Tag Archives: Andrew Clyde

The Republican Party is a Terrorist Organization

A significant fraction of [former present Donald] Trump supporters are comfortable transforming the GOP into an American Hezbollah — a political party that also has an armed wing to coerce other political actors through violence. — Daniel Drezner, professor of international politics at Tufts University.

Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

Professor Daniel Drezner wrote those words on January 12, six days after the armed insurrection at the Capitol. The actions of the Republican Party since that date have only confirmed Drezner’s analysis while broadening the list of terrorist organizations that the Republican Party resembles.

It might be helpful here to cite the U.S. State Department’s definition of terrorism: “‘[T]errorism’ is defined to be an activity that (1) involves a violent act or an act dangerous to human life, property, or infrastructure; and (2) appears to be intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion; or to affect the conduct of a government by mass destruction, assassination, kidnapping, or hostage-taking.” On the U.S. terrorist list are such organizations as Hezbollah, newer, more violent incarnations of the Irish Republican Army, al-Qaeda, and ISIS.

Some of the organizations on the State Department tally are simply terrorist organizations, but others, like Hezbollah, are political groupings with armed wings that use violence to achieve their goals. Perhaps, most familiar to Americans is the Provisional Irish Republican Army, which until 1998, waged war on Britain for Irish unification. Its political wing, Sinn Féin, has been one of the two dominant parties in Irish politics. The main body of the IRA has ceased armed resistance since the signing of the Good Friday Agreement, but rogue elements of the IRA remain active.

Polling shows that a sizable percentage of Republicans believe politically motivated violence is justifiable. Thirty-nine percent of Republicans agreed that “if the elected leaders will not protect America, the people must do it themselves, even if it requires violent actions.” This poll, by the conservative American Enterprise Institute, was taken shortly after the January 6 attempted coup. The poll’s director, Daniel Cox, said, “I think any time you have a significant number of the public saying use of force can be justified in our political system, that’s pretty scary.”

Republicans in Congress apparently agree with the party’s base. Only 10 House Republicans voted to impeach former president Donald Trump for his role in the insurrection, and only seven Senate Republicans voted to convict. By refusing to convict Trump for his clearly treasonous role in the uprising, the Republican Party declared that Republican presidents are above the law. Congressional Republicans were saying that Republican presidents can disregard the Constitution, precedent, and law in pursuit of power.

This is the road to fascism, as I have written before. Through its actions surrounding the presidential election of 2020 and its continuing assault on democracy, the Republican Party has signaled that right-wing political violence and terrorism, including coups as well as attempts to overturn legal elections, are now acceptable in the United States.  Acceptable, that is, as long as the perpetrators are Republicans and their violent allies.

The embrace by so many Republicans (a majority in most polls) of the “Big Lie” perpetuated by Trump and his acolytes has laid the groundwork for future challenges by defeated Republicans to election results. Last November’s election was not a one-off. Trump (or whomever Republicans nominate in 2024) surely will challenge the result if it is not favorable. Many defeated Republicans in the 2022 probably will do the same. Defeated Republicans are not likely to stop with simply refusing to concede elections. They will, as Trump has, question the veracity of the results, try to intimidate election officials to overthrow legitimate results, and encourage violent followers to use whatever means available to change the outcome.

Numerous White supremacist and anti-democratic right-wing organizations stand ready to attack the institutions of American democracy, acting as the armed wing of the Republican Party. The “armed protestors” who attacked the Capitol are not merely a radical fringe of the Republican Party. They were doing what Trump asked them to do, and Trump is not a fringe of the Republican Party. In one of his debates with Joe Biden, Trump urged the right-wing Proud Boys to “stand back and stand by.” In his speech at the Ellipse prior to the insurrection, Trump declared, “Republicans are constantly fighting like a boxer with his hands tied behind his back. It’s like a boxer. And we want to be so nice. We want to be so respectful of everybody, including bad people. And we’re going to have to fight much harder.” Then, he instructed the mob to “walk down” to the Capitol. Numerous Capitol rioters have said they were following “the call of my president” or heeding “the president’s instructions.” Some used Trump’s name. 

The right-wing militias who are willing to do Trump’s bidding and act as the military wing of the Republican Party are not playacting. As one anonymous Republican lawmaker told Politico: “Both parties have extremists. There’s a difference in our crazy people and their crazy people. Our crazy people have an excessive amount of arms. They have gun safes. They have grenades. They believe in the Second Amendment.”

Trump is not alone. Whether from conviction or fear that Trump would back a primary challenger, the majority of Republican lawmakers not only refused to impeach and convict the former president, but also torpedoed Democratic attempts to establish an independent commission to investigate the January 6 coup. No doubt some Republicans in Congress have much to hide regarding their role in the insurrection. But, the message is clear: Republicans are telling their armed followers that one of the two major parties endorses violence against the Congress, the most sacred of American democratic institutions.

A similar message is sent every time a Republican lawmaker — such as Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia — demeans the horror of the mob attack by referring to it as “not an insurrection.” Clyde is not alone in denying what members of Congress experienced in real time and millions saw on TV as the attack unfolded. And, the same message is sent when Republican lawmakers in states the party controls pass laws undermining free and fair elections. Republicans in state legislatures are saying to their followers that only some people should be able to vote — people who vote the “right” way — while also claiming the right to decide whose votes should count. 

There is the obvious violence such as occurred on January 6. There is also the violence linked to the undermining of constitutional and democratic government. Republicans in Congress and in state legislatures are demonstrating over and over that they are comfortable with destroying American democracy through a concerted effort to legislate against free and fair elections. Their cohorts among the heavily armed White supremacist militias are willing to destroy American democracy through violence.

If only the Department of Homeland Security could replicate State Department’s guidance on terrorism and apply it to home-grown violent extremist groups, including the Republican Party! 

Postred August 27, 2021

The Party Line

I don’t think anybody is questioning the legitimacy of the presidential election. — House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, May 12, 2021.

I don’t think that anybody on our side has been arguing that [voter fraud is] pervasive all over the country. — Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, May 11, 2021.

You can’t have the Republican conference chair reciting Democrat [sic] talking points. — Republican Representative Jim Jordan of Ohio, in defending the purge of Wyoming Representative Liz Cheney, May 11, 2021.

You know, if you didn’t know the TV footage was a video from January 6, you’d think it was a normal tourist visit.Republican Representative Andrew Clyde of Georgia, who claims calling the insurrection at the Capitol an insurrection “is a baldfaced lie,” May 12, 2021.

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Picture by Hilary Stone Ginsberg

There may not be, in former White House adviser Kellyanne Conway’s infamous phrase, “alternative facts,” but in today’s Republican Party there is clearly an alternative reality. No one who follows the news these days can be oblivious to repeated unfounded claims by Republicans of fraud in the 2020 presidential election. Nor can anyone seriously believe that the truth is merely a “Democrat [sic] talking point.” And, everyone who watched at the time or has since seen clips is fully aware that those were not tourists on Capitol Hill on January 6, 2021. 

And, yet, here is today’s Republican Party promulgating shameless lies — shameless because they are easily shown to be falsehoods — with impunity. The most apt historical analogy is the machinations of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, where truth was what the party said on any given day, endlessly repeated in party organs like Pravda and Izvestia. The same for Republican leaders, who spew the party line, knowing that it will be repeated by Fox, One America News Network, Breitbart, and other right-wing mouthpieces for GOP lies. 

For today’s Republican leaders, the truth is malleable. McCarthy, McConnell, and the like get away with their lies because they know that, in the tribal environment of the 21st century, the Republican base gets its news only from right-wing sources. So, they lie with impunity in the realization that the voters to whom they are speaking are never exposed to the truth in fair-minded newspapers or television news shows. 

McCarthy cannot be so naive as to believe that no one in his party is questioning the results of the presidential election. He cannot be oblivious to the post last week in which former president Donald Trump said, “The Fraudulent Presidential Election of 2020 will be, from this day forth, known as THE BIG LIE!” (Which raises a question: Has McCarthy purchased his airline tickets to south Florida to grovel once again before the emperor? Trump cannot be happy with McCarthy’s comment.) And, does the senator from Kentucky really believe no one is claiming massive fraud in American elections? (See above, Trump and “THE BIG LIE.”) Is McConnell unaware of polls that consistently show a majority of Republicans believe the 2020 election was stolen from Trump? And, McConnell must be savvy enough to understand that the party’s base believes the unproven lies about election fraud because that is what party leaders have repeatedly told Republican voters.

Jim Jordan is certainly correct — and many other Republicans have said, as well — that party leaders cannot be so diametrically off-message as Liz Cheney and keep their posts. But, the issue for which Cheney was purged Wednesday is not some policy difference over tax rates or infrastructure projects. No, the Wyoming Republican was ousted as conference chair because she told the truth, because she repeatedly has said that the 2020 election was fair and that Donald Trump bears responsibility for the criminal attack by the mob he — as she said — “summoned.” No, Representative Jordan, the truth is not a Democratic talking point. 

If it were not so perverse, the claim by Representative Clyde that January 6 resembled a normal tourist day at the Capitol would be laughable. Not many tourists hang nooses on the Capitol grounds. Not many law-abiding visitors smash windows and break down doors. Not many of those who come to see where the nation’s laws are made attack law-enforcement officials. Representative Clyde may be the boldest of the bold GOP liars because most of the American public saw or has seen what happened on January 6. 

The comparison of such lies to the old Soviet Communist Party is apt. The Republican Party has not descended to the level of the Soviet Union during the iron-fisted rule of Joseph Stalin. Dissidents or those whom the party simply no longer trusts are not executed or sent to some American gulag. No, the analogy is to the Soviet Union of the Brezhnev era in the 1970s. Opposition still was not tolerated, but conformity was imposed by less brutal means than in Stalin’s day. Anyone who dared to question Leonid Brezhnev or other leading party hacks might be denounced by name, lose his or her nice apartment, or be fired from a plush job and sent to some remote province.

Like the Soviet Communist Party at its sclerotic worst — when leaders simply mouthed tired, old Marxist dogma, which no one seriously still believed — the current Republican Party no longer stands for anything except maintaining its hold on power. To do that, the GOP must purge truth-tellers like Cheney, rewrite election laws in enough states to enable it to win future elections, and repeat the “Big Lie.”

The truth, after all, is only what the party says it is. But, always stay tuned, the truth is malleable. The party line may be different tomorrow.

Posted May 14, 2021