Discover more from The Hartmann Report
Are We Seeing the Reemergence of the Old Confederacy, This Time as the GOP?
Is the GOP Plan to Be Content With a "Red States" Fascist Empire?
Increasingly, the Republican Party is consolidating its power in a minority of states and turning them into little laboratories of neo-fascism. This is tough on people in those states — particularly people who are Black, queer, or female — but what is its larger impact on America?
“Power tends to corrupt,” Lord Acton famously noted, “and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”
This is the great danger at the state level for both American political parties as the GOP sinks deeper and deeper into its mire of regionalism, violence, racism, homophobia, misogyny, gun deaths, pollution, and victimhood, led by corrupt politicians like Trump, DeSantis, Kemp, and Abbott.
Reestablishing a national political dialogue like we had before the Trump presidency is thus now a singular challenge facing our nation, particularly since we’re one of only 7 democracies in the world that essentially forces a 2-party system through first-past-the-post winner-take-all elections.
(By contrast, in parliamentary systems whichever party gets, for example, 12 percent of the vote ends up with 12 percent of the seats in Parliament; the result is a robust multi-party system.)
When our two political parties are so highly regionalized that their control is largely uncontested, the normal push-and-pull of politics fails. Sclerotic, corrupt little empires of power emerge, as we see today with parts of the Democratic Party in New York State and the GOP across the South and up through several Midwestern states, particularly Ohio.
While there are regional economic and cultural differences between Red and Blue states, the deciding factor is increasingly the willingness or unwillingness of the two parties to enfranchise or disenfranchise Black and young voters while meeting or violating the needs of the state’s citizens.
Generally, Red states are committed to making it difficult for all but middle-aged white people to vote (and trying to block the vote of college students); Blue states welcome the participation of as broad a cross-section of society as possible.
Red states embrace guns, book and abortion bans, and pollution; Blue states are leading the way into pluralism, a clean energy future, and rebuilding their schools and infrastructure.
The contrast is startling: a child living in Mississippi is fully ten times more likely to be killed with a gun than a child living in Massachusetts.
Everybody in Oregon votes by mail and has for more than a quarter-century; Texas Republicans just made it extremely difficult for people in Houston to do the same, so they could force citizens in that very Blue city to take time off from work and stand in line for hours.
A woman in California can get an abortion any time within the constraints of Roe v Wade; a woman or her family in Texas can get stalked, hit with $10,000 lawsuits, and even go to prison if she tries to do the same.
Minnesota is joining 18 other states to become sanctuaries for trans people; being publicly trans in Florida can get you imprisoned or even killed.
The differences between Red and Blue states are increasingly stark, and growing month-by-month as Red states pass more and more laws to regulate every intimate detail of people’s private lives.
Thus, America is being balkanized, much like it was in the early 19th century.
Donald Trump and the fascists he has empowered are the main force leading the GOP into this doom spiral, with considerable help from billionaire-owned rightwing media. But this is not the first time this has happened in American history.
In my book The Hidden History of American Oligarchy, I chronicle how the invention of the Cotton Gin — which could do the work of 50 enslaved people — led to a widespread and massive consolidation of wealth and power in the deep South. The plantation families, made fabulously wealthy by the Gin, then took over both the economics and the politics of the South, turning it into what today we’d call an oligarchic fascist state.
They also took over the Democratic Party in the process (it was founded by Thomas Jefferson and had always had its base largely in the South) and turned it from a national player in American politics into a corrupt regional power-broker focused almost entirely on immunizing the morbidly rich while keeping down Black people, working class whites, and women.
Following the Civil War, Democrats largely ceased to be a national party for two generations. The 1868 party platform still clung to the South’s embrace of racism and the oppression of Black people, stating bluntly:
“In demanding these measures and reforms we arraign [accuse] the Radical [Republican] party for its disregard of right, and the unparalleled oppression that and tyranny which have marked its career. … Instead of restoring the Union, it has, so far as in its power, dissolved it, and subjected ten States, in times of profound peace, to military despotism and negro supremacy.”
The Democrats — then openly the party most devoted to white supremacy — essentially said, “Screw the rest of the country; we’ve got our piece of it in the South and parts of New York and that’s all we care about.”
Grover Cleveland was the only Democrat elected president between 1860 and 1912, and he was the exception that proved the rule: he won the election of 1886 by being an above-partisan-politics anti-corruption candidate in a nation dominated by two increasingly corrupt parties. For example, he vetoed more bills than every president before him combined.
Today it’s the Republican Party that’s openly committed to white supremacy — but no Grover Cleveland-style anti-corruption, national-vision-for-the-country Republican candidate for the presidency is anywhere in sight today.
Instead, Republicans fall all over themselves in a mad rush to deliver more tax cuts to their billionaire owners, more pollution from the industries that fund their campaigns, more voting restrictions in parts of the states they control with large Black populations, and more guns to their citizens.
Yesterday, The Washington Post noted, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Jason Smith (R-MO) introduced legislation that would reinstate massive corporate tax loopholes, kill the new tax credits for electric vehicles and clean energy, and end a tax on toxic waste sites used to fund their cleanup.
The Texas legislature this month handed control of elections in dark-blue Houston (3 million voters) to Republican partisans, who can then ensure long lines and challenges to people who insist on casting a ballot.
At the same time, Republican politicians from Florida to Arizona to Iowa are openly embracing the rhetoric of political violence. In Idaho, the party recently hosted a “Trigger Time With Kyle” event where donors could pay to shoot assault weapons with Kyle Rittenhouse.
This is why the GOP is shrinking. And, in the process, retreating into Red state enclaves that reject the proclaimed values of America.
Embracing abortion restrictions, book bans, promoting guns, and hating on queer people aren’t, it turns out, good politics for a party that wants to hold power nationally.
Neither is promoting fascism a useful political strategy: yesterday Republican-aligned protesters with pro-DeSantis signs and giant swastika flags showed up outside Disney World in Orland; odds are voters were not amused.
In this regard, it’s a good thing for America that today’s GOP is collapsing nationwide.
The bad news, however, is that the GOP is consolidating its power in Red states by asserting control over elections, purging tens of millions of voters off the rolls, destroying public schools, and arresting Black voters and parading them before cameras in shackles.
At the moment, their main advantage nationally is that the Party still has the support of the CEOs of the nation’s largest social media companies, oil companies, Vladimir Putin and MBS, bigoted white evangelicals, and most billionaires.
But will that be enough to avoid becoming a regional faction resembling the Confederacy? Increasingly, it looks like the answer is “no.” For six years the Republican Party has been telling America who it is, and broad swaths of the electorate are now believing them.
Today’s GOP must make a choice.
Will it continue down the fascist road that Trump, DeSantis, and Abbott have paved, devolving farther and farther into a corrupt, hateful, violent whites-only regional presence?
An amplification of the reemergence of the old Confederacy, this time as the GOP?
Or is it capable of change?
Now, we discover, it turns out I’m not the only one who’s noted this bizarre new dynamic. The rightwing billionaire Koch network just this morning released an ad against Donald Trump claiming that he’s “Joe Biden’s secret weapon.”
Apparently, they don’t just want regional power: they want to control the entire country. After all, it takes nationwide federal power to get looser pollution controls and more tax cuts.
But will the GOP repudiate fascism, misogyny, and racism and offer contrasting ideas to voters that aren’t just amped-up voter suppression, more guns, and the destruction of public education — with or without Donald Trump?
I’m not holding my breath.