June 14, 2021

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Michael Flynn cranks the right’s rhetorical ratchet

2 min read

Like drug addicts craving ever-stronger doses to get their fix, Republicans are now mainlining rhetorical hyperbole and regularly ratcheting up the intensity.

In a single decade we’ve gone from talk about the need for a Tea Party rebellion against the federal government to the claim that a Hillary Clinton victory in 2016 posed an existential threat to American self-government to the Republican president asserting that the Democrats stole the White House from him. And now a retired United States Army lieutenant general and former National Security Adviser is advocating a “Myanmar-style coup” in the United States to reinstate Donald Trump as president. (This comes just a few weeks after more than 100 retired generals and admirals signed a letter claiming the 2020 election was stolen.)

If politics were a game or a reality show or a pro-wrestling match, this might be harmless. In that case, Democrats would perhaps counter Michael Flynn’s QAnon-inspired delusions with extra-democratic fantasies of their own. Maybe they’d propose assassinating Trump to keep him from running for president again, or disenfranchising millions of Republicans on grounds of sedition.

But of course that would be wildly irresponsible, because politics isn’t a game, a reality show, or a WWE event. Less than four months ago, thousands of people who believed Trump’s lies about the election traveled to the nation’s capital and mounted an insurrection against the certification of Joe Biden as the rightful winner of the 2020 election. That they failed in their efforts shouldn’t diminish the significance of the fact that they heard the president’s words and acted on them.

And they weren’t the only ones. On Tuesday morning, The New York Times‘ Maggie Haberman reported that Trump has been telling people he expects to be reinstated as president by August. Which means that Trump is getting high on his own supply.

Words have meaning. When people say reckless things, reckless actions tend to follow. Republicans would be wise to remember this — and the rest of us need to be prepared for the likelihood that they will not.

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