[editor’s note: Robert B Hubbell is an attorney who writes a daily newsletter. His content is astute and well-researched, providing many links to source material.]
The GOP is rapidly embracing autocracy and white Christian nationalism as its rallying cry. That rightward drift is anxiety-producing and creates the understandable urge to look away. We cannot do so. However painful or revolting it is to watch the descent of the GOP into madness and hate, if we hope to defeat the anti-democratic forces animating the Republican Party, we must be clear-eyed about the threat the party poses to American democracy.
We must be explicit in naming and describing the threat. We must identify and defeat every foot-solider and sympathizer who promotes or excuses tyranny and white nationalism. If we do so, we will preserve democracy. We can win. We will win. But only if we fight from a position firmly rooted in reality. From that vantage, let’s look at the GOP’s latest flirtations with white nationalism and despotism.
The influential and ultraconservative Conservative Political Action Conference is holding its latest meeting in Dallas, Texas. (Where else?) CPAC’s two keynote speakers are Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and Donald Trump. Both are wannabe dictators, though Orbán has made more progress towards that goal than Trump.
Orbán promotes an ugly brand of politics based on hate and racial superiority (for whites, of course). He has recently said that Hungarians “do not want to become peoples of mixed race,” causing one of his cabinet members to resign, saying Orbán’s remarks were “a pure Nazi speech worthy of Goebbels.” He blames much of the world’s troubles on George Soros—an attack line that is a dog-whistle for antisemites. Indeed, he went so far at the CPAC conference to claim that “a Christian politician cannot be racist” because . . . well, because they are Christian. And like the Nazis, Orbán has led a national crusade of discrimination against LGBTQ people.
In most of the world, an audience would recoil in horror at remarks that explicitly invoked the Nazi ideologies of antisemitism, racial superiority, and discrimination against LGBTQ people. Not at the CPAC convention in Texas. Orbán received multiple standing ovations as he delivered remarks that could have easily been delivered in Nazi Germany in 1935. See The Independent, Fresh from furor over ‘Nazi’ speech, Hungarian PM Viktor Orban welcomed by American conservatives.
Notably, no Republican politician has condemned Orbán’s remarks. Instead, they are lining up to speak at CPAC. Other speakers comfortable sharing the podium with a “Nazi-curious” dictator include Trump, Ted Cruz, Marjorie Taylor Greene, Jim Jordan, and Sean Hannity. No surprises there.
The despotic yearnings of CPAC are not an aberration. They have become part of the GOP DNA. Charles M. Blow addresses this trend in his column in the NYTimes on Thursday: Opinion | The Republican Party Is the Anti-Democracy Party. Blow notes that The Heritage Foundation (self-described as “the most influential conservative group in America) is actively promoting the idea that “America is not a democracy,” but a “republic.”
While that statement is a truism (there are no pure democracies in the world), The Heritage Foundation uses the term “republic” to mean “white nationalist patriarchy.” Strong words, I know, but here is what The Heritage Foundation wrote in 2020:
America is threatened by an egalitarianism that undermines the social, familial, religious, and economic distinctions and inequalities that undergird our political liberty.
That passage deserves re-reading. The Heritage Foundation claims that America is threatened by “egalitarianism.” What?! Egalitarianism is defined as “the doctrine that all people are equal and deserve equal rights and opportunities.” So, the Heritage Foundation is against “equal rights and opportunities for all??
Yes, it is! The Heritage Foundation goes on to say that “inequalities undergird our political liberty.” Re-read the preceding phrase—twice! It is breathtaking. In that phrase, “our” can only refer to the privileged, white elite that has ruled America since its founding. For The Heritage Foundation, “our political liberty” is based on “inequality.” Unbelievable.
So, the two leading Republican advocacy groups are actively promoting a white, Christian nationalism that is antithetical to the declaration that created America: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal . . . .
If we can get past the grievance mentality that Trump manipulates to his advantage, the positions embraced by CPAC and The Heritage Foundation are repugnant to most Americans. We need only articulate that truth in a way that resonates with their inherent belief in the American promise of equality. If we can do that, we have a fighting chance to turn the GOP’s message of hate against its most ardent promoters. The victory in Kansas points the way. Read on!
Messaging in Kansas.
With the benefit of 48 hours hindsight, it is becoming clear that a critical component of the victory in Kansas was messaging (a fact noted by dozens of readers in Comments and emails today). Charlie Sykes does an excellent job of reviewing the commentary on this issue in his Morning Shots newsletter. From WaPo,
Abortion rights supporters used conservative-sounding language about government mandates and personal freedom in their pitch to voters, and made a point of reaching out to independents, Libertarians and moderate Republicans.
And check out this television ad that describes the anti-abortion effort as an attempt to impose “a strict government mandate” that was “a slippery slope that would put more of your individual rights at risk.”
Messaging wasn’t the only reason that reproductive choice won in Kansas on Tuesday, but it was undoubtedly one of the reasons that a majority of persuadable Independents and some Republicans voted “No” on the anti-choice measure.
It will not require an advertising genius to draft ads demonstrating that the ugly ideologies of CPAC and The Heritage Group are antithetical to America’s founding ideals.
We can do that. We did it. In Kansas.
The DOJ criminal investigation reaches Trump.
Per CNN, Trump’s lawyers are “in talks” with the DOJ about “whether Trump would be able to shield conversations he had while he was president from federal investigators.” The disclosure is an unambiguous sign that Trump is a “target” of the DOJ investigation—even if he has not received a “target letter” (because he has not yet been asked to testify).
Per the CNN report, Trump is reportedly “confident” that he will not be indicted and is focused on his 2024 run for the presidency. I will avoid making my usual comments and instead hand the microphone to Jennifer Rubin in WaPo, Opinion | Merrick Garland’s DOJ coup investigation is speeding up. He can’t stop. What she said!
Amending the Electoral Count Act.
The Senate has initiated a bipartisan movement to amend, update, and clarify the ancient Electoral Count Act. That is generally a good development, but three preeminent legal scholars have provided advice to Congress on additional changes necessary to make it an excellent development. See Tribe, Chemerinsky, and Aftergut in WaPo, Opinion | The proposed Electoral Count Reform Act is a good start. It needs some tweaks.
The article is an uncommonly lucid explanation of a complicated subject. If you have access to WaPo, I urge you to review the entire article. If you do, you will (finally) understand the controversy over the Electoral Count Act! The article is behind the WaPo paywall, so I will alert readers if it becomes available to those who are not subscribers to WaPo. Let’s hope Senate staffers are poring over the article as we speak!
Reader requests for engagement and support.
I am trying a new format to manage the length of the newsletter while giving exposure to opportunities for engagement. I have posted and “pinned” a note in the Comments section so that my note will appear at the top of the Comments thread. To access Comments, click on the “text / dialog” icon next to the “heart / like” icon at the top or bottom of each newsletter.
In today’s Comments section, I highlight the efforts of a reader who is producing a short film on the injustices inherent in our immigration system, a reader (Chris Duncan) who is running for a seat in the California Assembly (CA Dist. 74), and an invitation to join a Bay Area postcarding group that meets every Saturday. Check out my Comment if any of those opportunities appeal to you!
A good week just got better. Late Thursday, Senators Schumer and Kyrsten Sinema announced a deal that cleared the way for passage of the Inflation Reduction Act. I am so happy about this development that I will not mention the annoying and objectionable compromise Sinema extracted as the price of moving forward. But I digress. This is excellent news. The path to this moment has been arduous and punishing, but the fact that Democrats “got to yes” is wonderful. And the timing couldn’t be better for the midterms. As I noted yesterday, momentum is with the Democrats. That counts for a lot.
And as Democrats are gaining momentum, Republicans are realizing that their party’s extremist wing is dragging them down. Senate Republicans committed a major blunder by voting against veterans benefits last week. Their weak efforts to provide a nonsensical rationalization did not sway public opinion. They are about to repeat that mistake. The Christian right will force Senate Republicans to vote against the Freedom to Marry Act, which protects same-sex marriage. See Talking Points Memo, The Christian Right Fires A Warning Shot At Senate Republicans.
As the TPM article notes, Republican Senators are receiving “an avalanche of opposition” from religious extremist organizations like The Family Research Council. GOP Senators will undoubtedly obey the monster they have created, even though 71% of Americans support same-sex marriage, and the Christian right makes up only 28% of the electorate. Those numbers don’t add up for Republicans—but they have no choice. They will repeat the mistakes of Kansas and the veteran’s burn-pit benefits bill.
We cannot rely on Republicans to defeat themselves. But they have backed themselves into a very tight corner from which there is no escape. If we are relentless and smart in driving our message home, we have plenty of reason to be hopeful (but no reason to be complacent)!
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