Are we even free, Bro?

This morning, (12/29/21), our former un-loved son-in-chief, Good Ol’ Don Jr., tweeted the following in response to news reports that (gasp!) the Biden Administration would follow the advice of its medical team in determining if proof of vaccination ought to be required for domestic travel in response to the record setting Covid caseload brought on by the Omicron variant: “These people are genuinely evil and have zero regard for even our most basic constitutional rights. We’re truly in a fight for whether or not we’ll live in a free society!!!

That’s right, you heard it here first, folks, the straight dope from the insider’s outsider’s (son) himself: (potential) vaccine mandates for domestic travel in response to a resurgent virus represent the last stand for democracy, the true bridge too far—the one last final, final, final line in the sand. 

This is coming from the former President of the United States’s son: a man with a social media reach in the tens of millions—who has the rapt attention of an extremist audience that’s at once increasingly inclined to violence and dangerously siloed from all context and nuance. Donald Trump Jr., a man the Chicago Tribune once described as “dumb as a post.” Who former New Jersey Republican Governor Chris Christie described as “by no means a sophisticated political actor.” The same Don Jr. who once tweeted that he was going to give away his child’s Halloween candy to teach her about socialism (without seeming to realize that trick-or-treating itself is just going door to door asking for handouts). 

And, yet, tweets like Don Jr.’s this morning—messaging that calls into question the veracity of American democracy and (w/ plenty of plausible deniability, of course) advocates political violence—this kind of messaging has real life consequences, even if its messenger is dumb as a post. It radicalizes its recipients. It “destroys democracy from within.

And there’s no shortage of watchdogs calling out this kind of messaging for what it is: an un-American incitement to fascism. From the New York Times (How Far Are Republicans Willing to Go? They’re Already Gone) to Newsweek (Republicans are Actively Destroying Democracy) to The Atlantic (The GOP is a Grave Threat to American Democracy) to the hundreds of scholars cited by Business Insider (Republicans are putting America’s democracy in mortal danger, more than 100 scholars warn) and on and on and on. The New Republic asks Can Democrats Pull America Back From the GOP’s Psychotic Break?, and Vanity Fair laments that REPUBLICANS ARE DESTROYING DEMOCRACY TO PROTECT TRUMP’S PRECIOUS FEELINGS.

But all these articles, all these warnings, go completely unnoticed by the audience for Trump Jr.’s Tweets. To them, a sign of genuine evil is President Biden considering vaccine mandates for domestic travel at the persistent recommendation of his public health advisors, (as opposed to, say, evil being the Trump Administration’s child separation policy), and the “fight to live in a free society” is embodied by Republicans fighting to keep Covid raging so they can use each and every outbreak as a political cudgel, rather than, say, holding the political figures who encouraged and enabled the Jan. 6th insurrection at the capitol to account.

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