It’s time to hold extremists accountable

By Mary Anna Mancuso, National Spokesperson

The horrifying domestic terrorism attack in Buffalo, New York, served as a dreadful reminder that there are Americans who hold such hateful, extremist views, they will kill for them. While this isn’t purely a modern phenomenon, what is new is that the rhetoric used by the Buffalo shooter in his nefarious screed parrots the language public officials are using in their execrable attempts to court the white supremacist vote. Some of these officials are in the highest positions of leadership in the Republican Party.

Even worse, the GOP has one heck of a farm team—that is, if you’re on team extremist. With the attack ads, yard signs, and political rallies to which we’ve all grown accustomed, 2022 may look like every other election year, but amidst all the usual campaigning, something unusual is happening. There has been an uptick of people with extreme views seeking public office. From school boards to state houses to U.S. Congress, this pipeline of extremists, some with views similar to the Buffalo shooter, marks a clear and present threat to our national security.

To be clear, I’m not referring to policy positions. We can all point to visionaries who labored tenaciously for years until their ideas, once labeled “extreme,” were proven sound and accepted by a wider audience. Here, I am talking about genuinely radical beliefs, which supersede more generic political differences and thwart consensus and meaningful progress on issues that impact Americans. It used to be that extremists were quickly dispatched by American voters in the primaries. However, as the earliest results of the current primary season have demonstrated, this is no longer the case. 

Research by the Renew America Foundation has uncovered hundreds of candidates running for federal, state, and local offices across the country who hold these potentially destabilizing views:

  • 239 have denied the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election,
  • 61 espouse and/or promote conspiracy theories like QAnon,
  • 52 participated in, have defended, or otherwise supported the insurrection at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and 
  • 30 have expressed support for extremist groups and/or used violent or racist rhetoric (like the “Great Replacement” theory that inspired the Buffalo shooter).

While the sheer numbers are alarming enough, it’s the electoral outcomes that are more disturbing. In short, they’re winning. In the 10 states that have held their primaries thus far, we’ve seen at least 34 of these extreme candidates emerge victorious.

There have always been radicals on the fringes of our national politics, but now, with the blessing and safe harbor by the GOP, they are building an anti-democracy coalition that can overturn elections and steer America toward autocracy. They are intentionally appealing to dangerous elements of American society, who are more than willing to use intimidation and force to help them succeed. In 2020, the extremist faction of the GOP came so close, and sadly, their movement has only strengthened since. 

This isn’t a five-alarm fire; it’s a raging inferno poised to incinerate the United States Constitution and American democracy as we know it. Most Americans don’t believe in wild conspiracies, support political violence or hate, or want their votes to be discarded at the whim of crooked partisans. But I fear a toxic mix of hyperpolarization, lies from politicians and media, and pure exhaustion has lowered our defenses and corrupted our objectivity.

I encourage everyone to learn as much as you can about who’s on your ballot this year, and consider whether they truly represent you and the nation’s best interests. Most importantly, please vote. Every chance you get. The GOP refuses to hold extremists accountable, so we must. This year, exercising democracy is the best way to preserve it—and to protect our national security. 

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