Donald Trump has been looking for the line for four years. At the start of 2021, he finally found it, and then he stomped all over it. Now for him and his maniacal supporters comes the whirlwind. There have been many identifications of the miscreants who sacked the Capitol, and not a few arrests. There will be many more. The prospects of the Republican Party, at least in the near term, are dim.
Senator Lindsey Graham observed in 2016 that Trump would destroy the Republican Party. I thought as much myself. Now it appears to be finally coming to pass. For a while I cheered on his nomination, until it stopped being amusing. I failed to reckon with the damage that could be done to the country in the interim, nor could I believe he could actually win a national election. I’m afraid I over-estimated his fellow Republicans and the mainstream media.
It is true that Trump retains the support of the bulk of the Republican Party. But this hard core is insufficient to elect people to national office, even under conditions of extreme voter suppression and gerrymandering. We saw the proof of that in Georgia, occurring before the infamous events of January 6th. Now the likelihood of centrists and independents voting R has become remote. The other side of this coin is that while the hard core of the movement will have more trouble winning elections, there is no end to the civic mischief it can cause.
In the riveting Handmaid’s Tale television series on Hulu, it is revealed that the Christian dominionists take power by busting into the Congress and machine-gunning everyone. That is a scenario I’ve been thinking about for the past few years. It seems implausible as a prelude to a successful revolution in the U.S., but now it is not as far from the realm of possibility as a terrorist threat. The fascist share of the citizenry may be too dumb to realize that such a thing could never work as a revolution, but smart enough to pull off a lethal attack with mass casualties. There are hints that something of that nature was afoot this week.
A crippled Republican Party brings some benefits but also some problems. The born-again anti-Trumpers will tend to collaborate with Democrats on some issues and weaken the status of their caucus in Congress, which will be a minority one to begin with. On the other hand, the fruits of Democratic/Republican collaboration are not promising. We will see talk of fixing the non-existent “entitlement problem” and babbling about the public debt.
To be sure, a neo-liberal regime is much to be preferred to a neo-fascist formation, but it presents a different strategic situation for progressive advocates and Members of Congress. With the thinnest of possible majorities in Congress, Democratic-sponsored legislation would be inordinately difficult. The Left would be reduced to promoting proposals with no immediate chance of enactment.
Now there is more chance of legislation passing, but it could be bad centrist legislation. This will require progressives to focus more on criticism than on positive alternatives. Of course, ‘you can’t be something with nothing.’ But neither can you beat something without explaining why it ought to be beaten.
The failure of the authorities this past Wednesday has been well-illustrated, though many questions remain to be answered. The contrast between police preparation for the Trumpist mob and perfectly civil #BLM demonstrators is stark. Reverend Raphael Warnock, soon to be Senator Warnock, was recently arrested in the Capitol for praying.
I would just like add that in fifty years of attending demonstrations in Washington D.C., never violent ones but occasionally naughty ones – peace marches, by and large – I have never seen a situation where police and soldiers were not overwhelmingly capable of making us go anywhere they wanted us to go, or stop us from going anywhere they didn’t want us to go. When a mob of hippies went to the Pentagon to vocalize Buddhist chants of Hare Krishna, we were met with soldiers wielding fixed bayonets.
Treatment of #BLM protests around the country has been a scandal, but we also have examples of brutality against multi-racial and white demonstrators. A recent example was the attack on demonstrators just across the street from the White House, for purposes of affording Trump a cheap photo-op in front of a church.
Another was a demonstration at the International Monetary Fund, in downtown D.C., in April of 2000. Police behavior there was egregious enough to cause the city to lose a civil case brought against it on behalf of the demonstrators, to the tune of $14 million. A similar episode transpired in 2009, also resulting in millions in damages imposed on D.C. At the tail end of the Clinton Administration, there were the massive, non-violent demonstrations in Seattle over the pending World Trade Organization agreements. Anyone who has attended protests of Democratic National Conventions, in cities run by Democratic mayors, can tell the same kind of stories.
The police presence, or lack thereof, is not a black thing. It’s a Left thing. Centering it on race, as far as demonstrations are concerned, is neo-liberal schtick that obscures a more fundamental truth.
Routine, outrageous police abuse of POC is of course a reality. But such treatment is common to cities run by black, liberal, Democratic politicians. One of the best examples was the eruption over the death of Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland, a city government run top to bottom by African Americans. And what of the treatment of #BLM protesters in cities with African American mayors, such as Chicago, Richmond, or Washington, D.C.?
The travail of the victims screams out race, but the source of the victimization is founded on class.