Monday, September 19, 2022

Paving the Way


Steve M writes

As far as I'm concerned, it was clear that the right had rejected humanity a long time ago -- sixty years ago, obviously (though the segregationist hatemongers were mostly Democrats then), and certainly two decades ago, when the public learned about the Bush administration's embrace of torture. If you lurked at right-wing sites back then, and for many years afterward, you know that the rank-and-file right loved the idea of torturing Muslims.

Those such as Steve M who recognize that the Republican Party's road to villainy did not begin with Donald Trump's descent on the escalator at Trump Tower in 2015 point to the GOP's decades-long flirtation with racism, deregulation of the administrative state to undermine the interests of labor and of consumers, and allegiance to, and reverence for, tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations.  However, the most immediate threat to the nation is the ongoing, and growing, attack on democratic governance. And while it is difficult to pinpoint the precise genesis of the racial bias and thrust to redistribute income and wealth upwards (not totally unrelated to each other), the beginning of the assault on the principles of liberal democracy can be traced to an almost precise point.



Last month, Chris Lehmann- unlike myself, an actual journalist and author- reminded us better than I could have that

In the wake of a bitterly disputed presidential election, a central hub of government operations was suddenly under siege. A group of aggrieved right-wing protesters defied security and flooded into the now-chaotic center of activity. Government officials were harassed and feared for their safety, as charges of fraud and betrayal of the people’s will rose up from the angry mob.

No, this wasn’t January 6, 2021—it was two decades earlier, on the day before Thanksgiving in the year 2000. The target wasn’t the US Capitol but instead the nondescript Steven B. Clark Government Center in downtown Miami. Election officials had congregated there to review disputed ballots marred by ambiguous or otherwise imperfect impressions of electoral intent on the part of voters in the deadlocked 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. They were met by a throng of Republicans clad in polo shirts, chanting, “Shut it down!”

The precedent set by the post-election uprising in Miami-Dade County gives the lie to the common depiction of the failed Trumpian coup as an isolated and outlying event in the annals of right-wing protest. In reality, the “Brooks Brothers riot,” staged amid the surreal, fiercely contested battle over the Florida vote, laid out the blueprint. Then, as in 2020, key legal and political strategists on the right sought to disrupt a clear procedural mandate to preserve the integrity of a vote count. The symbolic staging of the right-wing uprising conveyed the clear message that the votes of a white, upscale electorate were innately more American, legitimate, and potent than the more numerous non-white coalition that broke for the Democratic presidential ticket.

Still more remarkably, both disruptive actions aimed at flipping the election into the Republican column took shape under the guidance of fabled right-wing dirty-tricks impresario Roger Stone—an ardent student of Nixonian electoral realpolitik who moved seamlessly into the vanguard of the Trumpian right. The legal arm of the GOP’s orchestrated bid to shut down the 2000 election recount in Florida boasted no less than three future Supreme Court justices among its foot soldiers: Chief Justice John Roberts and Associate Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett. The improbable elevation of Donald Trump to the top of the GOP presidential ticket, and then the White House, during the 2016 election cycle drew directly on the racist animal spirits unleashed in the early-’90s candidacies of presidential hopefuls David Duke and former Nixon communications aide Pat Buchanan; likewise, the horrific and deadly assault on the US Capitol on January 6 built to a striking degree on the precedent set by the Brooks Brothers riot.

Putting it all together, Lehmann notes

“The closed loop of raw power here is extraordinary,” says Roosevelt University political scientist David Faris. “You have Barrett, Roberts and Kavanaugh on Bush’s legal team, who help convince the Supreme Court to issue a party-line 5-4 vote to stop counting votes in Florida. With Bush installed, Roberts eventually becomes chief justice, guts voting rights and campaign finance laws, allows Republicans to continue gerrymandering, cuts the heart out of unions and subjects the ACA to endless legal Calvinball.” At the core of this judicial revolution, Faris continues, was the logic of the electoral putsch, as test-driven in Miami: “With the Brooks Brothers riot, Republicans got their first taste of intimidating election officials, gaming the courts and playing the outrage card to tilt the scales in their favor.”

At that time, many Republicans believed it wise not to count all votes in a presidential election and the media, the Supreme Court, and other institutions were quite satisfied with that. Now, 23 Republican candidates in 18 states argue that Donald J. Trump won the 2020 election.  Most of those who win their elections will study the campaign to thwart the will of the voters in 2020, and it will be empowering.

An active opponent of the United States of America, Donald J. Trump clearly has made matters much worse. However, we need to pay homage- obviously, not in a positive way- to the (almost entirely) men who pointed the way to totalitarianism nearly twenty-two years ahead of their time.

 


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