Freedom News

Notes from the US: GOP’s vexed relationship with the law

Louis further rounds up goings on across the pond.

Trump’s personal lawyer, former New York mayor Rudy Giuliani, deliberately failed last week to appear before the committee investigating the insurrection on January 6 last year – which was incited (and probably organised in part) by Trump. Giuliani made it clear that he had no intention of obeying the law which requires him to answer for his part in the killings and violence. Such a snub implicitly condones the idea that – when you can’t get the election result you want – it’s OK to try and overturn that election by force.

On the same day, far right liar and anti-Semite (see below) and supporter of the big lie (that Trump won the 2020 election), Marjorie Taylor-Greene, won a lawsuit brought against her for her part in promoting that lie and her involvement in the insurrection. Again, in law, such action debars and disqualifies her from (accepting) future nominations to congressional office. In neither case did the law – let alone what is right – prevail, or even matter.

The Republicans and their addicts are largely in favour of removing rights for women (and their partners) to what is good for them and their reproductive health. The leaked opinion of the Supreme Court strongly suggests that the Court will overturn Rove v Wade, the ruling which legalised abortion in the United States almost 50 years ago. The United States will then be in the company of some repressive regimes worldwide.

Last month four more states moved to pre-empt the Supreme Court’s decision by passing laws to criminalise and/or severely curtail access to abortion: Florida, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Tennessee. They include provisions for taxpayers’ money to be used for ‘bounty hunters’ who ‘report’ anyone seeking abortions.

Republicans in many states in the US are either already enacting, or planning to enact, legislation which will also remove LGBTQ+ rights, access to contraception, same sex marriage and – some have suggested – even ‘mixed’ (interracial) marriages. The likely outcome of a country without the legal right to abortion for wholly doctrinaire reasons – rather than ones of health – has been plotted in estimates like this one by the Guttmacher Institute.

Much of this would have been unthinkable as little as five years ago. But now half the political establishment in the United States is either tacitly or explicitly in favour of armed insurrection to ensure that a fascist demagogue retain power regardless of the actual votes cast in presidential elections. There is a strong likelihood that some of those who took part in the attempted coup last January will run for political (including congressional) office later this year. And fully a third of those polled in January this year believe that violence is justified so that Trump keeps or returns to power: it seems at times as though anything is now possible.

The ever regressive governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis continues to try and ensure that fascist legislators will gain and retain the necessary power to play their part in wrecking the planet and protecting their interests at the expense of everyone else. For instance, he recently signed into law a bill that sets up an ‘elections police force’. Aiming to promote the lie that the 2020 election was ‘stolen’ from Trump, the state bill establishes an ‘Office of Election Crimes and Security’. A couple of dozen new law enforcement employees (all likely to be Republicans) will ‘oversee’ what the right calls ‘election integrity’ to ensure that (Florida’s) voter suppression measures make a Republican victory more likely. Indefinitely.

Georgia Republican Governor, Brian Kemp, also signed a sheaf of bills to advance oppression and ignorance in the state’s public education system. Books which the élite considers ‘offensive’ must now be removed from school libraries. Discussion in the classroom of concepts which are – again – determined by the élite to be ‘divisive’ because they examine race is now prohibited in that state. A committee to ‘oversee’ athletic activities in schools there will exclude transgender children from secondary school sports. While on something of a roll of hatred, intolerance and suppression of those feared and despised by the minority, Kemp also signed a bill which introduces a flat rate for state income tax disproportionately to benefit wealthy Georgians.

Talking of ignorance, the Republican governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, has said that he wants to challenge a 40-year-old ruling (Plyler v. Doe) which affirms that all states in the country must offer free public education to all children.

Ludicrous racism

‘Notes from the US’ has also reported with increasing frequency and alarm on the intolerance, racism and bigotry which are behind the frighteningly larger and larger number of books now being censored in schools in the United States. In order to preserve white supremacy the Right has erected a rather silly fetish against ‘Critical Race Theory’ (CRT), a well established approach to North American history that acknowledges how – and to what extent – racism is built into society. Last month, in an extraordinary move which invites both parody and restraint by orderlies in white coats, the Florida Department of Education announced that no fewer than 41% of maths textbooks have been banned from next school year’s curriculum because – how is hard to fathom – they may obliquely promote the idea that all races deserve respect and equality of opportunity. Yes, you did read that correctly: mathematics text books.

The Florida Board of Education hasn’t been forthcoming in furnishing responses to inquiries for examples of banned books and the reasons for the censorship. In those books which have been obtained for examination, though, few examples have been found which could ever contravene criteria set up by even the most intolerant and bigoted of public officials like DeSantis. There were a few examples of statistics exercises, for example, which used black people as groups, say, more likely to suffer from sickle cell anaemia. But in normal times to ban books for material like that would make possible US presidential candidates in two years’ time look foolish. More disturbing is the case of one book, which commentators were able to obtain and examine closely: there the only conceivable cause for censorship was that one of the authors was black. Again, Yes, you have read that correctly.

Of course there is an element of playing to the fascist and ‘MAGA’ gallery with such stunts. But it’s likely that they will become law, just as the banning of discussions of pupils’ sexuality is now law in many states. And millions of schoolchildren in Florida will loose out.

Similarly dismissible as a stunt but disturbing nevertheless is Republican Congressperson from Georgia, Marjorie Taylor Greene’s, recent comment that “…Satan is controlling the [Catholic] church…” because of its support for migrants. Such ‘thoughts’ get widespread exposure in the media and must influence those who try to justify their (political and social) opinion by allowing views like this to confirm them.

Research convincingly suggests that a far right white and Christian supremacist organisation, the Alliance Defending Freedom (adflegal dot org) is intimately involved in a lot of this oppressive and intolerant legislation which is quietly but persistently going through (trumpy) states at the moment. Links to far right and fascist politicians such as Florida’s Ron DeSantis (adfmedia dot org/case/dn-v-desantis) and Texas’s Greg Abbott are not hard to uncover.

‘Notes from the US’ has drawn attention before to (Republican) politicians’ inability or unwillingness to respect races other than their own (white) by posting messages – often tweets – with images of the wrong (black) person… “They all look the same to me”. Last month Passover was celebrated at the same time as Easter. The governors of at least two states, Georgia and Iowa, tweeted messages and images which were (let’s hope unintentionally) offensive and/or inappropriate. One used a menorah, which is associated with Hanukkah, of course; another featured Rye bread (Hametz – the fermented products of five grains including rye), which is prohibited at Passover.

At the end of April the head of Oklahoma’s Republican Party called for the disestablishment of the federally recognised Muscogee Nation Native American reservation. This came after racist comments by another candidate for a US congressional seat, John Bennett. The latter also said that Anthony Fauci should be executed: “We’re in a war with bureaucrats that have [sic] forced vaccine mandates on us, mask mandates on us. And you know what? They’re pushing this wokeness confusion down our throats now. And by the way, we should try Anthony Fauci and put him in front of a firing squad.”

Environment forgotten

As might have been expected, Biden last month reneged on a major election ‘promise’. The administration announced that drilling for oil and gas will resume in the United States. Once again, leases will be for sale to drill for oil and gas on public lands. This move, of course, is completely contradictory to commitments on paper by the US to curb emissions from fossil fuels under the Paris Climate Accord.

Pandemic’s up

Cases of infection are rising again across the US – on some days recently almost as many as before the Omicron peak this last winter as public health measures are being prematurely abandoned everywhere and suppressed or resisted by deniers. Evidence continues to emerge of the ways in which the (far) right undermined such measures and continues to work against them for reasons of dogma and actual social control – as opposed to those who scream against masks and vaccines as an affront to their ‘freedoms’. Unsurprisingly, the notorious Koch network has been playing a large part in this death cult.

~ Louis Further