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White supremacists, theocrats, and other supporters of patriarchal reaction oppose democracy on principle

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David Atkins has a piece in the Washington Monthly warning that the anti-democratic tactics and strategy of the Republican party run the gamut from undermining democracy within the rules of the game to just tossing those rules aside if necessary:

What will the institutions of liberal democracy do when Republican officials simply refuse to concede Democratic victories? The question isn’t as far-fetched as it may seem, and the reckoning may be coming far sooner than most expect.

The entire left-leaning political world has spent the months after the 2020 election obsessed over the fairness of elections, and conservative attempts to rig the vote through gerrymandering and voter suppression. This is for good reason, of course: Republicans know they lack the support to win majority support in a fair contest, but believe they have the right to rule nonetheless for reasons that ultimately boil down to white supremacy, religious dominionism and antiquated patriarchal beliefs. So Republicans have been busy passing bills to restrict voting among young people and non-whites, while doing their best to ensure that exurban conservative whites continue to be dramatically and unfairly overrepresented in the House, Senate and Electoral College.

But there’s another even more sinister trend among conservative politicians that deserves greater attention: an unwillingness to concede any electoral victory by a Democrat as legitimate, and an eagerness to punish any Republican elected official who concedes the will of the voters. The Big Lie that Trump really won the election is now canon among a majority of Republican voters. Any Republicans who refuses to toe the line is branded a heretic, and elections officials who dared to certify Biden’s win are being censured or stripped of their power. Arizona Republicans have sponsored a bogus “audit” of the election full of crackpot conspiracy theories, and Republican legislatures have been busy taking control of both running and certifying elections out of the hands of county official in Democratic-run cities and counties. The context of the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol was the attempt by Congressional Republicans to refuse to certify the Electoral College tally, in the hopes of sending the election back to gerrymandered Republican state legislatures, thus handing Trump a win as part of a anti-democratic coup. It was a physical coup attempt designed to intimidate Congress into enforcing a legislative coup. Republicans who refused to back the latter are facing steep primary challenges.

It’s hard to overstate how dangerous this is, and what its consequences might entail in the very near future. As Greg Sargent notes, the “GOP appears to be plunging headlong into a level of full-blown hostility to democracy that has deeply unsettling future ramifications.”

Biden’s electoral college win was only certified because enough Republican secretaries of state and county election board officials did their duty to democracy and resisted pressure to thwart the will of the voters. Every lever of Republican power has since been wielded to punish them. Minor county board officials have been receiving organized harassment and death threats. Georiga Secretary of State Raffensperger is not only facing a major primary challenge, he was also stripped of his power to certify the election in the future. Every Republican not already committed to preserving their power by any means necessary has been put on notice that if they do not cooperate they will be physically threatened and politically replaced.

So what happens in 2024 if President Biden or Vice President Harris win the Electoral College, but local Republicans on county boards with majority Democratic votes refuse to certify the election; when state legislatures who have seized control of certification refuse to certify their state tallies; when a potential Republican majority in the House of Representatives refuses to certify the Electoral College tally? What happens when they refuse to certify Democratic wins in purple state Senate races, throwing control of the Upper Chamber into limbo and chaos? What happens if Biden/Harris wins the popular vote by 8 million votes and 30 electoral college votes, only to see Republicans in states like Georgia and Wisconsin decide that their GOP legislatures will send electors for Trump or Tucker Carlson or Josh Hawley instead? What happens if Democrats legitimately add to their lead in the Senate, only to see Republicans refuse to certify those tallies as well, keeping GOP Senators in place for the next session?

This is all disturbingly true as far as it goes, but there’s an implicit assumption in these sorts of arguments that Republican attempts to subvert democracy are in some fundamental sense unprincipled. The deeper truth is more disturbing than that: the contemporary Republican party is made up almost exclusively of people who oppose democracy on principle. Subverting democracy is quite literally required by their beliefs, given that democracy leads to the electoral defeat of ideological positions that are themselves completely contemptuous of democracy itself.

Expecting a white supremacist, or a theocrat, or a Randian believer in plutocracy, or a reactionary misogynist (obviously we’re talking about a lot of overlap here) to believe in democracy as anything other than a potentially valuable means to power in certain circumstances is as absurd as expecting a Marxist-Leninist in Russia in 1917 to believe in democracy. These people don’t believe in democracy in anything other than purely instrumental terms because, given their ideological priors, democracy is a bad thing.

The difference between all these people are small d democrats is that the latter types believe in democracy for its own sake, although of course liberal democrats believe that democracy must sometimes give way before other considerations, such as various fundamental individual rights.

But the contemporary Republican party is made up almost exclusively of people who hate democracy on principle. The notion that, if successfully cobbled together into an electoral majority, the rabble should be able to violate God’s ordained plan for His chosen (white) people, or should be empowered to violate the fundamental rights of Property (in the libertarian universe the rather mysterious concept of “natural” property rights fills the placeholder occupied by God in the theocratic ontology) is just so much bawling on paper and nonsense on stilts, as Jeremy Bentham said of a couple of famous late 18th century political experiments based on expansive notions of human rights.

Republicans who are trying to undermine democracy because democracy is bad for their ideological commitments are being, in their own perverse way, completely principled about this. That is why they and their principles must be crushed.

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