The facade of the GOP's respectability is crumbling

Republicans
President Donald J. Trump arrives in the House chamber and is greeted by members of Congress prior to delivering his State of the Union address Tuesday, Feb. 4, at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Official White House Photo by Andrea Hanks)

I speculated Thursday. I said 2020 might have been the Republican Party's best and last shot at an authoritarian takeover. I said I can't know if that's true. The time for knowing is not yet here. But if it is true, it's because respectable white people know what's going on. Let's talk about that.

You might think who cares? Swing voters are extinct! Don't be daft. Respectable white people — which is to say, white people who care about looking respectable to other white people — are the great globular middle of American politics. They determine which party prevails over long periods. From the 1930-1960s, they sided with the Democrats. From the 1980s-2010s, they sided with the GOP. I believe we are in a new moment of transition. Respectable white people are deciding which party speaks for them most consistently and why.

To come to the right conclusion, they must see what's going on. They must see it clearly. And there's the rub. Respectable white people are respectable on account of their being white people of middle class and higher means who are generally immune to political fallout. My fear is they are hearing more about "wokism" and "Critical Race Theory" than they are about the slow-motion civil war that's been building since the rapid-action coup attempt on January 6. Like it or not, respectable white people are going to fear non-white people more than other white people, even when those white people are far from respectable.

So we must do our best to pierce through the facade thrown up by the Republicans to hide their real objective, which is this: the protection, preservation and perpetuation of the "natural" orders of power — God over Mankind, men over women and white people over everyone else.

This has always been the objective of authoritarian-minded Americans. They used to be the center of the Democratic Party. Now they are the center of the Republican Party. In both cases, they fashioned a reasonable-sounding facade to hide it. They had to. They live in a democracy, after all. They can't have it be known far and wide that democracy is only tolerable if it doesn't undermine their objectives.

When it does, as when Barack Obama was elected, it's war by other means. That's when the facade becomes even more important. Part of what makes respectable white people respectable is the general sense that no matter bad things are, democracy is still worth having. The Republicans can't afford respectable white people turning against them. Even as they go to war, they work hard to hide going to war.

But sometimes, the facade falls off. I think that happened in a school district in Texas. NBC News reported Thursday secret audio of an administrator for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake advising teachers with books on the Holocaust in their class libraries that they should also have books representing "opposing views." This isn't a fringe view. It was a serious mistake, though. I'm guessing the administrator didn't intend to say something so grotesque, but factors conspired to force her to. And with that, the facade slid right off.

Those factors are laws in Texas and other formerly confederate states putting greater restrictions on teachers and how they teach the history of racism and slavery. The Republicans who control these states say these laws protect students from something called "Critical Race Theory." In fact, they push back against political gains made after a white police officer murdered Black man. George Floyd's death sparked a nationwide rethinking of racism and greater efforts at anti-racism. (By the way, the "opposing view" of anti-racism is racism.)

Public schools are naturally where most of this rethinking and effort has been taking place. After all, the point of public education is creating democratic citizens who vote, who know their rights and who demand freedom. In other words, creating small-r republicans who may over time flatten the orders of power. Critical Race Theory, which is not taught to fifth-graders, is a convenient facade for covering up what the GOP wants to do, which is straw-bossing public educators.

The GOP is having great success. Why stop with Black people? Public schools are where lots of women work. (Most teachers are women.) Harassing them about "Critical Race Theory" is another way of harassing women for refusing to stay in their place in the orders of power (under men). Same for the death-threat squads stalking election officials. Most of them are women, too. Harassing them about "election fraud" is another way of harassing them about the "fraud" of trying to have a life unbeholden to men that's contrary to the natural order.

First, Black people. Then women. And then Jews. It should all make sense. The QAnon conspiracy theory, which fuels the Big Lie that Donald Trump is still president, tracks nearly perfectly with ancient Jew-hatred. For QAnon, Democrats drink the blood of children. For antisemites, Jews drink the blood of Christian children. Again, I don't think the administrator for the Carroll Independent School District in Southlake, Texas, intended to say teachers should teach "both sides" of the Holocaust. But the fact that she did is in keeping with the larger authoritarian objective of keeping white Christian men on top.

We must do our best to make respectable white people aware of this. We must do it for their sakes, too. Why? Because it's not just people on the margins who are in danger. It's not just racial and religious minorities. If the GOP is allowed to keep going, it's only a matter of time before much of the country is assimilated into their authoritarian collective. As one fascist writer put it, most would agree that the United States has become "two nations occupying the same country." But, he said, "fewer are willing to take the next step and accept that most people living in the United States today—certainly more than half—are not Americans in any meaningful sense of the term."

If you think border politics is only about "illegal immigrants," you are badly mistaken. Border politics will come for everyone in time. If left unchecked, many citizens will find themselves deemed "illegal," too. As I said, 2020 might have been the Republican Party's best and last shot at an authoritarian takeover. But if that's indeed true, it's because respectable white people know what's going on. Make sure they do.

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