For decades, the voter-suppression wing of the Republican Party (perhaps a distinction without a difference?) has promoted myths about voter fraud. These falsehoods are then deployed to push so-called election reform, such as enacting legislation that suppresses voters (rather than enfranchises them) in Black and marginalized communities.
So, it comes as no surprise that this Republican Party — long operating on the belief that Black votes are illegitimate — is refusing to accept the legitimacy of the presidential election now that its schemes at voter suppression have failed. The January 6 insurrection on Capitol Hill is the natural culmination of this Republican Party campaign to gain power by stoking racial divisions and subverting the institutions of American democracy.
The story begins in the 1960s, when Barry Goldwater and Richard Nixon, dog whistles in hand, courted Dixiecrat defectors from the Democratic Party. This “Southern strategy” turned the South’s racist Democrats into reliable Republican voters. Ever since, racist GOP state legislators across the South (much like their Democratic predecessors) have rallied their base around the flag of white identity. And the plan worked — until November 2020, when a crack appeared. Georgians voted to send Joe Biden to the White House. “It’s just not possible to have lost Georgia,” Donald Trump whined in a phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger.
On January 1, the president, not going down without a fight, tweeted an invite to his 89 million followers: “The BIG Protest Rally in Washington, D.C., will take place at 11.00 A.M. on January 6th. Locational details to follow. StopTheSteal!”
And come they did, some gulled into thinking the election had been stolen, others just happy to join the fray, egged on by their commander in chief. “Fight like hell,” Trump told them. Then they stormed the Capitol.
Of course, Trump alone did not incite the mob. Congressional Republicans did their part promoting the big lie — the day after the insurrection, eight senators and 139 representatives voted to overturn the election. With the GOP’s long con now spinning out of control, the party’s corporate sponsors scrambled for safety and turned off the campaign cash spigot to all 147 of those House and Senate Republicans. No longer would Sens. Josh Hawley (Mo.) and Ted Cruz (Texas) receive support from Amazon, American Express, AT&T, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Comcast, Disney, Dow Chemical, Marriott, Mastercard, Verizon and Walmart.
It is important to note, however, that these companies, like the slick Republicans who promote conspiracy theories in one sentence and in the next call for healing and reconciliation, have no issue with authoritarianism. Corporations are, after all, soulless entities, albeit ones with constitutional human rights. In recent years they have been happy to support Republican candidates who cut polling locations and persecute immigrants, just as they supported centrist Democrats who promoted trade agreements that gutted once solid blue-collar communities.
Prior to their assault on the Capitol, Hawley greeted the insurrectionists with a raised fist. One day and multiple deaths later, an unrepentant Hawley — fluent in doublespeak—pledged to “never apologize for giving voice to the millions of Missourians and Americans who have concerns about the integrity of our elections.”
Trump, Cruz and Hawley are, of course, the ones spreading lies and undermining the “integrity of our elections.” And we reap what they have sown. According to a November 2020 Reuters poll, 28% of American adults (52% of Republicans) share the delusion that Biden won because of “illegal voting or election rigging.”
We now face a future in which a sizable block of white nationalist-leaning Republicans have abandoned reality to participate in a Trump-inspired political fairy tale. Here’s hoping their fantasy doesn’t become our nightmare.
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Joel Bleifuss, a former director of the Peace Studies Program at the University of Missouri-Columbia, is the editor & publisher of In These Times, where he has worked since October 1986.