Bob Sheak, September 23, 2021
In this post, I focus again on the Republican Party and how, referring to recent specific examples, it continues to advance policies and practice that are intentionally aimed at attenuating, if not ending, democracy. As I point out, they are desperate to win politically even as their electoral base shrinks as a proportion of the total electorate. There is no compromise with their efforts. They are committed, relentless, and contemptuous of science and verifiable evidence. They have the characteristics associated with authoritarian and fascist parties historically and presently. On this point, see Carl Boggs’s book, Fascism Old and New: American Politics at the Crossroads.
How far will they go? The only way to stop them, if at all, is democratically, that is, with solid Democratic candidates, adequate funding sources, voting drives, ample opportunities for citizens to vote in fair elections, social movements, grassroots organizing, and educating the voting population of Democrats and Independents about what is at stake.
There is a caveat. This analysis focuses on domestic politics. When it comes to foreign policy, both major political parties have a flawed and imperialistic record. See, for example, John W. Dower’s book, The Violent American Century: War and Terror Since World War Two, or Joseph Masco’s The Theater of Operations: National Security Affect from the Cold War to the War on Terror, or John Smith’s Imperialism in the Twenty-First Century.
The Republicans and the “great replacement” dogma
Given changing demographics that seem to favor the Democrats, the Republican Party and its allies are desperate to advance their political power by whatever means, regardless of the detrimental effects on democratic processes, public health, the climate crisis. Their aim is ultimately to impose Republican control at the national level of politics without majority support and to use a variety of anti-democratic efforts to win control in the states. It is an authoritarian vision that is based on lies, anti-democratic values and interests, in which there is little room for verifiable evidence. As author Lee Mcintyre has documented, we live in a “post-truth” society, the title of his book, where “alternative facts” replace actual facts, and feelings have more weight than evidence.”
Greg Sargent takes up the demographic issue, referring to how the idea of the “great replacement” has become GOP dogma (https://washingtonpost.com/opinion/2021/09/17/dan-patrick-great-replacement-theory). He continues: “It is becoming a trend: More and more Republicans have been signing on to ‘great replacement theory.’ Because this worldview posits various versions of a nefarious liberal scheme to replace native-born Americans with non-White outsiders, it’s often analyzed through a racial prism.” On this point, Sargent quotes, among others, Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), a House leader, [who] insisted this week [the week of September 12] that providing citizenship for the undocumented would produce a ‘permanent election insurrection’ and ‘overthrow our current electorate.’ Other leading Republicans have also trafficked in versions of this.”
But it is also more broadly about how Republicans use the replacement theory to justify their subversion and abandonment of democratic values.
The Republican Party has mounted major efforts to shape the electoral system in ways to limit significantly the opportunities for voters, aimed at voters of color and other perceived opponents. The Republicans have long been engaged in voter suppression. Among other authors, Carol Anderson documents how Republicans have used suppression tactics for 150 years to harass, obstruct, frustrate, and purge American citizens from having a say in their own democracy (One Person, One Vote: How Voter Suppression Is Destroying Our Democracy, p. 2). What is new in this era of the Trump-dominated Republican Party, is the breadth and depth of voter suppression and efforts to subvert other institutional aspects of the electoral system.
If the current Republican efforts to limit the votes of opponents, skew the electoral rules in their favor, propagate untruths, intimidate rivals, prevail, Republicans running for federal and state offices will be able to win elections despite losing the popular vote and even at the federal level when they lose in the electoral college. And there’s more. Whenever there are legal challenges to voting outcomes in these circumstances, the radical-right majority on the Supreme Court is likely to rule in favor of what Republicans call voter “integrity” laws and legitimate the anti-democratic thrust of the Republican voter suppression laws and other anti-democratic policies and maneuvers they support. Ominously, Republicans in Texas and other states are also pushing for a ban of abortion and the unleashing of vigilantism.
The Republican Party’s power base
The Rich and Powerful
Meanwhile, of course, Republican Party leaders work to hold onto support of large swaths of the rich, corporations, and ideological compatible networks of trade associations, lobbyists, faux experts, think tanks, and foundations. They have long been known as the party of big business and their commitment to an unbridled form of capitalism, which some refer to as neoliberalism (e.g., Jack Rasmus, The Scourge of Neoliberalism; Wendy Brown, In the Ruins of Neoliberalism).
To satisfy their rich and powerful constituencies, the party advances a program of low taxes, corporate welfare, extensive but selective deregulation, the privatization or leasing of any government function that is potentially profitable, and government contracts, as epitomized by but not limited to the lucrative profits of weapons makers. William Hartung is worth quoting on this last point (https://watson.brown.edu/costsofwar/files/cow/imce/papers/2021/Profits%20of%20War_Hartung_Costs%20of%20War_Sept%2013%2C%202021.pdf).
“The United States government’s reaction to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 led to dramatic increases in Pentagon funding and revenues for weapons contractors. While the costs and consequences of America’s war policies of the twenty-first century have been well-documented, the question of who has profited from this approach has received less attention. Corporations large and small have been, by far, the largest beneficiaries of the post-9/11 surge in military spending.
“Since the start of the war in Afghanistan, Pentagon spending has totaled over $14 trillion, one-third to one-half of which went to defense contractors. Some of these corporations earned profits that are widely considered legitimate. Other profits were the consequence of questionable or corrupt business practices that amount to waste, fraud, abuse, price-gouging or profiteering. The Pentagon’s increasing reliance on private contractors in the post-9/11 period raises multiple questions of accountability, transparency, and effectiveness. This is problematic because privatizing key functions can reduce the U.S. military’s control of activities that occur in war zones while increasing risks of waste, fraud and abuse. Additionally, that the waging of war is a source of profits can contradict the goal of having the U.S. lead with diplomacy in seeking to resolve conflicts. More broadly, the outsized influence of defense contractors has resulted in a growing militarization of American society.”
By the way, there has been bipartisan support for increasing military spending, though President Biden has requested a controversially lower increase for the 2022 budget than recent presidents.
Trickle down – a reactionary ideology
The Republicans could care less about rising inequalities or poverty, or about the maintenance of an effective safety net, or any concept of the common good. They are modern-day Social Darwinists, who argue that the alleged talented and hardworking billionaires and other rich people are said to rise to the top of the income and wealth distributions because of their talent, entrepreneurial savvy, risk-taking, and hard work, and everyone else struggles to pay the bills or even just subsist. And, according to this view, the losers ironically (if dubiously), need the winners for the job-creating investments and everything else contemporary life requires of people. But they hardly make it easy for most people.
They oppose unions, minimum wage laws, non-market-related pensions, meaningful occupational and safety laws, government job creation, subsidized child care, paid maternity leaves. They don’t want workers to have viable alternatives to the marketplace. They promote the notion, as mentioned, that the state of the economy is dependent on corporate job makers and the government must do everything it can to encourage their investments and capital accumulation.
Holding onto a shrinking electoral base
But catering to the rich and powerful isn’t enough to win elections. For that, they need a unified party and the ability to attract enough voters to win elections, while at the same time finding ways to diminish the electoral participation of opponents. Trump has served as a catalyst to bring a perverted and fragile unity to the party.
In addition to the support of large segments of the rich and powerful, the Republicans, under the leadership of Trump, need and have the backing of a heterogenous base of far-right organizations and grassroots supporters, from white supremacists, Christian nationalists, xenophobes, gun advocates and owners, homophobes, and others, even when such support conflicts with their economic interests.
Advancing anti-democratic politics
The Republican Party has pursued multiple goals and strategies, often based on outright lies, conspiracy theories, dubious legal stratagems, legislative obstructionism to increase their chances of winning elections and enhancing the party’s political power. They have intensified their efforts recently by:
(1) engaging in voter suppression by governors and state legislators, gerrymandering, changing the rules on how votes are counted,
(2) playing to the Trump electoral base and in support of the false claim that Trump unfairly lost the presidential election in a corrupt, rigged election,
(3) glorifying or saying little about the rioters who were responsible for the destruction and casualties of the January 6 attacks on the US Capitol, even though the evidence that this was a criminal, violent attack is factually indisputable,
(4) engaging, with right-wing media, in divisive “cultural” issues
(5) passing anti- abortion laws,
(6) supporting vigilantism
(7) attacking state election officials
(8) using the courts to suppress dissent.
Here is some recent evidence
#1 – Texas as a Republican Party trend setter – suppressing rights and other anti-democratic actions
John Nichols argues that “[w]hat’s happening in Texas is about much more than the fight over reproductive rights” (https://thenation.com/article/politics/texas-abortion-ban-politics).
Rather, “The state is implementing a template for the authoritarian future Republicans propose for all Americans. The recent enactment of a right-wing wish list of extreme measures by the state’s legislature—denying a pregnant person’s rights to choose, limiting what’s taught in schools about racism, permitting people to carry unlicensed firearms in public—is one piece of an ambitious GOP strategy going into the 2022 midterm elections. The other piece involves the restrictions on voting rights that Republican Governor Greg Abbott signed Tuesday.”
Voter Suppression, etc.
“In Texas,” Nichols writes, “where Democrats have gained ground in recent years, it is now abundantly clear that the Republican strategy is to make it [ever] harder for probable Democratic voters to cast ballots.” The package of voting rights restrictions that the governor has approved includes a ban on drive-through voting and 24-hour voting, which had been used to increase turnout (even during the coronavirus pandemic) in Houston’s Harris County. It also expands voter ID requirements, limits early voting hours, and places new restrictions on mail-in voting. State Representative John Bucy, an Austin Democrat, notes that the bill also outlines new avenues for criminally prosecuting voters who make mistakes.
“There are increased crimes and penalties throughout this bill just for participating in the process,” says Bucy, “and there is no explanation as to why.”
“At the same time,” Nichols points out, “the law empowers partisan poll watchers to aggressively monitor and challenge voting procedures—effectively codifying the approach taken by Donald Trump and his allies during and after the 2020 presidential election.”
Republicans in other states are going all out on voter suppression, as part of a national strategy in anticipation of 2022 midterm elections that could expand GOP control of statehouses and restore GOP control of Congress. “While laws that make it more taxing to vote are not new, the current onslaught of voting restrictions and changes to how elections will be administered is not something we’ve grappled with on this scale,” notes a FiveThirtyEight analysis from May. “Additionally, there is their nakedly partisan origins—nearly 90 percent of the voting laws proposed or enacted in 2021 were sponsored primarily or entirely by Republican legislators—and the fact that these laws are likely to have a greater impact on Black and brown voters, who are less likely to vote Republican.”
#2 – The Republican base goes along with the “big lie”
Caitlin Dickson reports, “A majority of Republicans still believe the 2020 election was stolen from former President Donald Trump, according to a new Yahoo News/YouGov poll. The latest findings show how persistent this false narrative continues to be, despite the preponderance of evidence against it” (https://news.yahoo.com/poll-two-thirds-of-republicans-still-think-the-2020-election-was-rigged).
The survey involved “1,552 U.S. adults, which was conducted from July 30 to Aug. 2, found that 66 percent of Republicans continue to insist that ‘the election was rigged and stolen from Trump,’ while just 18 percent believe ‘Joe Biden won fair and square.’ Twenty-eight percent of independent voters also said they think Trump was the rightful winner of the 2020 election, as did a small 3 percent of Democrats.”
The survey also finds a partisan division on how to view the January 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol. “A closer look at the respondents’ party affiliations shows a clear divide within these views: 81 percent of Democrats said Trump was responsible for the Jan. 6 attack, compared with just 9 percent of Republicans and 43 percent of independents. Only 15 percent of Republicans blamed Trump supporters who gathered at the Capitol for the violence that took place on Jan. 6, while 48 percent of Republicans said that “left wing protesters trying to make Trump look bad” were largely at fault. Conspiracy theories have falsely blamed liberal agitators like antifa for the attack.”
Indeed, Democrats tried to impeach Trump in February on the charge that he incited the insurrection. The charge was approved in the House but went on to fail in the Senate, where Republicans whose lives had been threatened by the rioters on January 6 refused to go along out of loyalty or fear of retribution by Trump.
#3 – Viewing the Jan. 6 insurrectionists as heroes and upstanding citizens
Trump and most Republicans have stood by the big lie that the presidential election was stolen. In an article on September 16, 2021, for Newsweek, Cammy Pedroja reports that Trump continues to defend the Capitol rioters, saying they have been “persecuted so unfairly” (https://newsweek.com/trump-defends-capitol-rioters-being-persecuted-so-unfairly-sept-18th-rally-1629953). She writes: “Former President Donald Trump doubled down on defending those who rioted at the United States capitol on January 6, calling them unfairly ‘persecuted’ on Thursday [Sept. 16].”
So far, Pedroja reports, 642 people have been charged in the Capitol insurrection as of Tuesday, September 14, and dozens have already pleaded guilty.
Trump’s Save America PAC released a statement “ahead of a rally planned for September 18 in support of the hundreds of rioters arrested for allegedly participating in the January 6 Capitol riots, the ex-president expressed solidarity with those criminally charged: ‘Our hearts and minds are with the people being persecuted so unfairly relating to the January 6th protest concerning the Rigged Presidential Election. In addition to everything else, it has proven conclusively that we are a two-tiered system of justice. In the end, however, JUSTICE WILL PREVAIL!’”
#4 – Energizing the right-win electoral base with cultural issues
Republicans are simultaneously advancing a legislative agenda designed to encourage maximum turnout by voters who make up their party’s social-conservative base. They spent more effort on this aspect of their political strategy when in 2018 “Democrats made significant gains in state legislative races that year and picked up several US House seats.” The Republican loss of the presidency was another big setback, though the party gained seats in the US House of Representatives and in state legislatures across the country – while Trump got 74 million votes.
John Nichols says the new anti-abortion law and other “cultural” wedge issues in Texas are “red meat” designed to whip up electoral participation of the Republican base (https://thenation.com/article/politics/texas-abortion-ban-politics).
“GOP legislators are creating controversies and responding to them with an eye toward ginning up turnout by their base voters.” This involves not only the abortion ban but for example stirring “backlash against teaching the legacies of slavery, and expanding gun rights.”
Such tactics are getting noticed by Republicans in other states. Nichols cites an Associated Press report that a ‘network of conservative groups with ties to major Republican donors and party-aligned think tanks is quietly lending firepower to local activists engaged in culture war fights in schools across the country.’ Comparing the approach to that of the Tea Party in the run-up to the 2010 midterm elections, conservative lawyer Dan Lennington openly admits, “These are ingredients for having an impact on future elections.”
#5 – The sad “heart” of the Texas anti-abortion law
No legal abortions after six weeks of pregnancy
In an article for The Texas Tribune, Neelam Bohra reports on Texas Senate Bill 8 “which bans abortions as early as six weeks into pregnancy,” or “whenever an ultrasound can detect cardiac activity.” This is a bill, now law, that appeals to one of the Republican’s principal constituencies, right-wing evangelicals. The Bill “took effect at midnight [Tuesday, August 31, 2021] after the U.S. Supreme Court did not take action on an emergency appeal by Texas abortion providers Tuesday (https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/31/texas-abortion-law-supreme-court/)
“It is usual but not always that at six-weeks old, defined as a fetal “heartbeat,” though medical and legal experts say this term is misleading because embryos at this stage don’t possess a heart at that developmental stage.” In addition, most women are not aware of their pregnancy at this early stage. Providers and abortion rights advocacy groups say “the new law will …[negatively] affect at least 85% of the abortions taking place in the state.”
Legal scholar and author Marjorie Cohn points out that the Texas abortion law will disproportionately affect some groups more than others (https://truthout.org/articles/justice-department-fights-back-against-texas-anti-abortion-law). She writes:
“Outlawing abortion will not prevent abortions. It will prevent safe abortions from occurring within the state. Some pregnant people who can afford to travel out of Texas will get safe abortions elsewhere. Poor, rural, undocumented and non-white women in Texas will be those most directly harmed by S.B. 8”
The Mississippi anti-abortion law
The Supreme Court is scheduled to take up another anti-abortion case from Mississippi. Julia Conley reports on this story (https://commondreams.org/news/2021/09/20/supreme-court-announces-date-case-directly-challenging-roe-v-wade).
The case in question, Conley writes, is “Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization, a case in Mississippi which poses a direct challenge to Roe vs. Wade. On Monday, September 20, the US Supreme Court announced it will consider the case on December 1. The Mississippi law would ban “most abortion care after 15 weeks of pregnancy,” before “fetal viability, usually around 24 weeks.” The Mississippi law “makes no exception for pregnancies that result from rape or incest, only allowing abortion care ‘in medical emergencies or for severe fetal abnormality.’ Providers who administer abortions in violation of the law could have their medical licenses revoked and face fines.”
Abortion rights advocates have geared up to oppose the Mississippi law, but there is concern about the right-wing dominance on the Court. Here is more from Conley’s investigative reporting.
“NARAL Pro-Choice America noted that the Mississippi case will be the first abortion case the court hears since Justice Amy Coney Barrett—one of three anti-choice judges appointed by former President Donald Trump—joined the court, resulting in a 6-3 right-wing majority.
“The court’s announcement on Monday followed the filing of an amicus brief in the Mississippi case by nearly 900 state legislators who support reproductive rights and justice.
“‘Since so many state legislators have been leading the assault on reproductive rights, it only makes sense that state legislators be the first to defend them,’ Arizona Democratic Rep. Athena Salman said in a statement. ‘By adding my name to this amicus brief, I join hundreds of powerful, strong reproductive freedom champions standing up for the rights of all.’”
“The National Women’s Law Center (NWLC). was among 72 organizations that filed a separate amicus brief following the Supreme Court’s announcement.
‘In our brief, we explain that the devastating impact of allowing a pre-viability abortion ban to stand—or overturning the right to abortion explicitly—denies the liberty and equality of women and all people who can become pregnant,’ NWLC said.”
#6 – The Texas anti-abortion law legitimates free-wheeling vigilantism
Neelam Bohra (cited above as well) draws readers’ attention to this aspect of SB 8, the pending Texas anti-abortion law. The law is unique not only in drastically limiting the amount of time a woman has to have a legal abortion, but also, astonishingly, in mandating that, instead of state enforcement, “only private citizens can sue abortion providers and anyone involved in aiding or abetting an abortion after a ‘heartbeat’ is detected.” This encourages a scurrilous vigilantism. Under this law, anyone turning in verifiable information that leads to a conviction in the courts can received up to $10,000 “bonus” per case. Meanwhile, “[t]hrough no fault of their own, thousands of pregnant Texans will lose constitutionally protected access to abortion.” As noted previously, this will affect mostly those women who do not have the resources to travel out-of-state or to Mexico to obtain an abortion.
President Biden “denounced the implementation of SB 8 Wednesday morning, saying that his administration “is deeply committed to the constitutional right established in Roe v. Wade nearly five decades ago and will protect and defend that right,” though he did not refer to any specific course of action.”
Bohra also points out, “Planned Parenthood will try to keep clinics open, staff attorney Julie Murray said. But there is a chance that some abortion clinics will begin closing, said Helene Krasnoff, vice president of public policy litigation and law.” And: “Marva Sadler, senior director of clinical services at Whole Woman’s Health, said the clinics will have to start turning patients away on Wednesday.” In the day prior to the activization of SB. 8, “Sadler said she was ‘engulfed’ with helping to treat over 100 patients at the organization’s clinic in Fort Worth as Texans scrambled to undergo abortions on what many feared was the last day the procedure would be legal.”
In preparation for legal actions on the Republican side, the anti-abortion organization Texas Right to Life, the biggest anti-abortion organization in the state, plans “to start suing those they believe violate SB 8. The organization has even set up a whistleblower website, where anyone can file anonymous tips about illegal abortions, even those who have no personal connection to whomever they sue.”
There is more disconcerting new from Mississippi. Bohra reports, “A separate bill currently under consideration by state lawmakers, Senate Bill 4, would prevent physicians or providers from giving abortion-inducing medication to patients who are more than seven weeks pregnant.”
Heather Digby Parton provides additional details on the anti-abortion ban by the Texas governor and legislature (https://salon.com/2021/09/03/supreme-court-sanctions-gops-vigilante-strategy-to-stay-in-power). As she reports, “Texas passed a draconian anti-abortion law that banned the procedure after 6 weeks. Since most people don’t know they are pregnant that early in pregnancy, it effectively bans the procedure for all but a very few. This wasn’t the first of what they call ‘fetal heartbeat’ laws that states have tried to pass, but it is the first to go into effect despite Roe v. Wade still standing. This is because the Texas legislature came up with a devious way to circumvent federal jurisdiction, by taking enforcement out of the hands of the state altogether and putting it into the hands of private citizens, also known as vigilantes.”
This law’s novel approach to enforcement, essentially removing the state and using what amounts to vigilantes and bounty hunters (under the promise of $10,000 for every abortion aider and abettor they bag) is essentially a form of legal secession from the U.S. Constitution. By removing the state and putting this into the realm of civil law, they can circumvent Americans’ constitutional rights by making them impossible to exercise. Chief Justice John Roberts, who dissented from the majority opinion, concedes that the vigilante scheme is a problem, writing:
“I would grant preliminary relief to preserve the status quo ante — before the law went into effect — so that the courts may consider whether a state can avoid responsibility for its laws in such a manner.”
However, the “court majority is signaling loud and clear that they have abandoned all pretense of impartial justice. They have joined the rest of the far-right in their quest to retain power and achieve their ends by any means necessary. All they need for ‘legitimacy’ is the power they have — and it is immense.”
The fact that hardcore, anti-democratic, right-wingers like the Trump Court have implicitly decided that state-sanctioned vigilantism is a valid law enforcement mechanism should not surprise us. Parton refers to The New York Times’ Michelle Goldberg who points out that this is now mainstream thinking on the right:
“Today’s G.O.P. made a hero out of Kyle Rittenhouse, the young man charged with killing two people during protests against police violence in Kenosha, Wis. Leading Republicans speak of the Jan. 6 insurgents, who tried to stop the certification of an election, as martyrs and political prisoners.
“Last year, Senator Marco Rubio praised Texas Trump supporters who swarmed a Biden campaign bus, allegedly trying to run it off the road: ‘We love what they did,’ he said. This weekend in Pennsylvania, Steve Lynch, the Republican nominee in a county executive race, said of school boards that impose mask mandates, ‘I’m going in with 20 strong men’ to tell them ‘they can leave or they can be removed.’”
Their leader, Donald Trump, “has encouraged vigilante violence, praising insurrectionist Ashli Babbit as a martyr, issuing statements like ‘, ‘Liberate Michigan’ and famously telling his ecstatic fans that he will pay their legal fees if they beat up protesters, among a hundred other provocative comments.”
Goldberg also points out, according to Parton, that “in Texas, the ‘pro-life’ crowd is ready to start hunting down their enemies quoting one of their leaders, John Seago, saying ‘One of the great benefits, and one of the things that’s most exciting for the pro-life movement, is that they have a role in enforcing this law.’ That’s certainly very exciting for all of the MAGA fans out there. 12 other states have passed laws similar to Texas’. A little tweaking to take state enforcement out of it and put anti-abortion bounty hunters in and they’re good to go. No doubt there will be a lot of pain and suffering but that’s pretty much all there is to the GOP agenda these days.”
#7 – Attacking election officials in the states
Jeffrey C. Isaac, Professor of Political Science at Indiana University, Bloomington, analyzes this aspect of the Texas anti-abortion law ((https://commondreams.org/views/2021/09/10/republican-party-anti-democratic-vigilantes-existential-threat). Here’s his overview.
“The recent passage of Texas bill SR 1 , and its peremptory validation by the Supreme Court’s far-right conservative majority, has generated widespread and justified horror and outrage. As many have explained much better than I could ever do, the law is doubly despicable. It institutes a ‘fetal heartbeat’ limit on abortion that virtually abolishes all legal abortion in the state and that radically overthrows approximately fifty years of settled jurisprudence following the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision. And it cynically seeks to get around jurisprudential constraints by empowering private citizens rather than state officials to enforce the criminal law, and establishing draconian civil penalties to be paid to these vigilant citizens upon criminal convictions of ‘offenders’ in court.” The latter provision creates what President Biden calls ‘a vigilante system, encouraging private citizens to ‘go out’ in search of ‘offenders,’ and the moral and financial satisfaction that the apprehension and punishment of such ‘offenders’ will bring them.”
Isaac notes that Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor [also quoted above] put it even more sharply: “In effect, the Texas Legislature has deputized the State’s citizens as bounty hunters, offering them cash prizes for civilly prosecuting their neighbors’ medical procedures….[and] “that the law represents a deliberate effort to encourage cruelty and inspire fear, turning virtually any effort to obtain abortion services into a risky, costly, and potentially dangerous crime, and palpably assaulting the life chances, and the very freedom, of millions of women.”
Isaac views the law as “reactionary and cruel,” and also sees it as a “foretaste of things to come throughout the country if Republicans have their way.” He elaborates. “It certainly reflects the influence of Trump in at least two ways. It reflects Trump’s desire to punish opponents that displease him or his base. In this case, cruelty is the point. But it is also a perfect expression of Trumpism in another way: the general attack on the rule of law, and the fair and impartial enforcement of the law by public authorities, that is the hallmark of constitutional democracy, and the promotion, in its stead, of a kind of informal mob rule.”
“This vigilantism came to a head,” Isaac points out, “with the violent January 6 insurrection, also incited by Trump, along with his group of enablers, including Congressmen Mo Brooks and Louie Gohmert.” Presently, “The promotion of citizen bounty hunters and citizen militias quite clearly involves the explicit promotion of violence as a perverse form of civic virtue,” Isaac writes. It additionally encourages other, less explicitly violent forms, as well.”
Such reactionary and cruel intentions are reflected in how Republican politicians in various states are seeking to empower partisan Republican poll watchers, thus involving a direct attack on a basic democratic institution. According to the Brennan Center, referenced by Isaac, Republicans are designing the rules so that partisan poll watchers can be “much more assertive, and intrusive, in their efforts to ‘monitor’ voters. Such rules “are also designed to disallow election officials to restrain such monitoring when it becomes disruptive.” Additionally, Republicans are encouraging a wide range of “intimidation tactics” that target voters but also election officials, “who are subjected to defiance, confrontation, and even what Reuters has recently called ‘Trump-inspired death threats.’ The point: to delegitimize the very idea of non-partisan or professional election administration, and to encourage right-wing activists to increasingly take the law into their own hands in their ‘enforcement’ of election law.”
Isaac also worries about “the so-called ‘election audits’ being conducted by Trumpist activists, most notoriously in Arizona, which also serve the purpose of corrupting the electoral system along partisan lines. The audits involve “the turning over of publicly-owned election machines, and data, to private—and unprofessional—organizations like Cyber Ninjas, and the relentless questioning of the work of election officials and of professional auditors by these partisan hacks that even some Republicans have described as ‘clowns.’” Such audits “serve to “spread disinformation, about constitutional democracy, the plurality of opinion, and the actual results of elections as determined by legitimate election officials and courts.”
(8) Using the courts to suppress dissent.
Hector Villagra, executive director of the ACLU, offers some evidence on this issue (https://www.aclusocal.org/en/news/silencing-dissent-didnt-work-1923-and-wont-work-now). In 1969, he reminds us, “the Supreme Court established that speech is protected under the First Amendment unless it is ‘directed to inciting . . . imminent lawless action’ and likely to incite ‘imminent lawless action.’” Recently, however,
“Lawmakers in 34 states have now introduced more than 80 anti-protest bills so far this year, more than double the number introduced in any other year. In Oklahoma and Iowa, legislators passed bills to give immunity to drivers whose cars strike protestors. In Minnesota, a bill was introduced to prevent anyone convicted of a protest violation from getting unemployment benefits and student loans. And in Indiana, a proposal barred anyone convicted on an unlawful assembly charge from state employment, including elected office.”
The intent of today’s anti-protest laws is no different from the criminal syndicalism laws of the 1920s — “seeking to silence rather than engage with the message of protest and dissent.”
As I have argued, the Republican Party represents an existential threat to an already tenuous democracy. In this post, I’ve focused on how this right-wing party is doing its utmost to limit the votes of opponents, delegitimize Biden’s presidency, re-write what happened on January 6, push culturally divisive issues designed to mobilize the electoral base, attack long-established laws on abortion, encourages vigilantism, on such issues as abortion, and replace state election officials with Republican cronies.
There is much more to the Republican agenda. For example, they are a major supporters of a fossil-fuel energy policy, while being dismissive of the climate crisis. They are major critics of scientifically-based Covid-19 findings and recommendations. They oppose meaningful campaign finance legislation.
What I wrote in a post on February 6, 2021, still applies.
The right-wing forces discussed in this post are daunting. The combination of Trump, his massive and subservient base, the profit-first corporate community, and a Republican Party dominated by Trump, all together represent a formidable political force that could lead to a right-wing Republican government in coming elections. In such an eventuality, the erosion of our Democracy would accelerate.
Given the right conditions over the next 2-4 years, Republicans could regain control of the House, Senate, and Presidency. They already control the Supreme Court. With Trump at the helm, more extreme Republicans in Congress and state houses, they could further undermine the values and institutions that support democracy, more equality, and social justice and unleash and advance policies that lead to less democracy, more inequality, heightened racism and xenophobia, the marginalization of science, experts, and regulatory agencies, unregulated environmental degradation, a wholesale repression of dissent, and other developments that, if not contested, will end up creating a country with the heinous quality of “1984” and “1933 Germany.”