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Republicans Are Shooting Themselves in the Foot; Let’s not Provide them Crutches
How the Forces of Democracy Can Regain the Strategic Initiative
Republicans are increasingly overreaching, with counterproductive results. Operating from a unique combination of amorality, hubris, pride and ignorance, they will increasingly conduct actions that Democrats can exploit to regain the strategic initiative.
A few current examples of overreach include the initial support of Putin in his lawless war with Ukraine, the overtly racist and baseless opposition to Supreme Court nominee Judge Ketanji Brown Jackson, opposition to LGBTQ+ equal rights, the January 6 coup as well as the attempt to whitewash it, book burning, opposition to all forms of gun control amidst the unprecedented mass killings of citizens, pushback on Covid-19 mitigation measures, the terror group USEIP’s door-to-door intimidation of habitual Democratic voters, and overt support of White Christian Nationalists.
Unfortunately, unless they change their strategy, Democrats are more likely to toss Republicans a lifeline than go for the jugular.
Fighting Back. Progressives, supported by the press, can and must generate a Vietnam War-like opposition to the Republican-driven authoritarian takeover of the U.S.. This can be achieved by a broad coalition movement that artfully and aggressively leverages current and emergent Republican overreaches, as the Vietnam War opposition coalition did in response to the bombing of North Vietnam, the expansion of the war into Laos and Cambodia, the indiscriminate use of napalm and other defoliants, the corruption of the South Vietnamese government, the obscuring of battlefield realities, and the dissolution of our own military forces.
This effort would progress in phases, beginning with integration of the movement vanguard and the achievement of strategic awareness and understanding. The middle phase includes strategy development and the large-scale mobilization of the movement’s foot soldiers. The culminating phase is an anaconda-like disruption of business as usual in the U.S., including, most notably, economic disruption across strategically targeted sectors.
Why it can Work. The beauty of the mobilization of a large, standing coalition operating from an integrated strategy is that is really does not matter what specific actions Republicans take, what outrages their supporters commit, or what power moves the Supreme Court makes. Whatever happens, the coalition acts, quickly, massively, and with targeted economic and societal impact. The coalition would also proactively conduct civil actions to support critical planned events such as elections. As a result of balanced offensive and defensive actions, both the strategic calculus and momentum begin to shift. And the decision makers on the right will slowly come to realize that they started a war they cannot win except by losing everything.
We’re not starting from scratch in forming this coalition. Black Lives Matter, the Women’s Movement, Indivisible, Swing Left, America Votes, and dozens of other progressive organizations can and do mobilize strong numbers in support of their causes. And dozens of progressive organizations already came together in a temporary coalition -- Protect the Results -- to act jointly after the 2020 elections should it have become necessary. In fact, there is more positive sentiment, baseline movement capability and people mobilization in place to support the proposed democracy coalition than there ever was in the Vietnam antiwar movement. All that power though will need to be realized and focused because the right has learned a trick or two since then.
How we got here. Republicans have been experiencing an almost unbroken run of strategic success over the past 50 years, from the elimination of labor unions as a potent political force, to increasing wealth and income inequality, to the securing of ever-more safe seats at the local, state and national levels, to control of the Supreme Court, and from our perspective the worst of it — impunity from moral accountability and, in most cases, appropriate legal culpability.
As we forecasted, Democratic control of the White House and both Houses of Congress has done nothing to change the strategic equation -- has been in fact something akin to a battlefield ceasefire to allow both sides to extract their casualties.
Over that 50-year period, the battlefield has shifted from primarily national political races to a fight for long-term structural advantage enabled by: ruthless Republican exploitation of inadequacies in the Constitution; flaws in the national character; inadequate systems of justice; unchecked corruption; the right’s perfection of a system of impunity; information warfare; and the Democrats’ abject failure to mount a meaningful defense.
The combination of causes both creates and exacerbates a systems effect known as a vicious cycle – and all of this has been purposefully generated by a brilliant long-term strategy and limitless funding. Democratic strategy and press reporting indicate that this fact, which we noted three years ago, has still not been accepted by “the powers that be” on the left, and indicates to us that we must both continue to drive home this fact -- and tactically bypass those “powers” -- to have any hope of preventing the final collapse of American democracy.
There is some good news in this entire dynamic though. The vicious cycle generated by long-term Republican strategy is no longer totally within their control, and friendly fire casualties are becoming increasingly inevitable. Republican voters live shorter lives than Democrats, impacted by Covid, Opioids, and lifestyle diseases (sorry, this has to constitute “good news” at this point rather than something to be pitied – we are at war after all) -- and these numbers are significant at national levels. White Christian Nationalists and the like are increasingly exposing themselves to legal action through violence such that even our anemic justice system cannot be blind to. The Republican Party, goaded on by Trump and Fox News, continues to allow the DeSantises, Boeberts, Cawthorns, and Taylor-Greenes to represent them, and their transgressions are too “in-your-face” for Democrats to ignore.
So What? The afore-mentioned amorality, hubris, pride, and ignorance; the need to feed the disinformation machine with a steady stream of outrageous content; and the lack of meaningful political, legal and more constraint on authoritarian actions by American institutions and the public, will compel Republicans into increasingly norm-shattering political positions. It will in turn compel their supporters into ever-more spectacular acts of political theater and violence.
Republicans have heretofore been propelled forward by their asymmetric strategy, and protected by their insurgency-like approach. As they they emerge from their defensive foxholes to take victory laps, and adjust their strategy to exploit advantages, Republicans will be strategically over-exposed and vulnerable to counterattack for the first time in over fifty years.
Only a massive economic disruption and the threat of its game-changing continuation is sufficient to force Republican Party donors to change their ways, in turn forcing the Republican Party to reform itself, and driving the Democratic Party into meaningful action that compliments those of the proposed democracy coalition.
We do not come to this position lightly. Our first, and more traditional, prescription, advocated more than two years ago, involved the Democratic Party developing a new strategy. That still needs to happen, but it failed to act, and the window when such action could have been singularly decisive has closed. We are now left with but one realistic course of action — one that requires mass civil action and acts of personal courage and risk-taking, or we lose our democracy forever. As we repeatedly say, there ain’t no cavalry coming -- we are the cavalry.