Republicans seem hellbent on creating an autocracy. You’d have to be living in a cave somewhere not to be aware of just how brazenly they’ve been working on this project.
The usual tactics had been extreme gerrymandering and voter suppression. But now they’ve dialed it up to 11. Texas is making it hard to successfully register to vote and harder to cast absentee ballots. In Georgia, it will be illegal for someone to give voters a bottle of water to stay hydrated while they wait in line to cast their vote in one of the few polling stations in predominantly minority communities. Voter rolls are being aggressively purged and the procedures for getting your right to vote back are increasingly burdensome and often hard to discern. And, of course, they’re working to put partisan hacks in charge of their boards of elections so that if necessary Trump can find his 11,780 votes in Georgia. Those who control the voting machines ultimately call the vote.
But they are also hellbent on making life as miserable as possible for those who are not White Republicans. Certainly women are fair game, and our Supreme Court seems to be willing to look the other way while women are stripped of their rights because they are pregnant. Missouri is trying to make it illegal for anyone to help a women to go out of state to get an abortion and one legislator there has suggested the death penalty for doing so – now there’s a way to prove you are prolife. Utah won’t let transgender women play in school sports. Most red states don’t want students to be exposed to the reality that White people did a lot of bad things, like enslaved millions of people, because they might feel guilt and somehow that’s worse than their ignorance.
This will all culminate when they can tilt the Electoral College even more in their favor so that it becomes pretty much impossible not to have a Republican president. And so they hope it will go up and down our state and local governments so that they get to be in charge pretty much forever. It’s like The Outer Limits: “We are controlling transmission. We will control the horizontal. We will control the vertical.”
And yet recent world events should inform them that what they want to do is a very bad idea. Vladimir Putin is now a prime example of why an autocracy is a really bad idea. First of all, most of the rest of the world’s countries aren’t run by autocrats and when countries transcend major boundaries like invading sovereign republics, they cut them off. Second, autocrats or autocrat wannabees like Donald Trump think they know best, but they don’t. That’s because they aren’t living in the real world.
Putin has twenty two years as Russia’s de facto ruler and, like Trump, assumed he could do no wrong. In fact, it’s been twenty two years of people kissing his ass telling him what he wanted to hear. It’s been that many years of bribes and corruption and bleeding away state monies into the accounts of oligarchs. Putin had every expectation that his invasion of Ukraine would be a cakewalk because no one wanted to risk life and limb by telling him the truth. If you did, at best you were thrown in prison for ten years or so.
Rather than build great states, autocrats create fragile states. It’s not like this should be news. We’ve seen it repeated endlessly. Mao Zedong’s Cultural Revolution probably created two lost generations and, as is true of most of these endeavors, killed millions too. Hitler destroyed Germany not to mention much of Europe. Stalin killed uncounted millions as did the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia.
The shelf life of autocrats doesn’t tend to be very long and they tend to collapse when their great leader proves mortal like the rest of us. Also, the order and peace they try to bring proves to be an illusion, with state-sponsored oppression and terror generally happening instead.
If their autocratic dreams become real, it’s probably the worst thing that can happen to the Republican Party. It’s all based on an illusion that autocracy will make us safe and comfortable and somehow put us back on the right path.
The reality is the more we learn from the mistakes of our past, the likelier we are to build the checks and resilience to keep them from occurring. In their rush toward White Christian nationalism, they are explicitly choosing to unlearn the lessons of the American Revolution. Our founding fathers witnessed what happened in Europe when there was a state religion and wanted no part of the civil wars that ensued. They specifically disallowed the government from establishing a state religion. Slowly, over many decades, we made progress addressing many of the fundamental inequities in our system including the disenfranchisement of women and people of color, through democratic processes.
But now Republicans want to turn back the clock. Not allowing transgender women to participate in school sports is just the tip of the iceberg. Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) is fine with states disallowing mixed race marriages. Plenty of Republicans want to overturn the Supreme Court’s ruling allowing gay marriage too. Seven years ago, Republicans tried to end birthright citizenship because, you know, those illegals don’t deserve it and besides they’re not White. Their leading politicians would be happy to end food stamps, child tax credits, Section 8 housing vouchers, public schools, voting rights, and even the direct election of senators. The one tax they seem to be for is making blue states pay more in taxes by capping deductible property taxes.
Republicans probably think in their autocracy that we would all turn into sheep. Those with the money and talent will leave in droves to places where their freedoms are respected. Police are pretty good at busting heads but it’s unclear whether they would support an autocracy, particularly since police are subject to local control. The military are unlikely to do so, as about 40% are Black or Hispanic. It would likely unleash an insurrection, if not a civil war. I can see estates of wealthy people being burned down, for example. It won’t be panacea; it will make life worse for everyone but likely particularly for Republicans.
Democracies are hardly immune from becoming autocracies, but when properly organized they provide societal stability because vested interests are forced to work with each other. Unfortunately, the more we become an oligarchy (and we’re pretty much there now), the less our legislatures are filled with people that truly represent their interests.
If you want to see what America might look like as an autocracy, look at Russia today. We just need a higher level of corruption to hollow out our military too.