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Hodgkinson’s Disease: Politics and Paranoia in the Age of Trump

James T. Hodgkinson, the would-be assassin of Republican congressmen, wasn’t a radical. If you look at his published output – a series of letters to his local newspaper in Belleville, Illinois, as well as the majority of his Internet postings – it’s mostly about matters nearly every progressive cares about: taxes (the rich don’t pay enough), healthcare (the government must provide), income inequality (it’s all a Republican plot). All in all, a pretty unremarkable worldview that any partisan Democrat – either a Bernie Sanders supporter, as Hodginkinson was, or a Hillary fan – could sign on to.

So what drove him over the edge?

One of his more recent Facebook posts was a link to a petition that called for “the legal removal of the President and Vice-President, et. al., for Misprision of Treason.” Hodgkinson had signed it and he was asking his readers to follow suit: “Trump is a Traitor,” he wrote, “Trump Has Destroyed Our Democracy. It’s Time to Destroy Trump & Co.”  He was also a big fan of Rachel Maddow, who – incredibly — has spent the majority of her airtime ranting about “The Russian Connection,” as this Intercept piece documents. Hodgkinson was also a member of a Facebook group ominously dubbing itself “Terminate the Republican Party,” an appellation Hodgkinson apparently took quite literally. The group has over 13,000 members. The main page of the Terminators is adorned with a cartoon of Putin manipulating Trump like a puppet.

When Hodgkinson left his home and his job to travel to Alexandria, Virginia, he told his wife he was going to “work on tax issues.” But is that what motivated his murderous spree? Do “tax issues” really seem like something that would inspire someone to plan and carry out an assassination attempt that, but for the presence of Capitol police on the scene, would have certainly resulted in a massacre?

Hodgkinson clearly believed that the President of the United States was an agent of a foreign power. He had signed on to the idea that Trump not only benefited from a Russian campaign to discredit Hillary Clinton, but that he is engaged in a war against his own country. As Maddow put it in one of her more unhinged broadcasts:

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