What Does A Failed Liberal Democracy Look Like Right Before Fascism Takes Over?
Greg Sargent had an ominous column last night: This is how the anti-democratic right wins with an ugly picture of Marjorie Traitor Greene, which made me think that he could have entitled it, "This is how empty-headed morons win." I found Sargent's column after reading a CNN piece by Issac Dovere and Jeremy Herb which was also filed last night and which Sargent referenced in the first sentence go his column.
CNN's report made me ask myself if this is what a pre-fascist take-over looks like. Last month Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs got a voice mail: "I am a hunter-- and I think you should be hunted. You will never be safe in Arizona again." She got another one from a fine-feathered Trumpist: ""Die you bitch, die! Die you bitch, die!"
Secretaries of state have been targeted by Trumpist thugs after Trump gave the green light. They told CNN "about living in constant terror-- nervously watching the people around them at events, checking in their rearview mirrors for cars following them home and sitting up at night wondering what might happen next... Staff members in the offices say they're dealing with long-term emotional and psychological trauma after a year of constant threats-- in person and virtually -- to the secretaries and to themselves.
Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold recited an e-mail that said "I'm really jonzing to see your purple face after you've been hanged."
The threats come in from their home states and across the country. Few appear to be coordinated or organized, and are instead often driven by momentary, angry reactions to a news story or social media post. But some get very specific, citing details and specifics that leave the secretaries and their staff rushing to report them to authorities.
Most anticipate the threats will increase going into next year, with Republicans around the country making election doubt conspiracies a central plank of their campaigns, and with many of these secretaries of state up for reelection themselves in races that are already generating more attention than ever before, with expectations that they will be the frontlines of potentially trying to overturn the next presidential election.
But Griswold's problem was, ironically, summed up in one of the tweets her office has tracked: "Your security detail is far too thin and incompetent to protect you. This world is unpredictable these days... anything can happen to anyone." It ended with a shrug emoji. Griswold's vulnerability is greater than that person imagined: for now, she's had to contract private security, and only for official events, squeezing the money out of her small office budget. With all that's been coming at her, that's what she has.
...The situation got so bad for Jocelyn Benson, Michigan's Democratic secretary of state, that during periods when the threats against her have spiked and gotten specific, she has received periodic 24-hour police protection. But when that security dropped off, the threats continued. Benson had dozens of people show up outside her house last December while she sat inside with her husband and young son, on the phone with the Michigan attorney general who was trying to scramble a police response. It ended up taking authorities 45 minutes to arrive on scene.
This has become her life. "It creates an air of apprehension everywhere you go and over everything you do. You're always looking behind your back and over your shoulder," she said.
Asked if she feels safe, Benson said, "Sometimes." And that's mostly because it's been a year since the last election and a year until the next one. She said she's worried because there have not been more arrests. "The lack of accountability means one thing: we have to anticipate that it will continue, and then as we close in on next year's election and 2024, I think it will simply continue to escalate, unless there are real consequences."
Kathy Boockvar, a Democrat who was Pennsylvania's secretary of state until February, received protection that began the week before the election last November, at the urging of her staff and state capitol police. But the threats against her ramped up significantly after she certified the election for Joe Biden later that month, as Trump and his allies attempted to make Pennsylvania the first major battleground for his election lies.
Protests against Boockvar were announced on the right-wing social media website Parler.
"You crooked fucking bitch. You're done," said one man who left Boockvar a voice mail that was shared with CNN.
Boockvar and her husband felt unsafe at home and decided to stay elsewhere. Multiple police jurisdictions were involved in helping provide protection to Boockvar as the threats continued, she said.
"I didn't feel comfortable walking the dog on the street," she told CNN.
...he threats aren't only toward Democrats, or women. Brad Raffensperger, the Republican secretary of state in Georgia whom Trump has both privately pressured and publicly singled out for not overturning the election results in his favor, has been inundated with threats since the November election, including those directed at his wife and family.
Raffensperger told CNN he's frustrated with elected officials allied with Trump who have continued to spread the former President's lies about the election being stolen -- lies that prompt Trump's supporters to direct their anger toward officials like Raffensperger. Trump has endorsed GOP Rep. Jody Hice, who has backed his baseless claims of election fraud, against Raffensperger in next year's primary.
"Some people have made comments that, 'It comes with the territory.' I find that beyond the pale," Raffensperger said. "What you're talking about is not just myself, but you're also talking about my wife, my daughter-in-law, my family."
Raffensperger said he's seen more action recently from law enforcement in response to the threats to election workers. He was told that the FBI had knocked on the doors of individuals in Alabama and the Midwest as part of investigations into those who had sent him threats. A spokesman for the FBI's Atlanta field office declined to comment on any investigations into threats against Raffensperger.
No one has been arrested in relation to threats made toward Raffensperger, however.
...The Biden administration on Tuesday announced Washington state Secretary of State Kim Wyman, a Republican who criticized Trump's election lies, would lead the Department of Homeland Security's efforts to defend election systems from foreign and domestic interference, though that's separate from protecting election officials from threats of violence.
In the face of what is expected to be growing threats, these officials are trying to stay optimistic and determined about their duties. It hasn't been easy.
Hobbs is running for governor of Arizona next year, and taunting her over her administration of last year's election has become a central part of the campaign against her. "I think she should be locked up," said Republican candidate Kari Lake, who's endorsed by both Trump and chief election fabulist Mike Lindell, at an event in Arizona earlier this month.
And the threats kept pouring in.
Sargent noded that "as horrifying as the threats themselves are, the consequences of these threats are also alarming when it comes to the future of U.S. democracy. In particular, the head of the group that oversees the Democratic secretaries of state fears that elections workers may be cowed into refraining from returning to work in future elections. This is how the anti-democratic right wins: Every time a public spirited elections worker decides that helping to administer democracy in good faith is too personally dangerous to carry out, the threats are achieving precisely their desired end."
Sargent also brought up that "It’s often noted that many Republicans loyal to Trump’s 2020 lies are running for positions of influence over the machinery of democracy. This is generally described as some sort of half-baked plot to put in place the building blocks of a future election theft effort by Trump. But the more worrisome thing here is that some of these candidates appear to be unshackling themselves from any sense of obligation to implement elections in good faith or even to abide by their legitimate outcomes. Never mind Trump’s future intentions; this trend is worrying as a separate matter, independent of Trump... Any time a single individual fears for her personal safety in carrying out the work of democracy, it’s a victory for the anti-democratic right."
They will stop at nothing. Rep. Marjorie Traitor Greene (R-GA) just unleashed a disgusting diatribe filled with lurid lies about how the left, antifa, Black Lives Matter Protesters and assorted “Marxist-communist” operatives were far worse than the Jan. 6 rioters, who, she said, were merely carrying out the spirit of the Declaration of Independence’s directive to “overthrow tyrants.”
And Trump has now gone all the way into declaring the Jan. 6 rioters the heroes and the implementers of the 2020 election as the insurrectionists.
The 2020 election isn’t often thought of this way, but it was a civic triumph. Countless elections officials and workers implemented the election under extraordinarily difficult conditions-- a pandemic, upended procedures to deal with it, a president relentlessly casting the whole process as irredeemably corrupt and egging on angry mobs to terrorize them-- yet it came off relatively smoothly, with the horrible exception of the violence on Jan. 6.
This is exactly what the anti-democratic right hates about what happened. And they’ll do all they can to ensure that people who heroically implemented a legitimate election last time will refrain from doing so next time.