America Has a Fascism Problem

by Scott Harris

Collectively, our nation has witnessed Donald Trump’s more than two-month effort to overturn the outcome of a democratic presidential election, aided and abetted by the majority of Republican party members of the House and a quarter of the Senate. The events of Jan. 6 witnessed a fascist-inspired attack on the U.S. Capitol, with a goal to employ violence to prevent the certification of the 2020 presidential election winners Joe Biden and Kamala Harris. The assault on the Capitol by thousands of domestic terrorists resulted in the deaths of five people, including a Capitol police officer. There are credible reports that some of the insurrectionists who attacked the seat of American democracy planned to take House members and senators hostage, with many of these right-wing vigilantes saying that they planned to execute those they captured, including hanging Vice President Mike Pence.

The failure of law enforcement to secure the Capitol building in advance of the Jan. 6 pro-Trump insurrection to stop the presidential vote count wasn’t due to incompetence. It appears to be deliberate, given the fact that it was well-known that those involved in organizing the Jan. 6 rally/riot had already been involved in previous post-election pro-Trump violence in Washington, D.C. On Jan. 4 Washington, D.C. police arrested Enrique Tarrio, the chairman of the Proud Boys, on suspicion of burning a Black Lives Matter banner that was torn from a historic Black church in Washington during protests in December. Upon his arrest, he was found to have two high-capacity firearm magazines and was charged with two felony counts of possession.

Weeks in advance, there were dozens of reports that U.S. intelligence agencies were aware that white supremacist, right-wing extremist and militia groups were openly planning on social media websites to smuggle firearms and other weapons into Washington to provoke violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6.

More evidence that this was not simply a demonstration of law enforcement incompetence, was the breathtaking double-standard of policing evident during Black Lives Matter protests earlier in the summer, in dramatic contrast to the weak, almost non-existent police presence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 – a day all members of Congress would meet to certify the election results in an ordinarily ceremonial procedure.

It’s likely that Trump loyalists at the Pentagon, Homeland Security and other agencies played an important role in reducing the standard and common sense police presence at the Capitol that allowed thousands of domestic terrorists to break into the House and Senate chambers to stop the vote count, hunt for legislators to capture and possibly kill — and ransack legislative offices while officers outside were being beaten, one to death.

Maryland’s Republican Gov. Larry Hogan reported that he attempted to respond to urgent calls he received from House and Senate leaders asking for National Guard troops to intervene in the assault on the Capitol. But, he says that Trump’s appointees at the Pentagon repeatedly refused to authorize the deployment of D.C. National Guard troops, resulting in a delay of their arrival at the Capitol by up to four hours.

You may remember that on Nov. 9 Trump decapitated the civilian leadership at the Pentagon, firing Defense Secretary Mark Esper, his chief of staff and top officials overseeing policy and intelligence. They were replaced by Trump loyalists, including a controversial figure who promoted fringe conspiracy theories and called former President Barack Obama a terrorist.

At the time, many in Congress, journalists and concerned citizens were wondering what Trump was trying to accomplish with this mass firing of America’s military leadership after losing the Nov. 3 election. We may now have an answer. These are the very same Pentagon officials who were part of the chain of command responsible for security preparations at the Capitol in advance of the Trump “Save America” rally that revealed its true purpose as an insurrectionist assault force. And these same Pentagon officials had a direct or indirect role in delaying authorization for deployment of the National Guard to protect Congress.

Grave questions now surround these men and their possible motivation for inaction. An aggressive investigation to uncover any complicity on the part of these officials is urgent, given the possibility that they may have colluded with Trump and the insurrection’s organizers that allowed thousands of domestic terrorists many hours to freely stalk legislators inside the unguarded Capitol building, who, on that day were scheduled to vote on the confessional certification of Trump’s election defeat.

Donald Trump is not an aberration in U.S. politics. There’s a straight line that connects Richard Nixon’s dogwhistle racism called the “Southern Strategy” in the 1960s to Ronald Reagan’s attack on welfare mothers in the 1980s to Donald Trump’s refusal to condemn white supremacists and neo-Nazis who gathered in Charlottesville, Virginia on Aug. 12, 2017 and murdered 32-year-old Heather Heyer — and then to the president’s attempt to overthrow U.S. democracy on Jan. 6. For decades now, Republicans have embraced white supremacy and authoritarianism, cultivating a hateful and racist support base, whose common cause is the repression of communities of color, and the subversion of democracy through voter suppression, gerrymandering, voter purges and the threat of violence to intimidate their political opponents.

The events of  Jan. 6 are a wakeup call to our nation to understand the fascist character of the Republican Party that has stood solidly behind Donald Trump as he imposed the Muslim ban; separated migrant parents from their children and infants, many of whom were locked in cages; attempted to dismantle Obamacare and protections for pre-existing conditions as the president and his party gave millionaires, billionaires and the wealthiest corporations some of the largest tax cuts in U.S. history; dismantled pollution and climate regulations, and refused to impose controls on the sale of semi-automatic military style firearms that have killed thousands in mass shooting incidents across our country.

But the most heinous act committed by Donald Trump and the Republican Party by far is their collective decision to politically weaponize the coronavirus health crisis … deliberately sabotaging the federal and state response to the pandemic that has killed more than 350,000 Americans at the current rate of 4,000 a day. A Columbia University study in October 2020 concluded that the Trump regime is responsible for “110,000 to 210,000 avoidable deaths” directly linked to their conscious rejection of known public health protocols to more effectively control this deadly virus that has disproportionately killed people in communities of color and those who live in poverty without access to basic healthcare. 

The future of Donald Trump and the Republican party is uncertain, but it’s good to know that a majority of the nation now supports the immediate removal of Trump from office via the 25th Amendment. But the reality is Vice President Mike Pence will likely refuse that route and the House of Representatives will be forced to launch impeachment proceedings. Although a Senate impeachment trial likely won’t conclude before Trump’s term ends, it’s important for basic accountability and to strip Trump of his lifetime pension of approximately $200,000 a year, annual travel expenses of up to $1 million, Secret Service protection and the funding of an office and staff. Provisions could be added to prevent Trump from running for any future public office.

Trump and those Republican representatives and senators who were complicit in spreading his blatant lies about voter fraud and attempted to block certification of Biden’s election victory that led to the assault on the Capitol should be subject to removal under Section Three of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution that states: Any officeholder who is engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States may by removed by a two-thirds vote of each House.

Further, if the Republican Party is going to continue to exist as a legal political organization, its members should live up to the oath that all elected members take — pledging their loyalty to the Constitution of the United States — and be compelled to publicly disavow their fealty to a deranged, mass murderer and would-be dictator named Donald Trump.

Scott Harris is executive producer of Between The Lines Radio Newsmagazine, a weekly, nationally syndicated public affairs radio program. http://btlonline.org    email: betweenthelinesradio@yahoo.com

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