resonate. They’ll find some other fact to harp on or they’ll ignore your point and put it in attack with some kind of other counterfactual, usually about Hunter Biden.

So when you’re dealing with that kind of scenario, you’re not going to get out simply. We can’t turn off the pump, the poison pump. And we know this from the Dominion lawsuits, that it is intentional poison. They know what they’re doing and they are doing it on quite on purpose—Fox News, which is, by the way, the sole and only information source that Republicans identify as a trustworthy news outlet.

And this is a problem that started before Donald Trump. You can see the decline in trust of media as conservative media started to rise and discounted other media forms. It lowers trust, especially amongst Republican identifiers. But now, you know, with Donald Trump, the press is the enemy of the people. Don’t believe your lying eyes. Everything you say is a lie.

It has become even more pronounced on the right. And so we’ve got a indicted-soon-to-be multiply-indicted serial criminal who tried to overthrow the government last time he was in office running. And yet Republican voters, at least a large chunk of them in polling data, seemed perfectly willing to return him to power. And I think it’s important for people to understand that that’s a sickness or a disease that is not just, you know, focused in political elites.

It has evaded or pervaded into mass political behavior. And it’s a very dangerous spin on a mob.

SCOTT HARRIS: In your view, Rachel, what is an effective way? We as just normal citizens concerned about the future of democracy can fight back? Because I think an occasional angry Twitter post or emails to your friends or, you know, using social media in general is not going to change the world. What do we need to do?

And I would just throw this in here. We’ve seen enormous protests in the streets in places like Israel and France. I’m wondering if you understand, you know, from your your study of history, especially in the 1920s and ’30s, what we need to do now to effectively fight back.

RACHEL BITECOFER: So militias are a major red flag. You know, the storming of the capitol, major red flags were really quite far down that veil of autocracy. And I like to think that, like Israel, we will show up big.

But here’s the answer to your question. What should everyone be doing? Obviously, the most important thing is to keep Republicans from having political power — at any level right now. Radicalized parties radicalized from the school board and the mayor’s office all the way up to the federal legislature and to Congress.

So it’s very important that we do everything that we can, everywhere that we can, to elect Democrats over Republicans, especially in this next cycle 2024, which will be critical to determining, you know, this is not a party. They want to have executive control of the government right now. Right? So that’s the most important thing and that the other important thing is this, this takeaway from history.

And again, the big takeaway that I hope people get from history is — if we do not panic now, it will be too late. The common thread in Italy, in Japan, in Russia, in Nazi Germany, all of these places that I’ve studied, some of them falling under left-wing totalitarianism, some of them falling under the right — is one thing that binds them all. And that is when there was time to panic, the status quo — there’s an optimism bias that humans have that, you know, “things won’t get that bad. Things can’t possibly happen like that.” That is our major hurdle.

And so what everyone who’s hearing my voice or voices today can do is start talking to your friends, to your family, to your relatives, to your cool co-workers. I’m not talking about MAGA true believers, but I’m talking about everybody else.

And tell them about democratic emergency and make sure they understand the stakes of this next election because it could not be higher.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Rachel Bitecofer (28:27) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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