One would assume Russian president Vladimir Putin’s long-anticipated, unprovoked invasion of Ukraine would be the catalyst to unite both American political parties against a common foe.
Yet despite global democracies’ condemnation of Putin, some members of the American republican party are perfectly comfortable with autocratic forms of governing and are stalling emergency aid to Ukraine.
That’s because they aren’t fans of democracy, as they have demonstrated over and over the past forty some-odd years, and Vladimir Putin’s strong-man “tough guy” machismo is exactly the image that suits them.
In 1979, President Jimmy Carter delivered what has come to be known as the “Crisis of Confidence” speech in which he laid out a revolutionary vision for the United States to be more energy independent with renewable energy technology within a decade.
He even had solar panels installed on the White House roof.
Republicans were apoplectic.
Upon succeeding Carter in 1981, Ronald Reagan proceeded to remove those solar panels, gut Carter’s multi-billion dollar clean energy and energy efficiency efforts, and roll back fuel efficiency standards, labeling “liberal” anything that resembled prudent environment progress to help the economy, health, and Americans’ way of life.
That justified republicans’ course to defend fossil fuel interests for the next forty years.
In 2010, President Barack Obama re-installed solar panels, but by then the “puny liberal” ad hominem fallacy was well entrenched in GOP rhetoric.
With Donald Trump gone, Vladimir Putin is the new implicit symbol of authoritarian virility.
Former Labor Secretary Robert Reich observed recently:
“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.”
The key phrase there is “openly support.”
They don’t have to stand on the floor of the House or Senate wearing an “I LOVE PUTIN” t-shirt to demonstrate their respect for him.
Why do that when one has the “big lie,” claiming without evidence the 2020 election was “stolen” from Trump?
What’s the need to praise Putin when all they need to do is ratchet up voter-suppression laws?
What about passing “parental right” laws preventing schools from acknowledging students’ sexual orientation and gender identity, as Florida just did.
It should come as no surprise that Texas Sen. Ted Cruz planted his fascist flag squarely in the authoritarian camp at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in Orlando, Fla. when he felt it more important to rail against “cancel culture,” COVID vaccines, masks, and so-called “ critical race theory.”
Missouri Sen. Josh Hawley at least acknowledged the Russian invasion of Ukraine, but blamed it on “weakness on the part of Joe Biden,” inquiring rhetorically, “Is it any wonder that Vladimir Putin feels emboldened to do whatever the heck it is he wants to do?”
Fox so-called “news” host Tucker Carlson pontificated:
“It may be worth asking yourself, since it is getting pretty serious, what is this really about? Why do I hate Putin so much? Has Putin ever called me a racist? Has he threatened to get me fired for disagreeing with him?”
Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene and Arizona Rep. Paul Gosar spoke at the white nationalist America First Political Action Conference Friday night where attendees cheered Vladimir Putin and extolled Adolf Hitler.
The Republican National Committee (RNC) has referred to the January 6, 2021 Capitol siege as “legitimate political discourse.”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis proposed creating a taxpayer-funded state paramilitary force answerable only to him.
A week later, Florida Rep. Matt Gaetz teamed up with former Trump adviser Steve Bannon on the idea of forming an “army of patriots” and “shock troops” to be prepared take over the government if former President Donald Trump were to run and win the White House again in 2024.
“The contemporary American fascist movement is led by oligarchical interests for whom the public good is an impediment, such as those in the hydrocarbon business, as well as a social, political, and religious movement with roots in the Confederacy. As in all fascist movements, these forces have found a popular leader unconstrained by the rules of democracy, this time in the figure of Donald Trump.”
Even Canadians fear the American experiment is on the precipice of ending.
In his new book, The Next Civil War: Dispatches from the American Future, Canadian author Stephen Marche warns:
“The United States is coming to an end. The question is how.”
He isn’t alone.
Cascade Institute executive director Thomas Homer-Dixon begins a Globe & Mail piece titled “ The American polity is cracked, and might collapse. Canada must prepare” with a harrowing assertion:
“By 2025, American democracy could collapse, causing extreme domestic political instability, including widespread civil violence. By 2030, if not sooner, the country could be governed by a right-wing dictatorship.”
This possible collapse became all the more real when the Senate failed to pass the Freedom to Vote act in October, followed by January’s failure to change the filibuster rule to permit voting rights legislation to pass with a simple majority.
Despite differences in approach, Democrats (except for two) are united in preserving democracy and continuing and strengthening the American experience.
February 20, 1939–six months before Adolf Hitler invaded Poland–more than 20,000 Americans converged on Madison Square Garden in Manhattan (yes, New York City) for an American Nazi party rally.
We were headed in that direction and could very well have gone the way of most of Europe.
Instead, we expanded democracy, not just embraced it.
We created social safety nets like Social Security and unemployment insurance, and put millions to work improving the country’s infrastructure under a guarantee of a government that believed itself to be the employer of last resort.
We fortified unions and made the rich pay their share of taxes to create the American middle class.
When we entered World War Two, President Franklin Roosevelt rallied not only soldiers but the entire country around strengthening democracy, not enabling fascism.
He instilled in us the responsibility to nurture democracy.
It does not thrive on its own.
It is messy at times, cumbersome.
It requires engagement and attention from us, not just those in positions of authority.
If we abdicate that responsibility, if we leave it to those in power, we could very easily and quickly wind up with a “macho American” version of Vladimir Putin.
That’s what Donald Trump aspired to be and his acolytes do today.
Authoritarianism is simple.
It requires no effort on people’s part.
Just install a strongman who promises to take care of everything.
Remember when Donald Trump told us, “I alone can fix it“?
That wasn’t just bluster from an incompetent clod.
It was a familiar echo from despots time out of mind.
If Trump had managed to steal another term, we would be in or entering the very dark place wanna-be Trumps gleefully wish to take us for their own power and influence, not for what’s best for the country.
There’s historical precedent for this.
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