It's almost funny, in a twisted sort of way. Election after election, Republicans have based their core political appeal on fear.
And yet — as dual gun massacres this weekend starkly illustrate — they refuse to offer solutions to any of the mortal threats Americans actually face.
President Trump's closing (losing) message in the midterms was "Be afraid, be very afraid"; he and his co-partisans have lately doubled down on it for 2020. Of course, the perils that Republicans promise to rescue us from are often fictional, or of their own making.
We must fear the coming scourge of socialism (no matter that Trump himself so often advocates command-and-control-style economic policies).
Trump and allies urge us to cower in trepidation from helpless parents and children seeking asylum, a threat so grave they needed to be separated from one another and caged. We must also fear the supposed Muslim and Latino hordes, who threaten to wipe out Anglo-European culture and displace white babies with their own.
What of the other threats actually endangering American lives?
July was the hottest month on record, and deadly natural disasters worsen. Yet, according to Republicans, climate change is not a hazard but a hoax, or, alternatively, it's real but not man-made. Whatever the case, move along, nothing to see here. Keep those oil-extraction subsidies and coal bailouts flowing.
Health care likewise tops Americans' list of worries, and has for the past five years, according to Gallup surveys. But Republicans offer plans that will reduce lifesaving coverage and shift more costs onto sick patients.
Which brings me to the uniquely American epidemic of gun violence, particularly that perpetrated by white supremacists and other far-right terrorists.
This year alone, there have been at least 255 mass-shooting incidents, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Americans cannot worship, dine, shop, browse a food festival or pass notes in homeroom without worrying about being gunned down: As of 2017, four in 10 Americans said they feared being a victim in a mass shooting.
Immigrants and members of other minority populations have heightened reason for fearing firearm violence given the murderous anti-immigrant attacks in El Paso on Saturday that left 22 dead; the slaughters at synagogues in Pittsburgh and Poway, Calif., that together took 12 lives; and other recent hate-filled attacks targeting blacks, Muslims and members of the LGBTQ community.
The real thing to fear, according to Republicans and the gun lobby that controls them, isn't gun violence but rather liberty-crimping policies that might curb gun violence.
Republicans thrive on imagined menaces. Yet when a real-life menace demands action, they dismiss it. What, pray tell, is the party so afraid of?
Catherine Rampell's email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.