The GOP Is Trying To Turn America Into Putin's Russia
All the same strategies Putin uses: blood & soil (white nationalism), demonize minorities, cut taxes on oligarchs, censor schools & media, and rig elections - all to end US democracy itself
The media treat Trump’s lie that he won the 2020 election as if it’s just the moaning of a sore loser.
It’s not that at all.
It’s part of a much larger and far more fundamental effort that’s been led for four decades now by white supremacists and rightwing billionaires to “reform” America from a democratic republic into an authoritarian oligarchy.
Trump’s refusal to acknowledge his election loss is dangerous because elections are how democracies hold their leaders accountable. No election, no democracy. Meaningless elections, like in Russia (and what Trump is pitching), no democracy.
When that accountability vanishes the leader is no longer accountable to anybody except himself and the elites who support him, as we’re seeing played out right now in Russia and Belarus.
Here in America, with Trump out of the picture, the new shock troops trying to end democracy in our nation are Republican lawmakers, particularly at the state level.
National GOP legislators (and Manchin/Sinema) support their cause by blocking election reforms like the John Lewis Voting Rights Enhancement Act and the Freedom to Vote Act:
They’re changing election laws in multiple red states so they can alter the outcome of elections that don’t go their way, completely ignoring the will of their voters.
A recent Supreme Court decision written entirely by rightwing justices green-lit GOP plans to selectively purge millions of largely Democratic voters from the voting rolls, an effort that’s underway in every state controlled by Republican secretaries of state.
Republicans are making it so hard to vote that, for example, in Texas, as many as 30 percent of new voter registrations and/or vote-by-mail applications are being rejected by the Abbott regime, compared to fewer than 1 percent a year ago before their new anti-democracy law was passed and put into effect.
Since the Supreme Court gutted the voting rights act in 2013 and then endorsed partisan gerrymandering in 2019, instead of voters picking their politicians, Republicans are pre-rigging election outcomes by picking their voters in an unprecedented wave of gerrymandering, a practice that’s been re-outlawed in more progressive states like California.
And, of course, they’re embracing Putinism/Trumpism in their efforts to re-write history, embrace white supremacy/nationalism, create billionaire oligarchs via tax cuts, and turn LGBTQ+ people into pariahs. By attacking public schools, banning books, promoting white supremacist conferences and passing laws like Florida’s recent “Don’t Say Gay” law.
The GOP, in short, is trying to turn America into Putin’s Russia with everything from book bans to rigged elections to denigrating democracy itself.
As former Labor Secretary Robert Reich writes in his great substack newsletter, “The Trump-led Republican Party does not openly support Putin, but the GOP’s animus toward democracy is expressed in ways familiar to Putin and other autocrats.”
And the reason why is the same as the reason Putin talks about Russian blood and soil (white nationalism), harasses and demonizes LGBTQ people, maintains tight control over his schools and media, and rigs Russian elections: the majority of the people wouldn’t go along with it if given an opportunity in a true democracy.
This anti-democratic reflex within the GOP is not new, and has caused some of the greatest damage to America in recent history, both reputational and in terms of money and lives.
George W. Bush, for example, was not elected to the presidency by the majority of Americans. He lost the national election by a half-million votes.
And he only prevailed in the Electoral College because his brother, then-Florida Governor Jeb Bush, purged tens of thousands of Black voters from the rolls just before he “won” in Florida by 537 votes and five “conservatives” on the Supreme Court blocked a Florida Supreme Court-ordered recount from being completed.
As the November 12th, 2001 article in The New York Times noted after their consortium of newspapers actually recounted all the Florida ballots a year later:
“If all the ballots had been reviewed under any of seven single standards and combined with the results of an examination of overvotes, Mr. Gore would have won.”
So Bush, being essentially an illegitimate president, used Putin-like tactics to lie us into a war to guarantee his own re-election and satisfy Dick Cheney’s lust for Iraq’s oil fields. In 1999, when he decided he was going to run for president, Bush’s family hired Mickey Herskowitz to write the first draft of Bush's autobiography, A Charge To Keep:
“I’ll tell you, he was thinking about invading Iraq in 1999,” Herskowitz told reporter Russ Baker in 2004.
“One of the things [Bush] said to me,” Herskowitz said, “is: ‘One of the keys to being seen as a great leader is to be seen as a commander-in-chief. My father had all this political capital built up when he drove the Iraqis out of (Kuwait) and he wasted it.
“[Bush] said, ‘If I have a chance to invade Iraq, if I had that much capital, I'm not going to waste it. I'm going to get everything passed I want to get passed and I'm going to have a successful presidency.’”
Jeb Bush and five “conservatives” on the Supreme Court moved America a huge step toward the Putinization of America with President George W Bush lying us into two wars, creating a single nationwide police agency in the DHS, and pushing through the PATRIOT Act, all while overseeing other Big Brother-like abuses that were revealed by Snowden, among others.
Bush’s presidency had devastating consequences to America in terms of international credibility, faith in our government domestically, the waste of trillions of dollars in tax cuts, and the loss of hundreds of thousands of human lives in unnecessary wars.
He also doubled-down on Reagan’s attempt to create oligarchy here with more massive tax cuts on the morbidly rich, embrace of oil and coal, and deregulation of polluting industries.
Donald Trump intended to put the final nail in the coffin of American democracy, and if a half dozen heroic Republicans hadn’t refused to go along with him we’d be siding with Russia right now in the seizure and occupation of Ukraine.
Seriously: Trump all but said that at CPAC this past weekend when he continued to trash Zelensky and embrace Putin.
As straight white men have receded into minority status in America, most of the Republican Party has embraced Putin’s dark path toward oligarchy and strongman government I warned about in The Hidden History of American Oligarchy.
Members of the US House of Representatives from both Georgia and Arizona addressed a white supremacist conference in Washington DC this past weekend where the host of the conference set up their speeches with a rant about how their “secret sauce” was “white men.”
He ended with praise for Putin, evoking a pro-Putin chant from the crowd.
Seriously, these people would rather live in an autocratic dictatorship than a pluralistic democracy, as long as white men are in charge (and white women are barefoot and in the kitchen/bedroom). That’s pretty much their only issue.
This authoritarian, white supremacist, and billionaire oligarch threat to American democracy isn’t new.
In 1939, twenty-thousand white men showed up at Madison Square Garden in New York City to proclaim their loyalty to Adolf Hitler, the last white supremacist authoritarian who dominated the world stage and brought the world toward war.
President Zelensky of Ukraine is showing that a democracy can be very resilient in the face of an external foe like Russia. Our democracy helped defeat Hitler’s Nazis and became the stronger for it.
Democracies are only rarely taken down by invaders from the outside.
The biggest threat to democratic nations aren’t the world’s dictators. They generally just want to fleece their own people and build up their offshore bank accounts.
Almost without fail, when democracies are brought down they’re brought down from within, typically with a strongman leader who first achieved power by winning an election. While Hitler was first appointed Chancellor, he then won multiple elections; Mussolini and his Republican Fascist Party were elected in Italy in 1924.
In modern times Viktor Orbán was elected in Hungary, as was Modi in India, Duterte in The Philippines, and Bolsinaro in Brazil: all were initially “clean” elections and all those men then reached out to corrupt their nation’s political, media, and electoral systems to ensure their continued power. Putin himself was elected in 2000 with 54% of the vote in a relatively clean and open election overseen by international monitors.
These men were Trump’s role models, and have become the role models of what appear to be the majority of elected Republicans across the nation today.
Even the rare exceptions of Mitt Romney, Adam Kinzinger, and Liz Cheney are still unsure about this whole democracy thing: when given a chance last month, none could bring themselves to guarantee every American citizen the right to vote.
White supremacy, oligarchy, and the hatred of democracy they engender have poisoned our nation since its birth, and the Supreme Court not only has legalized election-rigging via mass voter purges but also opened the door to rightwing billionaire oligarchs and corporations owning our politicians with their Citizens United decision in 2010.
If we want to avoid suffering the fate Russians are now experiencing, we must secure our right to vote, strengthen our regulatory systems, and get big money out of politics.
Oligarchy is knocking on our door as you read these words: we must act now.