"Republican Party, Go Fuck Yourself!"
The Big Idea
It’s been kind of a crazy spring for me, as I got pulled into working on Ukraine—which is why I’ll have little to say about it—and in my spare time worked with a small group of people trying to dash the prospects of the “trucker convoy” that came to DC trying (and failing embarrassingly) to inflict some of the same chaos a similar group inflicted in Ottawa, Canada, earlier this year. This may seem pretty divergent, but I’d actually argue this brought my work and personal lives closer together—not in a good way.
Of course, I keep monitoring news that I can input into More Stable Union, which means I keep track of the broad front of Republican Party efforts to grow Fascism in America (you can see hotter takes from me about current events by following me on Twitter @MoreStableUnion, at least until Elon buys it). The most disturbing to me at the moment is the widespread attacks on sexual minorities in state houses across the country, from Florida’s “Don’t Say Gay” law effectively banning non-closeted homosexual existence in schools, to bills in Texas, Alabama, and Idaho basically criminalizing being transgendered, or the parents of someone transgendered, to Missouri’s effort to ban women from leaving the state to get abortions. Much of this campaigning is, predictably, suffused with dark claims of pedophilia, “grooming,” and threats of violence. We’ve even seen these pedophilia references come up in the Ketanji Brown Jackson hearings.
The GOP even moved into economic warfare with Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s blatantly unconstitutional move to set up his own border checkpoints behind official U.S. checkpoints, all but blocking U.S.-Mexico traffic, costing hundreds of millions of dollars of losses, and raising food prices nationwide—just the way to kneecap Biden Administration efforts to control inflation. At least Florida Governor Ron DeSantis’s attacks on Disney have some humor, but it’s not funny to the thousands of Floridian taxpayers who’ll see big tax hikes resulting from the War on Woke.
We have had good news on one front: France’s repudiation of Marine LePen is a significant failure for the Global Right. Understand that LePen’s party is wholly-owned by the Kremlin; a LePen victory would have been almost as great a strategic success for Vladimir Putin as a victory in Ukraine—maybe greater, as she (or one-third of the U.S. Senate) could have blocked Finland and Sweden from entering NATO, which is a strategic nightmare for Russia.
The “main effort” right now, as armies put it, is Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. This is a classic fascist move—a brutal offensive to restore an imagined past that can’t be recovered, where Ukraine and Ukrainians were “little brothers” to Russia and Russians, as Putin himself put it. And as it fails, there is no surrender or acknowledgment of the scope of the blunder, simply a redefining of the goals, with additional brutality. The escalation in truly genocidal rhetoric we’re seeing from Russia surprises even me in both its speed and intensity, and I predict we’ll also see it escalate here at home.
That all these things are happening at once is not a coincidence. Back in the Cold War, the Soviet Union ran the Communist International, or COMINTERN, which purported to lead communist parties all over the world, including the American Communist Party. What we’ve got now is a Fascist International, or FASCINTERN, also run, ironically, from Moscow. Also ironically, it has far more influence in America than Communism ever did, controlling one of our two political parties.
Now don’t go getting all conspiracy theorizing on me! Just because Russians and QAnon followers both believe Putin is invading Ukraine to stop a U.S.-Ukrainian bio-weapons project supported by George Soros and Anthony Fauci, and just because Trump is still calling for Putin to give him dirt from Hunter Biden’s laptop while Russian propagandists call for American “regime change” to install their “partner Trump,” doesn’t mean we should pretend that Marjorie Taylor Greene listens to a radio in her basement at night for instructions coming from a bunker under the Kremlin. It’s not coordination, it’s just mutual opportunism.
Fascists don’t coordinate well, because all Fascist movements are extremely self-centered. Even Hitler, Mussolini, and Tojo never shared strategic plans with each other; each acted opportunistically as they saw the others create possibilities for them. That’s what’s happening now across the West: the Fascists all sense opportunity in what they perceive as a weakening liberal West, and are moving on it while they think they have the upper hand. Ironically (you use that word a lot with Fascists), Russia’s humiliation in Ukraine only will spur more aggressive action by all of them, because each day their role model is humiliated is another day their pitch to electorates weakens unless they push more disinformation and violence.
You can tell their actions complement each other because they share two key characteristics:
1. Tactically, they are stupid. Thinking you can take over your capital with trucks is stupid. Thinking you can disrupt what’s already the world’s worst traffic pattern is stupid. Thinking you can “thunder run” your way to Kyiv and be welcomed as a liberator is stupid. Thinking children won’t be gay or transgendered if they just never hear of those things is stupid. Fascists are stupid. But stupid people can still do immense damage;
2. Strategically, they represent an utterly sociopathic worldview. It’s become sadly trite to say, but “no lives matter” to these people. The rest of us only have permission to live in ways acceptable to them. Ukrainians can live only as “little brothers” of Russia. Sexual minorities can live only repressed, unseen, and unheard. Women can live primarily as breeding stock. Residents of DC and Ottawa can live… well, the truckers were so fucking stupid they couldn’t even articulate what they wanted us to do. Suffice to say, whatever it is we capital denizens are doing, they don’t like it!
It’s easy to mock that latter, but in some ways they’re more dangerous, because their demands can’t be met, because, they’re not just stupid, they’re crazy. Ukrainians can choose surrender; sexual minorities can choose the closet. Crazy can’t be satisfied.
So What Do We Do?
The best way to strike a death blow to the FASCINTERN would be by destroying our dependence on fossil fuels and the kleptocracies they prop up. I don’t pretend to lead a petroleum-free life, but I do recognize that this stuff’s more addictive than heroin, and anything our society can do to curb its use is an improvement. It’s the only thing that gives Putin a bit of influence in the world—sure, he’s got nukes, but that’s just a negative power. Pakistan and North Korea have nukes, and get very little deference. It’s not a coincidence that American extractive industries also are the monetary base of the GOP.
I know this is all pretty unhelpful today given the Democratic Party’s reliance on Senator Joe Manchin (D-Coal), but it’s a critical thing to remember when selecting and supporting candidates. If they don’t see curbing fossil fuels as a key part of economic growth and supporting democracy, then they just don’t get it. Those aren’t serious candidates.
In the more immediate term, it’s way past time for Liberals to realize this is a global war we are fighting, and we’re losing on the decisive front—here at home. At least now we can try to tie subsequent inflation and economic difficulty to Putin, but with every GOP attack against democracy—and against the very humanity of fellow Americans—it should be clear that mere “kitchen table” issues, while important, won’t be enough to stir people to the polls. If there is one thing Democrats should have figured out long ago, it’s that people do not simply vote on kitchen table issues.
Pod Save America had a great line the other day: “You’re either ridin’ with Biden, or you’re rootin’ for Putin.” Some have said Biden shouldn’t act like a “Wartime President” because the whole point of his strategy needs to be keeping out of direct war with Russia. Screw that—he’s as much a wartime president as any of our Cold War presidents were, and he needs to call on Americans in a way JFK did and George W. Bush singularly didn’t do. To use Bush-Era terms, there are people waging a Global War on Democracy, and we’re not waging a Global War on Fascism back.
Appealing to Americans to wage a “GWOF” means backing Ukraine for as long as it’s willing to fight, accepting higher prices at the pump as our domestic sacrifice, and using all means in our society’s power to break the grip of the cold, dead, white, male hands that hold too many levers of political power in the U.S.
We are at a crossroads: we may remain on the path set by the Civil Rights Movement in 1964 towards an inclusive democracy. Or we can let ourselves be pulled back to the time of a herrenvolk democracy, when only a few made decisions for the rest of us. Honestly, I and many of you can do just fine in that system, but it’s a complete betrayal of everything I was raised to believe America was about.
We need to hit harder, beyond electoral politics, and we need to be willing to stretch the rules just as the Republicans have done so gleefully over the years. Much as Ukraine is teaching us right now, when your opponent plays hardball, you either surrender, or you escalate. We’ve been surrendering far too long. Next month, six months out from the mid-term election, I’ll talk about some of the stronger measures Anti-Fascists need to be considering.
I’m not the only expert on international conflict who is worried about what’s happening at home. Barbara Walter’s book, How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them, is worth your time.
Crazy is now in the mainstream. Karen Mueller is running for Wisconsin Attorney General on a platform of prosecuting doctors who wouldn’t prescribe Ivermectin to COVID patients. Of course, she’s a Big Lie promoter too.
Crazy in Michigan, too. If these GOP Secretary of State and Attorney General candidates win, it is unlikely we will have free and fair elections in Michigan in 2024.
Security Sector Reform
When people talk about the increase in crime in recent years, they often blame it on the “defund police” movement weakening police forces or making them more hesitant to do their jobs. But if that were true, wouldn’t you expect to see the number of police shootings decline?
I’ve written repeatedly about the idea of replacing so-called “professional” police with more local “militia,” but this bill in Tennessee ain’t it—it’s too much power to gun owners to act as law enforcement, without sufficient training or accountability. There’s “militias,” and there’s “vigilantes,” and this is “vigilantes.”
On the other hand, much as I hate the NRA, teaching gun safety in schools is a great idea they’re pushing in Arizona. Guns are a structural fact of American life; teaching people how to render one safe is just common sense, and could cut back on a lot of horrible accidents.
We get a narrative from the media that “Blue cities”—majority-minority, Democrat-run—are suffering a massive crime wave. In fact, crime is up everywhere, and it’s worst in deep-Red areas. Journalists don’t report that, probably because they (even the conservative ones!) live in big Blue cities. This is also really important for thinking about policing: crime is rising regardless of whether police forces are “defunded” or well-supported. So if crime is rising even in places that consider themselves “Law and Order,” what exactly is “Law and Order” doing?
Will Bunch is correct that the Supreme Court is in a legitimacy crisis. At this point, it’s almost more like an unaccountable super-legislature. Reminds me of Iran’s Guardian Council of clerics, who have final say over the laws passed by the elected parliament.
Chicago’s READI program has shown impressive results in preventing violence—and it’s the first such program to actually have a rigorous, scientific evaluation. My big question about it would be, can it scale adequately?
The Sheriff of Los Angeles County is nothing but a warlord. But he’s not a common warlord—he was elected. The real question is, why do the people of LA County keep electing a warlord? And he’s a Democrat!
Emma Jackson in Canada is a bit to my left, but she’s got a very interesting take on what’s needed for the Left to degrade the Right—recognizing that much populist anger is justified, but misdirected. My only skepticism is that she hopes Right populists can be attracted to the abstraction of “interdependence,” when I suspect they more strongly cherish the abstraction of “independence.”
This NPR piece on people relocating to communities that reflect their politics is a bit dated, but I’m flagging it because there are two important things to consider in it: 1, geographic distribution of power in America favors Republicans, so if all Liberals leave reddish areas, we’re surrendering power; 2, violence is inherent to Republican polarization. The Republicans leaving Blue areas are leaving over things like disliking mask mandates; the Liberal family found broken glass in their mailbox. These are not the same thing.
Trump has gone back to calling for politicizing the Civil Service, and just the other day Ohio GOP Senate candidate JD Vance called for “RAGE:” Remove All Government Employees. He actually compared it to De-Baathification in Iraq, which, if you know anything about Iraq, you realize is a horrible idea. In Afghanistan, we used to say, “You never appreciate bureaucracy until you see a country that doesn’t have one.”
So it turns out the 2020 census did in fact miss a lot of people of color. And you said the Trump Administration was ineffective!
Sarah Longwell has a good piece in The Atlantic on just why Trump voters who must know better still believe the Big Lie: it’s a declaration of tribal loyalty.
I could dedicate a whole edition to analyzing this Ruy Teixeira piece. Tl;dr: I think whenever you’re playing into the other side’s rhetoric on “identity politics,” you’re losing, and he’s positively dwelling in it. His thoughts on economics and patriotism, however, deserve a listen.
Finally, on the off chance you haven’t yet seen Michigan State Senator Mallory McMorrow’s speech against charges of “grooming,” you really need to give it a listen. She’s got the “identity politics” part nailed far better than Teixeira does.
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