Thoughts on Life, Love, Politics, Hypocrisy and Coming Out in Mid-Life
Saturday, January 08, 2022
Friday, January 07, 2022
One Year Later: A Battle for Truth and Democracy
It has always been clear, but not always clearly stated, that the person responsible for the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol last Jan. 6 was Donald Trump. In his speech Thursday, President Biden called Trump out — without once mentioning his name.
Speaking in the Capitol’s historic Statuary Hall on the first anniversary of the coup attempt, Biden minced no words about the man he beat in the 2020 election. “He can’t accept he lost,” Biden said. “He’s not just the former president, he’s the defeated former president. … You can’t love your country only when you win.”
There were no new revelations from Biden and Vice President Harris about the shockingly violent events we all witnessed a year ago. But I did think I was hearing a new tone from an administration that, until now, has tried to look ahead rather than behind and has avoided re-litigating the Trump years. “I did not seek this fight,” Biden said. “But I will not shrink from it either.”
By “this fight,” Biden meant the effort to repair and reinforce our democracy after the brutalization it suffered under Trump. But I had to wonder whether the speech might someday be remembered as the opening salvo of a 2024 Biden-Trump rematch.
The quick response Thursday from the defeated former president suggested that Biden’s words had gotten under his skin. In a statement, Trump falsely claimed that Biden “used my name today to try to further divide America.” Since Trump’s lies often map his fears and obsessions, it sounds to me as if it might unnerve him that Biden didn’t say his name at all.
Harris, in her own remarks, set the context for Biden’s speech by putting the Jan. 6, 2021, insurrection on par with two other dates that “echo throughout history” — the Dec. 7, 1941, Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor; and the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. The Capitol riot showed “what our nation would look like if the forces that seek to dismantle our democracy are successful,” she said.
“We are in a battle for the soul of America,” Biden said. This time, though, the enemy is not foreign but domestic. And that enemy of our democracy has a name, even if Biden declined to let it cross his lips.
Last year, in the hours after the insurrection, even some of Trump’s closest political allies saw those wounds clearly and were outraged. Sen. Lindsey O. Graham (R-S.C.) said that he was finished with Trump once and for all. Then-Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) put the blame squarely on Trump. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who had pleaded with Trump to tell the rioters to go home, said Trump was responsible for the insurrection.
What a difference a year makes. On Thursday, Graham attacked Biden — not Trump — for what he called “brazen politicization” of the anniversary. McConnell, too, accused “some Washington Democrats” of trying to “exploit this anniversary.” And McCarthy, like almost all of his fellow Republicans in Congress, was conspicuously absent from the day’s events commemorating the worst assault on the Capitol since British troops burned the building in 1814.
Biden asked, “Are we going to be a nation that lives not by the light of the truth but in the shadow of lies?” The fact that this question had to be raised at all shows what the president is up against: To survive in today’s Republican Party, officials and candidates cannot afford to anger Trump; and to avoid Trump’s wrath, they cannot forcefully reject his lies about the election purportedly having been “stolen.”
The president spent much of his speech refuting those lies with facts and logic. I hope he returns to the subject regularly in the weeks and months to come. Largely ignoring Trump hasn’t weakened his hold on the GOP. The defeated former president must be treated like any other bully: You have to stand up to him.
Trump and his allies will continue to claim that telling the truth about Jan. 6 is some kind of partisan political ploy. It is not. More than 140 police officers were injured in the melee. Several officers later died. . . . none of this would have happened if Trump had not illegally tried to cling to power by overturning the will of 81 million voters.
Biden has to lead the fight for truth and democracy. Losing is not an option.
I continue to be fearful for the future. I am also beyond angry that Trump and his self-prostituting acolytes describe myself and others as not "real Americans" - ironically, I have been working on my family genealgy and discovered that on my mother's side one ancestor was born in Massachusetts in 1638 and others were born in South Carolina in the early 1700's. I'd argue that it is Trump and other latecomers who support him who are the true false Americans.
Thursday, January 06, 2022
The False Prophets of the Political Right
My grandmother’s faith in God sustained her as she struggled to raise her family through the Great Depression, said goodbye to her teenage son as he left for World War II and buried her husband a decade later.
The sounds of Billy Graham’s crusades would fill my grandmom’s Georgia home in the 1970s. A decade later, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker’s “PTL Club” would win her loyalty, as well as her monthly tithes. My parents gently tried warning her that the “PTL” stars were scam artists less interested in her spiritual welfare than in her monthly Social Security checks. Even after being treated rudely by Tammy Faye in a chance encounter, Grandmom kept sending money the Bakkers’ way as they built their empire on the backs of working-class Christians. The dreadful pair’s get-rich schemes leveraged Americans’ love of God for cold, hard cash.
Looking back on the events of Jan. 6, perhaps we should focus more on the false prophets who inspired the violence of that day than the rioters we still highlight on video loops.Those who beat cops with American flags should serve long jail sentences. But the most important lesson from that tragic day may come from deconstructing how plutocrats and trust-fund babies deployed propaganda campaigns to push that bloodthirsty mob up the Capitol steps.
The “big lie” bloodletting happened at the behest of a slumlord’s son, who inherited more than $400 million and used his presidency to undermine citizens’ faith in their country. His anti-American poison was spread through the arteries of one foreign family’s media empire and soon metastasized across the American heartland.
Just as the Bakkers used the Gospel of Jesus Christ to prey on gullible viewers, these right-wing billionaires and their allies are trying to brainwash millions of Americans into believing the U.S. government is deploying Afghanistan War helicopters to launch domestic attacks against them, that the FBI is purging patriots from society and that the “deep state” staged the Jan. 6 riot as a “false flag” to strip citizens of their constitutional rights.
These hate-filled hysterics spewed against the United States have been punctuated by verbal assaults targeting military heroes, the slandering of the U.S. intelligence community and a barrage of fire against the nation’s democratic voting system that would make Vladimir Putin blush with pride. These are the kind of anti-American screeds that fueled the Capitol riot, and they have been preached with increasing intensity since that tragic day.
They are free to travel the world on their super yachts or private jets while Jan. 6 defendants beg for their freedom in federal court.
What a dichotomy between these plutocrats and the working-class populists they duped into doing their bidding on Jan. 6. The divide between the propaganda they preach and the policies they pursue has become just as stark over the past two decades. Republicans have spent the 21st century embracing a populist brand while tailoring their policies to help the super rich. The result has helped drive perhaps the greatest wealth redistribution in world history, at the expense of the middle class.
Maybe that explains why every Republican presidential nominee this century has come from the United States’ most powerful families and graduated from the country’s most elite universities. Their fathers ran automobile companies, Midwest industrial states, the United States Navy, New York real estate empires and the country itself. I can hear the voice of my grandmom saying, “To whom much is given, much is expected.” While we have not inherited the wealth and power of these American oligarchs, we have been given a republic. Let us spend the next year doing what we can to save it.
Wednesday, January 05, 2022
Is America Today's Weimar Republic?
Globe and Mail which looks at the fraing of democracy in America and the danger it represents to non-right wing extremist Americans and also Canada and the world at large. It examines some of the causes pushing the growing extremism on the political right and also tracks the parallel's between America today and Germany's Weimar Republic before it fell to the Nazi regime of Adolph Hitler. Many will argue the comparison is too extreme, but what today's Republican Party - lead by demogogues such as Donald Trump - has become is very dangerous and underestimating the danger could help potential political disaster become reality. No one in the late 1920's believed Germany could become what it did and a similar shortsightedness could prove fatal, especially if liberal and progressive politicans continue to fight among themselves rather than facing the true danger at hand. I recommend reading the entire piece. Meanwhile, here are article excerpts (ywe, be very afraid for the future):
What seems to have pushed the United States to the brink of losing its democracy today is a multiplication effect between its underlying flaws and recent shifts in the society’s “material” characteristics. These shifts include stagnating middle-class incomes, chronic economic insecurity, and rising inequality as the country’s economy – transformed by technological change and globalization – has transitioned from muscle power, heavy industry, and manufacturing as the main sources of its wealth to idea power, information technology, symbolic production and finance. As returns to labour have stagnated and returns to capital have soared, much of the U.S. population has fallen behind. Inflation-adjusted wages for the median male worker in the fourth quarter of 2019 (prior to the infusion of economic support owing to the COVID-19 pandemic) were lower than in 1979; meanwhile, between 1978 and 2016, CEO incomes in the biggest companies rose from 30 times that of the average worker to 271 times. Economic insecurity is widespread in broad swaths of the country’s interior, while growth is increasingly concentrated in a dozen or so metropolitan centres.
Two other material factors are key. The first is demographic: as immigration, aging, intermarriage and a decline in church-going have reduced the percentage of non-Hispanic white Christians in America, right-wing ideologues have inflamed fears that traditional U.S. culture is being erased and whites are being “replaced.” The second is pervasive elite selfishness: The wealthy and powerful in America are broadly unwilling to pay the taxes, invest in the public services, or create the avenues for vertical mobility that would lessen their country’s economic, educational, racial and geographic gaps. The more an under-resourced government can’t solve everyday problems, the more people give up on it, and the more they turn to their own resources and their narrow identity groups for safety.
America’s economic, racial and social gaps have helped cause ideological polarization between the political right and left, and the worsening polarization has paralyzed government while aggravating the gaps. The political right and left are isolated from, and increasingly despise, each other. Both believe the stakes are existential – that the other is out to destroy the country they love. The moderate political centre is fast vanishing.
And, oh yes, the population is armed to the teeth, with somewhere around 400 million firearms in the hands of civilians.
Some diagnoses of America’s crisis that highlight “toxic polarization” imply the two sides are equally responsible for that crisis. They aren’t. While both wings of U.S. politics have fanned polarization’s flames, blame lies disproportionately on the political right.
By weaponizing people’s fear and anger, Mr. Trump and a host of acolytes and wannabees such as Fox’s Tucker Carlson and Georgia Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene have captured the storied GOP and transformed it into a near-fascist personality cult that’s a perfect instrument for wrecking democracy.
And it’s not inaccurate to use the F word. As conservative commentator David Frum argues, Trumpism increasingly resembles European fascism in its contempt for the rule of law and glorification of violence. Evidence is as close as the latest right-wing Twitter meme: widely circulated holiday photos show Republican politicians and their family members, including young children, sitting in front of their Christmas trees, all smiling gleefully while cradling pistols, shotguns and assault rifles.
At the heart of the ideological narrative of U.S. right-wing demagogues, from Mr. Trump on down, is the implication that large segments of the country’s population – mainly the non-white, non-Christian, and educated urban ones – aren’t really equal citizens. They aren’t quite full Americans, or even real Americans.
Even without their concerted efforts to torque the machinery of the electoral system, Republicans will probably take control of both the House of Representatives and Senate this coming November, because the incumbent party generally fares poorly in mid-term elections. Republicans could easily score a massive victory, with voters ground down by the pandemic, angry about inflation, and tired of President Joe Biden bumbling from one crisis to another. Voters who identify as Independents are already migrating toward Republican candidates.
Once Republicans control Congress, Democrats will lose control of the national political agenda, giving Mr. Trump a clear shot at recapturing the presidency in 2024. And once in office, he will have only two objectives: vindication and vengeance.
A U.S. civil-military expert and senior federal appointee I consulted noted that a re-elected president Trump could be totally unconstrained, nationally and internationally.
After four years of Mr. Trump’s bedlam, the U.S. under Mr. Biden has been comparatively calm. Politics in the U.S. seems to have stabilized.
But absolutely nothing has stabilized in America. The country’s problems are systemic and deeply entrenched – and events could soon spiral out of control.
The experts I consulted described a range of possible outcomes if Mr. Trump returns to power, none benign. They cited particular countries and political regimes to illustrate where he might take the U.S.: Viktor Orban’s Hungary, with its coercive legal apparatus of “illiberal democracy”; Jair Bolsonaro’s Brazil, with its chronic social distemper and administrative dysfunction; or Vladimir Putin’s Russia, with its harsh one-man hyper-nationalist autocracy. All agreed that under a second Trump administration, liberalism will be marginalized and right-wing Christian groups super-empowered, while violence by vigilante, paramilitary groups will rise sharply.
But there’s another political regime, a historical one, that may portend an even more dire future for the U.S.: the Weimar Republic. The situation in Germany in the 1920s and early 1930s was of course sui generis; in particular, the country had experienced staggering traumas – defeat in war, internal revolution and hyperinflation – while the country’s commitment to liberal democracy was weakly rooted in its culture. But as I read a history of the doomed republic this past summer, I tallied no fewer than five unnerving parallels with the current U.S. situation.
First, in both cases, a charismatic leader was able to unify right-wing extremists around a political program to seize the state. Second, a bald falsehood about how enemies inside the polity had betrayed the country – for the Nazis, the “stab in the back,” and for Trumpists, the Big Lie – was a vital psychological tool for radicalizing and mobilizing followers. Third, conventional conservatives believed they could control and channel the charismatic leader and rising extremism but were ultimately routed by the forces they helped unleash. Fourth, ideological opponents of this rising extremism squabbled among themselves; they didn’t take the threat seriously enough, even though it was growing in plain sight; and they focused on marginal issues that were too often red meat for the extremists. (Today, think toppling statues.)
To my mind, though, the fifth parallel is the most disconcerting: the propagation of a “hardline security doctrine.” Here I’ve been influenced by the research of Jonathan Leader Maynard, a young English scholar who is emerging as one of the world’s most brilliant thinkers on the links between ideology, extremism and violence. In a forthcoming book, Ideology and Mass Killing, Dr. Leader Maynard argues that extremist right-wing ideologies generally don’t arise from explicit efforts to forge an authoritarian society, but from the radicalization of a society’s existing understandings of how it can stay safe and secure in the face of alleged threats.
The rapid propagation of hardline security doctrines through a society, Dr. Leader Maynard says, typically occurs in times of political and economic crisis. Even in the Weimar Republic, the vote for the National Socialists was closely correlated with the unemployment rate. The Nazis were in trouble (with their share of the vote falling and the party beset by internal disputes) as late as 1927, before the German economy started to contract. Then, of course, the Depression hit. The United States today is in the midst of crisis – caused by the pandemic, obviously – but it could experience far worse before long: perhaps a war with Russia, Iran or China, or a financial crisis when economic bubbles caused by excessive liquidity burst.
Beyond a certain threshold, other new research shows, political extremism feeds on itself, pushing polarization toward an irreversible tipping point. This suggests a sixth potential parallel with Weimar: democratic collapse followed by the consolidation of dictatorship. Mr. Trump may be just a warm-up act – someone ideal to bring about the first stage, but not the second. Returning to office, he’ll be the wrecking ball that demolishes democracy, but the process will produce a political and social shambles. . . . Then the stage will be set for a more managerially competent ruler, after Mr. Trump, to bring order to the chaos he’s created.
A terrible storm is coming from the south, and Canada is woefully unprepared. . . . We need to start by fully recognizing the magnitude of the danger. If Mr. Trump is re-elected, even under the more-optimistic scenarios the economic and political risks to our country will be innumerable. Driven by aggressive, reactive nationalism, Mr. Trump “could isolate Canada continentally,” as one of my interlocutors put it euphemistically.
Under the less-optimistic scenarios, the risks to our country in their cumulative effect could easily be existential, far greater than any in our federation’s history. What happens, for instance, if high-profile political refugees fleeing persecution arrive in our country, and the U.S. regime demands them back. Do we comply?
In this context, it’s worth noting the words of Dmitry Muratov, the courageous Russian journalist who remains one of the few independent voices standing up to Mr. Putin and who just received the Nobel Prize for Peace. At a news conference after the awards ceremony in Oslo, as Russian troops and armour were massing on Ukraine’s borders, Mr. Muratov spoke of the iron link between authoritarianism and war. “Disbelief in democracy means that the countries that have abandoned it will get a dictator,” he said. “And where there is a dictatorship, there is a war.
Canada is not powerless in the face of these forces, at least not yet. . . . . here’s my key recommendation: The Prime Minister should immediately convene a standing, non-partisan Parliamentary committee with representatives from the five sitting parties, all with full security clearances. It should be understood that this committee will continue to operate in coming years, regardless of changes in federal government. It should receive regular intelligence analyses and briefings by Canadian experts on political and social developments in the United States and their implications for democratic failure there. And it should be charged with providing the federal government with continuing, specific guidance as to how to prepare for and respond to that failure, should it occur.
Tuesday, January 04, 2022
The Viral Lies That Keep Killing Us
A year ago it seemed reasonable to hope that by early 2022 we’d mainly be talking about Covid — or at least Covid as a major health and quality-of-life issue — in the past tense. Effective vaccines had been developed with miraculous speed; surely a sophisticated nation like the United States would find a way to get those vaccines quickly and widely distributed.
So why didn’t we get past the pandemic? Part of the problem has been the creativity of viral evolution. . . . . Still, we could and should have done far better. And the main reason we didn’t was the power of politically motivated lies.
Before I get to the specifics of those lies and the damage they’ve done, let’s be clear: Yes, this is about politics.
I know I’m not the only commentator who has faced a lot of pushback against emphasizing the partisan nature of vaccine resistance. We’re constantly reminded that many unvaccinated Americans aren’t Republican loyalists . . . but politics has nonetheless played a crucial — and growing — role.
[A] KFF survey from October, which found that 60 percent of the unvaccinated identified as Republicans, compared with only 17 percent who identified as Democrats. Or look at the invaluable Charles Gaba’s analysis of county-level data, which finds that on average a one percentage point higher Trump share of the 2020 vote corresponds to about a half-point reduction in a county’s current vaccination rate.
But how did politics do so much to undermine what should have been a medical miracle? I’d identify three important lies that keep being repeated by Republican politicians and right-wing media.
First is the claim that the coronavirus is no big deal. You might think this claim would have been retired, given that more than 800,000 Americans have died from Covid since Rush Limbaugh compared its virus to the common cold.
But it’s still out there. . . . . And conservative commentators erupted in rage when President Biden pointed out, reasonably, that the coronavirus is still extremely dangerous if you haven’t gotten your shots; Tucker Carlson accused Biden of treating the unvaccinated as “subhumans.”
Next up: the claim that vaccination is ineffective. “If the booster shots work, why don’t they work?” tweeted Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee.
What they were getting at, presumably, is the fact that Omicron is producing a number of breakthrough infections, while carefully ignoring the overwhelming evidence that even when vaccinated Americans do get infected they are far less likely than the unvaccinated to be hospitalized — or die.
Finally, there’s the claim that it’s all about freedom, that remaining unvaccinated should be treated simply as a personal choice. . . . . the administration of Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas has used that argument as the basis for a lawsuit seeking to block federal vaccine mandates. . . . It’s all about freedom and free markets, but this freedom doesn’t include the right of private businesses to protect their own workers and customers.
So none of this makes any sense — not, that is, unless you realize that Republican vaccine obstructionism isn’t about serving a coherent ideology, it was and is about the pursuit of power. A successful vaccination campaign would have been a win for the Biden administration, so it had to be undermined using any and every argument available.
Sure enough, the anti-vaccine strategy has worked politically. The persistence of Covid has helped keep the nation’s mood dark, which inevitably hurts the party that holds the White House — so Republicans who have done all they can to prevent an effective response to Covid have not hesitated, even for a moment, in blaming Biden for failing to end the pandemic.
And the success of destructive vaccine politics is itself deeply horrifying. It seems that utter cynicism, pursued even at the cost of your supporters’ lives, pays.
Question to Republicans: Do You Support the Cnstitution or Terrorists?
In the weeks after the 9/11 terrorist attacks, then-President George W. Bush famously stood before a joint session of Congress and declared to the nations of the world: "Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists." As we approach the one-year anniversary of the January 6 attack on the US Capitol, that is the very question we all should pose to any GOP elected official who still downplays the assault or supports the election lie that led to the violence: Do they stand with the United States, or do they stand with the terrorists?
To be clear, framing the question to include the word "terrorists" is accurate, given that FBI Director Christopher Wray described the Capitol riot as "domestic terrorism" in Senate testimony. The federal statute defining domestic terrorism also backs this up, since the events of January 6 involved "acts dangerous to human life" that were intended "to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion." Yet there are GOP elected officials who have downplayed and attempted to whitewash the insurrection -- for example, Rep. Andrew Clyde astoundingly likened the assault we saw on January 6 to "a normal tourist visit" in the Capitol.
Democratic Rep. Bennie Thompson, the chair of the House committee investigating the Capitol riot, stated on "Meet The Press" on Sunday that the panel is working to determine whether any members of Congress "assisted" in any way in the attack. If any of the GOP representatives attempting to rewrite history are ultimately compelled to testify, the first question that should be asked of them is this: "Are you with us or with the terrorists?"
I'd submit that anyone still supporting Trump needs to be asked point blank whose side they're on. This is especially true after GOP Rep. Liz Cheney confirmed Sunday that the House committee investigating the attack has "firsthand testimony" that Trump "was sitting in the dining room next to the Oval Office watching the attack on television" and did nothing to end it. As Cheney explained, even "his daughter Ivanka went in at least twice to ask him to please stop this violence," yet he chose not to act.
As a reminder, Trump had very publicly called his loyal fans to be in Washington, DC, on January 6, promising them it would be "wild." And on that fateful day when thousands gathered and chanted "Fight for Trump," he told them, "We're going to walk down to the Capitol," falsely promising that he would be there with them. Trump worked the crowd into a fever pitch with lines like, "You will have an illegitimate president. That's what you'll have. And we can't let that happen," a sentiment he echoed in the speech more than once.
The DOJ has since charged more than 725 people in connection with the insurrection. And despite lies by GOP elected officials such as Sen. Ron Johnson, who claimed that "by and large it was peaceful protest," more than 75 individuals have been charged with "using a deadly or dangerous weapon or causing serious bodily injury to an officer."
But perhaps even more alarming than the distortions of some GOP leaders is a new CBS poll finding many Republicans view the January 6 attack in a positive light. While more than half of all Americans view the actions of the January 6 attackers as an effort "to overturn the election," the poll found, 56% of Republicans responded that the riot was an act "defending freedom." And while only 26% of Americans overall said they view the attackers' actions as "patriotism," when broken down by party nearly 50% of Republicans said they do.
Think about that for a moment. The majority of Republicans polled saw the January 6 attack that left more than 100 police offers injured, members of Congress hiding in fear and our Capitol desecrated -- all predicated on Trump's bald-faced lie about 2020 election fraud -- as an act of "patriotism" and "defending freedom."
Some Democratic officials are now debating whether it's savvy politics to talk about the January 6 attack and the threat this version of the GOP poses to our democracy. Forget polling and political posturing. This is about saving our Republic. To that end, it's time Democrats press the GOP to tell our fellow Americans whether they are with us or with the terrorists.
Monday, January 03, 2022
Sunday, January 02, 2022
Rights Blue States May Lose If the GOP Wins
At the moment, the two major parties in the U.S. are polarized on the role of the federal government. Democrats, as has generally been the case since the civil-rights era, favor federal activism to establish certain rights and living conditions nationally. Republicans have more and more uniformly adopted the states’-rights posture the GOP was initially founded to oppose in the mid-19th century.
This has been the backdrop to many of the great political and legal battles of 2021. Democrats, who have a governing trifecta in Washington, are struggling to impose or reimpose national standards in areas ranging from voting rights to health care to income maintenance. Meanwhile, Republicans are using every tool available to protect the independence of state governments they control, as the GOP-dominated federal courts work to dismantle rights guaranteed to all Americans. This dynamic will likely become even more obvious in 2022, as the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to strike down or significantly curtail the right to an abortion, producing wildly disparate state policies on reproductive rights.
It really is a historic turning point, Ron Brownstein argues in The Atlantic: Since the 1960s, Congress and federal courts have acted mostly to strengthen the floor of basic civil rights available to citizens in all 50 states, a pattern visible on issues from the dismantling of Jim Crow racial segregation to the right to abortion to the authorization of same-sex marriage. But now, offensives by red-state governments and GOP-appointed federal judges are poised to retrench those common standards across an array of issues. The result through the 2020s could be a dramatic erosion of common national rights and a widening gulf—a “great divergence”—between the liberties of Americans in blue states and those in red states.
But it would be a mistake to assume that this is the “new normal” in American politics, with Democrats perpetually attempting to extend their policies to those living in red states and Republicans focusing on states under their control and implicitly accepting that they have little control over what goes on elsewhere.
If Republicans secure their own governing trifecta – which could happen as soon as 2024 – they will be tempted to abandon their passion for states’ rights and impose the policies they favor nationally, a development that Brownstein calls the “darkest scenario for Democrats.” Here are some types of federal laws and regulations that Republicans could very conceivably enact in that scenario, which would curb rights even in blue states.
Fetal personhood protections that restrict abortion nationwide
[T]he ultimate objective — enshrined in the GOP platform since 1980 — is a federally established “fetal personhood” right that bans any state from allowing abortion. And there are abundant signs that this perspective could become dominant in conservative circles once the great white whale of Roe has been harpooned. One important indicator is the recent omission of rape and incest exceptions from many state abortion bans . . . . a federal statute imposing personhood rights on the states is entirely feasible if there is a Republican trifecta in Washington that first disposes of the obstacle imposed by the Senate filibuster (see discussion below).
“Election integrity” laws that keep states from expanding voting rights
Beginning in 2013, after a conservative Supreme Court majority gutted the key enforcement provision of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, Republicans rapidly abandoned the commitment to federal voting rights that most of them (outside the Deep South) had embraced all the way back to the Eisenhower administration. This became most evident in 2021, when only one Senate Republican — Lisa Murkowski — was willing to support the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act . . . . But what appears to be gaining steam, thanks to encouragement from Donald Trump and some conservative ideologues, is the idea that America needs federal legislation to shore up “election integrity.” This could include banning state laws expanding access to the ballot via liberalized early voting (particularly by mail), ex-felon re-enfranchisement, and simplified or automatic voter registration.
Parental rights laws that undermine national education standards
One of the most important but underdiscussed policy developments of the 21st century has been the steady abandonment by Republicans of their once-strong support for objective standards for public schools. George W. Bush’s signature No Child Left Behind legislation was one of the initiatives that produced the strong conservative backlash that in turn created the Trump-era Republican Party.
Part of this trend undoubtedly stemmed from growing Republican support for publicly funded private education (including the homeschooling option conservative Christians have increasingly embraced). But most recently, even those rank-and-file Republicans still utilizing public schools have become so hostile to teachers unions and “the education bureaucracy” that a partywide “parental rights” movement has mobilized both those who want public funds to go directly to parents to use for private and home schools and those who want to control what (and how) public schools teach.
Because the parental-rights movement treats state and local education authorities as inherently untrustworthy, there’s no particular reason its Republican allies should value states’ rights or local autonomy in education. Inevitably, if they are in a position to do so, it is very likely that Republicans in Congress and a future conservative administration will take parental rights national with legislation to keep states and localities from monopolizing public funds or from teaching material conservatives find objectionable (most obviously, on the subject of racism, but also on such conservative religious targets as sex education and evolution).
Bans on state and local efforts to stop climate change
Federal anti-climate-change activism was on full display during the Trump administration, particularly in its wide-ranging war in the federal courts on California’s anti-pollution policies. Given the emergence of climate change as both an existential crisis for much of the GOP’s business base and a cultural issue for MAGA activists, you can count on future wars on blue-state climate initiatives from Washington when Republicans are fully in control.
Filibuster reform that further empowers the GOP
The feasibility of right-wing federal activism, of course, faces one of the same key obstacles Democrats are facing right now: the Senate filibuster.
Mitch McConnell has been adamant in his defense of the filibuster, which currently gives him the power to veto any Democratic initiatives that aren’t packed into a workaround like reconciliation. . . . given McConnell’s highly transactional (and cynical) approach to doing his job, he could easily flip-flop on the filibuster if Trump demanded it (much as he flipped-flopped on the permissibility of presidential-election-year Supreme Court confirmations when Trump needed one in 2020). Indeed, looking at the list of issues on which Republicans, and particularly Trump, may soon want sweeping federal action, the odds of the traditional filibuster surviving the next Republican trifecta are next to none.