Friday marks 100 days since the U.S. Capitol was stormed and sacked on Jan. 6. That day, thousands of people, incited by then-President Donald Trump, attempted to stop the constitutional process of certifying the 2020 election. They were almost successful. And while they did not stop the certification, their actions opened a Pandora’s Box of anti-democratic and authoritarian actions that America is wrestling with today.
Starting before the 2016 election, Trump announced that the only way he could lose to Hillary Clinton was if the race were stolen from him. Last year, as the economy collapsed and COVID-19 rampaged across the country, Trump again rolled out the Big Lie that vote-by-mail (used here in Utah) was rigged against him. After he lost, Trump and his minions went further, calling out false examples of voter fraud.
It did not happen. Regardless of that, recent surveys of Republicans, nearly half of those polled believe the election was indeed stolen from Trump. He used these lies to keep his supporters riled up and ready to act. The problems we see now — anti-voter legislation in states across the country, Trump’s continued lies about the outcome and white nationalist rhetoric — are accelerating.
Legislation has already passed and been signed in Iowa and Georgia restricting different pieces of the voting process. In Atlanta, as Brian Kemp signed SB202 behind a locked door, an African American legislator knocked and asked to be admitted. She was promptly arrested by Georgia State Troopers.
In states such as Florida, Texas, Michigan, Arizona and Pennsylvania, different bills are moving all of which have the same intended effect: Make it more difficult for communities of color to participate freely, fairly and safely in the electoral process.
Had Donald Trump won last year, these bills would not exist. If African American voters in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Georgia not helped put Joe Biden in the White House and given Democrats control of the U.S. Senate, this legislation would not have been introduced.
Last weekend, hundreds of Republican donors, leaders and elected officials descended on South Florida to fete Trump, hear him rant and reinforce his position as the singular and sole leader of the Republican Party.
As he sits in Mar-A-Lago every day, Donald Trump’s political operation is finishing his enemies list of those he believes have wronged him. As of today, Trump is the frontrunner for the 2024 Republican presidential nomination. His orbit is standing up new organizations to instigate a culture war in this country.
To that end, the right-wing media ecology has begun moving further and further outside mainstream political thought. This week on Fox News, Tucker Carlson began banging the drum on the dangers of White Replacement Theory. This ideology, that originated in Europe in the late 19th century, is designed to do no less than make white Americans fear for their families and their futures from the “other.”
What the Republican Party and its allies have become is a full-fledged, anti-democratic, blood and soil movement. They will not stop today, tomorrow or next year. They are well-resourced and motivated. To counter this, Americans of all geography, demography, races and creeds will have to lock arms and hold the line.
This is a fight that is upon us, right now. We ignore it at our peril. We can and we must defend the foundational beliefs that made the American Experiment possible.
Reed Galen is co-found of The Lincoln Project. You can find him on Twitter @reedgalen. He lives in Park City.