Clarence Lusane

The Republican voter suppression nightmare

Clarence Lusane: The Nightmare of Republican Voter Suppression

Elections? What are those?

Our previous president was almost unimaginably deep into voter suppression. After all, a Georgia grand jury has, among other things, been investigating his direct involvement in a wild scheme to create his very own slate of bogus “electors” in that state who would — giant surprise! — vote for The Donald for president, even after he’d been declared the loser of the 2020 election. And that was but one of the states where he and his crew tried to create slates of fake electors who would be (or so they came to believe) recognized as the real thing by Vice President Pence on January 6th.

That, in turn, was but one way in which a Republican Party with an urge for ultimate domination at both the state and federal levels, not to say outright autocracy, has been trying to stack the deck in its favor for years. That was particularly true in states across the country where they held power and focused on suppressing the right of Black voters to go to the polls. As newly elected Georgia Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock put it in his first Senate speech two months after the attempted insurrection of January 6, 2021, “We are witnessing right now a massive and unabashed assault on voting rights unlike anything we’ve ever seen since the Jim Crow era. This is Jim Crow in new clothes.”

I’m sure you won’t be surprised to learn that most Republican laws to suppress votes were passed, according to the Guardian‘s Ed Pilkington, “in precisely those states that became the focus of Trump’s Stop the Steal campaign to block the peaceful transfer of power after he lost the 2020 presidential election to Joe Biden.” And as a Brennan Center report found in 2022, “Representatives from the whitest districts in the most racially diverse states were the most likely to sponsor anti-voter bills.”

Today, Clarence Lusane, author of the recently published book Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy, a penetrating look at the legacies of slavery and white supremacy in this country, considers what that ongoing record of suppressing the Black vote means as 2023 begins. Tom

The Votes That Weren’t Cast: Racial Justice, Voting Rights, and Authoritarianism

The fundamental right to vote has been a core value of Black politics since the colonial era — and so has the effort to suppress that vote right up to the present moment. In fact, the history of the suppression of Black voters is a first-rate horror story that as yet shows no sign of ending.

While Democrats and progressives justifiably celebrated the humbling defeat of some of the most notorious election-denying Republican candidates in the 2022 midterms, the GOP campaign to quell and marginalize Black voters has only continued with an all-too-striking vigor. In 2023, attacks on voting rights are melding with the increasingly authoritarian thrust of a Republican Party ever more aligned with far-right extremists and outright white supremacists.

It shouldn’t be forgotten that the insurrection of January 6, 2021, at the Capitol in Washington was also an assault on minority voters. In the post-election weeks of 2020, insurrection-loving and disgraced President Donald Trump and his allies sought to discard votes in swing-state cities like Atlanta, Detroit, Las Vegas, Milwaukee, Philadelphia, and Phoenix. Those were all places with large Black, Latino, or Native American populations. It was no accident then that the overwhelmingly white mob at the Capitol didn’t hesitate to hurl racist language, including the “N” word, at Black police officers as that mob invaded the building.

For years, Republican lawmakers at the state level had proposed — and where possible implemented — voter suppression laws and policies whose impacts were sharply felt in communities of color nationwide. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, “At least 19 states passed 34 laws restricting access to voting,” laws invariably generated by Republican legislators. These included bills to limit early voting, restrict voting by mail, and even deny the provision of water to voters waiting for hours in long lines, something almost universally experienced in Black and poor communities.

While normally pretending that such laws were not raced-based but focused on — the phrases sound so positive and sensible — “voter integrity” or “election security,” on occasion GOP leaders and officials have revealed their real purpose. A recent example was Republican Wisconsin Elections Commissioner Robert Spindell, one of three GOP appointees on the six-person commission that oversees that state’s elections. He openly bragged that the “well thought out multi-faceted plan” of the Republicans had resulted in a dramatic drop in Black voters in the 2022 midterm elections, including in Milwaukee, the state’s largest city, which is about 40% African American. He wrote: “We can be especially proud of the City of Milwaukee (80.2% Dem Vote) casting 37,000 less votes than cast in the 2018 election with the major reduction happening in the overwhelming Black and Hispanic areas.”

How Far Might Voter Suppression Go?

You undoubtedly won’t be surprised to learn that, rather than develop policies attractive to voters of color, the GOP and conservatives generally have chosen the path of voter suppression, intimidation, and gaming the system. And if anything, those attempts are still on the rise. In 2023, less than a month into the new year, according to the Guardian, Republicans across the country have proposed dozens of voter-suppression and election-administration-interference bills in multiple states.

Republican state legislators in Texas alone filed 14 bills on January 10th, including ones that would raise penalties for “illegal” voting, whether committed knowingly or not. More ominously, one Texas proposal would fund the creation of an election police force exclusively dedicated to catching those who violate voting or election laws. That unit would be similar to the draconian election-police unit created in Governor Ron DeSantis’s Florida as part of what is functionally becoming a regime dedicated to a version of right-wing terror. Symbolically enough, for instance, Black ex-felons were disproportionately targeted by DeSantis. Although the campaign was launched with great fanfare, only a few generally confused ex-felons were arrested and most of them had been given misinformation by state officials about their eligibility to vote and were convinced that they had the right to do so.

But DeSantis never really wanted to stop the virtually nonexistent crime of voter impersonation or fraud. His goal, and that of the GOP nationally, has been to strike fear into the hearts of potential non-Republican voters to ensure election victories for his party.

In states like Alabama, Mississippi, and 20 others where the GOP controls both chambers of the state legislature and the governor’s mansion, intimidating voter-tracking police squads could be the next play in an ongoing effort to undemocratically control elections. Such policing efforts would without question disproportionately target communities of color.

While the expected midterm “red wave” of Republican victories didn’t occur nationally in 2022, the same can’t be said for the South. As documented by the Institute for Southern Studies’ Facing South, the GOP actually outperformed expectations, expanding its hold on multiple state legislatures in the region. Prior to the election, analysts had predicted that the Republicans might gain 40 seats across the South; in fact, they gained at least 55. Not only did they take control of at least 25 state legislative chambers — the lone exception, Virginia’s state senate where Democrats retained a two-seat majority — but they also built or maintained supermajorities in legislative chambers in Florida, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina, and West Virginia. This means that even if a Democratic governor is in office, Republican legislators can pass extremist bills into law despite a gubernatorial veto.

None of this is spontaneous, nor is it random. Tens of millions of dollars or more from super-rich conservative donors and right-wing foundations have poured into voter-suppression and election-manipulation efforts. Heritage Action for America, a conservative legislative-writing group linked to the Heritage Foundation, spent upwards of $24 million in 2021 and 2022 in key swing states to help Republicans write bills that would restrict voting, targeting Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Michigan, Nevada, and Texas. Consider it anything but a coincidence that the language in voter-suppression bills in those states and elsewhere sounded eerily familiar. As the Guardian reported, at least 11 voter suppression bills in at least eight states were due, in part or whole, to advocacy and organizing by Heritage Action. A New York Times investigation found that in Georgia, “Of the 68 bills pertaining to voting, at least 23 had similar language or were firmly rooted in the principles laid out in the Heritage group’s letter” that offered outlines and details for how to limit voting access.

Contemporary voter suppression efforts, however, go significantly beyond just trying to prevent people from voting or making it harder for them to do so. Credit that, at least in part, to the determination of so many Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans to vote despite restrictions imposed by the states. Consequently, Republican legislators now seek to control — that is, manipulate — election administration, too. Their tactics include the harassment of election workers, far-right activists seeking positions as election officials, and various other potentially far-reaching legal maneuvers.

In fact, in recent voting, attacks on election workers, officials, and volunteers have become so prevalent that a new national organization, the Election Officials Legal Defense Network (EOLDN), was formed to protect them. EOLDN provides attorneys and other kinds of assistance to such officials when they find themselves under attack.

Meanwhile, a flood of far-right activists has applied for positions or volunteered to work on elections. Neo-fascist Steven Bannon and other extremist influencers have typically called for such activists to take over local election boards with the express purpose of helping Republicans and conservatives win power.

Finally, GOP leaders in multiple states have been pushing an “independent state legislature” doctrine that argues such bodies have the ultimate power to determine election outcomes. They contend that governors, state supreme courts, and even the U.S. Supreme Court have no jurisdiction over non-federal elections. Their fanciful and erroneous reading of Article 1, Section 4 and Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution suggests that state legislatures can not only overturn the will of voters in a given election but select electors of their choice in a presidential contest, no matter the will of the voters.

In past decisions, Supreme Court Justices Clarence Thomas and the late Antonin Scalia indicated that they were at least open to such a reading. A firm decision on this matter may occur in that court’s current session in the case of Moore v. Harper. Court watchers are split on whether the court’s conservative majority might indeed embrace that “doctrine” in full, in part, or at all in ruling on that case later this year.

Missed Chances

Much of this dynamic of voter suppression is the result of the failure of congressional Democrats to carry two voting rights bills across the finish line. Black activists are all too aware that the Democrats blew the opportunity to pass such legislation during the last two years when they controlled both chambers of Congress, even if by the slimmest of margins in the Senate. The John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act (JLVRAA) and the For the People Act (FtPA) were each game-changing bills that would, in many ways, have blunted the massive efforts of Republicans at the state level to institute voter restrictions and other policies that result in the disproportionate disenfranchisement of African Americans, Latinos, young people, and working-class voters generally, all of whom tend to vote Democratic.

The JLVRAA would have restored the power of the Voting Rights Act to prevent the very passage of voter suppression laws taken away by the Supreme Court in 2013 in the case of Shelby County v. Holder. The FtPA would have banned partisan gerrymandering, expanded voting rights, and even supported statehood for Washington, D.C. Those bills were aimed specifically at countering the hundreds of voter-suppression proposals in Republican-controlled state legislatures.

In its final report, the January 6th committee actually blew a chance to highlight the attacks on Black voting rights. That report’s full-scale focus on the role of Donald Trump, who certainly was the key instigator of the insurrectionary events at the Capitol and its chief potential beneficiary, ended up obscuring the role of racism and white nationalism in the stop-the-steal movement that accompanied it and was so crucial to Republican election deniers. It should be remembered, though, that Trump’s central argument and the biggest lie of all was that Black, Latino, and Native American votes should be thrown out in Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia, and other urban areas in states like Arizona and Nevada where he was rejected by overwhelming numbers.

Unfortunately, the January 6th report didn’t sufficiently identify white supremacy as a driver of the “stop the steal” movement. Despite the prominence of certain Black faces among the Trump camp, including conservative organizer Ali Alexander, Trump campaign aid Katrina Pierson, and former Georgia legislator Vernon Jones, January 6th, in fact, represented the culmination of months of attacks on Black campaign workers, especially in Atlanta and Detroit. President Trump explicitly fired up white nationalists by name-checking and endangering individual African American election workers as spoilers of his alleged victory.

The movement in some democratic states to follow Trump’s autocratic playbook is now also metastasizing globally. In Brazil, on January 8th, thousands of followers of the defeated far-right former president Jair Bolsonaro attacked government buildings in Brasilia. Newly elected President Luiz Inácio “Lula” da Silva has had to confront a surging wave of election deniers in the early days of his administration. And it’s important to note that Lula’s voters were disproportionately from the north and northeastern regions of Brazil, areas with deep concentrations of Black and indigenous communities.

In the United Kingdom, in 2022, the Conservative Party pushed through legislation that requires photo identification to vote in future elections beginning in May 2023. As with Republican legislation in Texas, student IDs will not suffice, creating a new obstacle for a constituency that tends to vote for the Labour Party. In a country where many working-class people don’t have drivers’ licenses and the state does not easily provide acceptable IDs, voter suppression is operative.

A democracy agenda that recognizes the racial elements of voter suppression and election denial is sorely needed. At the federal level, President Biden and Congressional Democrats should prioritize keeping the issue alive, while forcing Republicans to divulge their undemocratic hand, until the Democrats (hopefully) fully take back Congress in 2024.

At the state level, Democrats who have momentum from their victories in 2022 need to consolidate and strengthen voting-access laws and policies. In Michigan, for example, where the GOP had for years used its control of the state legislature to pass outlandish, racist laws that generated significant harm for Black communities, the recent Democratic sweep should mean a new voting day.

Former President Trump and the rest of his crew, as well as state versions of the same, are sadly enough in a significant, if grim, American tradition. Isn’t it time to focus more energy on how to stop their urge to suppress the Black vote?

Liberty and justice for some: The MAGAfication of the American republic

Clarence Lusane: The Decline of Democracy

Phew! In the recent midterms, election deniers running nationwide for the post of secretary of state to oversee future elections not only lost across the board but did even worse than losers running for other state posts. And that’s certainly something to be thankful for.

Still, think about this: if I had mentioned the phrase “election denier” after the 2018 midterms, you wouldn’t have had the slightest idea what I was talking about. Now — can there be any question? — it’s part of the language and our political universe. After all, there were almost 300 (yes, you read that right!) election deniers running for office in 2022. So, give Donald Trump credit. If he’s done nothing else — and he’s done all too much else — he’s certainly lodged that term in our brains and our politics for, assumedly, forever and a day.

In other words, you can be relieved that the Republicans wavered instead of (red) waving in the recent elections and only captured the House of Representatives by a relatively slim margin. Still, whatever happens with his latest bid for the White House, thanks to The Donald, there can be no question that we’re in a new, potentially far more ominous political world. Today, in his first TomDispatch piece, Clarence Lusane, author of the just-published book Twenty Dollars and Change: Harriet Tubman and the Ongoing Fight for Racial Justice and Democracy (next in line by my bedside for late night reading), considers just where, in the future, our former president might be taking us — or, put another way, how, win or lose personally, he intends to Trump us. There may be no more crucial question for this country than the one Lusane raises today. Yes, democracy does indeed seem to be on the decline, but is this really a prelude to a new all-American version of authoritarianism, or worse? Check him out and see what you think. Tom

Prelude to Authoritarianism? The MAGAfication of America

Just in case you didn’t notice, authoritarianism was on the ballot in the 2022 midterm elections. An unprecedented majority of candidates from one of the nation’s two major political parties were committed to undemocratic policies and outcomes. You would have to go back to the Democratic Party-dominated segregationist South of the 1950s to find such a sweeping array of authoritarian proclivities in an American election. While voters did stop some of the most high-profile election deniers, conspiracy theorists, and pro-Trump true believers from taking office, all too many won seats at the congressional, state, and local levels.

Count on one thing: this movement isn’t going away. It won’t be defeated in a single election cycle and don’t think the authoritarian threat isn’t real either. After all, it now forms the basis for the politics of the Republican Party and so is targeting every facet of public life. No one committed to constitutional democracy should rest easy while the network of right-wing activists, funders, media, judges, and political leaders work so tirelessly to gain yet more power and implement a thoroughly undemocratic agenda.

This deeply rooted movement has surged from the margins of our political system to become the defining core of the GOP. In the post-World War II era, from the McCarthyism of the 1950s to Barry Goldwater’s run for the presidency in 1964, from President Richard Nixon’s Southern strategy, President Ronald Reagan, and Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell in its current Trumpian iteration, Republicans have long targeted democratic norms as impediments to establishing a neoliberal, race-based version of all-American authoritarianism. And that movement has been far too weakly opposed by far too many Democratic Party leaders and even some progressives. Don’t think of this phenomenon as right-wing conservativism either, but as a more dangerous, even violent movement whose ultimate aim is to overthrow liberal democracy. The American version of this type of electoral authoritarianism, anchored in Christian nationalist populism, has at its historic core a white nationalist pushback against the struggle for racial justice.

Liberal Democracy for Some, Racial Authoritarianism for Others

Liberal democracy had failed generations of African Americans and other people of color, as, of course, it did Native Americans massacred or driven from their ancestral lands. It failed African Americans and Latinos forced to work on chain gangs or lynched (without the perpetrators suffering the slightest punishment). It failed Asian Americans who were brutally sent to internment camps during World War II and Asians often explicitly excluded from immigration rosters.

The benefits of liberal democracy — rule of law, government accountability, the separation of powers, and the like — that were extended to most whites existed alongside a racial authoritarianism that denied fundamental rights and protections to tens of millions of Americans. The Civil Rights reforms of the 1960s defeated the longstanding, all-too-legal regime of racist segregationists and undemocratic, even if sometimes constitutional, authority. For the first time since the end of the Reconstruction era, when there was a concerted effort to extend voting rights, offer financial assistance, and create educational opportunities for those newly freed from slavery, it appeared that the nation was again ready to reckon with its racial past and present.

Yet, all too sadly, the proponents of autocratic governance did anything but disappear. In the twenty-first century, their efforts are manifest in the governing style and ethos of the Republican Party, its base, and the extremist organizations that go with it, as well as the far-right media, think tanks, and foundations that accompany them. At every level, from local school boards and city councils to Congress and the White House, authoritarianism and its obligatory racism continue to drive the GOP political agenda.

The violent insurrection of January 6, 2021, was just the high (or, depending on your views, low) point in a long-planned, multi-dimensional, hyper-conservative, white nationalist coup attempt engineered by President Donald Trump, his supporters, and members of the Republican Party. It was neither the beginning nor the end of that effort, just its most violent public expression — to date, at least. After all, Trump’s efforts to delegitimize elections were first put on display when he claimed that Barack Obama had actually lost the popular vote and so stolen the 2012 election, that it had all been a “total sham.”

During the 2016 presidential debates, Trump alone stated that he would not commit himself to support any other candidate as the party’s nominee, since — a recurring theme for him — he could only lose if the election were rigged or someone cheated. He correctly grasped that there would be no consequences to such norm-breaking behavior and falsely stated that he had only lost the Iowa caucus to Senator Ted Cruz because “he stole it.” After losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College in 2016, Trump incessantly complained that he would have won the popular vote, too, if the “millions” of illegal voters who cast their ballots for Hillary Clinton hadn’t been counted.

Donald Trump decisively lost the 2020 election to Joe Biden, 74.2 million to 81.2 million in the popular vote and 232 to 306 in the Electoral College, leaving only one path to victory (other than insurrection) — finding a way to discount millions of black votes in key swing-state cities. From birtherism and Islamophobia to anti-Black Lives Matter rhetoric, racism had propelled Trump’s ascendancy and his political future would be determined by the degree to which he and his allies could invalidate votes in the disproportionately Black cities of Atlanta, Detroit, Milwaukee, and Philadelphia, and Latino and Native American votes in Arizona and Nevada.

The GOP effort to disqualify Black, Latino, and Native American votes was a plot to create an illegitimate government, an unholy scheme that took an inescapably violent turn and led to an outcome for which the former president has yet to be held accountable. Sadly enough, the forces of authoritarianism were anything but dispatched by their defeat on January 6th. If anything, they were emboldened by the failure so far to hold responsible most of the agents who maneuvered the event into motion.

Democracy, Authoritarianism, or Fascism?

The last decade has exposed a severely wounded American democratic experiment. Consider it Donald Trump’s contribution to have revealed how spectacularly the guardrails of liberal democracy can fail if the breaking of laws, rules, and norms goes unchallenged or is sacrificed on the altar of narrow political gains. The most mendacious, cruel, mentally unstable, thin-skinned, vengeful, incompetent, narcissistic, bigoted individual ever elected to the presidency was neither an accident, nor an aberration. He was the inevitable outcome of decades of Republican pandering to anti-democratic forces and white nationalist sentiments.

Scholars have long debated the distinction between fascism and authoritarianism. Fascist states create an all-engulfing power that rules over every facet of political and social life. Elections are abolished; mass arrests occur without habeas corpus; all opposition media are shut down; freedoms of speech and assembly are curtailed; courts, if allowed to exist at all, rubber-stamp undemocratic state policies; while the military or brown shirts of some sort enforce an unjust, arbitrary legal system. Political parties are outlawed and opponents are jailed, tortured, or killed. Political violence is normalized, or at least tolerated, by a significant portion of society. There is little pretense of constitutional adherence or the constitution is formally suspended.

On the other hand, authoritarian states acknowledge constitutional authority, even if they also regularly ignore it. Limited freedoms continue to exist. Elections are held, though generally with predetermined outcomes. Political enemies aren’t allowed to compete for power. Nationalist ideology diverts attention from the real levers and venues of that power. Political attacks against alien “others” are frequent, while public displays of racism and ethnocentrism are common. Most critically, some enjoy a degree of democratic norms while accepting that others are denied them completely. During the slave and Jim Crow eras in this country — periods of racial authoritarianism affecting millions of Blacks, Latinos, and Native Americans — most whites in the South (and perhaps a majority outside of it) either tolerated or embraced the disavowal of democracy.

Under the right confluence of forces — a weakened system of checks and balances, populist rhetoric that taps into fears and perceived injustices, an anemic and divided opposition, deep social or racial divides, distrust of science and scientists, rampant anti-intellectualism, unpunished corporate and political malfeasance, and popularly accepted charges of mainstream media bias — a true authoritarian could indeed come to power in this country. And as history has shown, that could just be a prelude to full-blown fascism.

The warning signs could not be clearer.

While, in many ways, Trump’s administration was more of a kakistocracy — that is, “government by the worst and most unscrupulous people,” as scholar Norm Ornstein put it — from day one to the last nano-seconds of its tenure, his autocratic tendencies were all too often on display. His authoritarian appetites generated an unprecedented library of books issuing distress signals about the dangers to come.

Timothy Snyder’s 2017 bestseller On Tyranny was, for instance, a brief but remarkably astute early work on the subject. The Yale history professor provided a striking overview of tyranny meant to dispel myths about how autocrats or populists come to and stay in power. Although published in 2017, the work made no mention of Donald Trump. It was, however, clearly addressing the rise to power of his MAGA right and soberly warning the nation to stop him before it was too late.

As Snyder wrote of the institutions of our democracy, they “do not protect themselves… The mistake is to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions — even when that is exactly what they have announced that they will do.” He particularly cautioned against efforts to link the police and military to partisan politics, as Trump first did in 2020 when his administration had peaceful protesters attacked by the police and National Guard in Lafayette Square across from the White House so that the president could take a stroll to a local church. He similarly warned about letting private security forces, often with violent tendencies (as when Trump’s security team would eject demonstrators from his political rallies) gain quasi-official or official status.

The period 2015 to 2020 certainly represented the MAGAfication of the United States and launched this country on a potential path toward future authoritarian rule by the GOP.

The Vulnerabilities of Democracy

Journalists have also been indispensable in exposing the democratic vulnerabilities of the United States. The New Yorker’s Masha Gessen has, for instance, been prolific and laser-focused in calling out the hazards of creeping authoritarianism and of Trump’s “performing fascism.” She writes that while he may not himself have fully grasped the concept of fascism, “In his intuition, power is autocratic; it affirms the superiority of one nation and one race; it asserts total domination; and it mercilessly suppresses all opposition.”

While Trump is too lazy, self-interested, and intellectually undisciplined to be a coherent ideologue, he surrounded himself with and took counsel from those who were, including far-right zealots and Trump aides Steve Bannon, Sebastian Gorka, and Stephen Miller. Bannon functioned as Trump’s Goebbels-ish propagandist, having cut his white nationalist teeth as founder and executive chair of the extremist Breitbart News media operation. In 2018, he told a gathering of European far-right politicians, fascists, and neo-Nazis, “Let them call you racist. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. Wear it as a badge of honor. Because every day, we get stronger and they get weaker.”

Someone who knows the former president better than most, his niece Mary Trump, all too tellingly wrote that her uncle “is an instinctive fascist who is limited by his inability to see beyond himself.” For her, there is no question the title fits. As she put it, “[A]rguing about whether or not to call Donald a fascist is the new version of the media’s years-long struggle to figure out if they should call his lies, lies. What’s more relevant now is whether the media — and the Democrats — will extend the label of fascism to the Republican Party itself.”

Mainstreaming Extremism and Democracy’s Decline

Given these developments, some scholars and researchers argue that the nation’s democratic descent may already have gone too far to be fully stopped. In its Democracy Report 2020: Autocratization Surges — Resistance Grows

✎ EditSign, the Varieties of Democracy (VDem) Project, which assesses the democratic health of nations globally, summarized the first three years of Trump’s presidency this way: “[Democracy] has eroded to a point that more often than not leads to full-blown autocracy.” Referring to its Liberal Democracy Index scale, it added, “The United States of America declines substantially on the LDI from 0.86 in 2010 to 0.73 in 2020, in part as a consequence of President Trump’s repeated attacks on the media, opposition politicians, and the substantial weakening of the legislature’s de facto checks and balances on executive power.”

These findings were echoed in TheGlobal State of Democracy 2021, a report by the International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance that argued, “The United States, the bastion of global democracy, fell victim to authoritarian tendencies itself, and was knocked down a significant number of steps on the democratic scale.”

The failure of Donald Trump’s eternally “stolen election” coup attempt and the presidency of Joe Biden may have put off the further development of an authoritarian state, but don’t be fooled. Neither the failure of the January 6th insurrection nor the disappointments suffered in the midterm elections have deterred the ambitions of the GOP’s fanatics. The Republican takeover of the House of Representatives, however slim, will undoubtedly unleash a further tsunami of extremist actions not just against the Democrats, but the American people.

Purges of Democrats from House committees, McCarthyite-style hearings and investigations, and an all-out effort to rig the system to declare whoever emerges as the GOP’s 2024 presidential candidate the preemptive winner will mark their attempt to rule. Such actions will be duplicated — and worse — in states with Republican governors and legislatures, as officials there bend to the autocratic urges of their minority but fervent white base voters. They will be supported by a network of far-right media, donors, activists, and Trump-appointed judges and justices.

In response, defending the interests of working people, communities of color, LGBTQ individuals and families, and other vulnerable sectors of this society will mean alliances between progressives, liberals, and, in some instances, disaffected and distraught anti-Trump, pro-democracy Republicans. There are too many historical examples of authoritarian and fascist takeovers while the opposition remained split and in conflict not to form such political alliances. Nothing is more urgent at this moment than the complete political defeat of an anti-democratic movement that is, all too sadly, still on the march.

How Many U.S. Schoolchildren will Learn that 1 in 4 U.S. Presidents Trafficked and Enslaved People for Profit?

Schools across the country are adorned with posters of the 44 U.S. presidents and the years they served in office. U.S. history textbooks describe the accomplishments and challenges of the major presidential administrations—George Washington had the Revolutionary War, Abraham Lincoln the Civil War, Teddy Roosevelt the Spanish-American War, and so on.Children’s books put students on a first-name basis with the presidents, engaging readers with stories of their dogs in the Rose Garden or childhood escapades. Washington, D.C.’s Smithsonian Institution welcomes visitors to an exhibit of the first ladies’ gowns and White House furnishings.

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