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One of the flags designed by the right-wing group known as the Three-Percenters was in the background of a recent photo posted on Elliott Husbands' Twitter account. Husbands in the campaign manager for Rep. Marianette Miller-Meeks, R-Ottumwa.
Scott County Democrats attempted to pick a political fight 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 prominent anti-government paramilitary group.The 2nd Congressional District U.S. House was decided for Miller-Meeks by a six-vote margin, suggesting the campaign rhetoric could get heated as the election season draws near.The posting and re-posting on Twitter started roughly 10 days ago when Miller-Meeks campaign manager Elliott Husbands tweeted two photos taken inside the headquarters of the Muscatine Republicans. One of those photos showed two men holding Miller-Meeks campaign signs. The men stood on each side of a Three-Percenters flag — a U.S. flag with the Roman numeral III in the blue field usually reserved for the stars.A traditional Betsy Ross 1776 flag also is prominent 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 used extensively by a range of militia groups. It was routinely seen at anti-masking and COVID-19 vaccination mandate protests across the country, as well as during the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the U.S. Capitol building.
Miller-Meeks retweeted the post on her personal Twitter feed, then deleted it — but not before the Scott County Democrats posted the pictures and wrote the representative " … retweeted this image of flags for white supremacy & anti-government militias."
The Scott County Democrats retweeted a Twitter post from Marianette Miller-Meeks' campaign manager that showed a Three-Percenters flag in the Muscatine Republican's office.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee also used the photo as the lead of a press release that attempted to link Miller-Meeks as sympathetic to the Three-Percenters cause.Scott County Democratic Chair Matt Trimble was even more explicit in his criticism of Miller-Meeks and her campaign."(Miller-Meeks) is standing in a room of a house filled with gas and she has lit a match," Trimble said. "That's what is so concerning for her constituents. They have to be terrified that she is allowing insurrectionists to be the face of her campaign."Trimble suggested that even though Miller-Meeks deleted her repost of the tweet, she sent a message to some supporters."She was clearly signaling to like-minded people," Trimble said. "I think this is just another example of how fringe and radical some of the Republicans have become."When reached for comment about the accusations made by the Scott County Democrats, Husbands said he " … didn't really think this is a story.""We handed out 1,500 yard signs to campaign volunteers in 20 counties," Husbands added. "And that is my only comment."Fred Grunder, the chairman of the Muscatine Republicans, did react to the charges against Miller-Meeks. He said the Scott County Democrats were signaling to its base."Every time the 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," Grunder said. "There are a lot of fringe groups in both parties.""One of the biggest terror groups is the BLM (Black Lives Matter)," he alleged. "They destroyed this country two years ago, and no one seems to care. There were no consequences for what they did."Grunder said he "had no idea" the Three-Percenters flag was among those displayed in the offices of the Muscatine Republicans."Look, there are a lot of flags in that room. There's probably a Trump flag, and I know there's a Blue-Line flag. There are flags from every branch of the military," Grunder said. "And I have no problem with the 1776 flag. That'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-Percenters became vocal supporters of President Donald Trump.The Southern Poverty Law Center noted that while many Three-Percenters are not overtly white supremacist, a number of local groups across the country were involved in violence against Muslim-Americans. Most local Three-Percenter groups carry firearms to rallies and protest.Three-Percenter groups took an active role during the Jan. 6 riots. Many members have moved on to attending local school board meetings to speak out against the supposed "teaching of critical race theory" in public schools.Husbands and Grunder said Miller-Meeks had never supported any Three-Percenter group. By the end of the week, the Iowa's 2nd Congressional District had two distinct camps: those who believe Miller-Meeks was signaling to a fringe, reactionary portion of her base, and her supporters who claimed an innocent photo of campaign volunteers was being used to smear her.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 Twitter fight."Dog-whistling is nothing new in American politics. It dates back all the way to the founding. In some ways, the comments politicians said about each other back then were often worse than things said today," Parsons said. "For instance, Thomas Jefferson was maligned for mocking Christianity and people were told to hide or bury their bibles for fear the new president would confiscate them."The difference today is the ability of these sorts of political tactics to go viral. In a matter of minutes, images reach hundreds of thousands if not millions. Today, we have a sense that such political behavior is more impactful than ever before. There is no doubt that there is less discussion going on in society today than historically."Parsons offered an image of modern political discourse."It is also the case today that political opinion exists primarily in bubbles. People only want to talk to those who have the same opinion. The internet and social media is a major factor in perpetuating this pattern," 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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