Without a hint of shame or artifice, one party – the Republican Party – is increasingly committed to the use of violence as a political instrument – better yet weapon – to regain political power and dominance. Only last week, we saw chilling evidence of this new wrinkle when only two Republicans in the House of Representatives voted to censure Republican House member Paul Gosar (AZ) for posting an animated video that depicted him slashing the neck of Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocascio Cortez and assaulting President Biden. All the while, in the background are immigrants of color crossing the border illegally and paratroopers falling from the sky.
If this vote were an outlier in the Republican Party resume, it would be one thing, but it isn’t. Much like the January 6 insurrection to overturn Biden’s election victory by force, it was representative of a turn of the GOP and the larger Trumpist, authoritarian political network toward the use of violence (and insurrection) as a political instrument in settling political disputes and recapturing political power. Violence, rhetorical and actual, has become a weapon of choice in its playbook. What was rightly associated with the White Power movement – remember Charlotteville and Oklahoma City – has migrated into the ethos and practice of the Republican Party.
A decade ago the Kyle Whittenhouses of this world, much like the insurrectionists of January 6, would find little support in the GOP; today they are considered the party’s prodigal sons by many, courageously doing God’s work for a righteous cause.
While the architects of this turn are many, ranging from white power groups to people in high places and with deep pockets, no one mainstreamed violence into the Republican Party and politics more than Trump, first as candidate, then as president, and now as ex- President. Early on some Republicans objected to his violent rhetoric, but not for long and now any dissenters found in the GOP – and they are a few – immediately become the object of scorn and ostracism as we saw once again last week when two of its members broke ranks and voted for censuring Gosar.
A return to power of this party, fully transformed, in the tight grip of authoritarian, fascist like extremists, ready to employ violence when necessary, and committed to dismantling democracy and much else spells disaster for the country and its progressive development.
Moreover, the ruinous impact of this form of white nationalist, plutocratic authoritarian rule, while striking people of color and women with the greatest force in a pattern that is both long standing and familiar, will also cross the color line. Whiteness won’t provide immunization from its negative impacts for millions of white people no matter what side of the political divide they reside on. Said differently, authoritarian, fascist if you like, rule here will come into the world dripping with racism (as well as male supremacy and misogyny, xenophobia, homo and trans phobia) from its every pore, but it is also a class policy in that it punishes working people, broadly defined, irrespective of color too, while enriching sections of the capitalist class.
There is, of course, a way to avert this calamitous future, although time is running out. And it lies in re-energizing the multi-racial, cross class coalition that formed prior to the 2020 presidential election and quickly turning its attention to what is primary and overarching – decisively defeating the Republican Party candidates in the midterm elections next year and the presidential elections two years later.