A vote for Republicans is a vote for fascism

Jason Benell lives in Des Moines with his wife and two children. He is a combat veteran, former city council candidate, and president of Iowa Atheists and Freethinkers.

For many, the current political climate seems to have taken a distinct turn. The media has been ablaze with U.S. Supreme Court decisions concerning the rights of kings—I mean presidents—in regard to the rule of law, as well as sweeping changes to how policy can be interpreted by different branches. The high court has also determined that prosecuting people for being homeless is not “cruel and unusual.”

Closer to home, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled that people with uteruses are not full citizens, and after six weeks of pregnancy no longer have the same rights that non-uterus-having folks still maintain to control their own bodies.

This may seem like an onslaught of bad news, or at least noteworthy and worth paying some attention to. For the first time, many are becoming a bit more carefully tuned-in to the goings on and the headlines now that democracy and basic human rights are at a serious risk of being eroded away. Yes, democracy is under threat and yes we should all be paying attention.

However, for those of us who are tuned in to what the political Right has wanted since its existence as a pro-monarchist political realm, it is so clearly not new, it was a long time coming, and it is genuinely and utterly at the feet of the Republican Party and those who support them.  

Behind every plea for “small government” there is a cadre of right-wing administrators less interested in access to the ballot box, food, or health care, than they are interested in access to the uteruses of our nation’s young people.

With every wave of the flag and rhetoric about peaceful transfers of power, behind these gestures lies a threat of insurrection backed by partisan gerrymandering and threats of violence against those who do not comply. 

Inside every court decision from right wing ideologues—appointed by presidents who never won the popular vote, another undemocratic staple of the U.S.—we see a form of legal Calvinball. The rules don’t have to make sense, and evidence or consequences do not matter. They must simply be issued by people purportedly beyond reproach or legal questioning.

In essence, this has been their goal the whole time, and it’s never been a secret. We can see the seeds with the “Southern strategy,” which attempted to win not with ideas or dialogue and more citizen engagement, but by playing on racial prejudice. We saw this with the Moral Majority, which was less interested in making things better for citizens as they were, but making specifically making white Christians feel better about themselves at the expense of other citizens.

More recently, the Swift Boating of John Kerry during the 2004 campaign (something found to be made up entirely) was tied directly to the Republican Party. That’s consistent with the right wing ideology of: “Our way at any cost, even if we have to lie about something we care about to do it.”

Even if that cost is democracy itself.

Which brings us to today and the U.S. Supreme Court’s rulings regarding presidential powers, the right to your own body, the right to have representation in Congress, and even the right of the executive or legislative branch to regulate commerce in any way. These are not new ideas, nor are they coming to us out of the blue. These are the fundamental goals of a right-wing, theocratic, monarchist world view that has a top-down approach to governance and culture.

Project 2025 has been used as a moniker for the plans of right-wing organizations to subvert the rule of law, or change it by fiat where they can, and install a theocratic monarchy that is answerable not to the American people, but to an all powerful executive that cannot even be investigated for wrongdoing. Such a move would lead to the end of democracy as we know it. That is the stated goal of one of this country’s major political parties, via their candidate for the highest office in the land. 

The time for “both-sidesism” has come and gone. This is not a Democrat problem. The Democratic Party has its problems, many of the same issues as the other major party. This is more a result of our political system than any few bad actors. Our election systems are old and stagnant, with first past the post voting and the inevitable two-party system that emerges from such a system.

We’re still citing laws from hundreds of years ago for things that were invented in the last 20 years, with no serious revision to how we do regulation and distribute governmental power. For some reason, there is still a legitimization of a bucolic yesteryear that depended on slave labor and disenfranchisement of women for our election cycles and electoral counting. We’re at a point where more than 90 percent of voters support certain initiatives, but because of our voting system—and the dishonest actors holding certain positions—such proposals don’t even come to the floor for debate.  

It should also be noted that “the right” doesn’t mean the Democratic Party is immune from these critiques. Some the worst actors on these grounds are Democrats; they can often cling to an outdated status quo that benefits their party. Such politicians depict their Republican rivals as loyal opposition, instead of acknowledging their efforts to sabotage the democratic process, as the Republican Party has continually done. Democrats can at times be willing to sacrifice democracy in the name of decorum. That approach needs to stop immediately when you’re not dealing with someone committed to democracy.

All of these factors help create a system that doesn’t represent the people it is supposed to represent. This is not a Libertarian problem. This is not even a Green or some other spoiler party problem, this is a Republican problem. I think it is time for all of us, our media, or culture, and even our leaders to start calling this what it is: fascism.  

It is not the fault of any major opposition party for losing a vote to fascists if the people who win are put there by folks who want fascism. That is the fault of voters who advocate for fascism. No longer can we say these folks are being bamboozled by a shiny new headline, or are just getting swept up in some kind of frenzy. The right has been telling us what they want since it was known as “the right”; we’re simply seeing the result of decades of work towards that goal.

When democracy, equality, secular government, and fair play aren’t on the list of things to be championed, but nationalism, theocracy, authoritarianism, and revisionist jingoistic history are, it is inevitable that the very structure they claim to support will become a casualty of their movement.  

The Republican Party’s actions continually demonstrate this point. There has never been an expansion of liberty, an expansion of democracy, or an expansion of the electorate and the word “citizen” that Republicans haven’t tried to undermine and demonize through dog whistles, legal end-runs around processes, or outright violence, as we see celebrated by these Republican groups today. Republicans don’t want to do government “differently.” They just want it either complicit with their pre-ordained theocratic goals or they want it gone entirely. That agenda is very different from what would emerge from a party seeking to represent a nation of diverse citizens.

All of us must be honest and clear-eyed about what it means to support a party that doesn’t support democracy. This isn’t pointing out this unpopular policy or that political gaffe. This is about supporting the continued existence of the United States and equal rights under a secular constitution. Folks who continue to support a fascist party should be held socially accountable for such support.

A vote for the Republican Party is a vote against equal rights under the law. It’s a vote against secular democracy. It’s a vote against the ability to have clean water and hold powerful entities to account. It’s a vote against the right to have a further vote. Voting for Republicans is, at this point, voting against democracy and voting for Christian Nationalist fascism, wrapped in an American flag, waving a shiny cross.

As Maya Angelou famously said, “when someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time.” We should apply that rule here. The GOP has been showing us who they are from their opposition to the Civil Rights Act to supporting fascist foreign governments and coups to actively working to undermine the democratic process on January 6, 2021 and beyond.

To demonstrate this point further, last month a sitting Supreme Court justice said, “One side or the other is going to win… it’s difficult, you know, because there are differences on fundamental things that can’t really be compromised.” That thing being democracy and the ability to have a secular constitution, two things key to the existence of a United States that has equal protection under the law.

Republicans have been telling us for the last 80 years that they don’t like equality, they don’t like democracy, they don’t like accountability, and they don’t like a diverse nation that has more freedom for all citizens. Rather than treating them as confused agents adrift on a media cycle, we should recognize that when they vote against the rights of women, the LGTBQ community, environmental and labor protections, against fair and open elections, and against the idea of having a president who isn’t a king: they vote how they mean, and they mean how they vote.

Maybe we should believe them and start treating them and their supporters as such.  

Our democracy may depend on it.

Top image: Crowd gathered near White House on November 6, 2020 to protest President Trump’s efforts to stop the vote count after the presidential election. Photo by grandbrothers, available via Shutterstock.

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