December 3, 2020 | Reading Time: 3 minutes

Republican greed brought us violence

Gabriel Sterling doesn't seem to know why he's right.

Share this article

It’s not that Gabriel Sterling is wrong. It’s that he, and by extension other lifelong conservative Republicans, especially in the South, don’t seem to understand why he’s right. When you spend four decades inflaming white hatred of pretty much anything that does not fit into the dream of “a suburban utopia” of the 1950s, you can’t expect the people boiling over with rage to all of a sudden stop when it’s convenient to.

“It has to stop,” said the deputy to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger on Wednesday. “Mr. President, you have not condemned these actions or this language. Senators, you have not condemned this language or these actions. This has to stop. We need you to step up and if you’re going to take a position of leadership, show some.”

The dark side to patricians who can’t stop, won’t stop being greedy is plebeians who can’t stop, won’t stop being violent.

Sterling, of course, was referring to the fact that Joe Biden won Georgia and that Donald Trump has thus far refused to accept defeat. Instead of deescalating, Trump and his minions are escalating. Some called for a former administration official to be “taken out at dawn and shot.” Some called for execution by firing squad of Trump’s enemies. Some called on him to suspend the US Constitution and impose martial law. Sterling, Raffensperger and a young voting machine technician received death threats. (The tech is presumably Black given he was threatened with a noose; Raffensperger’s wife, meanwhile, was evidently threatened with rape on her personal cell phone.)

“It has to stop,” Sterling said with barely concealed fury. “This is elections. This is the backbone of democracy. And all of you who have not said a damn word are complicit in this. It’s too much. Yes. Fight for every legal vote. Go through your due process. We encourage you. Use your First Amendment. That’s fine. Death threats, physical threats, intimidation, it’s too much. It’s not right. They’ve lost the moral high ground.”

Here’s the tip jar!

I’ll get back to the moral high ground, and why Gabriel Sterling isn’t on it, in a moment. Meanwhile, nothing’s going to stop. Trump is raking in tens of millions from gullible supporters who believe everything coming out his mouth and the talking mouths on Fox. (The president posted to Facebook on Wednesday a 46-minute video that was so densely packed with lies that CNN would not air even a clip of it.) Death threats, physical threats, and intimidation have never been too much for Trump, and will never be, given that he’s said to be preparing for a rematch four years from now.

David Perdue and Kelly Loeffler aren’t going to say anything either. Both Republican senators face touch runoffs next month. They need as many of the president’s seething supporters as they can in light of Stacey Abrams’ jaw-dropping success in Georgia. They have no incentive to turn the heat down, every incentive to keep it fired. If fellow Republicans are subjected to death threats, well, so be it. “This is elections,” Sterling said. For conservative Republicans, that means war. And all’s fair, they are wont to say.

But also potentially deadly. That’s what conservative Republicans don’t seem to understand. Party elites are comfortable doing whatever it takes to win, even if that means standing by while a Republican president commits treason before committing “homicidal neglect.” (That’s how CNN’s Carl Bernstein describes Trump’s handling of the covid plague.) Republican elites don’t mind inciting violence if that’s what it takes to bend popular will toward unpopular objectives like tax cuts for the very, very rich.

That might not be so bad if the rich knew when to quit. They don’t, though. They’re too greedy. As Franklin Foer said in July: “Never content with the last tax cut or the last burst of deregulation, American plutocrats keep pushing for more. With each success, their economic agenda becomes more radical and less salable. To compensate for its unpopularity, the Republicans must resort to ever greater doses of toxic emotionalism.” The natural dark side to Republican patricians who can’t stop, won’t stop being greedy is Republican plebeians who can’t stop, won’t stop being violent.

The bigger problem for party elites, tactically speaking, is that their traditional play isn’t working. In the past, they could gin up white hatred, drive out the vote, secure victory, and then put out “toxic emotionalism” with doses of sobriety. That, however, required the patricians to be united. These days, they can’t speak with one voice, because the incentives are at cross purposes. On the one hand are elites asking for calm. On the other are elites arousing anti-elite hatred of the elites who are asking for calm. Sterling is right, but doesn’t seem to know why: “Someone’s going to get killed.”

—John Stoehr

John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.


  1. hw on July 30, 2021 at 11:25 pm

    An interesting, complementary take on Mr. Sterling’s tirade:

    • John Stoehr on July 30, 2021 at 11:25 pm

      Thanks for that.

  2. MIGriffin on July 30, 2021 at 11:25 pm

    YES, the insatiable greed of the wealthy, who are puppet masters of the Congress thanks to the Citizens United decision, is the ultimate problem. BUT, what Gabriel Sterling did took great courage. He freakin’ risked his life to stand up for beliefs that are clearly his own.

    Trump has been prevented (so far) from overturning a valid election by a lot of “regular” Republicans who might not have registered the amoral, win-at-any-cost drift of the party, which leverages racism, Xenophobia, and anti-LGBTQI feelings to get the plebeians to play along.

    Maybe they didn’t want to see it, but some people are clinging to ideals they associate with the GOP. That’s why so many rejected Trump but voted Republican down ballot. That’s another danger, but I’d like to bask for a moment in the glimmer of light that Gabriel Sterling put into the world.

    • LIBA on July 30, 2021 at 11:25 pm

      Counterpoint: Sterling is a PoS who is reaping what he sowed. He’s been all in on the GOPers “voter fraud” propaganda project the last several years. And do you really think he would be this “courageous” if the death threats were against Democratic election officials? Where was Sterling when AZ Sec of State, Katie Hobbs, a Democrat, was getting death threats a couple weeks ago? I can’t find him speaking out on that at the time, can you? He’s only speaking out now because it’s affecting him and his fellow Republicans. “Glimmer of light” lol.

  3. Jim Prevatt on July 30, 2021 at 11:25 pm

    So Mr. Sterling says he’s going to vote for the 2 republicans running for Senate in GA even though neither has spoken out, as he has, against the lying, cheating, potus. Of course what Mr. Sterling said about djt is correct. And it is also correct that if at least one of the republicans is elected to the Senate, that party will maintain control of the Senate. And that kind of thinking is the problem. With few exceptions the republican senators have not spoken out against djt and mitch Mc has been like a dictator in the Senate. I admire Mr. Sterling for his speech but I think he’s dead wrong to encourage the election of the republicans to the Senate. When I heard the interview on PBS it seemed to me he was speaking out of two sides of his mouth. And Marie Griffin, I’m not so sure he risked his life. If he’d done that, I think he would have encouraged Georgians to vote for the Democratic candidates for the Senate. With the Democratic party in control of that house, something might be done to control the Citizens United stupidity, and taxes on the rich might be raised and so much more. Finally John Stoehr, I think a better word than “patricians” would be “plutocrats” .
    Most rich people in America aren’t wealthy because they are noble, but because, as you do say, they are greedy. That is all.

Leave a Comment

Want to comment on this post?
Click here to upgrade to a premium membership.