They balk at any attempt to stem gun violence. They’re against affordable health care and want to voucherize Medicare. Given their druthers, they’d allow giant companies to befoul the air and poison the water. And don’t get me started on the lies Republican figures advance to deny any attempt to address the changes in our planet’s climate that are wreaking destruction on the lives of millions, whether through floods, drought, or sea-level rise.
The anti-regulatory Koch network provides Republicans with the ground troops and voter data they need to turn out the vote, and funds the think tanks that craft Republican policy that argues against health care and environmental health. And the National Rifle Association, which won’t even countenance background checks for those who purchase firearms at gun shows, is keeper and bestower of the seal of approval every red-state Republican must win in order to have a shot at winning his race or keeping her seat.
To win elections, Republican politicians are dependent on the peddlers of death, those greedy billionaires and their field marshals, who are paid handsomely for holding the line on any regulation that would prevent unnecessary fatalities.
Take Wayne LaPierre, CEO and executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, whose execution of gun manufacturers’ brutal agenda has not only stopped any meaningful discussion in Congress of gun regulation, but also targeted anti-Trump protesters with propagandized threats, as shown in this video. (“The only way we stop this, the only way we save our country and our freedom, is to fight this violence of lies with the clenched fist of truth,” NRA spokesperson Dana Loesch says in the video.) This belligerent approach has earned LaPierre a handsome payout. In 2015, according to the latest available tax filings, the NRA paid him more than $5 million for his trouble.
Selling death, it turns out, pays pretty well.
It’s also brought Republican politicians to heel, as the NRA brilliantly branded the gun as a cultural marker, an emblem of tribal identity and a symbol of white patriarchy, which is enjoying a sense of resurgence with the election of Donald J. Trump to the presidency.
When the periodic horrors wrought by that formula, such as a school shooting, flood our screens, some Republicans will seek to turn even that to their advantage. Note Trump’s attempt to tie the FBI’s missed cue in the events that led to the school massacre in Parkland, Florida, to the investigation that continues to plague him regarding the 2016 presidential election.
In the days since the Parkland shooting, the president’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., “liked” a tweet in which someone calling themselves “True Pundit” accused a survivor of the Parkland shooting of being an actor who was doing the bidding of the FBI. Daniel Hogg has emerged as one of the student leaders demanding change in gun regulation as part of a movement dubbed #NeverAgain. His father is a former FBI agent.
President Trump, you’re likely aware, has a little problem with the FBI. The investigation into Russia's intervention on his behalf in the 2016 election led to the indictment of former Trump campaign manager Paul Manafort and campaign staffer George Papadopoulos, and just Tuesday, a guilty plea from a Russian-speaking lawyer who worked with Manafort in the latter’s consulting business. On Friday, February 16, 13 Russian nationals were indicted for meddling in the election. You’ll recall, the investigation also prompted Trump to fire FBI Director James Comey.
Repubicans will do anything to keep the death train rolling. Oh, sure, the occasional Republican will tsk-tsk such antics (see Marco Rubio), but when push comes to shove, they’ll take the death merchants’ dough. In 2016, Rubio’s re-election bid for his U.S. Senate seat drew $3.2 million of NRA spending on his behalf, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
For Trump’s part, in addition to whatever help he may have had from Russian President Vladimir Putin to getting to the finish line, he enjoyed a $30 million investment in his success from the NRA during the 2016 presidential election, CRP reports. Did I mention that the FBI is investigating the NRA for possibly having laundered money for Russians?
But I digress. The point is this: The Republican Party has evolved into a death cult, with President Donald J. Trump at the helm. He’s an almost perfect figurehead: In 1989, he called for the execution of five black men who were accused of rape for which they were later proven innocent. In 2016, he called on “Second Amendment people” to do what they will were Hillary Clinton to take office.
The more polite Republicans, such as Charles Koch, may signal a need to keep their distance from him, but they’re death cultists nonetheless, only too happy to have a callous maniac carry their water.
Meanwhile, children are murdered in classrooms, guns flood the streets of Chicago, and people die for lack of health care. And the fate of the republic hangs in the balance.
It’s time to stop pretending that to criticize Republicans on these issues is mere partisan posturing. It’s literally a matter of life and death.