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Notes from the US

Freedom’s long-running US correspondent Louis Further does his monthly roundup of some of the stories that have emerged over the last few weeks.

The ‘new’ US House of Representatives

Details of the concessions which Kevin McCarthy made to the far right of his party so that he would be elected Speaker of the House of Representatives ten days or so ago have yet to become clear; and their ramifications and import are only just now becoming obvious, if not surprising.

Indeed, the casual, slap-happy even, ways in which many of his colleagues have answered (media) inquiries with off-hand comments like, “Oh No, no kind of record was kept” are indicative of the fact that such political manoeuvring for private gain has of course taken precedence over any notion of public service.

It does seem likely, though, that the fascist and far right currents in the House now have far more power – both than they formerly did, and than they were likely to have had were it not for what one commentator called McCarthy’s “sweaty, desperate ambition“.

What media outlets decried as ‘extremism’ is not of greatest concern because ‘extremism’ is in the eye of the beholder. Far more concerning (though again, to be expected) is the lack of any semblance of a (legislative) programme which will even acknowledge – let alone address – climate collapse (nearly 500 people died last year from at least 18 major disasters costing over US$165bn (£136), according to the US government’s own figures); tackling the intolerance, fear and selfishness which actively promote inequality; homelessness; racism; poverty; inadequate public health and general freedom from want and instability. What is being called a ‘Vengeance House’ seems likely to undo as much of what some see as vaguely progressive legislation and to attack Democrats who sought to uphold some sort of decency in reaction to the conduct of Republicans over the last two years.

The make up of the (first) House committees – where a lot of the most important work takes place – has been decided this week and last. There are essentially three or four trends, appointments and re-arrangements of how things will work to watch: the allocation of personnel (House Representatives) to areas of interest; as yet unknown changes to House rules; and the disempowerment of bodies which (are supposed to) oversee members’ conduct and ethics.

There is also talk of the establishment of a new body to ‘investigate’ (which seems likely to mean bury or delay) the legitimate investigation into the crimes of such errant figures as former President Trump and Pennsylvanian congressperson Scott Perry, who has defied subpoenas and whose phone was recently seized as an item ‘of interest’ following various aspects of his misconduct and lying around the 2020 election pushed. In fact, there is a possibility that Perry may be seated on such a body (as, it is rumoured, may several other congresspeople who sought presidential pardons for their own crimes and dishonest acts). Thus they will be able to exonerate themselves.

That is the tone of the 118th Congress, the chief arbiter of law in one of the most powerful countries in the world.


Last month the federal trial of four members of the Oath Keepers fascist militia began. Opening arguments included plausible and credible accusations of seditious conspiracy on January 6 2021 – part of several plots to impede or stop the transfer of power from Donald Trump to Joe Biden as a result of the general election the previous year. In November (2022) Stewart Rhodes, the Oath Keepers’ leader, was convicted of similar such charges. Disturbingly, the Project on Government Oversight reported at the same time that more than 300 people listed as members of this militia have worked for the US Department of Homeland Security, where they operated with the Coast Guard, Border Patrol, ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) and even the Secret Service.


In the opinion of many fascist- and far right-watchers, Florida governor Ron DeSantis’ viciousness and malice make him potentially more destructive and frightening than Trump’s. Indeed, a recent poll suggests that DeSantis is more popular than Trump among Republican voters. In a move last month, for instance, the spiteful and malevolent Florida Republican began a process further to undermine confidence in vaccines designed to combat Covid-19 and hence save lives.

By the end of 2022 nearly a third of the country (more than 99 million) of all residents in the USA have contracted the disease and well over a million have died from it. Many of these deaths – experts have long believed – were and continue to be preventable. Yet DeSantis seeks to punish and disparage the makers of Covid vaccines by pursuing them in the courts.

There is no evidence that the companies supporting the vaccination are guilty of anything other than those faults to be expected from any (multinational) pharmaceutical company… making exorbitant profits, for example. Indeed, a recent study shows that vaccination has actually saved money. That is not what DeSantis is hoping to expose, though. Instead, his instruction to Florida’s Supreme Court is designed to question the very premise that such vaccines are without the kind of spurious and/or non-existent ‘side effects’ falsely claimed to be damaging to health by the far right propaganda outlets like Fox ‘News’ – or even whether the vaccines were necessary at all.

Last month was the tenth anniversary since the mass shooting at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut when a 20-year-old shot and killed 26 young children and adults. Factions on the right, of course, responded in the familiar ways. Fascist conspiracy theorist, Alex Jones, used his radio programme(s) and podcasts to falsely claim that the massacre was a ‘false flag’ operation by wicked communists out to deprive gun-loving Americans of their right to bear arms. This right, it should be noted, was written into the C18th constitution to allow European settlers to ‘protect’ themselves from unfamiliar wildlife. Recent court cases landed Jones with a total so far of nearly US$50m (£40m) in damages for his lies.

Perhaps most disturbingly, gun ownership by residents in the United States has risen by over a third to an estimated 75 million (or about a third of the US population) according to a recent survey by Harvard and Northeastern University, which also found that about half the population lives in a house which contains a gun. It is calculated that as many as 150 million – or over 40,000 every day – guns have been bought in the US since the Sandy Hook massacre.

Notes from the US has reported before on the revolting conduct of the governor of Texas, Greg Abbott, towards homeless, asylum seekers from Central America. In an almost unbelievable act of cruelty, potentially attempted murder, the racist sadist Abbott actually trafficked several bus loads of potential guest workers from his state’s border and dumped them on the streets in Washington DC without shelter, food or the necessary resources to survive (some were wearing little more than T-shirts) on one of the coldest nights in the region for 40 years: Christmas Eve.


The climate catastrophe is producing a colder than usual winter. Early rain and snow on the west coast is causing hardship in otherwise normally warmer areas. So of course the money spent on energy increases. But the energy companies are profiteering from this: the watchdog organisation, Accountable.US, released a new study last month indicating that, from January to September 2022, the nine largest utility companies in the United States made about US$14 billion (over £40m per day) in profits and paid their investors US$11 billion (nearly £9 billion) while almost 10% of households in the country are struggling to pay their utility bills.

Christian Nationalism

The United States nominally has a polity without any one state religion. Legally church and state are separate. Legislation enacted by the latter (locally and nationally) is not supposed to take the priorities of the former into consideration. Similarly, however beneficent might they be shown to be, the paradigms of the former, the church, must not influence programmes of the state.

More specifically, the First Amendment to the US constitution states that the legislature ‘…shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…’. This stricture is often quoted in the United States as sacrosanct when a body such as a school or library seems to veer too close to tying its purposes or practices to religious observance or doctrines, for example.

In recent years, though, increased insistence by pressure groups which identify themselves as ‘Christian Nationalist’ has challenged this principle. They seek – at various levels of public life – to assert that the United States is – and/or should remain – a Christian nation; that Christianity should be privileged by the state; and – worse – that the country must be (or become) a white Christian nation.

As is usually the case with such movements, double-think and lies masquerade as ‘ideology’.

Doug Mastriano, for instance, was the Republican party’s nominee for governor in Pennsylvania last November – an election which he lost. But he has more than once claimed that the separation of church and state is a ‘myth’. Similarly, the Republican gubernatorial nominee (who also lost) in Maryland was Dan Cox. He is on record as saying in support of his candidacy that it “…recognizes the creator…” and that “…we have rights that supersede government…” At the level of the House of Representatives, far right Lauren Boebert of Colorado has argued that “…the church is supposed to direct the government. The government is not supposed to direct the church…”. As is obvious from the above, neither of these is true. The infamous Marjorie Taylor Greene (Georgia) not so long ago said: “I’m a Christian and I say it proudly… We should be Christian nationalists.”

And a nation prepared to use violence to ‘defend’ itself from those who dispute such a move. Ron DeSantis, the governor of Florida, has said (quoting Ephesians) that it will be necessary to ‘…put on that full armour of God [against] the left’s schemes… You’ll be met with flaming arrows but the shield of faith will stop them.”

Again, as happens with such political movements, the more areas of (public) life they can infect, the stronger their adherents believe they are – and perhaps the more dangerous they really do become. Churchmen (and far fewer churchwomen) are increasingly using the pulpit to ‘advise’ their congregations on how they ought to view the political landscape; and so how they ought to vote.

In Phoenix, Arizona, for example, Pastor David MacLellan is part of the growing ‘Black Robe Regiment‘. This is really a propaganda organ to disinform its swallowers into thinking that they have a right – a duty, even – to purge the United States of all thought but white Christian thought. A supporter of QAnon and election liar, MacLellan makes claims of violence against anti-abortion groups, calls Jewish people “… a wealthy group of people who [don’t] believe in heaven or hell” yet who have “…political control over everything.”

To be clear, here are prominent national figures aggressively and unambiguously advocating that the United States should change its status and become an (exclusively) white, Christian nation.

Rhetoric? For sure. But rhetoric which is believed by many supporters of these figures; and language which can be identified in more odious and dangerous people like Putin. It’s also rhetoric which appears to be gaining influence. Politico last year found that a majority of Republicans and Republican voters (as well as some Democrats) accept the unconstitutionality of Christian Nationalism; but nevertheless want the US to be recognised as officially Christian and white.

More and more prominent figures in the civil service and orbit of the judiciary are openly espousing such views. For instance, text messages between Mark Meadows, former president Trump’s chief of staff, and Ginni Thomas, wife of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, explored ways to keep Trump in power after he lost the election in 2020. ‘… This is a fight of good versus evil… Evil always looks like the victor until the King of Kings triumphs,’ one text reads.

It also seems probable that many of those involved in the storming of the Capitol on January 6 2021 acted from similar convictions. Such ideas clearly also lie behind and underpin judicial rulings and state legislation to limit women’s access to healthcare by criminalising abortion. Steve Bannon makes no secret of the fact that uniting the right must include a huge dollop of the deceptive myths which provide Christian Nationalism with its superstructure.

Trump’s grip on his party may be weakening. His foul dogma appears not to be.

Louis Further

Image: Jennifer Parr, CC BY 2.0

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