Reprinted with permission from The Trenchant Observer, May 20, 2021.
See Fascism in America is here NOW, in the Republican Party
Michael Gerson, “The threat of violence now infuses GOP politics. We should all be afraid,” Washington Post, May 20, 2021 (2:48 p.m. EDT).
In the United States, we are facing an open, outright challenge to the Rule of Law and the Constitution by the Republican Party, which has become the anti-democratic fascist party of Donald Trump.
A principal characteristic of fascist parties, such as the Nazi party in Germany in the 1920’s and 1930’s, is the use of violence or the threat of violence against opponents, in the streets and elsewhere. Today, in the United States, legislators, governors, and electoral officials operate under the threat of imminent bodily harm to themselves or their families.
Gerson describes the situation as follows:
American politics is being conducted under the threat of violence.
Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.), who has a talent for constructive bluntness, describes a political atmosphere within the GOP heavy with fear. “If you look at the vote to impeach,” she said recently, “there were members who told me that they were afraid for their own security — afraid, in some instances, for their lives.”
Sometimes political events force us to step back in awe, or horror, or both. The (former) third-ranking Republican in the House of Representatives has accused a former president of her party of employing the threat of violence as a tool of intimidation. And election officials around the country — Republican and Democratic — can attest to the results: Death threats. Racist harassment. Armed protesters at their homes.
(T)here seems to be a strategy at work. First, undermine Republican confidence in the electoral system and stoke the party’s sense of grievance. Second, modify state election laws to try to discourage Democratic (and particularly minority) turnout. Third, replace or intimidate state election officials who show any hints of independence or integrity.
The third goal is where the threat of violence has mattered most. Officials who held the line against electoral corruption in 2020 have been worn down by threats. Some have retired or been forced out of office. State legislators who didn’t act as reliable partisans have been targeted and intimidated. All who resist Trump’s will know they will be singled out by name. They will be exposed to political jeopardy and physical peril, particularly from activists who view the right to bear arms as the right to make armed threats.
This is not a joke. This is not a myth. This is not a drill. According to a survey last year, a majority of Republicans agreed with the statement: “The traditional American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it.”
The highest priority facing the government of Joe Biden is the urgent need to repress this threat of violence, so that votes and decisions and actions of legislators, governors, and government officials are not taken under the influence of fear of bodily harm to themselves or to their families.
What can the Biden administration do?
For example, the Justice Department could establish a “zero tolerance” policy for such threats, which constitute serious federal crimes, and prosecute each and every individual who makes such a threat.
But the Biden Administration is asleep, as if Biden and his colleagues were living in another country.
The fear of violence is real, it is here, and it is influencing decisions today.
When will Biden take on the fascists in our midst?
The Trenchant Observer