For years, I’ve admired the writing and viewpoints of Amanda Marcotte. On December 9 and 11, she published two articles that said what I have been trying to codify in my head for months: this coup that the GOP is attempting to engineer is only the start of a larger push towards an autocracy that will essentially kill our democracy. If they have their way, voting will become a sham on the level of Putin-era Russia, where “voting” is a ruse and outcomes pre-determined.
Many GOP officials are on board, including some 126 House representatives and a number of senators like Marco Rubio (R-Nazi), who whined on Twitter:
According to the left & their partners in the legacy media, the Supreme Court was the appropriate place to legalize abortion & redefine marriage, but it has no business taking up claims regarding a presidential election.
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) December 11, 2020
One of Marcotte’s articles demonstrates that the entire “Stop the Steal!” movement claiming that the election was stolen from Trump is a ruse that even most Trump supporters don’t believe. Surprised? Don’t be. Most Republicans didn’t really believe that Barack Obama was born in Kenya, either. So why act as if Obama, and now Biden, are illegitimate presidents?
The question answers itself. They’re illegitimate because Republicans don’t grant them the status of being legitimate elected officials. Or legitimate candidates for offfice. Or legitimate Americans, even.
Someone on a Facebook discussion about this article recounted the story of an acquaintance of his who asserted Kamala Harris wasn’t a legitimate choice for Vice President because she isn’t a citizen. When he was corrected — Harris’s parents were legal immigrants to the US, and she was born in California, so she is indeed a citizen — he said, okay, she shouldn’t be a citizen because she is a liberal. If she can’t be a citizen unless she meets the political and social requirements of this guy (and the millions like him), then neither can Biden, Bernie Sanders, or anyone else without that Trump-humper stamp of approval. We saw this in 2008 and beyond, when Trump almost single-handedly revived the moribund “birther” conspiracy claiming that Obama was an illegitimate president. Why was he illegitimate? Because he was black and because he was a Democrat.
Marcotte cites a 2014 study that showed almost 60% of Republican voters asserted that Obama wasn’t a true American citizen after being reminded that only natural-born citizens can be president. When the question was framed as an understanding of facts (asking where Obama was born, among other questions), only 31% of Republican voters espoused “birther” beliefs. Most of them knew Obama was an actual citizen. She writes that birtherism “was just a way to express racist beliefs about the inherent illegitimacy of Black leaders by asking ‘questions’ about Obama’s birth certificate.”
Marcotte already addressed this in her book Troll Nation, which I am going to purchase in about five minutes. She asks, are Trump supporters — the supporters of this attempted coup who will support the next wannabe Hitler that the right grooms for the role of Maximum Leader — delusional? Or:
are millions of Americans arguing in bad faith, merely claiming to believe Trump is the true winner? Is this all just a disingenuous song-and-dance, meant to put a morally justifiable gloss on what is actually widespread support among Trump voters for a coup? … Are [they] innocent lambs who sincerely believe that Trump is a good man done wrong? Or are they people who are actively seeking to [help engineer] a coup, employing the flimsiest of excuses?
By and large, Republican voters who claim that Biden stole the election are arguing from bad faith, not delusion.
Currently, some 68% of Republican voters say they believe the 2020 election was “rigged” to steal the election from Trump. These same voters have sent Trump over $200 million dollars to “help him restore democracy.” They describe themselves as “true patriots” who want to restore democracy. They do not. They are participating in a GOP-led assault on American democracy. She writes:
Understanding modern politics means understanding one crucial reality about the current landscape: Conservatives don’t hold beliefs, they only have rationalizations.
How many times do we have to point out their stunning hypocrisy on one issue after another? They call themselves “pro-life,” but they do everything they can to ban contraception, which obviates the need for millions of abortions each year. They don’t want to save the lives of the unborn. They want to punish women by making them deliver children they do not want and oftentimes cannot support. They want to keep driving their monster SUVs that help pollute the planet and exacerbate global warming, so they say climate science is bullshit. They don’t want to wear masks in public, so they say the coronavirus is a hoax.
Most of them know that they can’t say this in public, just as most of them know they can’t use racial slurs in public if they want to successfully argue for voter suppression or economic oppression of minorities. So they gin up conspiracy theories and put their support behind them.
It is no accident that Trump and his idiot henchman Giuliani are accusing cities with large black populations — Philadelphia, Detroit, Milwaukee, Atlanta — of being at the center of their conspiracy about “massive dumps” of illegal ballots. Trump, Giuliani, and the GOP as a whole wants to deny black Americans — the backbone of the Democratic voter base — the ability to vote. Voter suppression has targeted black voters since the days of Reconstruction, and this is the most recent volley in the ongoing attack on black voters.
(Unions have also been a central element in Democratic success at the polls. Think it’s a coincidence Republicans have been attacking unions since the Reagan administration?)
This isn’t just a conspiracy theory about Trump’s fragile ego. It speaks directly to long-standing right-wing fury at minority voting rights.
She cites historian Jeffrey Herf, who recently compared the current coup attempt with the rise of Nazism in 1930s Germany. Germany never lost World War I, the story went; Germany was stabbed in the back by liberals, communists and Jews. Sound familiar?
The Washington Post‘s Greg Sargent agrees, saying:
What Republican voters think, or say they think, about who really won matters less than the fact that, as a consequence, they actively want their elected representatives to subvert our democracy and keep Trump in power illegitimately.
Trump will lose this coup. He lost the election, and he will not be president after January 20 at noon. But the attempts to subvert and destroy democracy will not slow down. They will increase.
State officials across the country are being threatened by Trump lovers. They are receiving death threats via social media, on voice mail, and from papers nailed to their front doors. Mobs of armed conservatives are storming their homes. Vermont Secretary of State Jim Condos said after an election official in his state received a voice mail that said he would be “executed by firing squad”:
No public servant should ever have to feel threatened or concerned for their safety while they are doing their work. The conspiracy theories and unfounded rhetoric that are being pushed by the president and his campaign team really could inspire some dangerous behavior somewhere in this country. It starts at the top and it really needs to stop.
I agree completely. But it will not stop.
Marcotte writes that the pretense (and for some, the actual belief) that a massive conspiracy of Democratic and Republican party officials stole the election from Biden “puts a glow of innocence on their actions.” And it leads us to dismiss them: they’re just stupid. Or crazy. Or delusional. They’ll stop after Biden is inaugurated, or at least tamp it down to a dull grumble. They’ll learn better soon enough.
No. No, they won’t.
What they will do is continue to fight against American democracy. Soon enough, they’ll choose a new Maximum Leader candidate — maybe Tom Cotton (R-Also Nazi), maybe some C-list celebrity. Marcotte wrote:
[I]t’s important to see those who support Trump’s coup for who they are: People who have been radicalized, through racism hateful propaganda and a sense of perpetual grievance, against democracy. They aren’t going to change their minds because of new facts, because the underlying belief — which is that they deserve to be in power, no matter what — is the problem here. It’s a rising American authoritarianism, and we underestimate it at our peril.
And, she wrote in the other article of hers cited above:
[This is all] about the Republican belief that elections should be democratic in name only, and the only real choice available to voters should be to vote Republican. If the voters are foolish enough choose otherwise, their right to vote should be stripped away.
Insanity? Perhaps. But the fight to stop Democrats from winning elections has been going on since Nixon’s Southern Strategy of 1968 (gee, just a few years after the Voting Rights Act of 1965 was passed. Coincidence? Of course not). It is escalating.
We can stop it. But we first have to understand that it’s actually happening. And it will be a fight that will not be won any time soon.