Much of the modern Republican Party is pitted against America — against American values of free speech and freedom of religion, against the rule of law and the Constitution, and against civility in the public square.
I hesitated to write this introduction because it evokes the dastardly campaign of right-wingers during the Red Scare of the 1950s when the accusation of un-American was common. The epithet was used against progressives who sought to enshrine liberal values and fight discrimination. But, the current Republican Party indicts itself for being against America when its leader refuses to accept the results of a free and fair election and much of the party backs him. It indicts itself when it purges members who deviate from the “party line.” It indicts itself when members extol violence against political opponents and the rest of the party is silent. It indicts itself when it attacks free speech and the free exercise of religion.
The ongoing war waged by the disgraced former president against the results of the 2020 presidential election undermines the social contract upon which a free America rests. The Constitution — as drawn up by the Framers and modified over more than two centuries — is a framework that can succeed as the basic law only when all agree to abide by its rules. One of those rules — implied, but sanctioned by precedent — centers on the sanctity of the election process. Ever since the first presidents surrendered office to their successors, Americans have accepted the results of elections. Granted, there may have been some griping about the results, but the results were accepted.
Apparently, no more! Donald Trump claims — without any evidence — that he won. The bulk of the Republican Party refuses to contradict him, and, in state after state, Republicans are attempting to skew election rules in ways that guarantee Republican victories by essentially decreeing that the votes of some groups — all of whom support the Republican Party — count for more than those of other groups. They are passing laws making it more difficult for Democratic voters — people of color and young voters, specifically — to vote. They are making it harder to vote by mail, a mode of voting favored by Democrats. They are giving Republican state officials power to overturn the results of elections. All of this runs against the arc of American history that witnessed the continual expansion of voting rights. Now, the Republican Party is attempting to turn back the clock and restrict the franchise, not expand it.
The Republican Party — at least most of it — refuses to condemn the insurrection of January 6. Republicans in Congress voted against all attempts to probe the coup attempt by the former president, demonstrating an unwillingness to investigate an attack on a fundamental part of the American electoral process — the role of Congress in sanctioning the peaceful transfer of power. (And, purged from leadership positions Republicans who had the courage to vote for an inquiry.) Worse than that, elements of the Republican Party deny that an insurrection even took place and extol as a martyr an insurrectionist killed during a spasm of violence aimed at the American system of government.
Violence seems endemic in the modern Republican Party. Most Americans, no doubt, believe that violence as a political weapon became unacceptable after the Civil War. But, that is no longer the case as one of the two major political parties appears comfortable running candidates for high office who stand accused of violent actions. The front-runner for the Republican nomination for Senate in Pennsylvania in 2022 is awaiting a judge’s ruling on an accusation he choked his estranged wife and hit one of his children. The lead candidate in Missouri for the GOP Senate nomination allegedly tied up his mistress in the basement of his marital home, an accusation which drove him from the governorship. And, in Georgia, the wife of former football star Herschel Walker says he threatened her with a gun. Walker is likely to secure the Republican nomination for a Senate seat as he has Trump’s backing.
It gets worse! A right-wing member of the House from Arizona, Paul Gosar, posted a cartoon on the Internet showing him killing a progressive member from New York and threatening the president of the United States with violence. No one in the Republican leadership said a word in condemnation. At a conservative rally in Idaho a man asked, “When do we get to use the guns” to kill Democrats. The audience applauded, and a local state official called it a “fair” question. In Ohio, a Republican senatorial candidate, Josh Mandel, called upon Republicans to resist “tyranny… when the Gestapo show[s] up at your front door” to allegedly force people to wear masks and get vaccinated. Mandel is the grandson of Holocaust survivors. The disgraced former president notoriously has praised violence, calling upon his supporters to “knock the hell” out of protestors and recently defended January 6 rioters who yelled “hang [Vice President] Mike Pence.”
Republicans across the land are attacking free speech in a quest to ban books on race and gender. The question of banning the Pulitzer-Prize winning book “Beloved,” written by Nobel laureate Toni Morrison, was a factor in the victory of Republican Glenn Youngkin in the Virginia gubernatorial election earlier this month. Republican governors in South Carolina and Texas are threatening to ban books. From banning books to burning books is, apparently, a short step. In Spotsylvania County, Virginia, two school board members called for burning books they labelled “sexually explicit.” For those with a short historical memory, note this: Book burning is something associated with Nazi Germany, not an America committed by the First Amendment to freedom of speech.
And, finally, speaking of the First Amendment: Disgraced former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn called for the establishment of “one religion” in the United States. Flynn, who remains close to Trump, said: “If we are going to have one nation under God, which we must, we have to have one religion. One nation under God and one religion under God.” He did not specify which religion, but I think it a fair guess that he has some version of Christianity in mind. Minnesota Democrat Ilhan Omar is correct when she tweeted, in response to Flynn, “These People hate the US Constitution.” And, are ignorant of it: Flynn apparently has no knowledge of the establishment clause (which prohibits the establishment of religion) in the First Amendment.
This is only a sliver of the Republican Party’s war on America. And, it is likely to get worse. Attacks on free speech are likely to escalate in coming months as Republican candidates for office try to outdo each other in heated rhetoric. And, the attack on the electoral process will continue. Trump is likely to be the Republican nominee for president in 2024. His actions in attempting to undo the results of the 2020 election are just a prelude to what he may do in the next election. A failed coup, after all, is just a training exercise for the next go around.
Posted November 16, 2021