Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., took to Twitter on Feb. 10 to oppose fellow Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R- Ill., in his creation of a political action committee (PAC) that targets supporters of former President Donald Trump within the GOP.
The PAC, dubbed “Country First,” embodies Kinzinger’s goals of combatting devotion to Trump and his political legacy within the Republican Party, for which he sees a very different future than Gaetz.
Representing Florida’s overwhelmingly Republican 1st district, Gaetz is known as an outspoken and contentious pro-Trump figure in the House of Representatives, modeling his political behavior and policies after the former president’s standards of nationalism, populism, conservativism and consistent use of the Internet to spread his ideology.
Commonly called “Trumpism,” this is exemplified by the highly active Twitter account @mattgaetz and the “About” page of Gaetz’s congressional website. It states, “[Gaetz] has earned nicknames such as the ‘Trumpiest Congressman in Trump’s Washington’ by GQ magazine and ‘the Trumpiest Congressman’ by Rolling Stone, which he considers badges of honor.”
Throughout the tumult of January and February, Gaetz has maintained these characteristics. On a Feb. 3 episode of former White House Chief Strategist Steve Bannon’s conservative podcast, War Room, Gaetz offered to resign from his congressional seat to become a member of Trump’s legal defense if asked.
“I would do anything I had to do to ensure that the greatest president in my lifetime…maybe the greatest president our country has ever had, got a full-throated defense that wasn’t crouched down, that wasn’t in fear of losing some moderate Republican senator,” Gaetz said.
Gaetz has identified himself with the very division of the Republican Party that is opposed by Kinzinger and his newly created PAC.
Kinzinger is himself a contentious figure within the Republican Party, although for very different reasons. Kinzinger was one of ten Republican representatives who voted in favor of impeachment and has been making a name for himself as an anti-Trump Republican.
Kinzinger makes an outlier of himself with the creation of his Country First PAC and subsequent interview with the Washington Post, in which Gaetz as well as Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene are specific targets for primary challenges.
Kinzinger criticizes the pro-Trump faction, “You look at people like Matt Gaetz, who know better. I think neither of them believe the stuff they ascribe to. They just want fame… Look, the people that voted for Donald Trump, and even those that support Marjorie Taylor Greene, they’ve been misled.”
The Country First PAC is currently represented by a sparse webpage highlighting a six-minute video in which Kinzinger describes the main goal. The goal is to return the Republican Party to a party based upon personal principles and hope, describing Trump’s influence darkly: “Worst of all, our deep convictions are ignored. They’ve been replaced by poisonous conspiracies and lies.”
The PAC has garnered a great deal of attention from news sources, but it has yet to move toward any significant financial action.
Still, the attention that Kinzinger has garnered has added fuel to an ongoing mutual dislike between Kinzinger and Gaetz.
Gaetz’s Feb. 10 tweet responded brusquely: “Adam is a patriot who fought for America from Northwest Florida. We will always appreciate & honor his service. Now, he wants to target my America First politics, referencing me by name. My response: Fucking bring it. Adam needs PACs to win elections. I don’t.”
Kinzinger used his own Twitter to reply with a GIF from the movie Top Gun(1986), in which the pilot of one plane maneuvers behind an attacking plane as if to suggest that Kinzinger easily retook the advantage.
One may note the similarity between the “America First” slogan often used by Gaetz and other supporters of Trump, and the name of Kinzinger’s PAC, “Country First.” It serves as a symbolic reminder that both men represent the same party and even utilize similar tactics, like the social media they use to insult and argue with one another.
Though aligned in many of their personal and political beliefs, the two are entirely polarized on politics. They disagree most fundamentally on the subject regarding the character of the Republican Party, what a united Republican front would ideally look like, and who would lead it.
Featured image: Buttons with the elephant emblem of the Republican Party, 2012. Unmodified photo by US Consulate General Barcelona used under a Creative Commons license. (https://bit.ly/3rp0j9e)
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