As a politico, I enjoy the back-and-forth of election season. Our nation has always produced steamy rhetoric that riles the opponents while energizing the base of the antagonist. But there is also the obvious recognition that in a democracy there are lines that should not be crossed. Must not be crossed.
Such as in the case with Scott Jensen, a Minnesota Republican candidate for governor.
GOP governor candidate Scott Jensen told Republicans that “the hammer’s coming down” on Secretary of State Steve Simon for his management of the state’s election system.
Minnesota GOP gubernatorial candidate Scott Jensen took a “lock him up” message on the campaign trail recently, suggesting that Secretary of State Steve Simon deserved imprisonment for his management of the state’s election system.
Speaking April 23 at the Minnesota Third Congressional District Republican organizing convention in Plymouth, Jensen sparked loud cheers from the crowd when he warned that “the hammer’s coming down” on Simon, a DFLer.
“We are not voter suppressors. We have a simple attitude: Make sure that every ballot in the box belongs there. Make sure that it’s easy to vote, hard to cheat, and if you cheat, you’re going to jail,” Jensen said. “And Steve Simon, you maybe better check out to see if you look good in stripes, because you’ve gotten away with too much, too long under [Minnesota Attorney General Keith] Ellison, and the hammer’s coming down.”
It does not require being a Rhodes Scholar to grasp at once that states or countries with the types of laws or reckless behavior that allow for winners in elections to imprison the losers of those elections, or other political opponents, are not ones we can say are democratic. The Republican Party has candidates who have used this idea of imprisoning political opponents since 2016 when Donald Trump stated, that if elected, he would pursue actions to imprison his opponent, Hillary Clinton.
Such rhetoric was rancid them. It is equally reprehensible now.
One can say the GOP candidates who mimic such dangerous words from Trump do not have fertile minds, needing to regurgitate old lingo to the base of the party. If the best they can offer are echoes of an autocratic personality, what pray tell, do they offer for today’s electorate?
We know, of course, that what has been unleashed on the nation since Trump took an escalator ride has proven to be toxic for our political culture. So consider for one moment–one paragraph–what could happen if the likes of Jensen were to prevail. How might Allen Drury see the lay of that political landscape unfold in a book?
If Senator Seabright Cooley thought that a lost election would result in physical harm might he not do anything to ensure that the election was not lost? Surely Drury would see where this leads. The candidate who made the threat knows the opponent will now fight harder and the pursuit of extreme and dangerous moves is unleashed. Democracy suffers.
But who cares when there is a Republican rally with angry males waiting for red meat rhetoric like feeding time at a zoo? And make no mistake about it—this rhetoric is aimed at males. Forget the responsibility that comes with a candidate taking a stage, and while wanting to gain support on the one hand, also knowing that larger duties to state and nation need to be upheld.
We know from the evidence what follows when rhetoric like Jensen is used. What follows is an uptick in violent rhetoric being espoused from the base. It is lost on the candidates who sow such anger, and certainly from the demographics who are being played to, that decorum and civility are essential parts of a working democracy.
Republicans like to claim they are for law and order. But what is being demonstrated again and again, as with Jensen, is a large gap between a principle and what is actually being said to their base. Violent and undemocratic speech is harmful.
And so it goes.