The Trump-Republican assaults on voting: authoritarian implications

Bob Sheak, January 28, 2022

bsheak983@gmail.com

Introduction

The U.S. election system is now under an unprecedented and growing threat from right-wing forces associated with Trump, the Republican Party, and their supporters. If these forces continue to be successful in these fiendish efforts, America will lose its democracy and be replaced by an autocratic-led authoritarian political system, with fascist elements. This ominous view is shared by many on the liberal/left. Here are a few examples.

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Thom Hartmann, prolific author and host of a nationally syndicated radio show, writes: “Today in the United States there is a concerted and well-organized campaign to prevent people from voting while making it more and more convenient for others.” He quotes Thomas Paine: “The right to voting for representatives is the primary right by which other rights are protected. Take away that right is to reduce a man to slavery” (The Hidden History of the War on Voting: Who Stole Your Vote and How to Get It Back on page, p. 2).

Author and New York Times columnist Thomas B. Edsall refers to what he is learning from experts on the American political situation: “Political analysts, scholars and close observers of government are explicitly raising the possibility that the polarized American electoral system has come to the point at which a return to traditional democratic norms will be extremely difficult, if not impossible” (https://nytimes.com/2021/12/15/opinion/republicans-democracy-minority-rule.html).

Robert Reich, Chancellor’s Professor of Public Policy at the University of California at Berkeley and Senior Fellow at the Blum Center, writes:

“A belligerent and narcissistic authoritarian has gained a powerful hold over a large portion of America. As many as 60 percent of Republican voters continue to believe his lies. Many remain intensely loyal. The Republican party is close to becoming a cult whose central animating idea is that the 2020 election was stolen from Trump.” Reich adds: “Trump has had help, of course. Fox News hosts and Facebook groups have promoted and amplified his ravings for their own purposes. Republicans in Congress and in the states have played along” (https://robertreich.org/post/672010546164449280).

Noam Chomsky, Institute Professor Emeritus at MIT and currently Laureate Professor at the University of Arizona, addresses the threat to democracy in an interview released on Truthout (https://truthout.org/articles/noam-chomsky-gops-soft-coup-is-still-underway-one-year-after-capitol-assault). In the interview with C.J. Polychroniou, Chomsky refers to the growing fragility of American democracy.

“Implications for the future are all too clear. The Republican organization — it’s hard to regard them any longer as an authentic political party — is now carefully laying the groundwork for success next time, whatever the electoral outcome may be. It’s all completely in the open, not only not concealed but in fact heralded with pride by its leaders. And regularly reported, so that no one who is interested enough to pay attention to the American political scene can miss it.”

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I have written posts in the past that call attention to the right-wing agenda of the Republican Party, how it is devoted to winning elections by any means and, in the meantime, obstructing Democratic legislative initiatives. Trump is the head of the Party. His power is rooted in his electoral base and his pro-corporate, pro-wealthy economic policies. You can see my posts at “vitalissues-bobsheak.”

The purposes of this post

This post attempts to update the evidence, focusing on voting, and how Trump, the Republican Party, and Trump’s huge and loyal electoral base represent an ever-increasing and dire threat to U.S. democracy.

Regarding Trump, there are numerous books and investigative articles documenting the checkered political and financial career of the former president, his thousands of lies and connections to Fox News and other right-wing media, how he and his family profited from his presidency, his continuous problems with the I.R.S, his hollowing out and corruption of executive branch agencies, his refusal to concede that he lost the 2020 presidential election, his ability to stoke the flames of his obedient electoral base, including his encouragements of violence, and his autocratic aspirations.

At the federal level, Republicans intensify partisanship with the goal of obstructing Democratic legislative initiatives. Their ultimate goal appears to be to create a virtual one-party political system based on minority rule and an agenda that satisfies the economic interests of the rich and powerful, pays attention to Trump’s obsessions, while playing to the cultural/social interests of Trump’s huge and multifaceted electoral base.

Recently, and of particular relevance to this post, Republicans in the Senate and two rogue Democrats were able to stop the passage of two voting rights bills. The bills, the content of which I’ll later summarize, were championed by Democrats as strengthening voter rights, while the Republicans in the Senate claimed that the bills would promote fraud and take away the authority of states to determine who should vote and how votes should be counted. In effect, Democrats want to expand opportunities for Americans to vote, while Republicans want to reduce them. At this point, Republicans are winning.

In the states and local jurisdictions, particularly in the 26 “red” states, Republicans and their supporters are increasingly involved in voter suppression, gerrymandering, the harassment and replacement of election officials, and creating the conditions where a popular vote can be overridden by a state legislature.

Evidence of the advances of the Republican anti-democratic movement

One– Trump, the undisputed leader

All levels of the Republican Party accept or remain obediently discreet about Trump’s Big Lie that the 2020 presidential election was stolen from him by what Trump has called a “rigged” election. Trump’s dominance is rooted in the loyalty of his base and Trump’s ability to raise tens of millions of dollars from the base and from his corporate and wealthy backers.

In polls, Trump leads the Republican pack

Max Greenwood reports on January 24, 2022, on a recent poll dealing with how Trump fairs in the Republican field with respect to 2024 presidential choices (https://thehill.com/homenews/campaign/591115-poll-trump-leads-2024-republican-field-with-desantis-in-distant-second). Here is the key finding. In a hypothetical eight-person GOP presidential primary, Trump holds a clear edge, garnering 57 percent support among Republican voters. DeSantis and former Vice President Mike Pence are nearly deadlocked at 12 percent and 11 percent, respectively. No other would-be candidate tested in the poll registers double-digit support.”

Trump continues to propound the widely debunked “Big Lie, as he did at a recent rally in Arizona

In an article for the New York Times, Linda Qiu reports that during a rally in Arizona on Saturday, January 15, “former President Donald J. Trump repeated his lie that the 2020 election was stolen and made other false claims about the pandemic and the attack on the Capitol on Jan. 6 last year” (https://nytimes.com/2022/01/16/us/politics/fact-check-trump-arizona-rally.html).

In statements relevant to the 2020 presidential election, Trump falsely said at the rally,

“So we lost, they say, by 10,000 and yet they flagged more than — listen to these numbers — 57,000 highly suspicious ballots for further investigation, one. 23,344 mail-in ballots were counted despite the person no longer living at that address — little, little problem. Five thousand people appear to have voted in more than one county.”

Qiu also refers to some of the evidence refuting Trump”s claim. The official and repeated investigative findings concur that “Trump lost the state of Arizona – where the recent rally was held – by about 10,500 votes and his claim of tens of thousands of fraudulent votes is baseless. These figures are incredibly based on a report by Cyber Ninjas, a company Republicans hired to examine voting in the state. An audit by the company ‘showed that in Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix, Mr. Biden had 99 additional votes and Mr. Trump had 261 fewer votes.’”

Millions still believe or go along with whatever Trump says

In his weekly New York Times column on January 19, 2022, Thomas B. Edsall (referred to earlier) looks at polls and seeks answers from experts on why millions of Americans think Trump cannot tell a lie (https://nytimes.com/2022/01/19/opinion/trump-big-lie.html). Edsall is particularly interested in why Republican officials and voters are so compliant in going along with Trump’s trashing of the 2020 presidential election, despite the fact that at the same time many Republicans were elected to the U.S. House of Representatives and to state and local elected offices across the country. Edsall sums up his own view as follows: “The capitulation to and appeasement of Trump by Republican leaders is actually setting up even worse possibilities than what we’ve lived through so far.”

Here are the views of two of Edsall’s expert contacts.

Sarah Binder, a political scientist at George Washington University and a senior fellow at Brookings, noted in an email that ‘fear of electoral retribution from Trump — and from Republican voters — drives Senate G.O.P. reluctance to break with Trump.’ The former president, she continued, has succeeded in reshaping the G.O.P. as ‘his’ party. This electoral dynamic applies in spades to Republicans’ unwillingness to challenge Trump over the Jan. 6 insurrection — or like Kevin McCarthy and Mitch McConnell to back down from their initial criticisms. It seems as if fealty to Trump’s alternative version of the events of Jan. 6 is the litmus test for Republicans.” Binder adds: “For all of Trump’s nativist immigration, trade, and ‘America First’ views, he was lock step with Republicans on cutting taxes and regulations and stacking the courts with young conservatives. In that light, certainly while Trump was in office, Senate Republicans held their noses on any anti-democratic behavior and stuck with Trump to secure the policies they craved.”

Along similar lines, Bruce Cain, a political scientist at Stanford, observes that Republican elected officials make their calculations based on the goal of political survival: What perhaps looks like collective derangement to many outside the party ranks is really just raw political calculation. The best strategy for regaining Congressional control is to keep Trump and his supporters inside the party tent, and the only way to do that is to go along with his myths in order to get along with him. This approach, Cain continued, “is the path of least political resistance. Trump in 2016 demonstrated that he could win the presidency” while rejecting calls to reach out to minorities, by targeting a constituency that is “predominantly white and 80 percent conservative.” Because of its homogeneity, Cain continued, “the Republican Party is much more unified than the Democrats at the moment.”

Two – Trump, the aspiring autocrat

Journalist Shane Goldmacher gives us an example (https://nytimes.com/2022/01/03/us/politics/trump-endorses-viktor-orban-hungary.html). He reports, “Former President Donald J. Trump endorsed Hungary’s prime minister, Viktor Orban, on Monday [January 3], formally pledging his ‘complete support’ to a far-right foreign leader who has touted turning Hungary into an ‘illiberal democracy.’”

Orban was an early supporter of Trump, endorsing him in the summer of 2016.

“After he won, Mr. Trump granted Mr. Orban a meeting in the Oval Office in 2019. The Hungarian leader had been denied such an audience since 1998.” And: “After that meeting, Mr. Trump said Mr. Orban was ‘probably, like me, a little bit controversial, but that’s OK.’”

Goldmacher gives us an idea of what Orban’s illiberal democracy entails.

“Mr. Orban and his party have steadily consolidated power in Hungary by weakening the country’s independent and democratic institutions — rewriting election laws to favor his Fidesz party, changing school textbooks, curbing press freedoms, overhauling the country’s Constitution and changing the composition of the judiciary.”

In their book, Presidents, Populism, and the Crisis of Democracy, Political scientists William G. Howell and Terry M. Moe refer to how Trump has “spoken admiringly of autocrats – particularly Russia’s Vladimir Putin, but also Xi Jinping (China), Rodrigo Duterte (Philippines), Viktor Orban (Hungary), Jaroslaw Kaczynski (Poland), Recep Tayyip Erdogan (Turkey), and Mohammad bin Salman (Saudi Arabia)” (p. 110).

Three – Trump’s next coup has already begun

Atlantic magazine journalist Barton Gellman has written a widely acclaimed, in-depth article titled “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun” (https://theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2020/01/january-6-insurrection-trump-coup-2024-election/620843). His opening paragraph conveys his central thesis.

“Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.”

Republican operatives and their supporters are already acting to win elections through “an apparatus of election theft.” Trump and his party have convinced “a dauntingly large number of Americans that the essential workings of democracy are corrupt, that made up claims of fraud are true, that only cheating can thwart their victory at the polls, that tyranny has usurped their government, and that violence is a legitimate response.” Some thousands of them converged in Washington D.C. on January 6 to hear Trump and others claim that the election was rigged, that Trump won by millions of votes, and that they should “be strong” and march to the Capitol and stop the certification of electors for Joe Biden.

Gellman interviewed a couple of participants who were at the riot to understand how they now explained [a year after the January 6 riot] what happened. Despite the video and first-hand evidence that captured the violence, the property damage, and the injuries to 151 officers from the Capitol Police and Metropolitan Police Department and deaths, the rioters now endorse one or more of the following notions. One, they argue that rally was peaceful. Two, “if there was violence…the patriots were not to blame.” Three, agents provocateurs, say, the FBI, incited the violence. They also make up their own numbers on the 2020 election results. Gellman sums it up: “Each rebuttal is met with fresh round of delusions.”

Gellman refers to research by Robert A. Pape, an expert on political violence, and “a virtual group of seven research professionals, supported by two dozen University of Chicago undergraduates, who have “gathered court documents, public records, and news reports to compile a group profile of the insurgents.” Their most significant finding is that “insurgents were much more likely to come from a county where the white share of the population was in decline.” The would-be insurrectionists were worried that whites will soon become a minority in the country and then become second-class citizens. It’s referred to as “the Great Replacement Theory.”

Pape and his research team ran two national opinion surveys, in March and June of 2021. The June poll found that “just over 8 percent agreed that Biden is illegitimate and that violence was justified to restore Trump to the White House. That corresponds to 21 million American adults, whom Pape calls “committed insurrectionists.” Pape and his team also found that about “two-thirds of them agreed that ‘African American people or Hispanic people in our country will eventually have more rights than whites.’” One of Gellman’s respondents claimed his career in fire fighting had been negatively affected by affirmative action that, he said, discriminates against whites.

So, there is a large, violent-ready and armed group in Trump’s loyal base. There are other developments based on Republican control of “statehouses, state election authorities, courthouses, Congress, and the Republican Party apparatus” that have improved Trump’s position since January 6. Their main objective has been to change the conditions in state election systems so that electors are picked in swing states by Republican legislators, nullifying any unfavorable popular vote.

To achieve this end, they are working to remove state election officials who refused to support Trump in the decertification maneuvers. Gellman writes: “In at least 15 more states [in addition to Georgia, Michigan, and Arizona] Republicans have advanced new laws to shift authority over elections from governors and career officials in the executive branch to the legislature. Under the Orwellian banner of ‘election integrity,’ even more have rewritten laws to make it harder for Democrats to vote. Death threats and harassment from Trump supporters have meanwhile driven nonpartisan voting administrators to contemplate retirement.”

The efforts to thwart democratic institutions also include a legal strategy called the “independent state legislature” doctrine, “which holds that statehouses have ‘plenary,’ or exclusive, control of the rules for choosing presidential electors. Taken to its logical conclusion, it could provide a legal basis for any state legislature to throw out an election result it dislikes and appoint its preferred electors instead” and, if challenged, take it to the partisan Supreme Court for support.

Gellman concludes his analysis with this foreboding warning. “The midterms [in 2022], marked by gerrymandering, will more than likely tighten the GOP’s grip on the legislatures in swing states. The Supreme Court may be ready to give those legislatures near-absolute control over the choice of presidential electors.

“And if Republicans take back the House and Senate, as oddsmakers seem to believe they will, the GOP will be firmly in charge of counting the electoral votes.

Against Biden or another Democratic nominee, Donald Trump may be capable of winning a fair election in 2024. He does not intend to take that chance.”

Four- Republicans defeat Democrats’ voting reform bills

Democrats in the U.S. Senate have lost, at least for the time being, in their efforts to pass two voting bills aimed at making it less difficult for Americans to vote. The bills are named the Freedom to Vote Act and the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act. Both bills were previously approved in the U.S. House of Representatives. Provisions from both bills were combined for the current votes. The House Democrats, with a small majority, passed the updated legislation on a party-line basis.

However, Senate Democrats were unable to override a Republican filibuster, requiring 60 votes for a bill to pass. They were thwarted in their hope to pass the bill through a reconciliation process that needs only a simple majority of 51 votes. Two Democrats out of 50 voted joined all 50 Republicans to defeat the legislation. The final vote on January 19, 2022, was 52 against and 48 in favor.

(See Norm Ornstein’s article, “The Five Myths about the Filibuster, https://washingtonpost.com/outlook/five-myths-about-the-filibuster, and Caroline Fredrickson’s “The Case Against the Filibuster, https://brennancenter.org/our-work/research-reports/case-against-filibuster.)

Jane C. Timm has described on January 13, 2022, the highlights of the combined bill, The Freedom to Vote Act, in an article for NBC News (https://nbcnews.com/politics/elections/what-s-democrats-latest-voting-legislation-what-would-bills-do-n1287301). Timm identifies five categories of Democratic concerns that are addressed in the bill that has been designed to increase access, fairness, safety for state election officials, campaign finance reform, and an updating of voting rights law. The Republicans want none of this. Here is what the Democratic bills would have provided.

#1 – National standards for voting access.

“The Freedom to Vote Act would create a set of standards for federal elections to ensure that voters have similar access to the ballot box across the country” and “neutralize the restrictions to the ballot box that many states have advanced in the last year and are considering advancing this year, while also establishing standards that would make U.S. elections look more similar from state to state.”

It would require states “to offer a minimum number of days of early voting and the ability to vote by mail for any reason. With respect to voter ID, the bill “would allow a wider range of identifying documents — and electronic copies — than some states with strict voter ID laws now permit.” It would make Election Day a national holiday, “require states to keep voting lines to 30 minutes or less,” “create or increase penalties for intimidating and deceiving voters to counteract misinformation and disinformation about elections, which have run rampant since 2020,” “restore federal voting rights to people with felony convictions after they have been released from prison,” and permit voter registration at state motor vehicle agencies.

#2 – Redistricting reform

“The Freedom to Vote Act would also outlaw partisan gerrymandering in congressional maps and require neutral redistricting standards for all states and mandate transparency in the process. That would be likely to fuel legal challenges in states that have already enacted new legislative maps for this year’s elections and force states that haven’t yet drawn their maps to adopt the new standards.”

#3 – Protecting election workers and records, and giving legal recourse

“The Freedom to Vote Act would make it a federal crime to intentionally harass, intimidate, threaten or coerce election officials, poll workers and election volunteers for doing their jobs. 

“The bill would also reaffirm voters’ ability to sue in federal court if they believe their votes or the right of those votes to be fairly counted have been infringed upon, which advocates say they believe would give voters recourse against election subversion. Advocates hope the measure would instruct federal courts to continue enforcing voting access.

“Election records and paper ballots would be subject to new requirements and regulations to keep election materials from being used in partisan ballot reviews like the one in Maricopa County, Arizona, after the 2020 election. Those machines were later decertified by Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs because of the work of inexperienced third-party contractors. Official audits, however, would be required after elections to boost public trust and transparency.”

#4 – Campaign finance reform

“To curb the effect of anonymous money in elections, the bill would require the disclosure of major donors by entities that spend more than $10,000 in an election reporting cycle while also subjecting super PACs to new rules to keep their operations separate from campaigns.”

“The bill would also create a small-dollar donor matching program for House candidates who opt in, seemingly an effort to empower smaller donors.

“The Federal Election Commission, which has been stymied by partisan gridlock, would be reworked to be less dependent on a majority of the commission to approve new investigations and to instead allow the commission’s general counsel to investigate and issue subpoenas.”

#5 – Update the Voting Rights Act

“A separate and much narrower bill would update the Voting Rights Act of 1965. A House version of the legislation, named for John Lewis, the civil rights leader who served in Congress for more than 30 years and died in 2020, passed the House in August. Murkowski and other senators updated the bill in the Senate in November.

“The Voting Rights Act of 1965 was landmark legislation that barred discriminatory election laws and gave the Justice Department the authority to challenge new state laws in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination before they were implemented, through a process known as preclearance.

“In 2013, the Supreme Court said in Shelby County v. Holder that the formula used to decide which states were subject to preclearance was unconstitutional; the bill would update the formula, subjecting states with at least 15 voting rights violations over 25 years — or 10 if one of them was committed by the state itself — to the process. A state could remove itself from the preclearance process if it avoided violations for a decade.

“At the time of the Shelby decision, all or part of 15 states were subject to preclearance. Wendy Weiser, an expert at the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law, testified before the Senate Judiciary Committee in October that seven states — Georgia, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Texas and Virginia — and Cook County, Illinois, would qualify for preclearance, with a long list of voting rights violations among them. Alabama and Florida are “on the cusp” of qualifying, she added.

“The bill would also make it easier for advocates to successfully sue under Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act, bolstering the law’s protections for groups of voters who are disproportionately harmed by voting rules; the Supreme Court limited the use of Section 2 in a ruling last year.

“The bill would also add a Native American Voting Rights Act, which includes a number of provisions to make it easier for voters on tribal lands. The bill would require states to offer polling sites and voter registration on tribal lands.”

Five – At the state level – the selective suppression of the vote and the subversion of state-level election systems is well underway – “laboratories of autocracy”

The U.S. Democracy Center’s provides some year-end evidence for 2021 on
“the democracy crisis in the making” (https://statsuniteddemocracy.org/resources/decupdate).

The Center finds that, as of December 15, 2021, “there have been at least 262 bills introduced in 41 states that would interfere with election administration — and 32 of these bills have become law across 17 states.” These laws would variously “allow states to politicize, criminalize, and interfere with elections.” The subversion of voting and elections will by all accounts continue in 2022.

Given the evidence, they anticipate that the Republican’s anti-democratic strategies will continue through 2022 and “will consist of four key pillars: (i) changing the rules to make it easier to undermine the will of the voters; (ii) changing the people who defend our democratic system by sidelining, replacing, or attacking professional election officials; (iii) promoting controversial constitutional theories about our elections to justify partisan takeovers; and (iv) eroding public confidence and trust in elections.” This is the antithesis of what the Democratic Party advocates.

#1 – Changing the rules– “In the last six months of this year, state legislatures have continued pursuing their efforts to micromanage election administration, criminalize human error, and seize control of election administration.” They identify 17 states in a graph that are engaged in at least some such activities. If they are successful, elections could be made unworkable, voting results would be far more difficult to finalize, and “in the worst-case scenario, allow state legislatures to substitute their preferred candidates for those chosen by the voters.”

Here’s one of their examples.

“…in Pennsylvania, a wide-ranging measure to rewrite the state’s election law, which included election subversion provisions, was vetoed by the governor in late June. Undeterred, the legislature launched a sweeping, ad hoc, and standardless audit of the 2020 election, which, among other things, attempted to subpoena the private information of more than nine million registered voters for analysis by a firm with no experience in election law or data analytics. The legislature then initiated an effort to bypass the governor’s veto via a constitutional amendment. Most alarmingly, a version of the proposed constitutional amendment, currently working its way through the legislature, would allow the legislature to unilaterally scuttle any election regulations issued by the state’s chief elections officer (as well as other executive branch agencies) and would also create a permanent audit system subject to the legislature’s rules.

#2 – Changing the People: “Our democracy depends on the hard work and commitment of hundreds of thousands of people, from the precinct-level election judges who open polling places at dawn, to the county boards that canvass and report results, to secretaries of state who certify elections. They form a chain that makes our democratic elections work, and this year, we have seen concerted efforts to weaken every link in the chain.”

Their investigation of precinct-level candidates for election judge and inspector in two Pennsylvania counties identified “a cluster of election deniers who had won their races.” In Michigan, “in eight of the eleven largest counties…county Republican parties have systematically replaced their appointees to county canvassing boards with election deniers who embrace conspiracy theories and lies about the 2020 election.” Back to Pennsylvania, the “state legislature threatened to impeach the members of two county election commissions who voted to count timely received mail-in or absentee ballots that lacked a date handwritten by the voter.” Among other examples, they cite “a survey by the Brennan Center for Justice, ‘one in three election officials feel unsafe because of their job, and nearly one in five listed threats to their lives as a job-related concern.”

#3 – Promoting Controversial Constitutional Theories:

They refer to how in recent years, “a small group of conservative legal scholars have begun promoting what they call the ‘independent state legislature doctrine.’ (Also mentioned by Gellman.) According to the scholars, state legislatures have the sole and unilateral authority to set election rules under the U.S. Constitution. Under this controversial theory, their authority is immune from court review and action from a governor or attorney general.”

Influenced by this “novel theory, legislators in several states are increasingly bold in arguing that they can change election outcomes.” Thus, in Wisconsin, “one of the state’s sitting U.S. Senators, Sen. Ron Johnson, proposed in an interview with a Milwaukee newspaper that “the legislature seize control of elections.”

#4 – Undermining Confidence: “More than a year after the 2020 election, while a majority of Americans trust the 2020 election results, a substantial portion of the American population still believes that the election was stolen. Seventy-three percent of Republicans believe that President Joe Biden was not the rightful winner of the election. And looking forward to 2022, while 80 percent of Democrats believe next year’s midterm election will be fair, only 42 percent of Republicans feel it will be fair. Worse yet, 39 percent of people who think that the 2020 election was stolen believe that violence may be justified to ‘save our country.’”

Their concern is that when a major portion of the electorate loses faith in how we run our elections, it “is more likely to support, or even encourage, nakedly overturning the will of the people.” As it stands now, “we have a democracy crisis in the making.”

Six – Millions of Angry, Armed Americans Stand Ready to Seize Power If Trump Loses in 2024,

David H. Freedman authors an article on December 20, 2021, titled “Millions of Angry, Armed Americans Stand Ready to Seize Power If Trump Loses in 2024,”

(https://newsweek.com/2021/12/31/millions-angry-armed-americans-stand-ready-seize-power-if-trump-loses-2024-1660953.html)

Freedman describes the perspective of one avid Trump supporter. Mike “Wompus” Nieznany is a 73-year-old Vietnam veteran who walks with a cane from the combat wounds he received during his service. That disability doesn’t keep Nieznany from making a living selling custom motorcycle luggage racks from his home in Gainesville, Georgia.” Neither did it slow him down when it came time to visit Washington, D.C.—heavily armed and ready to do his part in overthrowing the U.S. government.

Millions of fellow would-be insurrectionists will be there, too, Nieznany says, “a ticking time-bomb” targeting the Capitol. “There are lots of fully armed people wondering what’s happening to this country,” he says. “Are we going to let Biden keep destroying it? Or do we need to get rid of him? We’re only going to take so much before we fight back.” The 2024 election, he adds, may well be the trigger.

Freedman points out that Nieznany is no loner. His political comments on the social-media site Quora received 44,000 views in the first two weeks of November (2020) and more than 4 million overall. He is one of many rank-and-file Republicans who own guns and in recent months have talked openly of the need to take down—by force if necessary—a federal government they see as illegitimate, overreaching and corrosive to American freedom. Freedman elaborates his point.

“The phenomenon goes well beyond the growth of militias, which have been a feature of American life at least since the Ku Klux Klan rose to power after the Civil War. Groups like the Proud Boys and the Oath Keepers, which took part in the January 6th riot at the Capitol and may have played organizational roles, have grown in membership. Law enforcement has long tracked and often infiltrated these groups. What Nieznany represents is something else entirely: a much larger and more diffuse movement of more-or-less ordinary people, stoked by misinformation, knitted together by social media and well-armed. In 2020, 17 million Americans bought 40 million guns and in 2021 were on track to add another 20 million. If historical trends hold, the buyers will be overwhelmingly white, Republican and southern or rural.”

Seven – What Rights Blue States May Lose If the GOP Consolidates its Power

If the Republicans succeed in undermining the U.S. election system, what are the likely consequences for Democrats in what are now blue states? Ed Kilgore considers this question in a New York Magazine article on January 1, 2022 https://nymag.com/intelligencer/article/rights-blue-states-may-lose-gop-returns-power.html). He identifies

It is likely that Roe v. Wade will be overturned and abortion policy will be returned to the states. This has long been a primary goal for an anti-abortion movement that has formed a strong partnership with the Republican Party and is a significant part of Trump’s base. But Kilgore posits that “the ultimate objective — enshrined in the GOP platform since 1980 — is a federally established ‘fetal personhood’ right that bans any state from allowing abortion.” Already many Republican-dominated states are instituting abortion bans without exceptions for rape and incest. This could be expanded  by “a federal statute imposing personhood rights on [all] the states.”

Voting rights will be further restricted in the name of “election integrity” laws that keep any state from expanding voting rights. “This could [for example] include banning state laws expanding access to the ballot via liberalized early voting (particularly by mail), ex-felon re-enfranchisement, and simplified or automatic voter registration.”

Public school curricula and national education standards will be subverted by “parental rights laws.” Kilgore points out that “rank-and-file Republicans still utilizing public schools have become so hostile to teachers unions and ‘the education bureaucracy’ that a partywide ‘parental rights” movement has mobilized both those who want public funds to go directly to parents to use for private and home schools and those who want to control what (and how) public schools teach.”

Inevitably,” Kilgore writes, “if they are in a position to do so, it is very likely that Republicans in Congress and a future conservative administration will take parental rights national with legislation to keep states and localities from monopolizing public funds or from teaching material conservatives find objectionable (most obviously, on the subject of racism, but also on such conservative religious targets as sex education and evolution). GOP administrations for years have promoted federal school-voucher programs as a way to undermine public school funding; a broader attack on teachers unions and ‘bureaucrats’ is inevitable.”

And, perhaps of greatest existential significance, there will be bans on state and local efforts to stop climate change. On this point, Kilgore writes:

“Federal anti-climate-change activism was on full display during the Trump administration, particularly in its wide-ranging war in the federal courts on California’s anti-pollution policies. Given the emergence of climate change as both an existential crisis for much of the GOP’s business base and a cultural issue for MAGA activists, you can count on future wars on blue-state climate initiatives from Washington when Republicans are fully in control.”

Concluding thoughts

The Trump/Republican drive to consolidate political power at all levels of government is well documented. The question then is what can be done to effectively contest such efforts?

Richard L. Hasen, the Chancellor’s Professor of Law and Political Science at the University of California, Irvine, offers an analysis of what might save American democracy (https://nytimes.com/2022/01/07/opinion/trump-democracy-voting-jan-6.html).

In the end, he says, the Democratic Party must look for and facilitate the creation of coalitions with any Republicans, businesses, civic groups, judges, and whoever is willing to join the struggle against election subversion, along with reaching out to citizens who have become indifferent, who are uninformed, or who are cynical about any progress. This means supporting efforts by pro-democracy groups to educate, organize, get people out to vote, supporting good political candidates, becoming a candidate, volunteering to work at the polls, petitioning, writing letters, becoming informed. But in the final analysis, Hasen writes, “mass, peaceful organizing and protests may be necessary in 2024 and 2025.” “If, he says, “the officially announced vote totals do not reflect the results of a fair election process, that should lead to nationwide peaceful protests and even general strikes.” He adds:

“One could pessimistically say that the fact that we even need to have this conversation about fair elections and rule of law in the United States in the 21st century is depressing and shocking. One could simply retreat into complacency. Or one could see the threats this country faces as a reason to buck up and prepare for the battle for the soul of American democracy that may well lay ahead. If Republicans have embraced authoritarianism or have refused to confront it, and Democrats in Congress cannot or will not save us, we must save ourselves.”

If it comes to this, as well it might, then it may be too late for social movements and progressive unions to make enough of a difference. If democratically organized coalitions prove to be insufficient to stem the anti-democratic, authoritarian drives of the Republicans and Trump’s massive base, then the country is in for a long period of anti-democratic rule.

The cornerstone of extremist political power will rest on the federal government, a vast and corrupted federal bureaucracy, an extraordinary surveillance capability, the military, a supportive and expanded right-wing media disinformation apparatus, a partisan federal judiciary and Supreme Court. And, amidst it all, the majority of voters will be disenfranchised or see their votes nullified. We also should remember that Trump in the White House means he would have the authority to start a nuclear war with little or no consultation. See William J. Perry’s book, The Button: The New Nuclear Arms Race and Presidential Power from Truman to Trump.

But such potential eventualities are not written in stone. For the foreseeable future, despite the growing obstacles, millions of people will find ways to vote against them. Many will find ways to go on organizing and educating. The right-wing attachment to neoliberal economic policies and the inequality that it creates will seed unrest in many parts of the society. Their commitment to a fossil-fuel-based energy system and unregulated economic growth will lead to ever-more disastrous and costly climate and environmental disasters. Pandemics and other health crises will be disregarded. Under such conditions, the question is whether those in power will double-down and watch the society fall into a cycle of despair and ungovernability or be forced to reinstate democratic reforms under the pressure of massive unrest and economic and environmental chaos.

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