This election season, as in 2012, many sitting Republicans face challenges from tea party candidates, who aren’t afraid to tout conspiracy theories or say brash things about women’s bodies. One GOP Senate challenger, vying against veteran Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), has gone as far as claiming that the IRS is training an army of “Brown Shirts” to enforce Obamacare—with assault weapons no less.
South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright argued in a speech last August that we should “get rid of that IRS.” (See the video above). He also discussed comments from US Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.), a member of the House Homeland Security Committee, who toured a federal law enforcement facility last spring and reported seeing IRS agents training with the semi-automatic AR-15 rifles. Bright added:
If that’s true…and they’re doing assault-weapon training, the Brown Shirts are next because that’s the enforcement for Obamacare, is the IRS. If you don’t have an IRS, you don’t have Obamacare. That’s the mechanism that’s controlling our lives for far too long.
In fact, the armed agents Duncan saw probably belonged to a special criminal investigation division, which sometimes goes after drug traffickers and money launderers. At the time, according to Politico, Duncan questioned whether “that level of firepower is appropriate when they could coordinate operations with other agencies, like the FBI, especially in a time of austerity.” That’s a far cry from likening IRS agents to Nazi storm troopers.
After Bright made his IRS comments, at a Republican Liberty Caucus gathering (for more on the meeting, see the Charleston City Paper), an audience member asked for Bright’s take on other conspiracy theories, including that “FEMA is training a militia.”
“Most of the federal government is a scam,” Bright replied. “FEMA is the biggest scam in the world.”
This isn’t the first time Bright has taken a controversial stand. Last year, he drafted a bill allowing South Carolina schools to offer firearms training to children. “I believe the more guns we have the safer we are,” he told a local TV station. Bright has also opposed state funding for rape-crisis centers, and he has sponsored a bill that would make it a crime for federal officials to enforce the Affordable Care Act, with penalties of up to a year in prison.
Three other Republican candidates besides Bright are challenging Graham, who has been in Congress since 1995 but has come under attack from the party’s right wing for supporting some of President Barack Obama’s judicial nominees and policies, including immigration reform. Graham has also raised hackles by bashing tea party insurgents. “The problem with the tea party, I think it’s just unsustainable because they can never come up with a coherent vision for governing the country,” he told the the New York Times Magazine in 2010. Graham boldly predicted that the movement would “die out.” The tea party apparently wants to see Graham’s career die out first.