Some on Twitter pointed out after watching this that the same concept could have been handled in a (somewhat) lighter fashion by using a safari metaphor. Imagine Greitens announcing “We’re going RINO-hunting!” and the “RINO hunt” turned out to be a literal rhino hunt.

Still a bit edgy, but it’d be hard to get too worked up about a pun.

Greitens didn’t go that route, instead opting for a fantasy home invasion of the sort conducted by U.S. troops in Afghanistan and Iraq. This is also a jokey metaphor of sorts since the “RINO-hunting” he wants voters to engage in is choosing him over his opponents in the Missouri GOP Senate primary. It reminds me of the line some alt-right trolls online try to walk in which it’s never clear how much they believe the things they’re saying and how much they’re doing it just to be provocative. But this one lands differently than a safari ad would have, particularly coming less than a week after the country took a collective stroll down memory lane to “Hang Mike Pence” day at the U.S. Capitol.

Those people weren’t trolling, and Greitens knows it. That’s what I mean about him walking the line — he fully expects that some Republican primary voters will enjoy this fantasy, and not in an ironic way. As for those who don’t: Lighten up, it’s just a metaphor.

Congrats to America’s Navy SEALs, who fight valiantly abroad to keep the country safe, on having been reduced here by their comrade to a partisan Gestapo tasked with domestic terrorism against centrists.

No candidate running in any race this year has more baggage than Eric Greitens. Count ’em up — a sexual blackmail scandal, a campaign finance scandal, and most recently an allegation by his ex-wife that he abused her and one of their children. It’s a lot, even by the standards of a cycle in which Herschel Walker is running.

Still, he leads the Missouri Senate primary with 25 percent. There’s no shortage of alternatives in the race either, including the state’s current attorney general. A plurality of Republicans simply prefer Greitens.

And he seems to think more will come to prefer him after watching an ad like this one, which is an interesting comment on who Greitens thinks the modern Republican base is.

That’s why I don’t agree with those who believe the point of the ad is to distract from his scandals by giving the media something new to buzz about. It’s true, I suppose, that having voters focused on a disgusting ad is better than having them focused on what a disgusting person he is, but those two topics are apt to blend, no? If you’re of the opinion that Greitens is unfit for office, the ad is now Exhibit Z in your case.

I think what he’s up to is simpler: He’s leaning into his own deplorableness. Which isn’t the worst strategy in a solid red state in our degraded era.

Many others have recognized that key to Trump’s appeal for a certain kind of right-winger is the license he offers them to be their worst, cruelest selves. If the goal of modern Republican politics is to own the libs, and if the task of every Republican politician is to “fight” on all fronts, then there’s virtue to being a gigantic A-hole. It means you can’t be shamed by the left into behaving the way they want you to. Each time liberals draw a new line of proper conduct, you show them you won’t be cowed and step right over it. The more distressed they are by your transgression, the more you must be doing something right.

Greitens is a test to see how far that logic extends. The libs say that sexual blackmail is bad, so maybe sexual blackmail is actually … good? Or at least not entirely bad. A man willing to blackmail his mistress may show the same sort of ruthlessness towards the left if elected to the Senate.

The same goes for the domestic abuse allegations. That’s not a good thing, surely — but Republicans could benefit from having some men of strong will in the Senate, no?

Essentially, Greitens is weaponizing his own immorality.

That’s the sort of depravity to which nihilistic “own the libs” thinking leads some voters, and there may be enough of them in Missouri to win a Senate primary. Greitens’s fascist ad is a signal to them, I think, that essentially says, “I may be a scumbag, but I’ll use my scumminess to punish your enemies.”

Which is also the Trump bargain with Republican voters in a nutshell, no? In fact, Greitens may yet earn Trump’s endorsement in the Missouri race. Stay tuned.

I’m less interested in the ad than I am in the reaction to it among righties. Question one: Will any of Greitens’s Republican opponents criticize him for the spot or do they too share his apparent belief that there are enough fascists in the Republican base who’d like to see RINOs murdered that they dare not cross a constituency that large? I’m reminded of when J.D. Vance gave an interview a few months ago fantasizing about Trump defying rulings of the Supreme Court and eventually “go[ing] in directions that a lot of conservatives right now are uncomfortable with.” To my knowledge, not one of his opponents in the Ohio Senate primary made an issue of that. Which, again, shows you what they think of their own voters, that there’s no market share these days for an ambitious Republican in being outspoken against authoritarianism.

Question two: If Greitens ends up as the nominee, how many prominent conservatives will grudgingly endorse his Democratic opponent on grounds that he’s patently unfit for office? Judging by the non-reaction to Vance’s victory in the primary, precious few will. Tim Ryan, Vance’s opponent, is a mainstream Democrat who’s even sounded some Trumpy notes about being tough on China and getting tougher on crime, but unless I missed it, the GOP intelligentsia is all-in on the fascist-curious Republican instead. Not all righties will vote for a guy in a primary who’s running on an “I may be a scumbag but at least I’m your scumbag” platform but pretty much all of them will vote for that guy in a general election. No matter how obviously unfit he is.

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