Unprecedented in U.S. history, the Republican party blocked the establishment of a bipartisan congressional commission to investigate the Jan. 6th pro-Trump insurrection that attempted to overturn the results of 2020 presidential election, resulting in the deaths of five people. This, as GOP-controlled states across the country are working to pass new laws making it more difficult for communities of color to vote. According to the Brennan Center for Justice, 361 Republican-sponsored voter suppression bills are now pending in 47 states.
In addition to phony partisan audits of the November 2020 election have been launched in Arizona and Georgia, Republicans are removing non-partisan state and county boards that oversee elections, and replacing them with GOP partisans that would have the power to overturn the will of the people. These actions to undermine state electoral systems have been driven by Donald Trump’s “Big Lie,” that the 2020 election was stolen from him by Democratic voter fraud.
More recently, Trump’s pardoned first national security adviser, Michael Flynn, appeared at a QAnon conference and endorsed the idea of executing a military coup in the U.S., similar to the coup that recently took place in Myanmar, in order to reinstate Trump as president. Between The Lines’ Scott Harris spoke with Sarah Kendzior, author of Hiding in Plain Sight and cohost of the Gaslit Nation podcast. Here, she examines the Republican party’s ongoing nationwide effort to subvert free and fair elections, and the Democrats often tepid response.
SARAH KENDZIOR: Well, obviously the party that seized the coup is the Republican party, which had an opportunity to distance itself from Trump to hold the perpetrators accountable. I think they failed to do so because this was not some sort of spontaneous rising up of pro-Trump fanatics. This is something that was planned by very powerful elites, including Michael Flynn, who of course called for a coup again — Roger Stone and Steve Bannon. These are all Trump’s close advisers, and he pardoned them right before this violent seditious insurrection happened. And so, you know, I think that this fear the Republican party has, is examining not these individuals who actually did the storming of the Capitol, but the financial and political backers behind them, as well as their own complicity within the party ranks. What’s very frustrating and frightening is that the Democrats have really taken very little initiative to investigate the attack on the Capitol, to also go ahead and prosecute those individuals.
This is part of a broader pattern of refusing to prosecute members of the Trump administration, even when they’ve committed blatant crimes. You know, we saw the same thing happen with Merrick Garland protecting Bill Barr on multiple occasions, protecting Trump.You know, you cannot let this go unpunished. And the point isn’t punishment to hurt specific individuals, it’s to keep dangerous actors from organizing this again.
And, you know, I’ve been making this point for months, and I’m hoping now that Michael Flynn on Memorial Day is out saying “we should be like Myanmar, that the Biden administration should be forcibly ousted with violence” and he said the same thing back in December and January, and look what happened. That is why you prosecute these individuals. So they can’t hurt people. And so they can’t hurt our country. And the Democrat leadership at the least seems absolutely unwilling to do that.
SCOTT HARRIS: As you said, the Democratic party as a whole doesn’t seem to be urgently trying to address this issue of the insurrection in the attempt to overturn the 2020 election. What more can they do at this moment if the filibuster stands in the Senate, blocking any action of that body and of course, thereby blocking any initiative that comes out of the Democratic-controlled House?
SARAH KENDZIOR: Yeah. I mean, the filibuster is their latest excuse for doing nothing. And you know, what I really want to know is why do they want to do nothing? Like why are they willing to jeopardize our democracy? Why are they willing to let a violent insurrection — to let, for example, the handling of coronavirus by the Trump administration, which unnecessarily killed hundreds of thousands of Americans? If it had been handled competently, this wouldn’t have happened. Like these are the most serious crimes you can really have, and they are just ignoring it. So I’m very curious as to the motivation. But you know, in every administration, they have an excuse. It’s you know, first we don’t have control of the House, Senate or presidency, which is like, all right, fine, you don’t. That is what it is.
And then they get control of the House. They still won’t impeach, like Nancy Pelosi had to be dragged twice to impeach Trump, including after the insurrection. She didn’t want to do it. But she was pressured to by other people in the Democratic party. And, you know, here, it’s important to remember, it’s not a monolith in the Democratic party. And there are some representatives that are trying to fight for justice and for accountability.
Now they have control of everything and they cannot get the most basic things done. They cannot even get rid of, you know, Louis De Joy, for example, who hijacked our postal system. He’s still there. And that is not something that requires the Senate or a filibuster or anything like that. It just seems that they are appeasing the Trump administration.
You know, it alarms me as somebody who’s studied authoritarian regimes my whole life. I’ve studied the pathways to them. This reminds me of the kind of conditions of countries where elites have just decided to transition into another system of governance. And they’re kind of getting their own affairs in order. They’re protecting themselves. And they’re not really looking out for the country because they know the country is going to collapse or is going to become a different system of government. A more authoritarian one. I don’t know if that’s the case here. It remains to be seen. I really hope it’s not, but it’s frightening.
And I think, you know, with the filibuster, I just look at this and I think of all the times that they’ve gotten their caucuses in mind for all sorts of ridiculous things and they can’t manage to get (Sen. Joe) Manchin and (Sen. Kyrsten) Sinema to comply with this. There’s nothing that they can do. No enticement, no threats, like booting people off of committees, or, you know, stripping them of responsibilities or what have you. Like, nothing really? You know, it’s a little weird and you have to wonder like, well, where is the urgency? Like, why are they speaking plainly about this? We all see it, but they’re just pretending like it’s not happening and everything is fine. And that worries me almost more than anything else.
As for what people can do. I actually would encourage folks to look at a state level because a lot of the most dangerous changes that are happening have to do with things like voting rights laws in state legislatures, instead of national cases. They’re trying to rig it for 2022, it’s kind of regular for 2024. So that’s something to work on and to protest and to mobilize locally, as well as nationally.
For more information, visit Gaslit Nation Podcast hosted by Sarah Kendzior and Andrea Chalupa at gaslitnationpod.