Before the election, I wrote that Republicans hate your vote. In the few months since then, they have backed up that statement by finally pulling off what was left of their mask. Republicans hate democracy. Party loyalty and blind authoritarianism has swept through the GOP ranks faster than COVID-19. Even after the ransacking of the U.S. Capitol building by the Gravy Seals, over 100 Republican members of Congress tried to throw out the election results of certain states. Alabama representative Mo Brooks continues to push the bonkers notion that the violence was actually escalated by Antifa disguised as Trump supporters. Fascists love copying other fascists, and Mo Brooks wants a Reichstag Fire 2.0.
This was always going to happen. Trump has been using violent rhetoric for years. Propping up and arming his followers with a blend of bigotry, conspiracy, and victimization. But the blame is not Trump’s alone. American political history is full of moments that show the conservative mind inching closer to their fascist end. I want to make this point clear. This is American Conservatism at its apex, at its core. It is not a small government or pro-business frame of mind. It is about singular power for white supremacy. The next generation of historians will probably have fun arguing the starting point, but the conclusion is clear.
A short concise history would probably start with the Tea Party and Birtherism, showing the reactionary nature of conservatism reaching its extreme and spiraling downward. Expanding a little to go back and include the passage of the Patriot Act and other responses to September 11th would show the party was centrally focused on power and not its proclaimed ideology of small government. Or perhaps the 2000 presidential election and the curious case of the Florida recount. It would also be important to show Newt Gingrich’s time as Speaker of the House during the 1990s, which served as the first symbol that the GOP did not believe in the legitimacy of Democratic rule. A foundational notion to Democracy is that the elected has the right to rule.
Twenty Five years of furthering a one-sided agenda would be plenty for a historian to cover, but it would also be important to share how Newt came to power. Fox News and conservative talk radio would certainly need an introduction. Which leads back further to President Reagan removing the Fairness Doctrine in 1986 thereby allowing the media to present the news as one-sided as they would like. How did Reagan blend a rich celebrity persona with a cowboy image and take the evangelical vote from Jimmy Carter? Well, that goes down a well of history explaining the Theocons, Neo-Cons, and the Civil Rights Movement.
Any historian wishing to show the beginning of the direct path toward one-party rule could choose any time prior to the New Deal, certainly. I would argue America has only been a true democracy since the Civil Rights Movement, and even then it has been a democracy on tepid ground. Gerrymandering and voter suppression have been active and legal since the ’60s, though primarily promoted from the right side of the aisle. I am not writing from a sense of destiny or predetermination. Similar to religion, the core of American Conservatism is to believe it is the only way. Trump and his goons are only expressing that which was kept under the rug by past generations of right-wing politicians.
Combating the current coup attempt isn’t difficult on its own, but the ways they justify their grasping to power is dizzying to honest gatekeepers. Political polarization is an understandable effect of democratic participation. Polarization can be a healthy, albeit extreme, form of debate on important issues. Reagan showed us with trickle-down economics, and Gingrich with his “Contract with America”, and Fox News’ slogan “Fair and Balanced” that polarization with a bad-faith opponent makes a conversation impossible.
Every Republican president since Eisenhower has increased the debt and deficit along with the federal government’s power. And yet, the second a Democrat wins the Oval Office, Republicans become deficit hawks and have no problem shutting down the government to create a show. That is a bad-faith actor. Almost 400,000 people have died from COVID because instead of actually trying to help mitigate the disease, Trump and the GOP choose to act in bad-faith and create a faux conspiracy to accuse Democrats of trying to encroach on individual liberties.
The Trump GOP will respond to every defeat going forward with violence. While on the search for their next Trump, they will continue embracing conspiracies to keep their base in fear while they destroy democratic institutions. They will invade every capitol building, courthouse, or city hall that denies them their self-manufactured world view. Let’s be clear that Trump, The GOP, and the MAGA rioters got away with breaching the U.S Capitol. Few arrests were made and Congress has adjourned till inauguration day. Some suggestions have been made that a post-presidency impeachment may occur along with Congress invoking the 14th amendment to throw out Representative’s who fanned the flames of the terrorist attack. I have little faith Democratic leadership could be so bold. Either way, they’ve left the man inciting violence against the government with the nuclear launch codes.
The Democrats and the few remaining moderate Republicans need to realize this will not go away and will get worse. They need to find a way to fight against this pattern of misinformation, hate, and conspiracy. Democrats need to hold bad-faith actors accountable for the atrocities committed in the name of their dangerous rhetoric. Crimes at the highest level must be punished. That probably wouldn’t be enough. The fascists love being victims and with the recent social media crackdown they are reveling in their victimhood. There is an impossible debate being avoided by Washington, what to do about misinformation on Facebook, Youtube, and right-wing “news”.
The defense against these platforms must be stronger than the self-policing of the last three days. We were lucky the attempted Reichstag Fire resembled the Beer Hall Putsch instead. The next attack of the combined forces of White-Supremacists, American Evangelists, and Petite Bourgeoisie may be more organized and much more violent.