We can’t say we haven’t been warned. This place we’ve now arrived at is the end of a fifty-year journey.
It’s been out in the open — for those willing to see it — for thirty years. Ever since Hillary Clinton spoke of the “vast right-wing conspiracy” that tried to take down her husband. And ultimately came for her.
The signs were there as early as 1964, with the thrashing of Barry Goldwater in the presidential election, when the GOP turned sharply right in reaction to the Civil Rights Act and dozens of other egalitarian measures they could not tolerate. It goes back even further, but never mind.
The point is, far too many of us didn’t take them seriously.
Democrats were then — and still are now — a solid majority of voters, though it’s not clear if that matters anymore.
Because far too many of us couldn’t be bothered to vote. We said things like all-politicians-are-the-same, and both-sides-are-equally-corrupt, and sorry-but-I-just-don’t-trust-Hillary. So we stayed home, and the people who were counting on us to stay home were happy to exploit our apathy. They’ve been eroding our right to vote ever since.
Too many of us said the Supreme Court doesn’t matter. That our rights were baked in. That the Founders were wise to make SCOTUS a lifetime appointment. We got that wrong.
Now that Court is peeling off our rights, one by one, in real time. And since one of those rights is the right to vote, our ability to fight back is not a given.
The damage is already extensive. In just the last week or so, SCOTUS — now a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Republican party — has eviscerated not just abortion rights, but the EPA and most rational gun laws as well. These don’t get as much attention as abortion, but one could argue that they’re even more devastating.
A gerrymandering decision could be coming soon, and we know how that will go. We also know that Clarence Thomas wants to end contraception, gay marriage, and LGBTQ rights. Which he will go for, even if his wife is in prison.
With this Court covering for all manner of Republican treachery, we are at an inflection point. The coup is upon us, and we’ll have to come to terms with it. Which won’t be easy, because there is no template for how a country as big and powerful as the United States relinquishes its status as a beacon of democracy, and inexorably slides down into a quasi-Putinist monster state. History will have its eyes on us.
So please allow me a few extrapolations, a few things that are likely to happen if things continue in the present direction. A few things that scare the hell out of me.
If Republicans win the Senate — even if it’s not this year — they will absolutely kill the filibuster. They’ve watched Democrats dither about it, and they know it will fall eventually, so why would they not kill it at their earliest opportunity?
And when I say Democrats dithered, I refer only to Manchin and Sinema. I am still convinced that both these quislings have large untouchable deposits in the Cayman Islands and couldn’t care less if they win their next election.
In Sinema’s case, I doubt she’ll even run. She’ll retire to a villa by the Mediterranean, where nobody knows her, and where nobody knows how she drove a stake through the heart of her country, and perhaps her whole planet. I hope she enjoys her place in history.
If the filibuster indeed dies in a Republican Senate, a bill to ban abortion nationally will immediately come to the floor. Biden will, of course, veto it, but how long till Republicans take the White House again? It does seem inevitable, and with no filibuster, they can make real progress toward getting this whole democracy thing out of the way.
But let’s consider what else they might have in mind. What else might they go after?
How about the entire social safety net? Obamacare, Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security — probably in that order. Just watch. There’s a long history of hate there. They’ve only hated Obamacare for the last decade, but they’ve hated the rest of the safety net for far longer. They still seethe about Social Security, and that goes back to FDR, in the early forties.
They’ll also be coming after OSHA. Workplace rules cost money, and protecting workers will surely take a backseat to profits. To the GOP’s corporate sponsors, workers are just fungible assets — unplug one, plug in another. If someone dies in the process, that’s just a cost of doing business, and possibly a tax write-off.
They’ll be coming after the SEC and all consumer protections. All those pesky regulatory bodies that keep sharp operators from fleecing us will be swept aside. Let the fleecing begin.
They’ll be coming after public education, because public schools don’t indoctrinate kids the right way. Republicans know — as did Stalin, Hitler, and Kim Jung Un before them — that when you get them young, you get them for life. School prayer won’t just be permissible, it will be mandatory.
They’ll be coming after Health and Human Services. “Human” is neither a meaningful word to them, nor an item on their agenda. And their cavalier attitude toward “health” has been vividly on display through the whole pandemic.
They’ll be coming after PBS and all arts-related endowments. That stuff, after all, is just for liberals and homosexuals, so who cares?
And of course they’ll be coming after the press. Trump called it “the enemy of the people,” and they’ve been trying to muzzle it since the days of Spiro Agnew. But now — thanks to Putin, Xi, and Orban — they know just how to set up a propaganda bubble that lets no fact in or out without a thorough background check. At some point all news will be Fox news.
This was always the plan. This is the long game they’ve been playing forever, and it’s finally paying off. They knew if they kept at it, if they maintained their focus and their discipline and their blind hatred, the prize would be in reach.
Now they’re uncomfortably close to checkmate.
Yes, there are electoral remedies that could, just possibly, get us through the next few election cycles, but that seems a big lift. What’s needed is an electoral tsunami, and it’s hard to see that happening.
So yes, history has its eyes on us. It also has its hands on our throats.