Leonard Pitts: Republicans have adopted the threat of violence

(House Select Committee via AP) This image from video from a police worn body camera from the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol, was played as a committee exhibit as the House select committee investigating the the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol, held a hearing Thursday, June 9, 2022, on Capitol Hill in Washington.

ABC News thought it was — in the words of George Stephanopoulos — “too ugly” and “too dangerous” and declined to show it on air. So Rep. Adam Kinzinger tweeted it Sunday night, letting us all see the threatening letter that recently came to his wife. Sofia, at the home where they live with Christian, their 5-month-old son.

It greets her with a profane sexual slur. Then it gets worse:

“That pimp you married not only broke his oath, he sold his soul. Yours and Christian’s too! Adam’s activities have hurt not only this country, but countless patriotic and God-fearing families. Therefore, though it might take time, he will be executed. But don’t worry! You and Christian will be joining Adam in hell too!”

Asked by Stephanopoulos about the threat Sunday on ABC’s “This Week,” Kinzinger had an ominous reply. Given this country’s trajectory, he said, “There is violence in the future.”

But truth is, violence — the Jan. 6 storming of the U.S. Capitol by supporters of Donald Trump — is the only reason many of us even know Kinzinger’s name. The Illinois congressman is one of just two Republicans — Rep. Liz Cheney is the other — who had the moral fortitude to serve on the House committee investigating that attempted coup. Hence, the threats from fellow Republicans.

The 2017 shooting of GOP Rep. Steve Scalise and four others and the arrest this month of a man who allegedly sought to murder conservative Supreme Court justice Brett Kavanaugh foreclose any claim that violence is unique to the political right. No, violence remains, as H. Rap Brown said in 1967, “as American as cherry pie.”

But the embrace of violence, the cultivation of violence, the tacit encouragement of violence, have become, distinctively and disturbingly, Republican staples. So Jan. 6 was no accident. To the contrary, it’s what you’d expect from a party that endorses guns as a remedy for political disagreements, one whose leader explicitly encourages and condones thuggery, one where seemingly every candidate for office runs a TV spot co-starring a firearm. Indeed, former Missouri Gov. Eric Greitens is seeking a Senate seat with an ad that shows him wielding a long gun alongside a team in tactical gear as they breach a house. “Today, we’re goin’ RINO hunting,” he says.

The acronym stands for “Republican In Name Only” which is, not incidentally, what Republicans like Greitens call Republicans like Kinzinger. The ad appeared online the day after Kinzinger revealed the threats against his family.

This is now our norm. Republicans no longer talk policy or ideas. Republicans only threaten.

Isaac Asimov famously called violence “the last refuge of the incompetent.” But violence — self-defense excepted — is also the last refuge of the loser, the last gasp of those who have no more words, the tacit confession of those who know, but are loathe to admit, that they got nothin’. If you can’t win the argument, win the fight. A mantra for thugs, bully boys and other Republicans.

“There is violence in the future,” said Kinzinger. And it felt not unlike someone saying, “There is a storm in the future,” as rain pelts the window and lawn furniture goes skittering across the yard.

Yes, things could get much worse. They are, however, already quite bad. One of our two major political parties is a threat to the very nation. And absent a dramatic course correction, it seems likely dissolution is in the future, pain is in the future, regret is in the future.

But violence? That’s already here.

Leonard Pitts Jr.

Leonard Pitts Jr. is a columnist for the Miami Herald. lpitts@miamiherald.com