Fascist Republicans Declare War on U.S. Democracy, Imposing Minority Rule

Interview with Jason Stanley, Jacob Urowsky professor of philosophy at Yale University, conducted by Scott Harris

During his CNN town hall TV appearance on May 10, Donald Trump repeated the same lies and insults he’s been spewing since he lost the 2020 presidential election. In the 75 minutes given to the twice impeached president, now the target of multiple criminal investigations, Trump encouraged Republicans to default on the nation’s debt, celebrated the failed Jan. 6 coup attempt he incited as a “beautiful day,” promised to pardon Jan. 6 rioters and yet again defamed E. Jean Carroll just one day after a jury awarded her $5 million for Trump’s sexual abuse and defamation. All this took place before a New Hampshire audience hand-picked by CNN that enthusiastically applauded and cheered every Trump lie and slur.

As Trump and several other long-shot Republican candidates vie for their party’s presidential nomination, GOP-controlled states are proposing and passing public policy measures that either target specific groups of Americans for repression and stigmatization or attack the very foundations of democracy and personal liberty. The authoritarian and fascist underpinnings of these initiatives are seen in laws that suppress the vote of people of color, gerrymander voting maps, criminalize abortion, ban books, censor public school teaching of America’s history of slavery and institutional racism, stigmatize LGBTQ and trans youth, impose fines on journalists with whom politicians disagree, repeal child labor laws, remove elected office holders who refuse to carry out oppressive policies, overturn election results and majority-supported referendums and much more.

Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Jason Stanley, Jacob Urowsky professor of philosophy at Yale University and author of “How Fascism Works: The Politics of Us and Them.” Here, Stanley examines the Republican party’s war against democratic accountability and governance as they work to impose minority rule.

JASON STANLEY: Isn’t it wild how there are so many different things happening at the same time? To understand that you need to step back and look. How are these different things related? These different things are related because they’re all attacks on freedom. Freedom to choose, for a woman. Freedom to have a same-sex relationship be normal. Freedom to vote.

They’re all attacks on kinds of freedom and the structure of the attacks, the ideology that links these together that goes after that, elevates the white Christian nationalism at the heart of our Jim Crow past. That elevates the white Christian nationalism in education and voting. In all of these areas, the concept one needs here is fascism. The U.S. fascism took this racial fascist form, anti-immigration, the panics over immigration, the structure of Great Replacement Theory that immigrants are coming to replace real Americans and vote instead of us.

Trump, in his speech, went back to the old themes targeting black majority are cities with large black populations as the sources of voter fraud. That’s the supposed justification between these absolutely absurd voter suppression moves. Florida just outdoes itself each month, it seems, with these voter suppression tactics of electoral police to tackle a non-existent problem of voter fraud.

So it’s an attack of democracy, an attack on education, an attack on LGBT, and they’re all happening together. It’s the same people. And they’re not stopping at high school education. They’re going after universities. They’re going after academic freedom. At each stage, the minimizers say, “Oh, they’re just targeting, you know, elementary schools.” So then they target high schools for education about LGBT issues. Then people say they’re not targeting universities and then they move to universities that make it illegal to talk about critical race theory or LGBT issues.

So they eliminate tenure (for professors). They target academic freedom. We’ve seen this before. It’s the rollback of democracy, authoritarianism, attacking education, attacking democracy. Fascism explains the violent militias. It also harkens back to U.S. history. Of course, the Confederacy, i.e. the Jim Crow era in particular, where some of these structures were laid down. So there’s a kind of familiarity about this, but we’ve let authoritarianism happen in state after state.

Look at Wisconsin. The governor voted in was a Democrat and the legislature met in a night session to remove all the powers from the governor. We’ve let all this happen. We’ve what we’ve let states that are 50-50 divided becomes dominated by Republican supermajority and legislatures. None of that is democratic. It’s like having a bunch of Hungary’s in the middle of the United States and then they venerate Hungary’s autocratic neo-fascist leader as the model.

So that’s the situation we face.

SCOTT HARRIS: You know, I did want to ask you to comment on one feature of this crisis we’re facing. The recent CNN town hall meeting with Donald Trump was really, in the view of many people, a 90-minute platform for this twice impeached president who incited a violent insurrection at the Capitol January 6, you know, was just convicted of sexual assault and defamation to spew his long list of lies and insults, further arousing hatred and fear in his base.

Has CNN and other media outlets normalized Trump and the GOP’s fascist agenda after all we’ve been through? And I would ask you to comment further on how you think our mainstream media can more responsibly cover Trump as he runs for president next year.

JASON STANLEY: The first question you asked was rhetorical. I mean, of course it was a normalization and of course it was repeating all the worst mistakes of 2016 and then some. So where they breathlessly covered every move of Trump like it was giving him billions in free media, like covering his rallies: “What will he do now?”

So as far as Trump’s speech, he brilliantly echoed these fascist themes. The Jan. 6 becomes a great patriotic moment, a heroic moment like the Beer Hall Putsch, Germany (coup attempt) in 1923. Ashli Babbitt becomes a Horst Wessel, the (German) storm trooper who was killed, supposedly by communists, who became this hero of Nazi propaganda that they sang about in the “Horst-Wessel-Lied.”

And Ashli Babbitt was shot by a black police officer. So if you look at what Trump said, he said, “The thug who killed Ashli Babbitt.” So it’s a clear reference to race. He’s setting up Ashli Babbitt as a pure martyr for his cause. It’s you know, it’s almost like he wrote a history book. But the main number one indicator of damage or severe democratic backsliding or loss of democracy is a coup that goes on punished.

Listen to Scott Harris’ in-depth interview with Jason Stanley (23:52) and see more articles and opinion pieces in the Related Links section of this page.

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