Republican Party embraces violence on behalf of Trump | Jonathan freedland
IIt’s understandable if you thought the threat was gone. Donald Trump left office almost a year ago, no longer serves daily outrage by tweeting and is reduced to appearing with Nigel Farage on GB News. But the threat he posed persists, and not just because Trump remains the most likely Republican nominee for 2024, a competition he may well win given the current incumbent’s alarming approval ratings.
Trumpism survives in the legacy it left behind, its most visible embodiment perhaps the three ultra-conservative judges it has selected for the Supreme Court, who this week began hearing a case on the abortion – a case many expect to result in the withdrawal of American women. constitutionally protected right to terminate an unwanted pregnancy.
But Trumpism also persists in the party which it has remade in its image. He left behind a Republican party that is no longer attached to democracy. It sounds hyperbolic but, if anything, it underestimates the case. Republicans break with the principle that precedes the idea of democracy and is even more fundamental: the conviction that disputes between citizens must be resolved by peaceful means. Today’s Republican Party normalizes the notion of violence as a means of achieving a political result.
Let’s start with the case of Paul Gosar, the Republican Congressman for Arizona. He retweeted an anime-style video that showed him murdering fellow Democrat Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez as well as wielding a sword against Joe Biden. Appalling as it was, especially at a time when AOC and others face constant threats of violence, the response from Gosar’s party has been more revealing. When Democrats decided to censor him, only two Republicans voted with them. The other 200 or so gave their blessing to Gosar.
The Republicans had previously had to make a similar decision. Before her election to Congress in 2020, Marjorie Taylor Greene posted on Facebook a photo of herself holding a pistol alongside an image of AOC and two other members of the so-called Squad, made up of left-wing democratic women. of color. Taylor Greene also almost called for the execution of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Yet when Democrats voted to kick the Georgia Republican from the various congressional committees she served on, only 11 members of her party voted with them. The rest stood with her.
Of course, the model was set with the Republican response to Trump himself and his encouragement of the attempt to overthrow a Democratic election by force earlier this year. Republicans could have repudiated the capture of the Capitol on January 6 by joining their fellow Democrats in voting to dismiss the outgoing president for “incitement to insurgency.” But only 10 Republicans did.
Since then, these 10 dissidents have been pilloried and ostracized by their fellow Republicans. Among those rejected is Liz Cheney, who was stripped of her role as House leader and kicked out of the state Republican Party in her native Wyoming. She’s an arch-conservative like her former vice-president father, but that doesn’t matter. Cheney believes in respecting elections – and that was enough to clear her out.
These responses – pampering those who advocate violence, punishing those who speak out against it – prove the veracity of Taylor Greene’s statement this week: “We are not on the sidelines. We are the base of the party.
She’s right. She and Gosar are closely linked to a Republican Party whose face can be seen in the now systematically made death threats not only against nationally recognized politicians such as the AOC, but also against the officials and volunteers who serve in the public health, local government or school. advice across the country.
Trump’s downplaying of the dangers of the pandemic and his hostility to wearing masks have made these positions articles of faith among his most ardent supporters – who now threaten deadly violence against those who cross them, their fury directed in particular against those who pass through them. schools that require their students to wear masks. In early October, US Attorney General Merrick Garland found it necessary to send the FBI to help protect school administrators, who were facing what the National School Boards Association calls “a form of domestic terrorism.”
To be clear, not all Republicans in the House or Senate agree with Gosar, Taylor Greene, or the Republican candidate in Pennsylvania who promised to bring “20 strong men” to a school board meeting because ” that’s the way you do it ”- but they’re terrified of them, just as they’re terrified of Trump and his supporters. They know that if they step out of the line, they will soon be faced with a primary internal challenge for their own headquarters. So they don’t say anything.
Supporting or acquiescing in political violence is the clearest expression of Republicans’ constant estrangement from democracy, but it is not the only one. At the softer end is the shameless gerrymandering underway in many states where Republicans control, redrawing the borders to give themselves permanent and insurmountable majorities.
Even more disturbing are the hundreds of voter suppression measures put forward by Republican state legislatures, designed in a naked fashion to make voting more difficult for groups who tend to vote Democrats, especially low-income Americans and those from ethnic minorities. Whether it’s requiring stricter proof of identity, reducing early or postal voting – for example, allowing only one drop box in each county, regardless of how many people there are. people who live there or its size – the desired goal is the same: reduce the franchise, hurt Democrats, and help Republicans.
The reader is, once again, allegiance to Trump. Polls show 68% of Republicans believe the former president’s big lie that the 2020 election was stolen from him – and they are determined to make sure it doesn’t happen again. To ensure there is no risk of Trump losing in 2024, Republicans both make it harder for Democrats to vote and work to install reliable allies as election tellers: they don’t want to no repeat of 2020, when Republican officials allowed the votes to be fairly counted and declared Biden the winner.
What is fueling this shift is not just the cult of personality that still envelops Donald Trump, although that dedication is a powerful force. Studies have long shown a powerful authoritarian impulse on the American right – drawn to the notion of a strong leader enforcing order and protecting the nation from outsiders – greater than in comparable countries. As always in the United States, breed plays a central role. Enough white Americans fear a future in which they are no longer the dominant majority and are willing to do whatever it takes to stay in charge: to avoid demographics, they will sacrifice democracy.
This poses a deadly threat to the American republic. But the United States remains the most powerful nation in the world. Right now only one of its two ruling parties is committed to democracy – and that poses a danger to all of us.