Democracy or the white supremacist mob: which side is the Republican party on?
In 2001, nine days after terrorists attacked the United States and its federal government, a Republican president stood before Congress with the overwhelming support of a terrified nation, as he presented a stark choice to the world.
“Every nation in every region now has a decision to make: either you are with us, or you are with the terrorists,” said George W Bush to loud applause in September 2001. “From this day forward, any nation that continues to harbor or support terrorism will be regarded by the United States as a hostile regime.”
Thus was born the post-9/11 era, which survived for the best part of two decades, costing trillions of dollars and tens of thousands of lives, and realigning American diplomacy and politics in stark terms.
Republicans fought and won two elections on the basis that they were strong and unequivocal in defending the nation, while Democrats were weak flip-floppers who tried to have it both ways.
Today Washington is staring at something like a new dawn – the start of the post-Trump era – and Republicans don’t know which side of the war they’re on. Are they with the United States or with the insurrectionists?
The early answers are catastrophically weak in a world where the threats are not distant or abstract. This is not a risk posed to American officials halfway around the world, or a potential threat that might one day materialize in a foreign capital.
This is a clear and present danger for the very members of Congress who must now decide between protecting their own careers or protecting the lives of the people working down the hall. With the second impeachment trial of Donald J Trump starting next week, there’s no escaping the moment of decision for at least 50 Republican senators: are you with the United States or not?
In every single other working environment, this would not be a hard choice. Given the chance to save your own job or save the lives of your co-workers – even the ones you dislike – the vast majority of decent people would save lives.
Just listen to the first-hand accounts of representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and Katie Porter. Ocasio-Cortez gave a chilling account of hiding in her office bathroom to save her life as insurrectionists stormed the Capitol last month.
There’s no question that she, like many others, feared for her life. Porter recalled her friend desperately seeking refuge in her office. She gave Ocasio-Cortez a pair of sneakers in case they needed to run for their lives.
The mortal threat was not confined to high-profile Democrats. Mike Pence, the most toady of Trump loyalists, was hiding from the mob with his family, while terrorists chanted about hanging him. If anyone needed confirmation of their murderous intent, there was a makeshift gallows outside the Capitol.
It is long past time to admit the blindingly obvious: the Republican party has been hijacked by fascist extremists. It is now a far-right organization in league with neo-Nazis who have made it painfully clear they want to overthrow democracy and seize power, using violence if necessary.
Every decision the so-called leaders make at this point defines which side they are on: the United States as we know it, or the white supremacist mob.
In these few weeks since the mob trashed the Capitol, leading to five deaths, Republican leaders have bathed themselves less in glory than in the sewage of fascism. Given a choice between the conservative Liz Cheney and the fascist Marjorie Taylor Greene, House Republicans have shunned the former and hugged the latter.
It’s Cheney whose position as part of the Republican leadership is under threat, while Greene is only coming under pressure from Democrats – who for some reason find themselves alone in feeling horrified by Greene’s advocacy for the execution of Democrats and white supremacy in general.
Republican leaders now find themselves in a prisoner’s dilemma of their own making. Both Mitch McConnell in the US Senate and Kevin McCarthy in the House of Representatives could escape the worst public punishment if they act together to take back their own party. Instead, they are ratting on each other.
McConnell said in a statement on Monday that Greene posed an existential threat to the party. “Loony lies and conspiracy theories are cancer for the Republican party and our country,” he said, while also supporting Cheney’s leadership.
Technically this is McCarthy’s mess to clean up, in the House rather than the Senate. But McCarthy can’t bring himself to say something in public about the QAnon cultist Greene, or what she represents.
Instead he traveled to Florida at the weekend to kiss the ring of the man who really stands at the center of this threat to our democracy: one Donald J Trump, who is supposedly a Greene fan, according to Greene herself.
There may be rational short-term reasons why McConnell and McCarthy have parted ways on this fascist thing.
McConnell just lost control of the Senate because it’s challenging to win statewide contests – even in conservative places like Georgia – when you’re trying to overthrow democracy at the same time. McCarthy, meanwhile, deludes himself that he can get closer to power because House districts are so gerrymandered that Republicans are only threatened by the cannibalizing power of the mob.
But in reality, there is no choice. This isn’t about loony lies or conspiracy theories, as McConnell suggests. It’s not about Republican primaries or Trump’s disapproval, as McCarthy fears.
The choice in front of Republicans is whether they support democracy or not; whether they want to live and work in fear of the mob, or not. QAnon may be loony but its goals are to murder elected officials, and its supporters include heavily armed insurrectionists. The 1930s fascists were also unhinged and proved themselves deadly serious about mass murder.
Next week Republicans in Washington have one more chance to turn their backs on fascism. They could reject the laughable claims from Trump’s lawyers that he was merely exercising his free speech rights by telling his mob to march on Congress and fight like hell. Apparently such conduct does not constitute incitement to riot, because the word “incitement” has lost all relationship to reality.
Nobody expects Republican senators to vote in enough numbers to convict Trump of the obvious charges that played out on television. Nobody expects enough of them to reject the violent overthrow of the democracy that put them in the Senate.
They represent, to use Bush’s language, a hostile regime inside the nation’s capital. Until Republicans split with the insurrectionists – by ejecting them from their party or forming their own – democracy itself is unsafe."
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