Update on the Witch Hunt

Ivonne Rovira
Ivonne Rovira
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Schadenfreude is terribly sweet, but I didn’t think we’d be able to savor it so soon.

Recently, I wrote about how witch hunts — literal or metaphorical — consume a population only until it starts to affect the plutocrats in charge. Then it’s time to shut stuff down! But it takes a little while to close out a full-fledged circus, and, in the meantime, there’s bound to be some collateral damage for the Grand Old Party.

Unhinged conspiracy theories and open bigotry have been fine thus far, as they rile up the base of deplorables; however, it’s begun to backfire in the electoral arena. In Pennsylvania, the Republican elites in the state have thrown their support behind either Wall Street hedge-fund super-mogul David McCormick (you need a subscription to read more than the first paragraph or so) or Dr. Mehmet Oz, respected heart surgeon turned TV snake-oil huckster and a New Jersey resident. (No one has found any evidence that he’s moved next door to the Keystone State.)

But now comes Kathy Barnette, a radio show commentator (and onetime Fox & Friends guest) with a history of anti-Muslim, anti-gay, anti-trans, and “Obama is a secret Muslim” rants. She goes beyond garden-variety Islamophobia and homophobia to advocate for depriving Muslim-Americans of the rights everyone else enjoys, and criminalizing homosexuality. (Axios thoughtfully compiled a greatest hits list of Barnette’s tweets.) You can be forgiven for never having heard of Barnette; neither had I. Even so, dark-horse Barnette is upsetting the applecart.

Barnette, now in a statistical tie with Oz and McCormick on the eve of the primary, has disparaged Dr. Oz for being Muslim (natch) and called both of her opponents RINOs and “globalists” (QAnon-speak for “Jew”). How you can be both a terrorist Muslim and a rapacious, power-hungry Jew escapes me, but it works for Barnette’s target audience. She claimed to have arranged two to three busloads of protesters to the 1/6 insurrection, which she freely admits attending herself. We’re talking someone who is way, way out there.

You can enjoy watching GOP operatives freak out in the New York Post, Fox News, CNN, The New York Times, Newsmax, New York magazine, The Washington Post, and The Young Turks. Politico claims “no one is really raising the alarm about Barnette’s questionable ability to win this fall, besides the former president,” but that very article (headlined “Senate Republicans’ electability headache”) is filled with top GOP Senate leadership indirectly saying exactly that.

Ah, sweet, sweet Schadenfreude.

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Ivonne Rovira

Ivonne is the research director for Save Our Schools Kentucky. She previously worked for The Miami Herald, the Miami News, and The Associated Press. (Read the rest on the Contributors page.)

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