‘People are terrified. We’re heading toward a civil war, if we’re not already in a cold civil war’
Audra Johnson gained fame in 2019 for wearing a wedding dress emblazoned with the words “Make America Great Again.” Now she’s running for Congress, and because Michigan Republicans are so furious at the incumbent, Rep Peter Meijer, she may actually have a chance.
“People are terrified,” Ms Johnson told The New York Times. “We’re heading toward a civil war, if we’re not already in a cold civil war.”
The two candidates are a study in contrasts, and a perfect illustration of the divergent forces splitting the Republican Party.
Mr Meijer, the establishment candidate, is the heir to a Michigan grocery store chain, attended West Point and Columbia University, and served in Iraq as an intelligence adviser.
Ms Johnson, the pro-Trump insurgent, is mostly famous for her dress. But her rhetoric appeals to an enormous swathe of the Republican electorate, who believe (falsely) that the 2020 election was stolen, the Capitol riot was a peaceful protest, and Covid-19 vaccines are a dangerous experiment.
For Mr Meijer, those voters may be out of reach.
“The challenge is if you believe that Nov. 3 was a landslide victory for Donald Trump that was stolen, and Jan. 6 was the day to stop that steal,” the freshman congressman told the Times. “I can’t come to an understanding with somebody when we’re dealing with completely separate sets of facts and realities.”
Mr Meijer and one other Michigan congressman, Rep Fred Upton, were two of the only House Republicans who voted to impeach Mr Trump for his role in inciting the Capitol attack. Ms Johnson not only opposes that vote, but was actually present at the “Stop the Steal” protest that eventually turned into the riot – although she says she personally didn’t enter the Capitol.
“He decided to impeach president Donald Trump without any constitutional basis,” Ms Johnson said of Mr Meijer in an interview with WXMI.
Both Mr Meijer and Mr Upton now face numerous primary challengers, many of whom accuse them of disloyalty. For Mr Meijer, one of those opponents is former Sand Lake Village president Tom Norton, who first ran against him in the 2020 primary. This time around, Mr Norton is feeling more confident.
“Last time, the problem was we were running against Peter Meijer,” Mr Norton told the Times. “The advantage this time is we’re running against Peter Meijer. It’s a complete flip.”
Among other positions, Mr Norton believes the 2020 election was fraudulent, transgender women are mentally ill, and Mr Trump’s impeachment violated the US Constitution.
As the candidates hit the campaign trail, Ms Johnson’s prediction of “civil war” sometimes doesn’t seem far off. At one recent event, a voter warned Mr Meijer that he would soon face a military tribunal for treason.
“People are willing to kill and die over these alternative realities,” Mr Meijer said.