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Rick Scott takes his Dem criticisms in an over-the-top direction

It’s one thing for a GOP leader to argue that Democrats are wrong. It’s something else when he says that Democrats deliberately want to “destroy” the U.S.

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In the wake of Hurricane Ian, Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida appeared on CBS News and declared, “I think what we got to do is we got to bring everybody together.” Alas, that attitude did not last.

Consider, for example, what Scott told NBC News over the weekend about his support for Herschel Walker’s beleaguered Senate campaign.

Republican Sens. Rick Scott of Florida, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, and Tom Cotton of Arkansas announced they will travel to Georgia to campaign for Herschel Walker on Tuesday.... In a statement to NBC News, Scott said, “The Democrats want to destroy this country, and they will try to destroy anyone who gets in their way. Today it’s Herschel Walker, but tomorrow it’s the American people.”

It’s not uncommon for elected officials, including leaders on Capitol Hill, to say their opponents have horrible ideas that would lead to national ruin, but what Scott said was qualitatively different: As the far-right Floridian sees it, Democrats wouldn’t just destroy the United States, they want to destroy this country.

It’s a belief that sees a major American political party as, in a rather literal sense, anti-American.

In case this isn’t obvious, Democrats do not deliberately want to cause our nation’s downfall — Scott hasn’t gotten around to explaining why he thinks that, how such hysterical accusations help “bring everybody together” — though the GOP senator’s rhetoric is unfortunately familiar.

Circling back to our coverage from several months ago, it was in February when Scott appeared at a conservative conference and reflected on the greatest threats to the United States. Ordinarily, senators might point to adversarial foreign government or terrorists networks, but the Floridian instead pointed at Americans he doesn’t like.

“We survived the war of 1812, Civil War, World War I and World War II, Korea, Vietnam, and the Cold War,” Scott said. “Today, we face the greatest danger we have ever faced: The militant left-wing in our country has become the enemy within.”

The Republican seemed to realize this was provocative, but shrugged off potential criticisms. “You may think, ‘Well, Rick, that’s pretty dramatic. You call them the enemy within?’ Yes, I am,” Scott added. “The woke left now controls the Democrat [sic] Party, the entire federal government, the news media, academia, big tech, Hollywood, most corporate boardrooms, and now even some of our top military leaders.”

Note, when the National Republican Senatorial Committee chair referred to the nation’s “militant left wing,” he wasn’t talking about random extremists with bats, posting to antifa forums. The GOP senator was referring to Democratic leaders, journalists, educators, tech executives, entertainers, corporate leaders, and “even some” in the U.S. military.

Collectively, according to this Senate Republican leader, these Americans represent a threat to the United States. In fact, these Americans represent “the greatest danger” in the history of the United States.

As a rule, when prominent U.S. politicians start referring to Americans as “the enemy,” it’s cause for alarm.

It’s one thing to think of political foes as rivals, opponents, or competitors. Each of these labels implicitly recognizes that the foes are your fellow citizens, worthy of some modicum of respect. But “the enemy” is a qualitatively different kind of label.

Similarly, it’s one thing for a Republican leader to argue that Democrats are wrong or misguided, but it’s something else when a GOP leader insists that Democrats deliberately want to “destroy” the country.

As The Atlantic’s Ron Brownstein explained in March, “If you keep telling your voters the other party is literally a mortal threat to the country, it should not be surprising that some will take that literally and plot to kidnap a governor, physically threaten public health and election officials, or storm the Capitol to hang the vice president.”

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