At War With Democracy
The last two days, with the Georgia election, the outright attempted coup in Congress, and its associated storming of the Capitol by armed right-wing insurrectionists, are really a microcosm of what the next four years and perhaps the next decade will look like. It will take an extraordinary mobilization of Democrats to restrain a corrupt and anti-democratic Republican party. A significant portion of the GOP will become even more extremist, openly racist, and autocratic, even fascist, engaging in more attempts to prevent Democrats from being able to govern, even defying the courts to do so. And some in the GOP will continue to support political violence.
On Wednesday, Republicans in the US Congress attempted a coup, trying to overturn the results of a lawful election. That effort had the support of two-thirds of the Republicans in the House and nearly a quarter of the Republicans in the Senate. The coup was actively supported by armed right-wing insurrectionists that stormed the US Capitol and interrupted the proceedings, encouraged and incited by President Trump and some congressional Republicans. The armed terrorists took over the House and Senate floor for the first time since the War of 1812, declaring that the election had been stolen from Trump. Guns were drawn on the House floor and members donned gas masks and hid under their desks or in the balcony. The armed traitors invaded Congressional offices including those of the Speaker of the House. Shots were fired within the Capitol and now four persons are confirmed dead. Some of the insurrectionists were carrying zip ties with the apparent plan to take hostages and even execute certain elected Democrats, just as they had planned to do with Michigan’s Governor Whitmer earlier this summer. The mob outside the Capitol building attacked the press and destroyed their equipment.
A bomb was found at the RNC and IED devices were also scattered around the Capitol. There are reports that Trump’s Department of Defense initially refused a request to deploy the National Guard to the Capitol. In the end, it was Vice President Pence, not Trump, who apparently ordered the Guard finally deployed. The ease with which the Capitol was overrun raises the possibility that federal police forces were instructed to stand down and/or there is complicity with the armed right-wing insurrectionists within those forces, either of which is frightening. The fact that there were no statements of any kind coming from DOJ or DHS suggests the former. And, together with the VP’s deployment of the National Guard, indicates that the command structure within the executive branch is split between those who tacitly support the coup and those that oppose it.
The fact is that the coup attempt and the efforts of the armed insurrection managed to delay the certification of Biden’s election at least for a few hours. The GOP coup plotters had no belief that their coup would actually work today. Astonishingly, even after the armed attack on the Capitol, Republicans in Congress, in only slightly smaller numbers, continued to pursue the coup they knew would fail. Instead, they were laying the groundwork for a Republican controlled Congress to choose the President on their own in 2024, if necessary. And finally, to top it off, having been evacuated to a crowded safer place, some Republicans continued to refuse to wear masks, forcing their colleagues concerned about catching COVID to find another safe space.
These terrorists were invited to DC by the President. They were incited by the President and his supporters. And, despite Hawley and Cruz taking the most heat today, they were abetted by the majority of the Republicans in Congress. Expanded and abetted by the social media monopolies and right-wing propaganda networks, they were fed the big lie that the election was stolen and Democrats were cannibalistic pedophiles. And then they were unleashed to create the political violence that we saw today. There is some evidence that those engaged in the putsch were coordinating with the White House. It is the very definition of fascism. Although this has been the trajectory of the Republican party for decades, everyone who has enabled Trump for the last five years bears special responsibility and perpetual shame for what happened today. And, unless he is somehow removed, there are still two more weeks that Trump is President. Is martial law next?
Just hours earlier, in Georgia, Democrats appeared to have won both Senate seats in the runoff election, giving Democrats control of the US Senate. Warnock and Ossoff barely defeated two of the most corrupt Senators in the country who ran almost exclusively racist and anti-Semitic campaigns and supported Trump’s attempted coup. This incredible result is due to years’ long mobilization efforts primarily spearheaded by Stacey Abrams and Black women in general and the votes of Black Georgians in particular. The victory required turnout for a special election that smashed all records, perhaps reaching above 90% of the already record-setting turnout of the November election that allowed Biden to win the state. Democrats’ sweep in Georgia is an extraordinary achievement, overcoming years of massive voter suppression. And it provides a lesson that, by turning out their own base, Democrats can win in many red states by standing for Democratic values, organizing and turning out non-voters, and not trying to win Republican votes by becoming Republican-lite.
Abrams efforts in Georgia have been mirrored by Ben Winkler in Wisconsin, allowing Biden to also eke out a narrow victory there. It is that type of full-time year-round organizing and proselytizing that is needed in Florida, North Carolina, and other competitive red states. That will require constant investments from Democrats. It will take this type of effort, this type of constant mobilization, this kind of turnout to defeat the anti-democratic forces in our country in 2022 and 2024. It will require the Biden administration to deliver real benefits to all Americans consistently over the next four years.
Despite not being within the margin for a recount, I would expect that Perdue in particular will attempt to challenge this result in the courts for as long as possible in order to prevent Democrats from actually getting control of the Senate for a few months, just as Norm Coleman dragged out his Senate loss to Al Franken in 2008 in order to prevent Democrats from having a filibuster-proof majority until July. If so, it will just be another example of the GOP’s refusal to accept the legitimacy of both democratic and Democratic governance. In addition, the Republican defeat in Georgia will prompt even more aggressive efforts at voter suppression in the states the GOP still controls.
While the focus of most of the news was on Georgia and the attempted coup including the storming the Capitol, the danger that so many of us have been warning about actually happened in Pennsylvania. The Republican controlled State Senate refused to seat a Democratic Senator Jim Brewster whose election had been contested. Brewster won his election by 69 votes. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the ballots that had been contested were legal and the state certified Brewster’s victory. Even so, Republicans refused to seat Brewster. When Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman, who acts as the Senate presiding officer, objected to the refusal to seat Brewster, the Republicans voted to have Fetterman removed from the chamber and installed a Republican replacement.
It’s not like this seat means anything in the scheme of things in the State Senate. Republicans hold an eight seat advantage already and a ninth seat would not give them a two-thirds majority or anything like that. As Ryan Cooper reports, the actual reason for not seating Brewster is that Republicans “want to establish the legal precedent of being able to throw out votes even if the PA Supreme Court says no”. In Pennsylvania, the coup is now complete; Republicans are literally setting the precedent that they will decide elections and not the voters. This was just the next logical step in the GOP’s march toward autocracy. Partisan gerrymandering means they can almost permanently control the state legislature even when they don’t win the most votes. However, a Democrat can win the gubernatorial race simply by winning the popular vote. When that happens, the Republican legislature simply strips the governor of power. And now the Republicans are not only setting the precedent that they will defy the judicial branch and decide elections but that they have the power to choose their own Electors in the next presidential election.
By now, it should be clear that we are in a war to save democracy. For Democrats and democrats like, that war will have to be won at the ballot box and in the legal system. But we will be challenged by a party that is determined to retain power by any means possible. There were 70 million Americans who voted for Trump and millions of them supported this coup. As Ruth Ben-Ghiat writes, “If there are not severe consequences for every lawmaker & Trump govt official who backed this, every member of the Capitol Police who collaborated with them, this ‘strategy of disruption’ will escalate in 2021”.
The saying goes that success breeds success. Black voters in Georgia saw Biden’s victory as a validation of their political power and, accordingly they turned out in record numbers to deliver the Senate to Democrats. Trump’s right-wing insurrectionists saw their invasions of state capitols over the summer as a victory that fueled the armed coup today. And, considering they appear to face little accountability for yesterday’s insurrection, they will consider this another victory that will spur them to more violent acts of sedition in the future, as we see with the armed invasion of the Washington governor’s mansion last night. One of the national security analysts on MSNBC last night floated the possibility that the country is entering an era where the country will face a permanent insurgency, with increased acts of terrorism and defiance of democratic government. It will take a long and sustained effort from all of us determined to defend democracy in order to destroy the political power of the current Trump Republican party and defeat that insurgency. It will not be easy. Just a look at the vote totals in Georgia tells us that.