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Supporters of former US President Donald Trump gather near his residence at Mar-A-Lago in Palm Beach, Florida, on August 9, 2022. Former US President Donald Trump said on August 8, 2022, that his Mar-A-Lago residence in Florida was being "raided" by FBI agents in what he called an act of "prosecutorial misconduct." (Photo: Giorgio Viera/AFP via Getty Images)

MAGA 'Patriots' Are Answering the Call to the Right's Hatred of Liberal Democracy

How many more will heed this call in the days and weeks to come, as far-right Congressional leaders, activists, and media influencers intensify their rhetoric of "patriotic" resistance to "tyranny?"

Jeffrey C. Isaac

"Today and everyday is 1776. Never give up our freedoms. Never let the left steal them away. Be a watchman on the wall and stay guard every single second of every single day because the left will stop at nothing until they destroy our faith, our families, and our freedoms."—Congresswoman Marjorie Taylor Greene, April 23, 2022 on Twitter.

"Congresswoman Greene, they got away with fixing elections in plain sight. It's over. The next step is the one we used in 1775." —Ricky Shiffer, May 7 on Truth Social 

Over the past few days Marjorie Taylor Greene has been very busy posting and re-posting denunciations of the Justice Department and the FBI for "the political persecution of Donald J. Trump,"  the "intimidation" of her MAGA followers, and "doing the dirty work of a communist regime."  "This is the type of rogue tactics that happen in countries right before they fall into tyrannical dictatorships," she declared. "No one should tolerate this!"

Ricky Shiffer clearly pays attention. Over the past few days he too had been posting his own denunciations on Truth Social, the cynically-named Trumpist social media network, culminating in the assertion that "we must not tolerate this one." He followed up on Thursday by attempting to storm the FBI office in Cincinnati—firing a nail gun and apparently carrying an AR-15 rifle as well—where he was repelled by police and eventually killed in a gun battle.

Shiffer was a dedicated MAGA fanatic who was present at the Capitol on January 6 and who regularly used social media to imbibe and to spread the MAGA message.

His attack on the FBI was precipitated by an intense media barrage by Donald Trump and his supporters angrily denouncing the FBI's legal search of Trump's Mar-A-Lago property. From the very start, these denunciations were accompanied by an "unhinged fury" of calls for violence against law enforcement officials so intense that FBI Director Christopher Wray, a Trump appointee back in 2017, was forced to name and to denounce them.

The situation surrounding the FBI search seems to be intensifying, as Trumpist rhetoric escalates and the MAGA base responds to the call. Nothing about this situation should be surprising. The violence of the MAGA movement has been close to the surface when not out in the open for the past five years, and Trump has long proven to be expert at its provocation and incitement. Hannah Allam put it well in the Washington Post: "Simmering threat of violence comes to the fore with search of Trump property."

There is nothing new here, except that the situation is becoming increasingly dangerous.

Indeed, one dimension of the situation is very old indeed, and it is encapsulated by the posts by Taylor Greene and Shiffer quoted at the very top.

Taylor Greene's "1776" rhetoric has by now become boilerplate on the MAGA right, whose adherents claim to stand for "the spirit of 1776" and to be the true, patriotic heirs of the American Revolution.

But what could Shiffer, Taylor Greene's loyal follower, have meant by the "step . . . we used in 1775?" Perhaps Shiffer simply mixed up his dates. But not likely. Because for MAGA "patriots" it is not the 1776 Declaration of Independence but the 1775 "shot heard round the world" at Lexington and Concord that is celebrated as the start of the resistance to British tyranny. While the rhetoric of 1776 justifies—except when it doesn't—it is the bloodshed of 1775 that inspires these "patriots."

And his historical ignorance notwithstanding, nobody understands this better than the disgraced former president himself. Back in late April 2019, then-President Trump delivered a rousing address at a National Rifle Association meeting in Indianapolis that centered on just this. And there can be no doubt that he knew he had a captivated audience.

Denouncing the Mueller probe as a "coup" he incited his supporters to rally to his cause and to oppose "Far-left radicals in Congress [who] want to take away your voice, your jobs, your rights, and they especially want to take away your guns...you have socialists and far-left Democrats that want to destroy everything that we've done."

Invoking the memory of the Minutemen who fought the British at the start of the American Revolution, his message was clear—his supporters must be prepared to "defend" their liberties with their guns:

"Two months before the American Revolution broke out, with the shot heard around the world, a group of patriots gathered along a bridge in Salem, Massachusetts. In the preceding months, British soldiers had confiscated muskets in Boston. You know the story well.  Gunpowder was seized in Somerville. And the patriots in Salem knew that the Redcoats would soon come for the town's cannons. But the Americans were prepared—they already loved our country — and they were determined to defend their rights to the death.  When hundreds of British soldiers arrived at the bridge, the Americans stood firm, blocking their path. When swords were drawn, they didn't flinch. . .

In the courageous actions of those early Americans, we see the defiant and determined spirit of patriotism that has always willed America to its greatest victories.  It is a spirit that is passed down from generation to generation, from fathers and mothers to sons and daughters.  It is the spirit that lives in each and every one of you.

Our duty, our responsibility, our sacred charge, is to preserve the freedoms that our ancestors gave their very lives to secure. Because no matter how many centuries go by, no matter how much the world changes, the central drama of human history remains the same.

On one side are those who seek power, control, and domination. And on the other side are patriots like those in this hall who stand upright and plant their feet in eternal defense of our liberty."

In August of 2020 Kyle Rittenhouse heeded the call. On January 6, 2021, thousands of Three Per Centers, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, and assorted MAGA devotees heeded the call. Yesterday Ricky Shiffer heeded the call. And they are merely the tip of the spear of a mass movement of MAGA adherents and Trumpist Republican base voters moved by resentment, paranoia, and hatred of liberal democracy itself.

How many more will heed this call in the days and weeks to come, as far-right Congressional leaders, activists, and media influencers intensify their rhetoric of "patriotic" resistance to "tyranny?"


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Jeffrey Issac

Jeffrey C. Isaac

Jeffrey C. Isaac is James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington. His books include: "Democracy in Dark Times"(1998); "The Poverty of Progressivism: The Future of American Democracy in a Time of Liberal Decline" (2003), and "Arendt, Camus, and Modern Rebellion" (1994).

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