The White People’s Nationalist Party, formerly known as the GOP, hisses in a rolling boil of rage and grievance, convinced that parasitic and violent black people, drug-peddling Spanish-speaking immigrants, and white elitist liberals have conspired to rob them of money, privilege, safety, and status. For them, political power serving their tribal interests is an end in itself and, channeling their inner Malcolm X, believe that it has to be seized and maintained by any means necessary.
In Missouri, Michigan, Wisconsin, Ohio, and North Carolina, Republicans are busily subverting election results in order to stop Democrats from taking office, gutting their power before Democrats can even be sworn in or overturning progressive ballot initiatives. The Banana Republicans gleefully admit they’re subverting democracy because democracy produced results they don’t like.
Voters in Missouri passed initiatives to reform gerrymandering, stop so-called “right-to-work” and raise the state’s minimum wage. In Wisconsin, voters purged GOP Gov. Scott Walker’s administration and elected a Democratic governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general. Michigan voters also elected Democrats as governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general and approved de-criminalizing marijuana, gerrymandering reforms, and automatic voter registration. Ohio voters approved gerrymandering reforms in a special May election. And voters in North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District tried to elect a Democratic U.S. representative.
In each of those cases, Republicans are trying to overturn election results through either legislative coups d’état, or outright theft. They’re doing it openly because they feel invulnerable. They know their angry white base will support them because they’re keeping the liberal, dark-skinned barbarians from the gates. And they’re betting that, if any lawsuits challenging them make it to federal court, the GOP will be upheld by one of a record number of federal judges Trump has appointed. They’re strangling democracy is broad daylight on Fifth Avenue and daring anyone to stop them.
The homicide, though, uses different weapons depending on the state you’re in. In Missouri, two-thirds of voters rejected the anti-union “right-to-work” law in August. But while a GOP lawmaker has introduced a bill re-instating the law, Missouri Republican Governor Mike Parsons is trying to finesse it into existence by proposing that “right-to-work” be implemented county-by-county, starting with the less than a dozen of Missouri’s 116 counties that voted for it.
Missourians also overwhelmingly approved a state constitutional amendment to reform partisan gerrymandering and to implement campaign finance limits in a state that currently has none. The amendment, called Clean MO, takes drawing state legislative districts out of the hands of the state legislature and gives the job to a professional demographer. Since drawing honest district boundaries would threaten the GOP’s super-majority in the Missouri legislature, the Banana Republicans acted fast.
First, they created a dark money political action committee called “Fair Missouri” with the aim of getting an initiative on the 2020 ballot to preserve GOP power to gerrymander districts. Then, the incoming Missouri House speaker, state Rep. Elijah Haahr (R-Springfield), said he’s going to “talk to” (nudge nudge, wink wink) black lawmakers, trying to convince them to help undermine Clean MO in the legislature. Using the scare tactic that some majority-black districts could be broken up, he wants to strike a phony bargain: more black-controlled seats in exchange for fewer overall Democratic seats.
Those tactics are polite compared to what’s going on in Wisconsin and Michigan. In those Lake Michigan states, the GOP legislatures have been meeting in late-night sessions to take power away from incoming Democratic governors. Their lame-duck purges of democracy in Wisconsin would cut early voting hours (which tend to benefit Democrats), slash the incoming governor’s ability to issue any regulations, and give the GOP legislature control over Wisconsin’s huge state development agency.
In Michigan, the Republican legislature, meeting in a similar lame-duck session, has passed bills gutting public employee unions, is prepared to take away the ability of the incoming Democratic secretary of state and attorney general to oversee campaign finance laws, and have unilaterally re-written and effectively destroyed to ballot measures Michiganders were supposed to vote on next November. One would raise the state’s minimum wage, the other would mandate paid sick leave for employees.
In Ohio, the GOP majority in its legislature is responding to the gerrymandering reforms passed by voters by preparing to pass a bill that outlaws amending the state constitution by popular vote. At the same time, they’re considering a bill that would declare that any women who receives an abortion is guilty of murder and could face the death penalty.
In North Carolina’s Ninth Congressional District, where the Republican won by 905 votes (a 0.8 percent margin of victory), a contractor working for the GOP candidate paid people to go door-to-door and collect absentee ballot from mostly trusting, elderly, black voters. Those ballots, probably overwhelmingly Democratic, were apparently trashed and never counted. Republicans in the Tarheel State are ignoring the apparent fraud and outright theft and are instead criticizing the state Board of Elections for conducting a – wait for it – witch hunt.
When maintaining power for their white nationalist tribe is the issue, Republicans in the Trump era are, literally, capable of almost any sort of subversion of democracy and insult to voters. They know their angry base will stick with them. But they’re also putting their money on indifferent Democratic voters, wagering that the wave of young people, blacks, and progressive whites that resulted in a gain of 40 Democratic congressional seats last month won’t be repeated and they have nothing to worry about going forward.
They might be right. The huge turnout in Stacey Abrams unsuccessful run for Georgia governor was nowhere to be seen last week, when a Republican easily won a special election to be Georgia’s secretary of state.
The Washington Post’s motto, “Democracy dies in darkness,” isn’t quite right. It’s being killed in broad daylight, right in front of our eyes.
Charles Jaco is a journalist, author, and activist. Follow him on Twitter at @charlesjaco1.