Jan 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Conservatives warn culture, political wars will worsen

Hand painting black lines over american flag
Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The verdict is clear: The vast majority of Republicans will stand firm with former President Trump. The next phase is clear, too: Republicans are rallying around a common grievance that big government, big media and big business are trying to shut them up, shut them out and shut them down. 

Why it matters: The post-Trump GOP, especially its most powerful media platforms, paint the new reality as an existential threat. This means political attacks are seen — or characterized — as assaults on their very being. 

Fox News' Tucker Carlson told us that many in Trump's base feel that the "combined forces of global power have turned on them and are cracking down hard — hilariously, in the name of democracy."

  • "Not a sustainable moment," Carlson added. "Something will break.”

Ben Shapiro, a media leader on the right, told us this sentiment "is widespread, and it grows more dominant with every NYT columnist calling for a social media crackdown, every WaPo columnist lumping in mainstream conservatives with Capitol rioters, every corporation mirroring woke priorities."

  • Shapiro created an internal and external firestorm at Politico when he guest-authored the franchise Playbook. Staff revolted, which Shapiro cites as another example of mainstream media trying to silence the right.

If anything, the calls for calm and rethinking among some GOP leaders grew fast into claims of grievance and revolution.

  • Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), a vocal Trump backer, drew 1,000 people yesterday at a rally in Wyoming where he attacked House GOP Conference Chair Liz Cheney, a lightning rod on the right after she voted to impeach Trump. "Washington, D.C., mythologizes the establishment power brokers like Liz Cheney," Gaetz said. "But there are more of us than there are of them."

Conservatives were quick to try to move on from the mob storming the Capitol after incitement by Trump. Listen or watch conservative media, and claims of systematic "silencing" are mounting by the day:

  • Trump was banned from Facebook and Twitter.
  • Facebook, a hotbed for conservative argument and misinformation, wants to downplay politics on its platform.
  • Google and others shut off money for Republicans who voted against certifying President Biden’s victory.
  • Carlson signed off on Fox last night by saying: "This is the free speech channel — the last one left in American media." Sean Hannity added: "Only a couple of us, Tucker."

The big picture: Pay attention to this trend. The more personal and visceral politics becomes, the higher the chances for chaos and worse.

What we're watching: In a terrorism alert this week warning of continuing danger from anti-government extremists, the Department of Homeland Security pointed to "perceived grievances fueled by false narratives."

  • Axios Sneak Peek scooped last night that House Republican leaders ignored warnings last summer that QAnon-supporting conspiracy theorist Marjorie Taylor Greene, now a congresswoman from Georgia, would end up a flaming train wreck for the party.
  • Speaker Pelosi said yesterday, after warning about Greene: "[W]e will probably need a supplemental [funding bill] for more security for members when the enemy is within the House of Representatives."
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