Last night, within moments of the news of the Nice attack hitting the news, Montana Republican Party chair Jeff Essman took to Twitter to attack Hillary Clinton for somehow being responsible for the horrific event. He tweeted:
When Hillary was apptd Secy of State she had choice, protect nation or protect herself, she chose to protect herself https://t.co/UUqvjBRIpP
— Jeff Essmann (@EssmannJeff) July 14, 2016
There is certainly a time and place to debate foreign policy decisions and their relationship to terrorism, but Twitter isn’t the place and while French first responders were still picking through the crowd for survivors isn’t the time. It’s difficult to take the Republicans seriously when they talk about protecting the sanctity of life, given that every tragedy seems to offer another excuse for political attack.
Essman’s tweet also reveals the emptiness of what passes for a Republican agenda today. It’s all fear, all the time. Why should we vote for Donald Trump? Because we should fear Mexican workers. Why should we deny civil rights to children? Because mythical fourteen-year-old boys will choose to publicly identify as transgender and terrorize girls in locker rooms? Why should every American arm herself to the teeth, training be damned? Because, even though crime rates are historically low, we should be terrified all the time.
It’s not an agenda; it’s not a plan for the future. It’s just the manufacture of terror at every turn that drives GOP politics.
Essman later expanded on his remarks, saying that the elections will be decided on Jobs, Economy, and Safety, themes he earlier used in his endorsement of Donald Trump. One is left to assume that Essman and the Montana Republicans who support Trump are so afraid that they will work to support Trump’s on-again, off-again support for the exclusion of Muslims from the United States, or worse yet, Newt Gingrich’s authoritarian call yesterday to deport all Muslims who believe in the tenets of their religious faith.
We have a history of responding with fear like this in the United States. During World War II, of course, we rounded up Japanese-Americans and locked them in prison camps while their sons fought heroically for the ideals of a country whose idealism had been betrayed by fear. We were wrong to demonize all Japanese then, to let political expedience and exploitation of base fear drive our policies then, and we’re wrong to do it today.
In the past century, the United States has fought two world wars, both punctuated with unimaginable atrocities, against Germany. Only the worst kind of bigot would assume that all Germans were incapable of living peacefully, or that in the moments after a devastating attack against civilians that the time was right for political recrimination divorced from reality, but by the logic of the fear mongers in the Republican Party today, we should have rounded up all the Essmans and Hochbergs, either in 1918 or 1945 and sent them home, to keep us safe.
It’s politically easy to demonize Islam, especially to an audience fed a steady diet of conspiracy theories and misinformation in the conservative press. It’s easy to demonize Secretary Clinton, especially to an audience who believes that she is the AntiChrist.
Is it too much to ask, though, for people like Jeff Essman and the Republican Party to wait 24 hours before they do? It would seem so, and that’s one of the reasons political discussions are so debased in this country today.