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Opinion Gunning for RINOs: A Republican hits a new low

Former Missouri governor Eric Greitens in Branson, Mo., on April 17, 2021. (Nathan Papes/AP)
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Over the past two weeks, the Jan. 6 committee has replayed the scenes of violence when a mob of Trump supporters attacked the U.S. Capitol last year in a bid to overturn Joe Biden’s election as president. One would think that the reminders of the horror of that day — how close our elected leaders came to bodily danger — would be taken to heart, particularly by anyone seeking a seat in that chamber. Instead, a leading contender for the Republican Senate nomination in Missouri has taken a page from the Donald Trump playbook of incitement, doubling down on political violence as a means to an end.

“I’m Eric Greitens, Navy SEAL, and today we’re going RINO hunting,” the former Missouri governor vying for the Senate says, gun in hand, in an ad released Monday. There is, as The Post’s Philip Bump wrote, “nothing subtle” about the ad. It hits you over the head, featuring Mr. Greitens and armed, camouflage-clad men breaking into a house, throwing what look like stun grenades, in search of Republicans who don’t sufficiently support the former president. “Join the MAGA crew,” Mr. Greitens says. “Get a RINO-hunting permit. There’s no bagging limit, no tagging limit, and it doesn’t expire until we save our country.”

Opinion by Paul Waldman: Elite Republicans are now openly encouraging political violence

Not 24 hours before the ad was released, Illinois Republican Rep. Adam Kinzinger talked about a threat mailed to his home promising to execute him, his wife and their 5-month-old son. “We’ve never seen or had anything like that,” he told ABC News’s “This Week.” Mr. Kinzinger, an outspoken critic of Mr. Trump who voted to impeach him and now sits on the committee investigating the Capitol attack, has become a target of Trump supporters, labeled as one of the RINOs Mr. Greitens would make fair game. That Mr. Kinzinger recognized his dim prospects in a GOP primary and is not seeking reelection but Mr. Greitens, forced out as governor after he was credibly accused of tying up and forcing a woman to perform oral sex on him, actually has a chance to become his party’s Senate nominee speaks volumes about today’s Republican Party and how very low it has sunk. (Mr. Greitens has denied the accusations of abuse.)

Party leaders have refused to confront and condemn fanatical MAGA supporters, instead enabling and emboldening them. Little wonder, then, that the use of violent, disturbing rhetoric is on the unimpeded rise in Republican circles. Witness how Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Tex.) was accosted — berated as “Eyepatch McCain” — at the Texas Republican Party convention for his support of Ukraine. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Tex.) was booed and given a rebuke for having the temerity to negotiate with Democrats about gun safety.

“There is violence in the future, I’m going to tell you,” Mr. Kinzinger told ABC. “And until we get a grip on telling people the truth, we can’t expect any differently.” That sober warning came as the Texas GOP made a part of its official party platform the lie that Mr. Biden was not legitimately elected. It is long past time for senior Republican leaders to start telling the truth about Mr. Trump and make clear that they do not condone the violence so grotesquely promoted by Mr. Greitens.