IN 2016, our democracy was attacked from without.
Russia, an oligarchical state run by a hybrid of intelligence services and organized crime syndicates, was the main culprit. As the bipartisan Report Of The Select Committee On Intelligence United States Senate On Russian Active Measures Campaigns And Interference In The 2016 U.S. Election Volume 5: Counterintelligence Threats And Vulnerabilities states, right up front:
[T]he Russian government engaged in an aggressive, multifaceted effort to influence, or attempt to influence, the outcome of the 2016 presidential election. Parts of this effort are outlined in the Committee’s earlier volumes on election security, social media, the Obama Administration's response to the threat, and the January 2017 Intelligence Community Assessment (ICA).
Oh, there are skeptics, to be sure. Donald John Trump still bemoans the “Russia hoax” as a “witch hunt”—but, mercifully, not on Twitter. Sean Hannity, Tucker Carlson, and their rage-specked ilk hold the party line. On the (presumed) left, Glenn Greenwald, the once-reputable journalist whose Trump Era hackery led to his summary dismissal from The Intercept, the publication he founded, has his flag firmly planted in the “Russiagate hoax” disinformation narrative. And of course Vladimir Putin insists on his country’s innocence.
But when you have the Office of Naval Intelligence, Coast Guard Intelligence, the Bureau of Intelligence and Research, the CIA, the Sixteenth Air Force, the NSA, the National Reconnaissance Office, the DIA, the Military Intelligence Corps, the Office of Intelligence and Counterintelligence, Marine Corps Intelligence, the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency, the Office of Terrorism and Financial Intelligence, the Intelligence Branch, the Office of National Security Intelligence, the Office of Intelligence and Analysis, the bipartisan committee of Senators who oversee the Intelligence Community, Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, Joe Biden, the Mueller Report, and countless news articles by actual journalists saying one thing in unison…and that narrative is countered by Trump, Putin, their mutual friend Mike Flynn, Rand Paul, Ron Johnson, Kool-Aid-drunk MAGA cultists, and apologists for Russian intelligence operatives Julian Assange and Edward Snowden? The smart money is on the former.
In 2020, our democracy was attacked from within. And the attackers have not given up the fight.
One of our two major political parties has morphed from the party of Lincoln to the party of white supremacy, from Goldwater conservative to hard-right authoritarian, from champions of the middle class to unabashed oligarchs, from the sesquipedalian intellectualism of William F. Buckley to the analphabetic ignorance of Marjorie Taylor Greene.
Republicans once believed in fiscal conservatism; now they spend money like proverbial (and racist) drunken sailors. Republicans were once staunch foes of Moscow; now they pay obeisance to their whoremasters at the Kremlin. Republicans were once proponents of a muscular U.S. foreign policy, the better to keep us safe; now they are pusillanimous isolationists. Republicans were once a party of ideas; now they have a one-size-fits-all philosophy regarding all the country’s ails: cut taxes. Forty years after Ronald Reagan’s landmark tax cuts, academic studies show what should have been obvious to anyone with half a brain: “trickle down” doesn’t work. Like, at all. It just makes the rich richer. George H.W. Bush was right when he called it “voodoo economics.”
For four years, Republicans have aided and abetted a career criminal in the White House. Party leaders, presumably the best and the brightest of the GOP, folks like Devin Nunes and Paul Ryan, Lindsey Graham and Nikki Haley, have carried his water, covered up his crimes, allowed his minions to avoid prosecution or even investigation. Loutish boobs like Matt Gaetz and Jim Jordan have breached SCIFs on his behalf, while providing Trumpist media with full-throated soundbites. Feckless functionaries like Emily Murphy, Kash Patel, Ezra Cohen-Watnick, and Louis DeJoy have undermined our institutions and our democratic processes. When given a chance last January to oust the idiot king for the less actively horrible Mike Pence, Republican Senators made like Tammy Wynette and stood by their man.
Trump rewarded their loyalty by sabotaging the covid-19 response, needlessly slaughtering half a million Americans. The Republicans doubled down on the “fuck science” madness, with GOP governors Kristi Noem of South Dakota, Ron DeSantis of Florida, Tate Reeves of Mississippi, and Greg Abbott of Texas vying to see whose dunderheaded pandemic policies could kill more of their constituents. By Election Day, some 300,000 Americans were dead—and voters, thankfully, knew who to blame.
Like George Costanza’s junk after swimming in a cold pool, the Republican Party is shrinking. Voters are abandoning the GOP in droves. A party that is fervently anti-choice turns off women. A party that has embraced Trump’s Proud Boy racism turns off people of color. A party that dependably trots out homophobic and transphobic legislation turns off the LGBTQ community. A party that denies climate change turns off Gen Z. Angry old white guys may be a great demographic for a hate-filled cable news channel, but for a political party, it’s not big enough. As currently constituted, Republicans are like the Shakers, the religious sect that didn’t believe in procreation. Absent fundamental change, their extinction is inevitable.
What can be done? The GOP has two options:
1) Adapt its platform to make it more appealing to women, POC, LGBTQ, Gen Z, and old white men who are not angry, or
2) Undermine democracy to create an authoritarian state, like Russia did after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
It is pretty clear which path the Republicans are taking.
While it is true that the besieging of the Capitol on January 6—the worst attack on our democracy since Booth shot Lincoln—was carried out by the radical MAGA faction of the GOP, too many so-called establishment Republicans have come out as opposed to democracy. When Liz Cheney, the House Representative from Wyoming, voted to impeach Donald John Trump for inciting a fucking insurrection, the GOP in her home state voted to censure her. Liz Cheney is not some tree-hugging moderate; she’s Dick Cheney’s daughter, for Pete’s sake.
Back in December, the Texas State AG, who has been under indictment for five years, filed a (batshit) lawsuit seeking to overturn the election. One hundred twenty six GOP members of the House signed their names to that despotic document, including Minority Leader and Green Eggs and Ham enthusiast Kevin McCarthy, sleazebag ne plus ultra Steve Scalise, child molester abettor Jim Jordan, Roger Stone superfan Matt Gaetz, and Stephen Seagal wannabe Dan Crenshaw. These traitors all knew Trump had lost—he is a stupid, selfish asshole who sat on his tiny hands while hundreds of thousands of Americans died on his watch; of course he lost—but they continued to disseminate the “Big Lie” that the election was stolen.
That the January 6 certification of electoral votes is largely ceremonial was known to Josh Hawley and Ted Cruz, graduates of Yale and Harvard, respectively. This did not stop those two slithery, seditious Senators from urging on the insurrectionists, and making a big stink in the Senate chamber, giving the besiegers more time to do their thing. In the House, the antidemocratic forces were more brazen, less polished, and, in some cases, packing heat. Reps. Mo Brooks, Andy Biggs, and Paul Gosar were named by “Stop the Steal” operative Ali Alexander as helping him plan the January 6 event. Rep. Lauren Boebert gave a tour of the Capitol right before the besieging, and on the 6th, live-tweeted the location of Speaker Pelosi. Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Madison “Dr. Strangelove as a Young Man” Cawthorn copped to being armed in the building, a violation of D.C. law. The aforementioned are our lawmakers, but they are all on the side of the insurrectionists.
The coup failed, of course. The will of the people was not overturned. Trump left the White House, and he did not return on March 4, as Q prophesized. Joe Biden, who legitimately trounced him at the polls, is the president, and he’s accomplished more in 50 days than Trump did in four years.
But the soft coup continues. Republican are trying their unlevel best to stay in power. The antediluvian construction of the Senate, where the 578,759 residents of Wyoming have the same number of Senators as 39.5 million Californians, is a baked-in advantage. So is the filibuster, which, as currently constituted, prevents almost anything from coming to a vote unless 60 Senators agree. At the state level, I’ve lost track of how many statehouses have proposed voter restriction laws, designed to disenfranchise minorities. And the Supreme Court, with its six Federalist Society seats, is poised to side with the authoritarians, just as Leonard Leo and his Opus Dei crew want.
Yesterday, Merrick Garland was sworn in as Attorney General. He seems uniquely suited to lead the Department of Justice at this moment in history. We need him to take out the trash, indict any members of Congress involved with January 6, and bring truth and justice back to Washington.
In his inaugural address, Ronald Reagan could not have been more wrong. Far from being the problem, government is the only force big enough, strong enough, and smart enough to root out the enemies of our democracy—in Moscow, in Riyadh, in Beijing, in Tehran…and right here at home.
Photo credit: The Oprichniki and the Boyars, by Vasily Khudyakov