Longtime political observer Doyle McManus pointed out in a column for the Los Angeles Times, that the Republican leadership is finding itself trapped in a corner by the more extreme elements in the party — from far-right GOP lawmakers who excuse and /or deny violence and conservative voters who see no problem with it.
With Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI) excusing and supporting the rioters who stormed the U.S. Capitol on Jan 6th and Rep. Andrew S. Clyde claiming the insurrectionists were merely “tourists,” Republicans are now confronted with the optics and reality of being the party that condones violence. Republicans refusing to take a firm stance against political violence is not a good sign for a party that just lost the Senate and the White House, insist McManus.
The problem is that a substantial number of the GOP’s most fervent supporters have said they are fine with the use of force to hold political power.
McManus points out that a significant chunk of the party’s most fervent supporters doesn’t think the insurrection was damaging or wrong, and they illustrate the GOP’s malfunction. At a time when the party needs every vote it can muster, it can’t risk alienating loyal supporters, even if they embrace violence. A survey by the conservative American Enterprise Institute after the riot in January, shows that 56% of Republicans agreed that the traditional (white) American way of life is disappearing so fast that we may have to use force to save it. It’s these voters that are holding the party hostage as they try to woo voters back after four years of Trumpism.
The same poll reveals, 79% of Republicans said they still had a favorable view of Trump — and 36% said ‘very favorable.’ That consensus has made GOP politicians fearful of crossing Trump or questioning the actions of his most zealous supporters, including the Jan. 6 criminal insurrectionists. Republican officials in both Georgia and Arizona, where Trump is still agitating to reverse the election results, say their families have been physically threatened by Trump’s supporters.
Republicans are trying to tiptoe around a fundamental problem: Their candidate lost a presidential election, but he not only refuses to accept the voters’ verdict; he wants his party to ‘fight’ to restore him to power. They want to move past the embarrassment of Jan. 6, but that’s not going to happen, because face it, they are the party that condones extraconstitutional violence!
Deb Haaland, seeking to make history as the first Native American to hold a cabinet secretary position in the US, has weathered a torrent of hostile questioning from Republicans during her confirmation hearing as secretary of the interior.
In a striking opening statement, Haaland, a member of Congress for New Mexico, said “the historic nature of my confirmation is not lost on me, but I will say that it is not about me”, adding that she hoped her elevation would “be an inspiration for Americans, moving forward together as one nation and creating opportunities for all of us”.
A Laguna Pueblo member, Haaland, 60, said she learned about her culture from her grandmother’s cooking, participating in traditional ceremonies, and learning about the importance of protecting the environment from her grandfather. Haaland said “our climate challenge must be addressed” but conceded that fossil fuels will play a role in the US for “years to come”.
Haaland is considered a progressive on the climate crisis and has previously spoken out on the impact of fossil fuel development upon the environment and Native American tribes, positions that Senate Republicans were keen to attack during a sometimes-contentious confirmation hearing.
John Barrasso, a Wyoming Republican, criticized Haaland for a tweet from October 2020 in which she stated that “Republicans don’t believe in science”. Barrasso, who has previously incorrectly said the role of human activity in climate change is “not known” and that ambitious climate action in the form of the Green New Deal would mean “cheeseburgers and milkshake would become a thing of the past”, said the tweet was “concerning to those of us who have gone through training, believe in science, and yet with a broad brush, we’re all disbelievers”.
Haaland responded to Barrasso, a surgeon, saying that “if you’re a doctor, I would assume that you believe in science”. Scientists have repeatedly said that the US, and the rest of the world, needs to rapidly reduce planet-heating emissions from fossil fuels in order to prevent disastrous heatwaves, flooding and societal unrest associated with runaway climate change.
The early exchange set the tone for more than two hours of questioning where Republicans repeatedly assailed Joe Biden’s decision to pause oil and gas drilling on federal lands as calamitous for jobs. As interior secretary, Haaland would oversee the management of lands that make up nearly a third of America’s landmass, including tribal lands.
At times the questions were extremely pointed, with Bill Cassidy, a Louisiana Republican, asking Haaland: “Will your administration be guided by a prejudice against fossil fuel, or will it be guided by science?” Importantly for the chances for Haaland’s nomination, Joe Manchin, a Democrat who represents the coal heartland of West Virginia, said that he wanted to see the “evolution not elimination” of coal mining.
Haaland said that “we want to move forward with clean energy, we want to get to net zero carbon” but also struck a conciliatory note with her questioners. The nominee said that changes to energy use “are not going to happen overnight” and that she looked forward to working with the senators. At one point when Steve Daines, a Montana Republican, asked why she supported a bill protecting grizzly bears – Haaland responded: “Senator, I believe I was caring about the bears.”
Haaland had to repeatedly correct Republicans who said Biden had scrapped, rather than paused, oil and gas leases but acknowledged her role as a progressive champion would have to change somewhat if she were confirmed. “If I’m confirmed as secretary, that is far different role than a congresswoman representing one small district in my state,” she said. “So I understand that role, it’s to serve all Americans not just my one district in New Mexico. I realize being cabinet is very different, I recognize there is a difference in those two roles.”
During later questioning, Haaland raised the disproportionate impact of the Covid-19 pandemic upon native Americans and raised concerns over tribes such as the Navajo being subjected to polluted water. In a response to a question from the Vermont senator Bernie Sanders about the opening up of an area sacred to native Americans in Arizona to mining, Haaland said she would “make sure that the voice of the tribal nation is heard on the issue”.
Haaland’s nomination has been vigorously supported by environmental and Native American groups as a landmark moment to confront the climate crisis while addressing widespread inequities experienced by tribes.
Bernadette Demientieff, executive director of the steering committee for the Gwich’in people in Alaska, said that Haaland is a “visionary leader who knows we must protect places sacred to the American people like the Arctic national wildlife refuge.
“Our way of life, our survival is interconnected to the land, water and animals. Today we honor the woman set to be the first Native American in history to fill a presidential cabinet position, and look forward to working with her to ensure that indigenous voices are heard and our human rights respected.”
Bemoaning Biden’s election, Russian state media talking heads consoled themselves with the thought that Trump fatally undermined democracy on his way out.
Trump just delivered the biggest present to the Kremlin imaginable by inciting a violent insurrection. Hundreds of Trump supporters descended upon the Capitol, launching a brazen attack that defiled the most precious symbol of U.S. democracy and attempting to overturn the outcome of an election in favor of their conspiracy-peddling idol.
Russian state media had played its own part in amplifying Donald Trump’s baseless claims of electoral fraud and gleefully predicting that post-election violence would inevitably follow. “There will be blood,” asserted Russian lawmakers and state media talking heads, a prospect they considered to be “excellent.” And indeed, there was blood. Vesti reporter Denis Davydov was embedded in the thick of it all, interviewing sweaty seditionists with bloody knuckles in between their attempts to storm Capitol Hill. “The United States never experienced anything like this,” Davydov noted. In his report for Vesti, U.S. correspondent Valentin Bogdanov asserted that the violence is not over: “While the Democrats gained control of Congress and the Senate, that doesn’t mean they can control the minds of the people. January 6, 2021 is forever written into the American political calendar. For some, it’s a dark date they will try to forget. For others, it’s a day to remember—or perhaps to repeat.”
Political scientist Yury Rogulyov told state media channel Rossiya-24: “The discontent will remain, the divisions will continue, but the big question is to which degree the Republicans will follow in Trump’s footsteps. If they do it, the crisis will be extended and America’s healing—if it’s even possible—will take a long time.”
Bemoaning Joe Biden’s election, Russian state media talking heads consoled themselves with the thought that Trump had burned the United States on his way out by discrediting America’s electoral system and democracy as a whole. The failed insurrection provided even more fuel for the fire. Instead of condemning an attempted coup—stoked by blatant disinformation—Russian officials joined Trump and his Republican collaborators in trashing the integrity of the U.S. elections. Addressing the foiled coup, Maria Zakharova, official spokeswoman of the Russian Foreign Ministry, blamed the “archaic” electoral system and the U.S. media—and not President Trump’s incendiary messaging.
Regardless of what happens to Trump, Russian propagandists find comfort in knowing that their favorite U.S. president’s divisive rhetoric and deliberate disinformation have inflicted lasting damage on America—and cast a dark shadow on democracy, which used to be an example for other countries. Russian tabloid Komsomolskaya Pravda argued: “The United States has long insisted that it is perhaps the only standard of democracy and order. But the inability of the American political system to transfer power peacefully and legally from one presidential team to another has torn the fragile veil from a failed example of democracy that has been carefully imposed on both Americans and the world.” Political scientist Igor Shatrov added: “The storefront is broken, shattered. It will be patched up, but the most valuable thing was stolen from the display: trust in American democratic institutions.”
It’s hard to imagine a bigger gift for Trump’s puppet master, Putin.
To quote Mississippi’s William Faulkner, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” Senators from states that were part of the Confederacy, or territory where slaveholding was legal, provide the ballast for Cruz’s demands. At least one senator each from Alabama, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Tennessee and Texas is on board.
Apparently, Trump’s defeat at the hands of Joe Biden, formerly vice-president to the first black man in the White House, and Kamala Harris, a black woman, is too much for too many to bear. Said differently, to these Republicans the right to vote is only for some of the people, some of the time – those people being this president’s supporters.
Trump’s equivocation over Charlottesville, his debate shoutout to the Proud Boys and his worship of dead Confederate generals are of the same piece. The vestiges of an older and crueler social order are to be maintained, at all costs.
Likewise, the reluctance of Trump appointees to the federal judiciary to affirm the validity of Brown v Board of Education, the supreme court ruling that said school segregation was unconstitutional, is a feature not a bug.
As for the Declaration of Independence’s pronouncement that “All men are created equal”, and the constitution’s guaranty of equal protection under law, they are inconveniences to be discarded when confronted by dislocating demographics.
“Stand back and stand by,” indeed.
Since the civil war, there has always been a southern party, frequently echoing strains of the old, slave-owning south. Practically, that has meant hostility towards civil rights coupled with wariness towards modernity.
To be sure, southern did not automatically equal neo-Confederate, but the distinction could easily get lost. And to be sure, the Democrats were initially the party of the south. During debate over the 1964 Civil Rights Act, Republicans gave Lyndon Johnson the votes he needed. Not anymore.
Cruz and Josh Hawley, the Missouri senator who kicked off the attempt to deny the electoral college result, are the products of places like Harvard, Stanford and Yale. John C Calhoun, the seventh vice-president, argued in favor of slavery and the right of states to secede. He went to Yale too. Joseph Goebbels had a doctorate from Heidelberg. An elite degree does not confer wisdom automatically. For the record, Cruz also clerked for a supreme court chief justice, William Rehnquist. Hawley did so for John Roberts.
A disputed election, a constitutional crisis, polarization … welcome to 1876
On Sunday, as the new Congress was being sworn in, a recording emerged of Trump unsuccessfully browbeating Georgia’s secretary of state into finding “11,780 votes, which is one more than we have”. From the sound of things, Trump’s fear of prosecutors and creditors, waiting for him to leave the White House, takes precedence over electoral integrity.
Back in May, after Deborah Birx, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, predicted 240,000 deaths from Covid, and as armed protests to public health measures grew, an administration insider conveyed that Trump’s America was becoming a “bit” like the “late” Weimar Republic. Eight months later, the death toll is past 350,000 and climbing unabated.
Come nightfall on 6 January, the party of Abraham Lincoln will be no more. Instead, the specters of Jim Crow and autocracy will flicker. Traitors Trump, Cruz, and Hawley can take a collective bow.