More than a few states have moribund Democratic parties incapable of fielding competitive statewide candidates. Ohio and Florida and the two best known-- states where only parallel candidates' organizations make it even remotely possible for Democrats to win. But the state parties? Jokes. Tragically, when the Democratic Party ceases to exist in a state-- to the point where Republican incumbents have no general election threats hanging over their heads-- candidates can raise money by playing the base-pleasing extreme card and then use that money to bolster other Republican candidates around the country.
Writing for Politico this morning, Alex Isenstadt obliquely noted that in a post this morning about 2024 presidential hopefuls campaigning around the country. Tom Cotton was an example. Arkansas has no statewide Democratic Party than anyone has to worry about and Cotton didn't even have a sacrificial lamb opponent last year. The Arkansas Democratic Party crawled off long ago to die and rot under a rock. Cotton has been raising money and giving advice and support to Republican House candidates this year. Isenstadt wrote, that he "is part of a growing list of potential Republican presidential hopefuls diving head-first into the battle for the House majority in 2022... By throwing themselves into House races, potential candidates are currying goodwill with lawmakers and activists, testing out campaign themes and introducing themselves to voters around the country who will eventually determine the party’s next presidential nominee."
On Friday, Umair Haque wrote about how the GOP-- these candidates and their networks basically-- are working to turn America from some kind of a democratic republic into an authoritarian fascist state. Obviously, Tom Cotton isn't alone. Ted Cruz, if anything, is even worse. Writing from the unclouded perspective of a non-American observer, Haque noted that "Every sensible person knows by now that the GOP has become America’s greatest threat to itself. Even Republicans with common sense-- like my father-in-law, the farmer-- shake their head at what’s become of their party: a hotbed of fanatics, extremists, loons, and cranks, all of whom share a single aim. And that aim is now becoming more and more explicit. The GOP now presents America with a simple, stark choice: fascism, or else. That’s the choice of authoritarianism. The GOP is hardening, in other words-- into a true extremist organization, every bit the equal of far-right parties in Eastern Europe, or in a much more disturbing parallel, the Taliban, or ISIS. They, too, presented their societies-- who were failed states-- with a stark choice: fascism, or else."
One of the GOP’s rising stars is Marjorie Taylor Greene. Extremists like her have replaced “moderates” like Liz Cheney. Nobody should cry tears for Liz Cheney-- she voted for Trump, after all, proving her gullibility, if not complicity. And yet MJT is another creature entirely. Recently, she spelled out the choice the GOP is demanding of America-- its ultimatum.
Fascism-- or secession. She highlighted secession efforts in Oregon that are gaining momentum. Then she justified them and argued for them, since the “disconnected swamp” is…insert crazy conspiracy theory. The Pacific Northwest, of course, is America’s stronghold of white supremacy, and it’s no surprise therefore that secessionist movements have gathered steam there. And yet to see a member of Congress arguing for them is a serious step over the line. After all, it’s a clear violation of everything from the oath of office to basic standards to the idea of believing in a country itself.
Now, to really make sense of this idea, we have to hold a number of seemingly paradoxical facts in our head. Yes, elites have failed America-- especially working class America, and especially elites in DC, who propounded idiotic theories of “trickle down economics” and “small government” and so forth (while successful societies like Canada and Europe were offering everyone things like healthcare and retirement and education precisely because they were expanding the role of public institutions and governance.) But the theories elites offered were eagerly swallowed by none other than the working class itself, because they gave it a way to continue old attitudes of racism, bigotry, and prejudice. The average working class white American wouldn’t have to invest in Black people, Latinos, Jews, Muslims-- even if it meant not having basics like social insurance and social systems and forms of collective action themselves.
None of that justifies supremacy, and it certainly doesn’t justify violent secession for the purpose of white supremacy. The answer to “we’re a failing state” is not “let’s go build our apartheid utopia fascist society.” At least unless you’re a fascist.
Marjorie Taylor Greene is performing at least one service of dubious value to the rest of us. She’s so fanatical and simple minded that she doesn’t even bother couching the GOP’s ultimatum in the polite evasions and double speak the rest of them do. In her, we see it totally clearly: fascism, or else.
Or else what, you might ask? Well, she’s given you the answer. Trouble. Intimidation. Violence. Threats. Harm. Right down to a violent civil war-- which is usually what this anodyne term “secession” involves-- itself. Fascism, or else.
But if we look just a little more clearly, we can see exactly the same ultimatum now at work throughout the GOP, from top to bottom-- only maybe given in slightly less stark and brutal and stupid terms.
Consider how the GOP House Leader has “blocked” an investigation into the “events of January 6th.” I put all that in quotes because in situations as dangerous as these, nobody should play he game of double speak pundits do. So let me put it more clearly. One of the leaders of the party who launched a violent coup aimed at stopping the peaceful transfer of power-- incited by the President himself-- doesn’t want any kind of formal process of investigation, much less justice, about that coup. When it put it to you that way, you should shudder, because this is the kind of thing that happens in the places impolitely once called “banana republics”-- only now America is the republic, and the bananas are white supremacy itself, the things that fanatics are willing to destabilise society wholesale for.
What is Kevin McCarthy really saying? He’s giving America an ultimatum, too. The very same one: fascism, or else. He’s saying that he’s not willing to investigate the coup attempt of Jan 6th, because, of course, he doesn’t want any ugly truths to come to light. His party only offers America two choices. Fascism, or else. Or else what? They’ll block up the gears of government, they’ll obstruct, they’ll bully, harass, intimidate. They’ll go back on their word-- remember, Kevin McCarthy supported such an investigation not too long ago. But when the rubber meets the road, and the actual choice has to be offered-- all that’s forgotten, and it boils down to: fascism, or else.
Or else what? McCarthy’s line-- like a lot of GOP politicians-- is a little more sophisticated than the obvious brutal Iran, Iraq, or North Korea-style appeals to authoritarianism MJT makes.
Their “or else” is: you don’t get a working government at all. We’ll do everything in our power to just crash the system, procedurally, formally, using whatever means we have at our hands, whatever rules and codes and systems we can abuse. We’ll stop you from doing the most basic things, like investigating a coup, even if we said we’d get behind it. Fascism, or else: or else you don’t get a working government at all.
McCarthy’s aided in this effort by the third way the GOP’s delivering their ultimatum of fascism or else to America. What’s going in the party at a cultural level, as a social movement? Something truly peculiar. A psychologist would call it mass psychotic delusion. The GOP is rewriting history.
The coup never happened-- those were just tourists! They didn’t mean any harm! Never mind the gallows they built, the death threats they chanted, or the numerous people who died. That never happened. The election was stolen from us, and we’re the ones with the grievance here. How can that be? Because the promised land has always belonged to the pure blooded and the true of faith. The rest of you are just subhumans-- who deserve to be treated like them, kids put in cages, hunted in the streets, violently attacked at the Capitol.
This Orwellian process of rewriting history is so notable and remarkable because it’s happening in a weirdly spontaneous fashion. Yes, leaders in the party tell the Big Lies-- but the base eagerly laps them up. They’re hungry for collective delusions, psychotic breaks from reality. This entire side of politics has quite literally lost its grip, its mind. It is not thinking at all anymore.
Why is that? Because it is too busy delivering an ultimatum. What are all those snarling Trumpists really saying to the rest of us? Fascism, or else. They don’t offer any compromise, any negotiation, any room for or remotely any interest in anything else. They’re hardly sitting around weighing the merits of different policies. They are just reacting instinctively now, their animal passions triggered, their lizard brains on fire. Fascism, or else.
Or else what? In MJT’s case-- the new generation of fanatical GOP politicians-- the answer was: the total rupture of society, civil war. In Kevin McCarthy’s case-- the old guard of politicians wary enough to couch the ultimatum in politesse-- the “or else” was: you don’t get a working government. But in the Republican base’s case, in working class America’s case, the answer is even more chilling than that: mass violence, based on the total rejection of reality, because the only kind of society they will accept is a fascist one. The base’s “or else” is: another coup, another Jan 6th, more paramilitaries, “open carry,” outright contempt for the “libtards,” vitriolic hate, all of that fuelled by psychotic delusions that justify it.
...[T]he GOP is saying “fascism, or else.” It’s authoritarian ultimatum to America is the worst kind there is. That’s the same one that ISIS gave, that the Taliban demanded. It’s the stuff of ultra dystopian scenarios. That is why survivors and scholars like me will use the term “authoritarian fascism”: there are two parts to it, the authoritarian ultimatum, given in the service of a fascist society of the pure and true, subjugating the impure, weak, and hated.
So. The GOP’s giving America an ultimatum. The danger is that America accepts it. This is why intelligent people say: “you can’t negotiate with extremists.” Because even accepting the terms of an ultimatum, especially one given in the name of violence, hate, right down to civil war, coup, mass delusion, fanatical extremism, my friend, is to have lost your power and centre and core and purpose at all. The only thing to do with an ultimatum-- ever-- is to reject it.