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What is the Republican Party all about?
There’s lots of commentary about how the GOP is an incredibly—shockingly—harmful and dangerous organization. It’s true that election deniers did badly in the 2022 midterms, but the GOP remains as big a threat as ever in 2023.
In this piece I’ll talk about: the bird’s-eye view of the GOP; attacking democracy in one sense; attacking democracy in a broader sense; what Republicans believe; the F-word; the DeSantis threat; and the opposition to science.
The Bird’s-Eye View of the GOP
Noam Chomsky gave—on 11 April 2019—an incisive analysis of the GOP. Everyone should check out what he says:
The GOP serves “extreme wealth and corporate power”. But you “can’t get votes that way, so you have to do something else to get votes”, hence the crazy stuff about abortion and guns and everything else.
It disturbs me that these distractions—like abortion and guns—are used to mobilize votes for a harmful neoliberal legislative agenda. And it disturbs me that these distractions are so harmful in themselves—just look at the horrifying racism of replacement theory or at the way that people don’t trust scientists. These are dark forces—it’s obscene to harness them for political gain.
Attacking Democracy in One Sense
Imagine a GOP where the base respected electoral outcomes, the GOP had no tolerance for politicians who didn’t respect electoral outcomes, and there was zero penalty for a GOP politician who said that they respected electoral outcomes—what would it take to get to that GOP?
A 22 September 2020 Vox piece provides evidence that “there is a consensus among comparative politics scholars that the Republican Party is one of the most anti-democratic political parties in the developed world”—the GOP has demonstrated “systematic disinterest in behaving according to the democratic rules of the game”. And a 17 June 2022 Guardian piece observes that the GOP’s “very few voices siding against Trumpism are being shunned and ostracized”.
A 5 December 2022 piece says: “the GOP remains a party loaded with politicians who still don’t accept the 2020-election results”; “Trump, the front-runner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination, is now arguing that even the U.S. Constitution should not stand in the way of his wild determination to overturn his defeat”; “it’s great that with one conspicuous exception in Arizona, 2020-election deniers are grudgingly accepting their own 2022 defeats”; and “in a dangerous epidemic of election denial, approximately 100 percent of election deniers remain in one political party”.
It’ll “be time to happily conclude that Republicans don’t represent a threat to democracy” when they: (1) “begin treating voting as a right rather than a privilege”; (2) “look back at the attempted insurrection of January 6, 2021, and its chief instigator with universal contempt”; and (3) “stop fighting every conceivable advance in self-government, as though democracy itself represents an existential threat to their principles”.
A 13 December 2022 Atlantic piece says: “defeat of prominent election deniers around the country in last month’s midterm elections is cause for relief and maybe even tempered celebration, but not complacency about the dangers to democracy”; “far too many prominent members of the attempt to overturn the 2020 presidential election remain in office for anyone to rest easy”; on “January 6, 2021, 147 Republicans, including eight senators, voted against certifying Joe Biden’s victory”; all “eight senators remain in office”; of “the 139 representatives who objected, 124 ran for reelection, and 118 of those won”; “some were more actively involved in the paperwork coup than others”; a “series of stories at Talking Points Memo, based on former White House Chief of Staff Mark Meadows’s text messages, spotlights how many of the worst plotters are still in office”; and the “threat to democracy is coming from inside the House—and Senate”.
A 24 December 2022 NYT piece says: a “precariously narrow but consequential slice of the electorate broke with its own voting history to reject openly extremist Republican candidates—at least partly out of concern for the health of the political system”; these voters’ decisions, “discernible in surveys and voiced in interviews, did not necessarily lay to rest concerns about the ability of the election system to withstand the new pressures unleashed upon it by Mr. Trump”; in “Arizona, Michigan and Nevada, Republican primary voters nominated candidates campaigning on Mr. Trump’s election lies for secretary of state, the office that in 40 states oversees the election system”; in “all three, those candidates lost”; and the “rout eased the immediate concern that strident partisans who embraced conspiracy theories about hacked voting machines, foreign meddling and smuggled ballots might soon be empowered to wreak havoc on election systems”.
A “review of the election outcomes in several states, along with interviews with voters, political strategists, pollsters and political scientists, suggests that what happened in November was something less than a clear repudiation of an anti-democratic push in the Republican Party”; while “election deniers suffered losses across the board, in states like Nevada and Arizona they still won nearly half the vote”; “in interviews, Republicans and independents who rejected election deniers often said they did so for other reasons, like the candidates’ stances on abortion or a more general sense that they were too extreme or too closely aligned with Mr. Trump”; in “most statewide races, Democrats enjoyed conventional advantages over election-denier Republicans, fielding much better-funded campaigns with more unified support from their party”; and on “the Republican side, many election deniers ran poorly financed and generally lackluster campaigns, with almost no monetary support from Mr. Trump or other national Republicans, and depressed the use of mail-in voting by inundating their supporters with dire warnings about its insecurity”.
The “narrowness of some of the election deniers’ losses, and the diversity of factors that likely played into them, have led some experts to caution that November’s results should not be mistaken for a wholesale rejection of anti-democratic politics”.
The second document says: “we have catalogued more than 400 legislative proposals that would enable election subversion”; the proposals have—“throughout the last two years”—“morphed and become more far-reaching and aggressive”; the “first round of these legislative proposals will die out as the 2021-22 state legislative sessions draw to a close”; the “question now is to what extent the trend will continue and evolve”; “moves made in the Texas legislature as it prepares for its 2023 session (discussed in Part III of this memorandum) suggest that the fever has not broken”; and “with the Supreme Court set to issue a decision regarding the independent state legislature theory sometime next year, the legal underpinnings of legislature control of election administration could change dramatically”.
A 29 November 2022 piece from Protect Democracy’s site says: in “key races for offices that will oversee the 2024 election in battleground states, election deniers were defeated and the authoritarian threat was dealt a significant setback”; according “to experts surveyed by the Authoritarian Threat Index, the overall threat to democracy fell from a 2.6 on a 1-5 scale in October to 2.0 in November, the lowest level since the start of the index in 2017”; and this “drop—one of the steepest measured—puts the United States, in November 2022, only just outside the bounds of the ‘range of a normally functioning consolidated democracy’”.
But the piece also says: although “voters rejected specific authoritarian candidates, they did not reject anti-democracy positions across the board”; “almost half of the country remains open, at least tacitly, to authoritarian factions and candidates”; Trump “remains a leading candidate for a major party nomination”; and his “closest competitor, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, has emulated many of Trump’s authoritarian tactics, as well as inventing some of his own”, including “the weaponization of law enforcement for voter suppression purposes, attempted enforcement of speech codes, and removing separately elected officials from office based on differing views”.
Attacking Democracy in a Broader Sense
It’s crucial to contextualize everything within the GOP’s broader attack on democracy. Parliamentary democracy functions based on norms, so you can undermine it without breaking any laws whatsoever—it’s not like the system will somehow necessarily function just because insurrectionists are held at bay.
Chomsky says in a 23 June 2020 interview: “we’re seeing something pretty interesting”; parliamentary “democracy has been around for 350 years, starting in England in 1689 with the so-called Glorious Revolution, when sovereignty was transferred from the royalty to the parliament”; parliamentary “democracy is not just based on laws and constitutions”; in “fact, the British constitution is maybe a dozen words”; it’s “based on trust and good faith, the assumption that people will act like human beings”; and Mitch McConnell is “in many ways the real evil genius of this administration, dedicated to destroying democracy long before Trump”.
Norman Ornstein and Thomas E. Mann write in their 2012 book It’s Even Worse Than It Looks, which is the best book to read on McConnell’s 100% non-illegal assault on democracy: “we identify two overriding sources of dysfunction”; the “first is the serious mismatch between the political parties, which have become as vehemently adversarial as parliamentary parties, and a governing system that, unlike a parliamentary democracy, makes it extremely difficult for majorities to act”; and the “second is the fact that, however awkward it may be for the traditional press and nonpartisan analysts to acknowledge, one of the two major parties, the Republican Party, has become an insurgent outlier”.
In “the past, tough negotiators who played hardball had a basic respect for their opponents and some sensitivity to the consequences of their tactics”; they “did not try gleefully to embarrass their counterparts in the other body or the other party to score political points, or push so far that the collateral damage of their actions truly hurt large numbers of Americans”; add “to that the cynical exploitation of the rules to demolish the regular order in Congress and to damage policy deliberation in the service of the permanent campaign”; holds, “filibusters, and other delay and obstruction tactics have been around since the beginning of the republic”; “as we look at the panoply of tactics and techniques for throwing wrenches and grenades into the regular order of the policy process, which the new and old media’s outside agitation encourages and even incites, we do not see business as usual”; the “target is no longer an individual judge or cabinet member hated for a real or imagined ideological leaning”; the “pathologies we’ve identified, old and new, provide incontrovertible evidence of people who have become more loyal to party than to country”; as “a result, the political system has become grievously hobbled at a time when the country faces unusually serious challenges and grave threats”; and the “single-minded focus on scoring political points over solving problems, escalating over the last several decades, has reached a level of such intensity and bitterness that the government seems incapable of taking and sustaining public decisions responsive to the existential challenges facing the country”.
A “Westminster-style parliamentary system provides a much cleaner form of democratic accountability than the American system”; a “party or coalition of parties forms a government after an election and is in a position in parliament to put most of its program in place”; the “minority party will be aggressively adversarial, but it is unable to indefinitely delay or defeat the government’s program”; when “the next election arrives (not quickly, as in the U.S., before that program has made itself felt, but in four or five years), there is no confusion in the public over which party is to be held accountable”; and if “the government is thrown out of office, the minority party can govern on its own terms, within an institutional setting and political culture that accepts the legitimacy of the new government and the policy changes that will follow”.
We “believe a fundamental problem is the mismatch between parliamentary-style political parties—ideologically polarized, internally unified, vehemently oppositional, and politically strategic—that has emerged in recent years and a separation-of-powers system that makes it extremely difficult for majorities to work their will”; students “of comparative politics have demonstrated that the American policy-making system of checks and balances and separation of powers has more structural impediments to action than any other major democracy”; now “there are additional incentives for obstruction in that policy-making process”; witness “the Republicans’ immense electoral success in 2010 after voting in unison against virtually every Obama initiative and priority, and making each vote and enactment contentious and excruciating, followed by major efforts to delegitimize the result”; “because of the partisan nature of much of the media and the reflexive tendency of many in the mainstream press to use false equivalence to explain outcomes, it becomes much easier for a minority, in this case the Republicans, to use filibusters, holds, and other techniques to obstruct”; and the “status quo bias of the constitutional system becomes magnified under dysfunction and creates a take-no-prisoners political dynamic that gives new meaning to the late Daniel Patrick Moynihan’s concept of ‘defining deviancy down’”.
The “dysfunction that arises from the incompatibility of the U.S. constitutional system with parliamentary-type parties is compounded by the asymmetric polarization of those parties”; the GOP has become (1) “ideologically extreme”, (2) “contemptuous of the inherited social and economic policy regime”, (3) “scornful of compromise”, (4) “unpersuaded by conventional understanding of facts, evidence, and science”, and (5) “dismissive of the legitimacy of its political opposition, all but declaring war on the government”; the “Democratic Party, while no paragon of civic virtue, is more ideologically centered and diverse, protective of the government’s role as it developed over the course of the last century, open to incremental changes in policy fashioned through bargaining with the Republicans, and less disposed to or adept at take-no-prisoners conflict between the parties”; and this “asymmetry between the parties, which journalists and scholars often brush aside or whitewash in a quest for ‘balance,’ constitutes a huge obstacle to effective governance”.
I’ll join together three block quotes that Ornstein and Mann give from Mike Lofgren’s 2011 Truthout piece “Goodbye to All That: Reflections of a GOP Operative Who Left the Cult”:
It should have been evident to clear-eyed observers that the Republican Party is becoming less and less like a traditional political party in a representative democracy and becoming more like an apocalyptic cult, or one of the intensely ideological authoritarian parties of 20th century Europe.
The only thing that can keep the Senate functioning is collegiality and good faith. During periods of political consensus, for instance, the World War II and early post-war eras, the Senate was a “high functioning” institution: filibusters were rare and the body was legislatively productive. Now, one can no more picture the current Senate producing the original Medicare Act than the old Supreme Soviet having legislated the Bill of Rights.
Far from being a rarity, virtually every bill, every nominee for Senate confirmation and every routine procedural motion is now subject to a Republican filibuster. Under the circumstances, it is no wonder that Washington is gridlocked: legislating has now become war minus the shooting, something one could have observed 80 years ago in the Reichstag of the Weimar Republic. As Hannah Arendt observed, a disciplined minority of totalitarians can use the instruments of democratic government to undermine democracy itself.
A couple of years ago, a Republican committee staff director told me candidly (and proudly) what the method was to all this obstruction and disruption. Should Republicans succeed in obstructing the Senate from doing its job, it would further lower Congress’s generic favorability rating among the American people. By sabotaging the reputation of an institution of government, the party that is programmatically against government would come out the relative winner.
Ornstein and Mann write that “Lofgren’s frustration may make him more prone to hyperbole than other old-school Republicans”. And that “his observations hit home with many of them, as they do with us”.
A 30 April 2012 WaPo review of the 2012 book says: “Mann and Ornstein rightly blame the news media for doing a mediocre job covering the most important political story of the last three decades”, namely “the transformation of the Republican Party”; they “see a ‘reflexive tendency of many in the mainstream press to use false equivalence to explain outcomes,’ when Republican obstructionism and Republican rejection of science and basic facts have no Democratic equivalents”; and it’s “much easier to write stories ‘that convey an impression that the two sides are equally implicated’”.
Jane Meyer writes in a 12 April 2020 New Yorker piece: under “McConnell’s leadership, as the Washington Post’s Paul Kane wrote recently, the chamber that calls itself the world’s greatest deliberative body has become, ‘by almost every measure,’ the ‘least deliberative in the modern era’”; longtime “lawmakers in both parties say that the Senate is broken”; in “February, seventy former senators signed a bipartisan letter decrying the institution for not ‘fulfilling its constitutional duties’”; “Dick Durbin, of Illinois, who has been in the Senate for twenty-four years and is now the second-in-command in the Democratic leadership, told me that, under McConnell, ‘the Senate has deteriorated to the point where there is no debate whatsoever—he’s dismantled the Senate brick by brick’”; after “Barack Obama was elected in 2008, McConnell used the filibuster to block a record number of bills and nominations supported by the Administration”; and as Majority Leader, McConnell “has control over the chamber’s schedule, and he keeps bills and nominations he opposes from even coming up for consideration”.
Norman Ornstein, a political scientist specializing in congressional matters at the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, told me that he has known every Senate Majority Leader in the past fifty years, and that McConnell “will go down in history as one of the most significant people in destroying the fundamentals of our constitutional democracy.” He continued, “There isn’t anyone remotely close. There’s nobody as corrupt, in terms of violating the norms of government.”
It’s incredibly disturbing to think that bad media coverage allowed McConnell to get away with the project of “‘destroying the fundamentals of our constitutional democracy’”.
70 former US senators signed a bipartisan open letter—WaPo published it on 25 February 2020—that says: we “do not want to give the impression that we served in some golden age when the Senate operated like clockwork and its members embraced one another as one big happy family”; of “course, that was never the case”; our “concern is that the legislative process is no longer working in the Senate”; Senate “committees have lost responsibility for writing legislation”; rules “allowing extended debate, a feature of the Senate that is essential to protecting the rights of minorities, have been abused as the filibuster and cloture have shut down action on the Senate floor”; it “is now commonly said that it takes 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate”; this “is new and obstructionist”; “it takes 60 votes to invoke cloture in the once relatively exceptional event of a filibuster”; filibusters “are now threatened as a matter of course, and are too readily acceded to”; and neither “in committee nor on the floor do rank-and-file members have reasonable opportunities to advance their positions by voting on legislation”.
The stimulus bill has its flaws, but considering the circumstances, it’s an impressive achievement. The circumstances are a highly disciplined opposition party dedicated to the principle announced years ago by its maximal leader, Mitch McConnell: If we are not in power, we must render the country ungovernable and block government legislative efforts, however beneficial they might be. Then the consequences can be blamed on the party in power, and we can take over. It worked well for Republicans in 2009—with plenty of help from Obama. By 2010, the Democrats lost Congress, and the way was cleared to the 2016 debacle.
The strategy is to “render the country ungovernable”—“the consequences can be blamed on the party in power, and we can take over”.
Arson is an attractive political strategy if you don’t care about anything. Burn the country down when the other party is in power—induce gridlock, deny the other party any kind of legislative achievement that they might get credit for, and harm the country as much as possible. Then roar back into power based on the wreckage that you’ve brought about. And based on the anger—and the frustration—that you’ve brought about.
You wouldn’t pursue this strategy if you cared about your country, its people, or the world. And the procedure seems—to me at least—to require an uninformed electorate that blames the incumbent party for what the arsonists have done.
What Republicans Believe
What do Republicans actually believe? What are their attitudes toward democracy and violence? You can see disturbing data in the 28 June 2021 piece “U.S. Conservatives Are Uniquely Inclined Toward Right-Wing Authoritarianism”—“26% of the U.S. population qualified as highly right-wing authoritarian, Morning Consult research found, twice the share of the No. 2 countries, Canada and Australia”.
Paul Krugman writes in a 25 April 2022 NYT piece: “I don’t think political reporting has caught up with how thoroughly QAnonized the G.O.P. has become”; “roughly half of Republicans believe that ‘top Democrats are involved in elite child sex-trafficking rings’”; “66 percent of Republicans buy into ‘white replacement theory,’ agreeing wholly or partly with the claim that ‘the Democratic Party is trying to replace the current electorate with voters from poorer countries around the world’”; and given “this mind-set, ambitious Republican politicians naturally pursue policies devised to play to the base’s paranoia and accuse anyone who opposes these policies of being part of a nefarious conspiracy”.
You can see troubling results in the 1 November 2021 piece “Competing Visions of America”. And in the 27 October 2022 piece “Challenges in Moving Toward a More Inclusive Democracy”, which says: a “majority of Republicans (55%) agree with” replacement theory; regarding the 2020 election, a “majority of Republicans (58%) falsely claim that the election was stolen from Trump”; and 27% of Republicans mostly agree “that there is a storm coming to restore rightful leaders”, “that violence may be necessary to save the country”, and “that the government, media, and financial worlds are controlled by Satan-worshipping pedophiles”.
A 28 December 2022 piece says: “many election deniers ran for offices that would include some degree of control over elections”, but “few campaigns focused on how the 2022 election might affect the health of our democracy”; although “several prominent election deniers lost their races, a few succeeded, and the election results contained other indications of threats to the democratic political system”; many “Members of Congress who voted not to certify the results of the 2020 election kept their offices, and two attendees of the Jan. 6 rally that led to the riot won election”; “because the Republicans won a majority of seats in the House, congressional investigations into Trump’s involvement in Jan. 6 will likely come to an end”; “the public expresses a strong commitment to democratic norms in the abstract but fails to apply these norms consistently in practice”; “data shows that partisanship makes attachment to leaders and loyalty to particular groups a primary consideration for many voters”; “a substantial number of Americans say they believe the country needs a leader willing to violate some of the rules and norms of democratic society”; and a “majority of Republicans (57%), and even more than a third of Democrats (36%), agree that we could use a leader who will break some rules”.
Was America “fascist” from 1917 to 1921? Thomas Meaney writes in a 3 October 2022 NYT review that talks about Adam Hochschild’s 2022 book American Midnight: at “a time when professional doom-mongering about democracy has become one of the more inflationary sectors of the American economy, it is tonic to be reminded by Adam Hochschild’s masterly new book, ‘American Midnight,’ that there are other contenders than the period beginning in 2016 for the distinction of Darkest Years of the Republic”; by “some measures—and certainly in many quarters of the American left—the years 1917-21 have a special place in infamy”; the “United States during that time saw a swell of patriotic frenzy and political repression rarely rivaled in its history”; “President Woodrow Wilson’s terror campaign against American radicals, dissidents, immigrants and workers makes the McCarthyism of the 1950s look almost subtle by comparison”; as “Hochschild vividly details, the Wilson administration and its allies pioneered the police raids, surveillance operations, internment camps, strikebreaking and legal chicanery that would become part of the repertoire of the American state for decades to come”; Wilson “jailed his charismatic Socialist opponent, the 63-year-old Eugene Debs, for opposing America’s descent into the carnage of the First World War, with the liberal press in lock step”; and Hochschild “stresses how the Wilson administration drew on America’s experience in the Philippines, importing torture and counterinsurgency techniques back to the mainland”.
Chomsky calls what happened under Wilson “street fascism”—it’s not that the government was totalitarian, but there was fascism in the streets. He comments in an 8 December 2022 Truthout interview: fascism “in the streets is Mussolini’s Blackshirts and Hitler’s Brownshirts”; it’s “violent, brutal, destructive”; American Midnight is a “penetrating study” that recounts “in vivid detail” the “shocking story” of “the most vicious period of violent repression in U.S. history, apart from the two original sins”; as “usual, Black people suffered the most, including major massacres (Tulsa and others) and a hideous record of lynchings and other atrocities”; immigrants “were another target in a wave of fanatic ‘Americanism’ and fear of Bolshevism”; hundreds “of ‘subversives’ were deported”; the “lively Socialist Party was virtually destroyed and never recovered”; and labor “was decimated, not only the Wobblies but well beyond, including vicious strike-breaking in the name of patriotism and defense against the ‘reds’”.
The “level of lunacy finally became so outlandish that it self-destructed”; “Attorney-General Palmer and his sidekick J. Edgar Hoover predicted an insurrection led by Bolsheviks on May Day 1920, with feverish warnings and mobilization of police, army and vigilantes”; the “day passed with a few picnics”; and widespread “ridicule and wish for ‘normalcy’ brought an end to the madness”.
The madness ended, but not “without a residue”; as “Hochschild observes, progressive options for American society suffered a severe blow”; a “very different country could have emerged” but for the vicious repression; and what “took place was street fascism with a vengeance”.
You can—putting aside the horrors of street fascism—talk about (1) the symptoms that we associate with fascism or (2) the actual fascist ideology.
The GOP does indeed exhibit the symptoms. Chomsky says in a 16 June 2021 Truthout interview: “the fascist symptoms are there, including extreme racism, violence, worship of the leader (sent by God, according to former Secretary of State Mike Pompeo), immersion in a world of ‘alternative facts’ and a frenzy of irrationality”; the symptoms are also there in “other ways, such as the extraordinary efforts in Republican-run states to suppress teaching in schools that doesn’t conform to their white supremacist doctrines”; and what “actually happened for 400 years and is very much alive today must be presented to students as a deviation from the real America, pure and innocent, much as in well-run totalitarian states”.
But what about the actual fascist ideology where the state controls the business classes and the rest of the social order, the party controls the state, and the maximal leader controls the party? Chomsky says that the GOP’s “commitment to the most brutal form of neoliberalism is apparent in the legislative record, crucially the subordination of the party to private capital, the inverse of classic fascism”—GOP politicians’ commitment to serving private power is the exact opposite of what you’d see from ideologically fascist politicians.
The US has long been ripe for an unprecedentedly dangerous leader who’s dedicated, rational, and brutal. It’s good that we’ve seen—instead of that figure—various self-destructive crooks instead. A 10 November 2016 piece quotes this comment from Chomsky:
The United States is extremely lucky that no honest, charismatic figure has arisen. Every charismatic figure is such an obvious crook that he destroys himself, like McCarthy or Nixon or the evangelist preachers. If somebody comes along who is charismatic and honest this country is in real trouble because of the frustration, disillusionment, the justified anger and the absence of any coherent response.
It’s crucial to change the situation in the US—urgently—so that there isn’t such an easy path for an “honest, charismatic figure” to take.
The DeSantis Threat
What threat does Ron DeSantis pose? I’m not sure whether he’s the “honest, charismatic figure” that Chomsky has been warning about for decades. But DeSantis does have certain clear policy goals that he pursues in a systematic manner—Trump basically had no policy goals.
A 2 January 2023 Vanity Fair piece provides some useful hyperlinks and says that DeSantis: (1) “thinks it’s okay to treat human beings like chattel”; (2) is “dangerously anti-science”; (3) “wants to make it harder for people to vote and had Floridians arrested as part of another one of his political stunts”; (4) is “anti-free speech, particularly the kind of free speech that says the United States hasn’t always been great for non-white people”; (5) is “waging a war on trans people”; (6) signed “the dystopian, anti-LGBTQ+ legislation formally known as the Parental Rights in Education Act”; (7) is “a massive bully”; (8) is anti-abortion; (9) “supported Donald Trump until it was no longer politically expedient to do so”; (10) “saw ‘no need’ for the Respect for Marriage Act”; (11) “made it harder for protesters to speak out about injustice and easier for anti-justice people to hit protesters with their cars”; (12) “has no interest in preventing gun violence”; and (13) is apparently “an awful person and has been for many years”.
Zack Beauchamp writes in a 28 April 2022 Vox piece: DeSantis “has steadily put together a policy agenda with strong echoes of Orbán’s governing ethos—one in which an allegedly existential cultural threat from the left justifies aggressive uses of state power against the right’s enemies”; broadly “speaking, both Orbán and DeSantis characterize themselves as standing for ordinary citizens against a corrupt and immoral left-wing cosmopolitan elite”; these “factions are so powerful, in their telling, that aggressive steps must be taken to defeat their influence and defend traditional values”; in “such an existential struggle, the old norms of tolerance and limited government need to be adjusted, tailored to a world where the left controls the commanding heights of culture”; since “the left can’t be beaten in that realm, government must be seized and wielded in service of a right-wing cultural agenda”; and these ideas “are widely shared among far-right thinkers and parties across the Western world”.
In “the United States, Trump was supposed to be the avatar of this far-right thinking”; “it turned out he was too self-absorbed and haphazard to successfully implement a New Right agenda”; “Trump’s most notable legislative achievement” was a “tax cut written by old-school, pro-business conservatives”; in contrast, “DeSantis is actually walking the New Right walk”; his “policy agenda has been described as ‘competent Trumpism,’ but that’s a bit misleading”; “Trumpism was never a coherent intellectual doctrine”; and what “DeSantis is doing is taking far-right ideas and making them into policy reality”.
In “June of last year, Hungary’s far-right government passed a law cracking down on LGBTQ rights, including a provision prohibiting instruction on LGBTQ topics in sex education classes”; nine months later, DeSantis “signed the so-called ‘Don’t Say Gay’ bill banning ‘classroom instruction by school personnel or third parties on sexual orientation or gender identity’ up through third grade”; according “to some knowledgeable observers on the right, these two bills were closely connected”; this “is not a one-off example”; most “recently, there was DeSantis’s crackdown on Disney’s special tax exemption”; “using regulatory powers to punish opposing political speech is one of Orbán’s signature moves”; and on “issues ranging from higher education to social media to gerrymandering, DeSantis has followed a trail blazed by Orbán, turning policy into a tool for targeting outgroups while entrenching his party’s hold on power”.
The “American federal system delegates huge amounts of power to state governments, enough to severely undermine democracy within a state’s boundaries”; the “United States has a long history of state-level authoritarianism”; “Jim Crow laws, in addition to being a form of racial apartheid, were also designed to guarantee indefinite Democratic control over Southern states”; in “this political context, any diffusion of Hungarian-style culture-war authoritarianism to the state governments is extremely disturbing”; this diffusion could accelerate “a decade-plus process of democratic decline in Republican-governed states”; and if “DeSantis is in fact creating a blueprint for American Orbánism that Republicans across the country choose to follow, the implications for American democracy could well be disastrous”.
The Opposition to Science
I urge everyone to look at the images in the 8 November 2022 NYT piece “Ocean-Eaten Islands, Fire-Scarred Forests: Our Changing World in Pictures”, which says: collected “here is a roundup of some of the best visual journalism about climate change that New York Times journalists have produced over the past few years”; from “methane-spewing feedlots in the Texas Panhandle to a hurricane-drowned church in Louisiana, and from ocean-eaten Easter Island in Chile to fire-scarred New South Wales in Australia, our visual journalists have gone out to take the pulse of an ailing planet”; the “Great Salt Lake has already shrunk by two-thirds, as a broad swath of Utah around it parches”; the lake’s “troubles are closely linked to the health and economy of an entire region”; many “of the world’s most vulnerable to the ravages of climate change live in South Asia, where rising temperatures are making it harder than ever to address poverty, food insecurity and health challenges”; and floods “in Assam, India, in June affected more than half a million people across nearly 1,000 villages”.
And Chomsky says in a 22 April 2021 Truthout interview: in “2008, John McCain ran for president on a ticket that included some concern for destruction of the environment, and congressional Republicans were considering similar ideas”; the “huge Koch brothers energy consortium had been laboring for years to prevent any such heresy, and moved quickly to cut it off at the pass”; under “the leadership of the late David Koch, they launched a juggernaut to keep the party on course”; it “quickly succumbed, and since then has tolerated only rare deviation”; the “capitulation, of course, has a major effect on legislative options, but also on the voting base, amplified by the media echo-chamber to which most limit themselves”; climate “ranks low in concern among Republicans, frighteningly low in fact”; 14% “of Republicans think that the most severe threat in human history is a major problem (though concerns seem to be somewhat higher among younger ones, an encouraging sign)”; and this “must change”.
The Global South cannot deal with the crisis on its own. To provide substantial assistance is an obligation for the rich, not simply out of concern for their own survival but also a moral obligation, considering an ugly history that we need not review.
Can the wealthy and privileged rise to that moral level? Can they even rise to the level of concern for self-preservation if it means some minor sacrifice now? The fate of human society—and much of the rest of life on Earth—depends on the answer to that question. An answer that will come soon, or not at all.
It’s chilling to think that time is running out—the answer “will come soon, or not at all”.