Republicans think they own the ball, and the stadium, and the league, and the right to make the rules, and they’re going to throw a fit if they don’t get to score their touchdown and win.
Everyone got together and sat down and agreed about how democracy works a long time ago: who gets to make the rules and what you have to do if you want to win in the game of politics. You run for office, and you get people to vote for you, and if you get the most votes, you win. You’ve scored your goal. If your party gets the most votes, you get to make the rules until the next election when the game is played all over again.
That’s the way it worked for more than two centuries: the parties tussled through elections, but when they were over, and one party won and the other didn’t, or when there was a split decision, as in one party wins the White House and the other party wins the Congress, they still managed to sit down and make deals and get things done – like giving women the vote, or making a New Deal to end the Great Depression, or winning World War II, or passing the Civil Rights laws, or even getting us into and out of a few mistaken wars.
But no longer. That’s not the way the Republican Party wants to play the game anymore. They have made a unilateral change in the rules they will play by: only one team is allowed to win, the Republican team, and if the other team somehow manages to prevail, they won’t recognize their victory, and they will not only take their ball and go home, they will burn down the stadium.
That’s what happened on January 6, 2021. When the presidential candidate of the Republican Party did not win the election, they attempted to destroy the stadium in which we had agreed a long time ago to play the game, the Capitol. When they didn’t succeed with a mob, 147 of them grabbed their legislative body armor and nightsticks and attempted to overturn the election by voting against certifying electoral ballots when they were counted.
When that didn’t work, Republicans went home to their states and changed the rules to make it nearly impossible for the other team to win by suppressing votes, and just for good measure, gerrymandering the opposing party out of power by making it impossible for that party to combine enough votes within a district to elect someone from their party to represent them, like they just did in Alabama.
Ordinarily, this would be called moving the goalposts, but we’re way past my handy little football analogy, folks. From here on out, what we have to talk about when we talk about the Republican Party is fascism, because that’s what the stuff they’re doing amounts to.
When Republicans say a president who won an election by more than seven million popular votes and 74 electoral votes is illegitimate, that is fascism.
When Republicans say they will shut down the government if they don’t get to cut funding for “entitlements” like Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and government departments like the NIH, the EPA, the CDC and even more, that’s fascism.
When Republicans call Democrats “evil” and “un-American” and accuse them baselessly of pedophilia, that’s fascism.
When a Republican leader like Donald Trump starts down the slippery slope of antisemitism in the way he has lately without anyone within the Republican Party calling him on it, that’s fascism.
When Republicans openly talk about firing anyone in the federal government who is not loyal to their party if and when they have control of the Executive again, that’s fascism.
When Republicans embrace authoritarian fellow-travelers like Victor Orban as they did when they invited him to address the CPAC convention in Dallas recently, that’s fascism, even if it is performative.
And most tellingly, when Republicans say they won’t accept the outcomes of elections unless they win, folks, that is full-blown, flag-waving, stiff-arm salute fascism.
The Republican Party is not just messing around. They are serious. They mean it. They have made a nation-wide pact for Republican candidates in the midterms to declare victory on election night before all the ballots are counted, an idea pushed by Steve Bannon in 2020 that Trump tried by declaring after Arizona had been called for Biden, “This is a fraud on the American public. This is an embarrassment to our country. We were getting ready to win this election. Frankly, we did win this election.”
Then, of course, when all the votes are counted, Republicans will launch a firestorm of attempts to overturn the results of every election they don’t win, because, you know, when Democrats win, the election was illegitimate, and they won’t recognize the victories.
I remember a few years ago when some pundits on the left began calling Donald Trump a fascist, I thought about that kind of talk as “premature” and “extreme,” even “silly.” Boy, did I ever have my head up my ass. Every pundit, every Democratic Party official, every personwho called Trump and the Republican Party fascists should be taken out to dinner and slapped on the back and thanked. Same with those who referred to right-wing extremists within the Republican Party as suffering from a “prion disease.” Their brains weren’t rotting. They hadn’t mistakenly chewed up some jimson weed. They were serious as a heart attack. They meant it, and more of us should have listened to them.
My fellow Substacker, Heather Cox Richardson, suggests much the same thing: It’s time to listen to these people and moreover, to believe them when what they tell us “has most of the hallmarks of fascism.” In comparing what Liz Truss attempted in Great Britain with the intentions of congressional Republicans if they win the midterms, she suggested that we pay attention to someone most of us have probably never heard of: John Daniel Davidson, a senior editor at the exceedingly far-right publication, The Federalist. Davidson isn’t a conspiracy theorist spreading disinformation from some fringe website to an audience of rabid survivalists and wingnuts. He is what passes for a real intellectual among the Serious Thinkers on the Right. People in power are said to give his ideas more than an occasional read. Big Timers in the Republican Party actually pay attention to what he says.
Richardson rings a bell to which we should all pay heed, because what our dear Federalist senior editor Davidson is today merely writing about will become Republican dogma before we know it.
In a piece titled, “We need to stop calling ourselves conservatives,” Davidson announces the death of what was once called small government conservatism: “The fusionism of past decades, in which conservatives made common cause with market-obsessed libertarians and foreign policy neocons, is finished. So too is Conservatism Inc. and the establishment GOP it enabled, whose first priority was always tax cuts for big business at the expense of everything else.” In its place, Davidson suggests something that doesn’t just smell like fascism, it is fascism.
Davidson blesses “a willingness to embrace government power” in favor of a “government [that] will have to become, in the hands of conservatives, an instrument of renewal in American life — and in some cases, a blunt instrument indeed.”
His description of what sort of “blunt instrument” the Right should strive for is where Davidson gets down to it: He calls for universities which are “spreading poisonous ideologies” to be “starved” of public monies. He wants a “dramatic expansion of the criminal code” that would legally define abortion as “murder,” with prosecutions and punishments according. His plan for the new criminal code includes these gems: “parents who take their children to drag shows should be arrested and charged with child abuse…doctors who perform so-called “gender-affirming” interventions should be thrown in prison and have their medical licenses revoked…teachers who expose their students to sexually explicit material should not just be fired but be criminally prosecuted.”
He suggests that Obergefell went way too far and the Supreme Court decision which overturned laws against sodomy should be reversed. But of course he does. Moreover, he believes that “the left will only stop when conservatives stop them.” Davidson very kindly recognizes that that “power corrupts, and that once the right seizes power it too will be corrupted,” but not to worry, because “we should attend to it with care after we have won the war.”
That’s what Hitler said about Austria, Czechoslovakia, Poland, and soon and after that, Great Britain and the rest of Europe. He wanted all of it and when he didn’t immediately get his way, he threw a temper tantum and burned down Europe.
Republicans who respond to Davidson’s trumpet call want it all, too, and they’re preparing to throw a tantum and start a war if they don’t get it. If those pesky Jews get in the way, as Dear Leader Trump seems to think they are, well, I’m sure Davidson and other “thinkers” on the Right will have a solution to that in due time.
The only surprise in Davidson’s jeremiad is his failure to call for a Pact of Steel to save America, because as he observes, “Western civilization is dying,” conservatives are being “trampled to dust,” and “you cannot preserve or defend something that is dead.”
What do Republicans think should replace what they think of as our dying democracy? A Fourth Reich, and boy do they ever have a plan for that.
Lucian K. Truscott IV, a graduate of West Point, has had a 50-year career as a journalist, novelist, and screenwriter. He has covered Watergate, the Stonewall riots, and wars in Lebanon, Iraq, and Afghanistan. He is also the author of five bestselling novels. You can subscribe to his daily columns at luciantruscott.substack.com and follow him on Twitter @LucianKTruscott and on Facebook at Lucian K. Truscott IV
Reprinted with permission from Lucian Truscott Newsletter