Unity needed to win post-election fights against GOP obstruction
A diverse crowd rallies to defend the vote count against Trump protesters outside the Pennsylvania Convention Center in Philadelphia, Nov. 8, 2020, a day after the 2020 election was called for Democrat Biden. The unity the defeated Trump is going to be needed in the post-election period as the GOP seeks to obstruct the incoming administration. | Tebecca Blackwell / AP

As a nation, we’ve arrived at what some call an “inflection” point. We face immense, overlapping, and intersecting economic, social, and inequality crises, as well as a climate emergency. The COVID-19 pandemic intensifies all of them. To address them and the ongoing threat to democracy, the broad and diverse coalition of forces and voting blocs that elected Joe Biden and Kamala Harris must remain united against fierce GOP resistance.

The 2020 elections mostly boiled down to a contest between two distinct visions for the future, or what Rev. William Barber of the Poor People’s Campaign calls “a struggle for the heart and soul of the nation for years to come.”

One vision is a multiracial, multiethnic, multicultural, gender diverse society; a political and economic democracy based on peace and environmental sustainability; and government for the common good.

Members of the white supremacist Proud Boys group rally along with supporters of President Donald Trump in a march on Nov. 14, 2020, in Washington. | Jacquelyn Martin / AP

The other is a restoration of the past; an authoritarian, fascist-oriented, theocracy based on Christian nationalism, white supremacy, patriarchy, intolerance, great-power chauvinism, and militarism. It would be built on extreme anti-communism, a climate dystopia, and government in the service of corporations.

Under the most challenging circumstances imaginable, Biden and Harris’s election stayed the immediate threat to democracy. Democratic institutions, beginning with voting rights, under extreme assault by Trump and the GOP, proved resilient. Mass resistance (including, for example, postal workers) and a voter upsurge—particularly by African-American, Latinx, Indigenous, Asian-American, women, and young voters—fortified them. The more significant voter suppression, the greater became the determination to vote.

Voters removed Trump and his criminal gang’s hands from the levers of government used to carry out so much destruction, law-breaking, corruption, and dismantlement of government itself. Hatemongering and calls for violence will no longer emanate from the White House come Jan. 20th, nor will retweets of fascists and white supremacists.

Voters rightfully expect Biden and Harris to undo this damage, rebuild government institutions for the benefit of people’s daily lives, and address climate change. The incoming administration will have the platform to marshal public opinion and promote unity in our racially diverse country, and many want to see them use it. Voters expect the new administration to end the cruelty of family separation, caged children, and the terror of deportation facing 11 million undocumented people.

How far the new administration goes depends on GOP obstruction, its ability to mobilize mass public support, and the activism of the organized labor and democratic movements on various issues, particularly building infrastructure in areas of Republican control.

The danger to democracy will persist so long as the extreme right is not soundly repudiated, its support base eroded, and the influence of right-wing propaganda and racism upon tens of millions of Americans, especially whites, is blunted.

Besides, during the pandemic, economic and social processes already underway have accelerated, chiefly the concentration of wealth and racial inequality. The combined wealth of America’s 650 billionaires increased by one-third since March to $4 trillion, while food lines “stretch as far as the eye can see,” increasing the threat to democracy.

Post-election terrain

Opposing sets of alliances and movements are locked in battle on a new post-election political terrain. The Biden administration will set the agenda, and most expect the GOP to attempt obstruction, beginning with the cabinet nominees. In addition to the Democratic retention of the U.S. House, Biden’s ability to govern rests on Democratic control of the Senate and the two Georgia Senate runoffs’ outcome.

Additionally, the GOP still controls 61 of 98 state legislative chambers, 26 governorships, and large swaths of the judicial system. It amplifies its influence through a vast propaganda media ecosystem. Because of the right wing’s propagation of mass disinformation, 88% of Republican voters think the election was unfair, or that Biden-Harris stole it with a massive vote by mail fraud. Of course, there is not a shred of evidence for such lies.

The massive voter turnout for Biden-Harris and the durability of laws and democratic norms and sentiments blocked Trump’s coup attempt, stupid as it was. But GOP officials abetted it with silence or support, including the wild conspiracy theories and calls for violence. At the very least, they’ve achieved the goal of convincing a significant section of the American people that the Biden administration is illegitimate. This will no doubt hamper Biden’s ability to govern.

And future would-be autocrats now have the precedent of Trump’s violations of constitutional law and breaches of democratic norms. They have a roadmap to overturn a closely contested election with weakened democratic structures.

Armed fascist militias, emboldened by Trump, roam the land, targeting elected officials and public workers for death and committing racist, anti-Semitic, and other acts of violence. Proud Boys and other fascists attack protesters, and fascist chatrooms hum with activity promoting more violence.

Given these circumstances, the battles ahead require even greater unity of the coalition of democratic forces allied with the Democratic Party, which mobilized the historic voter turnout, now exceeding 80 million votes, that defeated Trump. Differences within the coalition are inevitable, including opposition to administration policies when warranted. But efforts to resolve differences and maintain and expand unity should be at the forefront.

Trump and GOP racism

Trump turned out over 74 million voters with targeted appeals to different voting blocs.

No appeal was more potent at “juicing” turnout than racism and the Trump campaign’s efforts to micro-target infrequent white voters.

These appeals included ramping up fear of a radical socialist takeover and declaring Democrats would dissolve police departments, thus leading to chaos, looting, burning, and the supposed destruction of the suburbs. The latter two are direct racist appeals. It’s debatable whether Biden and Democrats responded effectively enough to these lies.

No one should be surprised at Republicans’ overt reliance on racism since it is the foundation of the modern GOP. For 50 years, the party has exploited white backlash to the Voting Rights Act of 1965, as seen in Nixon’s Southern Strategy in 1968, Trump’s election in 2016, and GOP maneuvers to win or hold onto power across the country. To maintain control in the face of changing racial demographics, Trump, the GOP, and their corporate backers scheme together to divide the multi-racial working class because “a house divided against itself cannot stand.”

Supporters of President Donald Trump rally in Beverly Hills, Calif., Nov. 7, 2020. Poll showing the anti-communist and racist voter fraud lies of the Trump campaign are believed by large numbers of Republican voters. | Ringo H.W. Chiu / AP

Trump successfully exploited the economic distress, including from deindustrialization, experienced by broad sections of white working people with racist scapegoating. He and the GOP stoked anger, fear, and perceptions of a loss of racial advantage in a rapidly changing world. The influence of racism dehumanizes and robs people of empathy. It numbed many whites to the actual political (voter suppression), economic, and physical violence against African Americans and people of color. They then directed those feelings by many white workers against their working-class Black, Brown, and immigrant sisters and brothers, rather than at the right wing and corporate backers.

But that’s not all.

Trump stoked white and Evangelical anxieties over broad racial demographic changes; equality demands around race, ethnicity, gender, sexual orientation, and gender identity; and the growing secularization of society. “Make America Great Again” was a thinly disguised call to restore the myth of a white America, especially unchallenged white male supremacy. Much of the deep political polarization and 74 million votes cast for Trump reflect resistance to a new multi-racial democracy struggling to be born. The growth of armed militias and domestic white supremacist terrorists are the most extreme manifestation of the GOP’s fear campaign.

U.S. democracy—limited, fragile, and fraught with class, racial, and gender inequalities—is vulnerable as long as a substantial swath of white Americans remains under the sway of toxic racism, misogyny, and other right-wing ideas. Too many whites still adopt the illusion of superiority, a future connected with white racial identity, including the white capitalist, instead of multi-racial democracy, where the entire racially diverse working-class advances together.

Consequently, racism prevents class consciousness’s growth, and disunity weakens the entire multi-racial working class as a leading political force. Racism prevents the multi-racial working class from carrying out its historic mission to liberate humanity from capitalist exploitation. Also weakened are alliances with other critical democratic allies in the fight to win and shape the new multi-racial democracy. The cost is staggering.

The GOP’s fascist trajectory

Long before Trump, the GOP was on a trajectory of authoritarianism and fascism, with its embrace of white supremacy, misogyny, fascist networks, and armed militias. In fact, the party paved the way for Trump. The racist backlash to President Barack Obama’s election and the misogynistic backlash against advances for women’s equality embodied in the candidacy of Hilary Clinton only turbo-charged this trajectory.

From the beginning, Republican Senate leader Mitch McConnell famously vowed to make Obama a one-term president by all-out obstruction. Meanwhile, the Koch brothers astroturfed the Tea Party movement, creating a Frankenstein monster in the process.

In his new memoir, Obama characterized Trump as a uniquely disruptive force, but in policy indistinguishable from and an extension of GOP leaders John Boehner and Mitch McConnell. “They, too, understood that it didn’t matter whether what they said was true,” he writes. “The only difference between Trump’s style of politics and theirs was Trump’s lack of inhibition.”

The GOP mirrors the anti-democratic and right-wing extremist paths of nationalist and reactionary parties in Hungary, India, Poland, and Turkey. “The Republican Party in the U.S. has retreated from upholding democratic norms in recent years,” says Anna Lührmann, a political scientist at the University of Gothenburg in Sweden and a former member of the German parliament. “Its rhetoric is closer to authoritarian parties, such as AKP in Turkey and Fidesz in Hungary.”

The GOP’s sole aim is retaining power. Because they can no longer win national elections, Republicans have cast aside any “commitment to free and fair elections with multiple parties, the respectful treatment of political opponents, and the avoidance of violent rhetoric.”

It remains to be seen what life will be like without Trump. But the more the GOP appeals to a declining minority of the population, aggrieved white men, as the base of its party, the more it must turn to white supremacy, misogyny, and anti-democratic methods of voter suppression and gerrymandering to gain and retain power.

White Evangelicals’ outsized role

The GOP is an electoral alliance of sections of finance capital, white supremacists and fascists, social conservatives, religious fundamentalists, and Christian nationalists. White Evangelical voters have been a significant part of the GOP electoral alliance since the 1970s and continue to play an outsized role. The GOP appeals to them through white supremacy, patriarchy, and the decline of “white Christian” dominance.

White Evangelicals abandoned the Democratic Party after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, 1965 Voting Rights Act, and the Immigration and Nationality Act—the legislation which, as historian Jon Meacham argues, created modern U.S. society. Evangelicals then became a political force within the GOP beginning in the 1970s and accelerating with the rise of Ronald Reagan.

Christian nationalism is about power, white patriarchal power, making it an ideology of “nascent fascism” and a racially-coded dog whistle. Its “prosperity gospel” theology holds that God favors those who are wealthy—the corollary being, of course, that if you’re not wealthy, it’s your fault. They see Trump as a Messiah, a king, and a divine instrument.

White evangelicals made up 26% of the electorate in 2020, far more significant than their numbers in the population, and comprised 40% of Trump’s voters. While they are a declining share of the electorate, white Evangelicals over-performed massively in turnout. They will continue to have a decisive influence on the GOP for the foreseeable future.

Right-wing propaganda ecosystem

Most Trump voters think the “stolen election” is part of the “deep state” and a global Jewish conspiracy against Trump. They think COVID-19 is a hoax to bring Trump down, developed and spread by the Communist Party of China. They believe the climate crisis is fake, and radical socialists and communists control Biden, Harris, and Democrats.

Supporters of President Donald Trump pray during a rally for evangelical supporters at the King Jesus International Ministry church, Jan. 3, 2020, in Miami. | Lynne Sladky / AP

These irrational lies don’t come out of thin air. The real “fake news” is manufactured and pushed by a vast right-wing propaganda disinformation ecosystem 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Outlets like Fox News, Newsmax, Infowars, OAN, Sinclair Broadcasting, Breitbart, Bannon’s War Room podcast, and more are indoctrinating tens of millions of Americans.

Fascist internet chat rooms like 4Chan, QAnon conspiracy sites, and now the Parler social media platform push lies, which eventually migrate to right-wing propaganda outlets and Trump’s Twitter feed. The disinformation ecosystem amplifies the message and mobilizes pressure on GOP elected officials to remain in lockstep.

Democracy is in danger as long as this massive disinformation ecosystem exists because society operates in two realities, one with facts and one without. And when mass irrationality fuses with an authoritarian and fascist-aligned party like the GOP, it is downright dangerous.

The danger to democracy posed by the extreme right and political polarization and the struggle against it spans an entire era in U.S. history. In the face of this ongoing threat, defending the historic election victory, protecting and expanding democracy, advancing and shaping the Biden-Harris agenda, and even greater unity of the broad, diverse, democratic people’s coalition allied with the Democratic Party is needed.

As with all op-eds published by People’s World, this article reflects the opinions of its author.


John Bachtell
John Bachtell

John Bachtell is president of Long View Publishing Co., the publisher of People's World. He is active in electoral, labor, environmental, and social justice struggles. He grew up in Ohio, where he attended Antioch College in Yellow Springs. He currently lives in Chicago.