Against a fascist-dominated GOP, democracy needs every ally it can get
Activists from Fair Elections for New York, Black Voters Matter, and Workers Circle rally outside the United Nations Headquarters for federal voting rights legislation as President Joe Biden opened his global democracy summit, Dec. 9, 2021 in New York. | Andrew Kelly / AP Images for CPD Action

In extraordinary speeches marking the anniversary of the failed January 6th violent insurrection, President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris appealed to the American people: No one can sit on the sidelines; we must unite in defense of our democracy.

“I will stand in this breach. I will defend this nation, and I’ll allow no one to place a dagger at the throat of democracy,” declared Biden.

He and Harris called out Trump’s Big Lie that Democrats stole the 2020 election. They laid out the enormous stakes—fundamental democratic rights won over 250 years of struggle.

“The extremists who roamed these halls not only targeted the lives of elected leaders,” said Harris. “They were assaulting the institutions, the values, the ideals, that generations of Americans have marched, picketed, and shed blood to establish and defend.

“What’s at stake then and now is the right for us to have our future the way the Constitution prescribes it—by we the people, all the people.”

Indeed, the more the House Special Select Committee unearths about the failed coup (including in upcoming televised hearings), and the more the Republican Party destroys democratic institutions and rights from within while accommodating domestic terrorism, the more alarming the situation.

The assault on democracy by violent white supremacists and MAGA-fascists, backed by extreme right-wing billionaires, is ongoing. The GOP radicalization continues as the Trump-MAGA movement purges the party of all internal opposition, including state election officials who reject the Big Lie. MAGA supporters are terrorizing, liquidating, or taking over local government institutions that determine the mechanics of democracy. The right-wing propaganda and brainwashing media assault on the truth and GOP-dominated U.S. Supreme Court assault on democratic rights is constant.

As the New York Times warned in an editorial marking the insurrection anniversary, “January 6 is not in the past; it is every day.”

Pro-democracy majority

An alarm spreads across a broad political spectrum as the fascist danger grows. People are contemplating, in the words of Harris, “what our nation would look like if the forces who seek to dismantle our democracy are successful. The lawlessness, the violence, the chaos.”

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris leave the U.S. Capitol following their speeches in Statuary Hall marking the anniversary of the January 6th attack on the Capitol, Jan. 6, 2022. | Bill Clark CQ Roll Call via AP

While some conclude it’s too late or become overwhelmed with fear or cynicism, Biden and Harris’s call to fight and the promise to leverage the power of the administration are what millions want to hear.

What will it take to defeat this threat and defend democratic institutions and rights? Nothing less than the broadest alliance of major class and social forces and democratic movements and the active involvement of most Americans. This massive force, you could call it an anti-fascist front, is alive and growing.

The mass multi-racial, pro-democratic majority starts with the historic 2020 election victory and the 81 million people who voted for Biden and Harris and won razor-thin Democratic majorities in Congress.

“The election of 2020 was the greatest demonstration of democracy in the history of this country. More of you voted in that election than have ever voted in all of American history,” said Biden. “Over 150 million Americans voted that day, in a pandemic, some at great risk to their lives.”

Consequently, this broad pro-democracy majority alliance includes the Biden administration, the Democratic-majority Congress, including Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema, Democratic-controlled statehouses, and municipal governments.

The pro-democratic majority comprises major class, social, and democratic forces, including a majority of our multi-racial working class, organized labor, people of color, women, and the LGBTQ community, climate justice, immigrant rights, and other democratic movements.

But that’s only a start. A more expansive, unified, and energized grassroots pro-democratic majority is required. One that forges greater unity even while contending with differences, tensions, and contradictions between various class, political, and social forces.

Political dynamics occur on multiple levels. The multi-racial working class and people and mass democratic movements play a critical and growing role within this alliance. This mass democratic alliance is uniting around a broad people’s agenda of economic, racial, gender, and climate justice that includes voting rights legislation and the Build Back Better Act.

The penetration of white supremacy, white nationalism, misogyny, and xenophobia among substantial sections of mainly white working-class people and men, including within the trade union movement, are hampering higher levels of unity and engagement of this mass democratic force. These toxins have to be challenged and defeated.

Grounds for unity

But this mass democratic alliance is still not sufficient to defeat the fascist menace at a moment when democracy hangs in the balance. Broader and more flexible concepts of alliances are needed, along with tactics that seek out every possible division within the ranks of the right.

The pro-democratic majority alliance spans the political left and center. It includes academics, sports, cultural figures, substantial and critical sections of the U.S. capitalist class, major media outlets, opinion makers, and influencers. And it encompasses political currents on the right, including Republicans and independents committed to constitutional democracy. Growing this alliance and activating millions means finding the issues and concerns that form the broadest grounds for unity.

The mass democratic movement will continue fighting for advanced economic and political democracy, including radically reforming electoral democracy, expanding voting and other rights. But not all anti-fascist political forces are willing to go that far. And faced with an existential crisis of democracy, the pro-democratic majority must also seek unity with other potential anti-fascist allies or take advantage of divisions within the right-wing coalition to isolate the MAGA forces.

Just over 72% of Americans overall think the January 6th insurrection was an “assault on democracy,” and that includes 45% of the Republican subset. Even after around-the-clock lies and propaganda, 20% of GOP voters still think Biden was elected legitimately. These may be small percentages, but they represent millions of people.

The Lincoln Project, Rep. Liz Cheney, R-Wyo., Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., and some GOP officials on the state and local level have either resisted or broken with the MAGA movement that dominates the GOP. They reflect this extensive base and fissures within the GOP and right-wing coalition.

Let’s be clear. Democrats and the multi-racial mass democratic alliance disagree with most of this section of the GOP on nearly every issue, including support for the Freedom to Vote Act, the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act, and the Build Back Better Act. Their opposition to these bills is reprehensible, although as recently as 2006 reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed the Senate unanimously with GOP support, including 16 currently sitting GOP senators. But when faced with an existential crisis of constitutional democracy, even if you disagree on 99 of 100 issues, you still have to find that one issue of agreement.

Unlikely allies can find common ground rejecting the Big Lie and upholding U.S. constitutional democracy, despite its limitations and flaws, in the face of its extinction. Defense of independent elections and preventing election subversion, the right to vote, the peaceful transfer of power, the rule of law, and ending domestic terrorism form a broad basis of unity.

Strange bedfellows

Days before the January 6th insurrection, ten former Secretaries of Defense warned the military against involving itself in Trump machinations to overthrow the 2020 election results. They knew something nefarious was afoot among Trump acolytes and right-wing networks within the government, military, and security apparatus.

Violent protesters, loyal to then-President Donald Trump, storm the Capitol, Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021, in Washington. | John Minchillo / AP

Some of these former secretaries are responsible for carrying out some of the vilest criminal deeds of the last 50 years. But a mass movement in defense of democracy has to take advantage of whatever differences these forces have with the fascist-MAGA movement and their opposition to using the military to overthrow the U.S. Constitution.

Recently, three former senior military officials issued an unprecedented warning of potential danger if the MAGA-fascist movement continues making inroads into the military and state security apparatus. Many military veterans took part in the January 6th insurrection, and Trump and his cabal conspired but ultimately failed to enlist security forces in the service of the coup.

The former officials raised the specter of turmoil and chaos in the ranks if the MAGA forces seek to involve the military in overthrowing the 2024 election results should Trump run and lose. Unless society and government take steps now, these former officials warned, Trump and his criminal conspirators may succeed next time.

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley was similarly concerned. He took steps to secure nuclear weapons from Trump’s grasp after the 2020 elections and assured his Chinese military counterparts over the political instability roiling the U.S.

In another so-far unsubstantiated report, military officials refused to deploy Army troops to the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, not to ensure the insurrection succeeded but rather to thwart it. They feared Trump would declare a state of emergency and take command of those forces to carry out the coup.

Oliver Stone’s excellent new documentary, JFK Revisited: Through the Looking Glass, bares the enormous consequences when the extreme-right and fascists dominate the security apparatus. Former military and CIA officials were involved in the assassination of JFK, according to the film. That monstrous crime was one of many political assassinations and acts of repression carried out by these institutions or rogue elements within them, including the targeting of Patrice Lumumba, MLK, RFK, and continuing through to Fred Hampton and other Black Panthers.

Preventing military involvement in civilian affairs and isolating the fascist current within the armed forces and security apparatus is critical to preserving democracy. Therefore, the forces speaking out also comprise the broad pro-democratic majority upholding U.S. constitutional democracy.

Writing a different history

The danger to democracy, said Harris, stems from “some radical faction that may be newly resurgent but whose roots run old and deep” in U.S. history. Harris was referencing the slavocracy, a time when a system closely recalling the distinguishing features of 20th-century fascism reigned across the U.S. South.

But a pro-democratic, multi-racial alliance driving advances for worker’s rights, racial, gender, and climate justice has also shaped U.S. history. These forces comprise the core of today’s mass democratic movement to defend and extend democratic rights.

The challenge is to mobilize, activate, and energize this broad pro-democratic majority alliance and its grassroots expression—including in so-called red states and districts—to find common ground with every possible family member, co-worker, neighbor, and stranger to defend democracy.

The challenge is to affirm and defend democracy by mobilizing a massive voter turnout in the 2022 elections to block the GOP from regaining majorities in Congress and statehouses and oust them everywhere. Candidates defending U.S. constitutional democracy must be elected, including for school and library boards, for higher offices such as secretary of state and or state legislator, all the way to the U.S. House and Senate. A crushing defeat of MAGA insurrectionists and a larger Democratic majority in Congress can open a path for radically reforming democracy and expanding democratic rights.

Conventional wisdom says Democrats and their allies will suffer defeat in the 2022 mid-term elections. But faced with this unprecedented moment in U.S. and world history, conventional wisdom may not hold. The existential threat to democracy can inspire a historic voter turnout in defense of democracy. The pro-democratic majority can write a different history.


CONTRIBUTOR

John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He served as national chair of the Communist Party USA from 2014 to 2019. He is a regular writer for People's World, and active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, Pittsburgh, and Albuquerque and attended Antioch College. He currently lives in Chicago where he is an avid swimmer, cyclist, runner, and dabbler in guitar and occasional singer in a community chorus.

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