US Representative Miller-Meeks’ campaign tweet sparks ‘reporting’ accusations | Politics and elections
Scott County Democrats attempted a political tussle with U.S. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks, R-Ottumwa, earlier this week after a tweet from her campaign manager showed volunteers holding signs while framing the flag of a major anti-government paramilitary group.
The U.S. House’s 2nd Congressional District was chosen for Miller-Meeks by a six-vote margin, suggesting campaign rhetoric may be heating up as election season approaches.
The Twitter post and repost began about 10 days ago when Miller-Meeks campaign manager Elliott Husbands tweeted two photos taken inside Muscatine Republican headquarters. One of those photos showed two men holding Miller-Meeks campaign signs. The men stood on either side of a three percent flag – an American flag with the Roman numeral III in the blue field usually reserved for stars.
A traditional Betsy Ross 1776 flag is also prominently displayed in the background. The use of 1776 imagery on flags and window stickers was first popularized by right-wing radio host Alex Jones, and has been widely used by a range of militia groups. He was regularly seen at protests against masking and the COVID-19 vaccination mandate across the country, as well as during the storming of the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021.
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Miller-Meeks retweeted the post on his personal Twitter feed, then deleted it – but not before Scott County Democrats posted the photos and wrote to Rep “…retweeted this image of flags for white supremacy and anti-government militias”.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also used the photo as the lead in a press release that attempted to link Miller-Meeks as sympathetic to the Three Percent cause.
Scott County Democratic Chairman Matt Trimble was even more explicit in his criticism of Miller-Meeks and his campaign.
“(Miller-Meeks) is standing in a room in a house full of gas and she’s lit a match,” Trimble said. “That’s what her constituents are so concerned about. They must be terrified of her allowing the insurgents to be the face of her campaign.”
Trimble suggested that while Miller-Meeks deleted her repost of the tweet, she sent a message to some supporters.
“She was clearly signaling like-minded people,” Trimble said. “I think this is just another example of how some Republicans have become fringe and radical.”
When reached to comment on the charges brought by Scott County Democrats, Husbands said he “…didn’t really think it was a story.”
“We distributed 1,500 street signs to campaign volunteers in 20 counties,” Husbands added. “And that’s my only comment.”
Fred Grunder, the president of the Muscatine Republicans, reacted to the accusations against Miller-Meeks. He said Scott County Democrats were reporting to his base.
“Whenever Democrats disagree with something or someone, they use the words ‘racist’ and ‘bigot’. It’s gotten to the point where those two words don’t mean anything anymore,” a said Grunder. “There are a lot of fringe groups in both parties.”
“One of the biggest terrorist groups is the BLM (Black Lives Matter),” he alleged. “They destroyed this country two years ago, and nobody seems to care. There were no consequences for what they did.”
Grunder said he “had no idea” the three percent flag was among those displayed at Muscatine Republican offices.
“Look, there’s a lot of flags in this room. There’s probably a Trump flag, and I know there’s a Blue-Line flag. There’s flags from all branches of the military,” Grunder said. “And I have no problem with the 1776 flag. It’s about the revolution that created this country.”
The Three-Percenters were founded in 2008 and initially attracted a membership dominated by military veterans, as well as retired and active-duty police officers. While many joined in reaction to perceived policies aimed at limiting the Second Amendment, the three percent have become staunch supporters of President Donald Trump.
The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that while many three percenters are not openly white supremacists, a number of local groups across the country have been implicated in violence against American Muslims. Most local three percent groups carry guns at rallies and demonstrations.
Three percent groups played an active role in the January 6 riots. Many members began attending local school board meetings to speak out against the supposed “teaching of critical race theory” in public schools.
Husbands and Grunder said that Miller-Meeks had never supported any three percent group. By the end of the week, Iowa’s 2nd congressional district had two separate camps: those who believed Miller-Meeks was signaling to a fringe and reactionary part of his base, and his supporters who claimed that an innocent photo of campaign volunteers was used to smear it.
According to Dr. William W. Parsons, chair of the Department of Political Science and Leadership Studies at Saint Ambrose University, no one should be surprised by the fight against Twitter.
“The whistling of dogs is nothing new in American politics. It goes back to the foundation. In some ways, the comments politicians made about each other back then were often worse than the things said today’ today,” Parsons said. “For example, Thomas Jefferson was slandered for mocking Christianity and people were told to hide or bury their Bibles lest the new president confiscate them.
“The difference today is the ability of these types of political tactics to go viral. Within minutes, the images reach hundreds of thousands, if not millions. Today, we feel that such political behavior has more impact than ever. There is no doubt that there is less discussion in society today than in the past.”
Parsons offered a picture of modern political discourse.
“It is also the case today that political opinion mostly exists in bubbles. People only want to talk to those who have the same opinion. The internet and social media are a major factor in perpetuating this scheme,” Parsons said. “I have no solution to this phenomenon other than to tell people to actively seek out multiple sources and opinions and not be comfortable in their bubble.”
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