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Rights + Justice

Republicans Have Decided to Rip Apart America

They’re openly courting white supremacists while suppressing Black votes. Brace for a new civil war.

Michael Harris 18 Mar

Michael Harris, a Tyee contributing editor, is a highly-awarded journalist and documentary maker. His investigations have sparked four commissions of inquiry.

Anyone who thinks that Joe Biden has put an end to Trumpism and the race war it could easily spark hasn’t been paying attention.

Unresolved issues from the Civil War, the civil rights battles of the 1960s, and the Black Lives Matter movement have found their way back into mainstream political life south of the border.

Racist politicking in America is no longer travelling incognito. And the Republican is its political arm, failing to censure outright racist statements by its politicians while methodically working to return Jim Crow vote suppression to states where Black voters might deliver defeat to its candidates.

Canadians must keep a sharp eye on developments to our south both as a warning to root out any such impulses at home, and to steer clear of the social calamity brewing in the U.S.

Through their silence, members of the Republican leadership proved they are fine with pandering to racists after a Republican House representative spoke in front of a white supremacist group, along with white nationalist Nick Fuentes.

Paul Gosar’s companion that day was former Republican representative Steve King. King lost all his committee work in the House when he defended the legitimacy of the phrase “white supremacist” in a media interview. King subsequently lost in a primary held in the midst of anti-racism protests across the country.

Gosar spoke at an event that Fuentes organized for the America First Political Action Conference, an organization far to the right of Conservative Political Action Conference, or CPAC. Fuentes marched in the infamous white nationalist rally in Charlottesville. He has said in the past that once America loses its “white democratic core” then “this is not America anymore.”

On the day he spoke along with Gosar, Fuentes said “white people are done being bullied.” As for the insurrection at the capitol, Fuentes called the event in which five people died “awesome” and then “light-hearted mischief.” A strange man for a sitting member of Congress to share a stage with.

Gosar was also one of three members of Congress named by Ali Alexander, founder of the Stop the Steal movement, as having organized the Jan. 6 protests at the Capitol that turned into a violent insurrection.

“We four schemed up putting maximum pressure on Congress while they were voting,” Alexander told the Washington Post. Congress was voting on whether or not to certify the results of the 2020 election won by Biden by seven million votes.

While the other two Republican representatives named by Alexander, Andy Biggs, and Mo Brooks, denied the allegation, Gosar declined to comment. But there wasn’t much doubt about where he stood on the issue of embracing Donald Trump’s Big Lie: a stolen election and an illegitimate president.

“Biden should concede,” Gosar tweeted. “I want his concession on my desk tomorrow morning. Don’t make me come over there.”

With slightly more subtlety than Gosar, Republican Sen. Ron Johnson tipped his hand on the growing racial divide in America. He recently told radio talk show host Jay Weber that he didn’t feel threatened by the mob that invaded the Capitol on Jan. 6 because it was made up of people who loved their country, patriots.

“Had the tables been turned,” he added, “and president Trump had won the election and those were tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and Antifa protesters, I might have been a little concerned.”

Jim Crow redux

Behind these individual examples of openly racist behaviour by sitting lawmakers, the Republican party itself is reviving the “Jim Crow” tactics used to rob Black people of the vote after the Civil War. They claim to be fixing a problem. But it’s one that doesn’t exist. Their so-called electoral reforms have only one purpose: smothering the Black vote that usually goes to the Democrats. The party of Lincoln has become the party of Trump and disenfranchisement.

851px version of JimCrowLawsProtestSign.jpg
Civil rights protesters in 1963 fighting ‘Jim Crow’ laws dating back to just after the Civil War that disenfranchised Black people politically and economically. Republicans now are trying to restore vote suppression tactics at state levels. Photo by Bob Adelman.

Georgia is a prime example. Biden won and flipped the state that hadn’t voted Democrat in 30 years. It was an election that was closely examined and found to be free and fair by the state’s own Republican election officials.

The stain on the process was Trump’s grotesque attempt to pressure Georgia election officials to find thousands of votes for him that didn’t exist. Trump is under criminal investigation in Georgia for his attempt to influence the election after the fact.

Yet Republicans who control the Georgia state legislature are racing to pass laws to restrict voting in a way that would have prevented the massive turnout in the Black community that pushed Biden over the top and turned Georgia blue.

No more automatic voter registration; no more drop-boxes for mail-in ballots; and stringent new conditions on absentee and Sunday voting. That last point matters, because voting after church on Sunday is an important tradition for Black voters in several battleground states, “souls to the polls.”

One-third of Georgia’s population is Black. Biden won because of a record turnout, winning 88 per cent of the Black vote. The Democrats won the Senate because 90 per cent of the Black vote went to candidates, and now senators, Raphael Warnock and Jon Ossoff. If all of Georgia’s restrictive voting legislation passes, and is not struck down by the courts, it is highly unlikely those results could be repeated.

Texas is following the example of Georgia. Republicans there have adopted draconian anti-voting measures, including a ban on drive-through and outdoor voting. There are also new restrictions on dropping off completed absentee ballots. And the Texas electoral officials who used to help people through the Byzantine registration system, the deputy-registrars, have been eliminated altogether.

It is the same story in Republican-held Iowa. Gov. Kim Reynolds signed into law a bill that reduces the number of early voting days from 29 to 20 and closes polling stations an hour early on election day. Iowa officials are now banned from forwarding applications for absentee ballots unless a voter has first requested one. And unless that absentee vote is received before polls close on election day, it won’t be counted.

As reported by CNN, in 2021 alone, at least 243 bills have been put forward in 43 states that would have the effect of restricting voting. The stated reason is to protect the integrity of the voting system. Yes, and the fox circles the henhouse to guard the chickens.

Here is the skinny.

Every investigation into alleged massive voting fraud in the United States has confirmed the integrity of the system. And that includes ex-president Trump’s own commission, which was disbanded in 2018 because it couldn’t confirm his baseless claim that three to five million illegal votes had been cast in the 2016 presidential election.

So what is behind this fevered attempt to make voting more difficult? It is to make sure the political result of 2020 is never repeated, even if that means breathing legislative life into Trump’s baseless and outrageous lies of a fraudulent election. Despite the lies, the losses and the riot at the Capitol, the Republican party has made its deal with the devil. To hold Trump’s base, the GOP is willing to debase itself.

A not-inconceivable race war

The stage is set for a colossal battle that could spread into the general population in a kind of racial/culture war that could easily spin out of control, as events did on Jan. 6. While the Republicans have been assiduously trying to legislate fewer voters at the polls, and in particular fewer Black voters, the Democrats have launched a major effort to expand voting rights.

The bill known as H.R. 1 passed in the House of Representatives this month without a single vote from the Republicans. As reported by the New York Times, the For the People Act would lead to a national expansion of voting rights, an end to partisan gerrymandering of congressional districts, and new transparency requirements on the flood of dark money financing elections that would override the “rash” of state laws.

The question is, can the Democrats get the legislation through the Senate? They tried once before in 2019, but then Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell refused to bring it to the floor.

And even though the Democrats now have control of the Senate, they will need 10 Republicans to reach the threshold of 60 votes needed to pass the bill. Given the experience in the House vote, they won’t get them.

Short of changing the filibuster rules in the Senate, which could be done but not without injecting further partisan toxicity into an already gridlocked Congress, the legislation would die. And that would mean the final word in this monumental showdown over voter rights, and the ultimate nature of American democracy, could be decided in a Supreme Court stacked by one Donald J. Trump.

A blood moon is rising over American politics. For anyone who thinks that is unfounded hyperbole, consider a recent poll conducted by CNN. It found that a broad majority of Americans believe that political violence in response to election results is “likely” in the United States in the next few years.

And there was another equally frightening statistic from the poll. Only 36 per cent of Republicans thought that the attack on the Capitol where five people died weakened American democracy.

Trump has clearly poisoned a party. The only question remaining is can he poison a whole country again?

The answer to that question will depend on whether Americans decide that purging voter rolls rather than expanding them is democracy.  [Tyee]

Read more: Rights + Justice, Politics

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