If racist, misogynist, Islamophobe Roy Moore is elected to the Senate it will show the cumulative radicalisation of the American right is fully underway.
Source: The GuardianAt what point does corporate America start disinvesting in the Republican party? Not any time soon seems to be the answer. Having rushed a tax bill through the Senate that will deliver tens of billions in tax cuts to rich people and corporations, why should it bother the average business owner if the Republicans want to put an Islamophobe into the Senate to represent Alabama?
Roy Moore, who is expected to win Tuesday’s special election, hit the headlines after several women came forward to allege that he had sexually assaulted them in the 1970s while they were in their teens. Moore denies this, saying the accusations are a conspiracy by “lesbians, gays, bisexuals and socialists” – a claim made from the pulpit of an evangelical church. He has refused to debate with his Democratic party opponent on the grounds that he has supported transgender rights. After the allegations surfaced, 37% of white evangelical voters in the state said it made them more likely to support Moore.
Although the Republican Senate leader, Mitch McConnell, called for Moore to stand down, Donald Trump has supported him. Ousted strategist Steve Bannon, previously executive chairman of controversial rightwing news site Breitbart, has harangued rallies in Moore’s support. But the core activists supporting Moore come from networks including the League of the South – a white nationalist group that wants to re-form the Confederacy – and extreme anti-abortion activists who justify killing medics who work at abortion clinics.
What matters to these people is not only defeating the Democrats – it is widening the scope for defying rights for women and minorities guaranteed at a federal level. Moore has been twice suspended as chief justice of Alabama for refusing to implement parts of the US Constitution – in 2003 by defying a federal court order to remove a religious monument from the state courthouse; and in 2016 for defying a supreme court ruling that legalised same-sex marriage. Despite the massive reputational hit to the party if Moore is elected to the Senate, the Republican National Committee has endorsed him.
If you breathed a sigh of relief when Bannon and a slew of crazed rightwingers were expelled from the White House in August, Moore’s likely win should be making your stomach churn once more with fear.
What is happening to the Republicans under Trump is a process whereby the base radicalises the establishment, and the establishment then feels empowered to begin dismantling aspects of democracy. Moore has stated that the last time the US was great was “at the time when families were united – even though we had slavery” – although not the families of black people, which were, of course, torn apart.
However, the historical parallels are more recent. In his study of the rise of Nazism and the fall of the Weimar republic, the leftwing German historian Hans Mommsen identified three destabilisers defying the textbook explanation that “Nazis were evil and the German bourgeoisie naive”.
The first was the rise of conservative paramilitary combat leagues, numbering at least 400,000 before the Nazi brownshirts took off. Although their aim was always declared to be keeping order, the combat leagues created a paralysis in the official policing structures that the Nazis exploited in their march to power. The second was the corruption of the judiciary. In a series of court cases, most notably when they upheld the libellous charge that the moderate socialist leader Friedrich Ebert had committed treason, the German courts eviscerated the republican constitution on which Weimar democracy had been based. The third destabiliser was the resort to rule by decree under conservative chancellors after 1930, sidelining the elected parliament – again with the approval of the courts.
Following this process through the collapse of Weimar democracy, the Nazi years in power and the Holocaust, Mommsen dubbed it “cumulative radicalisation”. Far from exhibiting naivety, the German business class became increasingly complicit in hollowing out parliamentary democracy, always under the pressure of a radical, plebeian, racist voting base.
It is hard to look at the US today without seeing the cumulative radicalisation of the right: there are militias – not just of the classic gun-toting variety, but regimented groups of younger, more urbanised men, mobilised via internet message boards devoted to violent misogyny and racism, such as the Proud Boys. There are figures such as Moore prepared to defy the constitution, and a network of more than 200 law enforcers in the “constitutional sheriffs” movement – which claims that an elected local sheriff should be able to overrule federal law.
And now we have the beginnings of rule by diktat, not only in the frequent presidential decrees and arbitrary sackings of officials by the White House, but in Congress itself. The Republicans sprang a massive and detailed amendment to the tax bill just a few hours before it was due to be voted on. Trump’s Treasury secretary, Steve Mnuchin, has offered scant analysis of the effects on debt or distribution arising from the new tax bill and deleted a study from the Treasury website that was implicitly critical. The normal processes of democracy are being short-circuited.
A victory for Moore on Tuesday will up the tempo of rightwing radicalisation. Nobody needs to say that a new secession by the south, as his backers want, is impossible, or that a US run by local sheriffs in defiance of the federal courts is a neofascist fantasy. These are signifiers for a more practical programme of tolerance for racist policing, limits on abortion rights and the shrinkage of the state.
There is not a single major company in the US whose material interest aligns with the political programme of Moore, not even Koch Industries, which has bankrolled the Tea Party movement, nor Rupert Murdoch’s Fox Corporation, which has boosted the rightwing agenda. In most global corporations, the language Moore and his supporters use could not even be uttered in the restrooms, let alone the boardroom.
Yet US business carries on giving money to the Republicans – and receiving its rewards twenty-fold in the form of tax giveaways. It is an implicit deal that does not seem to trouble the well-heeled, coastal conservative elite enough to make them do anything other than signal distaste. Unfortunately, distaste does not uphold the rule of law, nor keep ethnic supremacists in check.
Raoul Peck’s chilling James Baldwin documentary, I Am Not Your Negro, features original footage of swastika-toting white youths in southern states during protests against desegregation in the 50s. Young people I’ve discussed it with professed astonishment that, so soon after the second world war, Americans could publicly fly the Nazi symbol. Now at least we know what all those lean, button-collared white Nazis from Alabama in the 50s went on to do. Half a lifetime later, a man they believe shares their values could get into the Senate.
This book by Neil Faulkner and Sam Dathi is an urgent call to arms. It argues that the film of the 1930s is running in slow motion, and that we face the clear and present danger of ‘creeping fascism’.