Republican Extremism: 5 Arguments Democrats Can Make to Defeat It
“When Republicans retake control of Congress in November.”
This prediction — nay, foregone conclusion — dominates way too much air-time and column-space. We have been hearing it for months now. But: Don’t count those ballots before they are cast. Democrats have only begun to fight (right, Democrats?). And that fight will yield so much more if we fight smart (not always the Democrats’ way).
For there is a theme to Republican politics of late — their extremism — that dictates the campaign strategy for Democrats. GOP extremism in myriad spheres is wrecking American democracy. Forsaking logic, Republicans now “think” via conspiracy theory. In thrall in astonishing numbers to the proto-autocrat Donald Trump, waging scorched-earth warfare against the “wienie Dems,” Republicans may thrill at a November takeover, because somehow their curdled politics poll well. But in their extremism, Republicans are brittle, they are vulnerable. In actuality, the GOP is one vast target-rich environment.
Winning over the Independent vote is key. Independents now comprise almost half — repeat: almost half — the electorate, while Democrats and Republicans split the difference. Since Independents presumably choose independence from the two major parties precisely because they eschew extremism of both the far-right and far-left, an anti-extremist campaign that is rational in both substance and delivery will have innate appeal.
Inflation will loom large in November. Fighting inflation and fighting extremism — a double-barreled campaign — can both win and, victory secured, set us on a more solid path, back toward normal. Repetition of the verb “fight” will inspire Democrats, also young people who want to see more of it: fight from the Dems. So, starting with the most recent GOP outrage, here are five arguments Dems can take against Republicans at all levels of the electoral battleground. All five will also appeal to the youth.
How “extreme”? Because the far-right Supreme Court’s recent ruling striking down Roe v. Wade, the right to abortion, goes against a solid and unchanging majority of the American public that approves abortion with restrictions.
Post-Roe, some red states are now enacting punitive measures — jailing women for abortions, criminalizing miscarriages as abortion, charging their abortion providers. Already, we see a 10-year-old rape victim forced to leave her home state (Ohio) because it does not allow abortion for rape and go to a state (Indiana) allowing it; the far-right cried “fake news” — until the rapist confessed. With a resounding No in November, the public can weigh in on this horrific new reality. If enough new Democrats are elected to Congress, abortion can be codified into law. As I argued earlier, campaigning for abortion with restrictions — legal in the first trimester, with allowances for rape, incest, and the life of the mother — is a winner: It appeals to non-extremist Independents and aligns exactly with that solid and unchanging public opinion. Young women will see their future in this appeal, because: If Republicans retake Congress, they could federalize the ban on abortion. And men who sympathize with women losing a Constitutional right: Gentlemen, you need to speak out.
How “extreme”? Because, again, the far-right Supreme Court’s recent ruling making guns more available than ever — allowing military-grade weapons, open carry, 24/7 — again goes against a solid and unchanging majority of public opinion that wants restrictions.
Especially at a time when mass shootings are accelerating — Buffalo, Uvalde, Highland Park — opening the arsenal even wider is suicidal. And let’s talk about the infanticide here, in regard to abortion and guns: Republicans claim to sanctify the unborn fetus, yet are seemingly O.K. when that fetus, once born and become a child, is gunned down by someone exercising his unregulated Second Amendment rights. This is a firecracker formulation, I know, but what part is invalid? And why shouldn’t Democrats connect these tragic dots? Dems must make the most vivid case possible — make use of imagery— to pierce closed minds. And responsible gun-owners must help. Meanwhile, GOP politicians are airing ads showing them in camo, taking their shots (“defending freedom”), upping the violent rhetoric. These same GOP pols are being noticeably quiet about the recent Court rulings on guns and abortion: They know they can be painted as extremist. Democrats should oblige them.
Three: EXTREMIST COURTS
How “extreme”? It is extremist courts, notably and astonishingly the Supreme Court, that is enacting extremist rulings — see again: abortion, guns — which rulings impact our lives in every way.
In another recent ruling, the far-right Supreme Court restricted federal authority to regulate business activity, specifically carbon emissions, consigning us — young people, are you listening? — to a dystopian future. Ominously, this fall the Court takes up election systems, likely locking in the fixes that Republican legislators are engineering in the states to ensure minority rule. And, abortion not enough, look to Justice Clarence Thomas acting on other threats to privacy (gay marriage, contraception). In sum, this Supreme Court, pinnacle of our legal system, has gone wildly extreme, even radical: dumping stare decisis or precedent (abortion), ruling without technical expertise (emissions) or regard for public safety (guns), all benchmarks of jurisprudence — until now. So much for liberal justices being “activist”! And note justices Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett misled under oath about honoring precedent. (Per FactCheck.org, all three acknowledged Roe as precedent, but “none specifically committed to refusing to consider overturning it.” Neat.) This radical and extreme Supreme Court can only be stopped at the ballot box: Vote Democrat up and down the ticket.
How “extreme”? Once the most fervent flag-waving defenders of American democracy, Republicans have, in their desperation to retain power, turned comprehensively anti-democratic.
Ever since Donald Trump ascended the White House in 2017, this American “president” (scare-quotes intended) and his fellow Republicans systematically dismantled the norms and institutions of American democracy, with Republicans obeisantly carrying on their master’s big lie, after he vacated office, that his re-election was “stolen.” The crimes are too many to list here, but over time they built to this post-election climax: On January 6, 2021, Trump incited a mob on the U.S. Capitol in an attempted coup, an insurrection, to overturn the victor’s electoral count. If Trump had succeeded, American democracy would be no more, a banana republic spawned in its place, where “elections” are “held” and “votes” are “counted.” In our weakened, post-insurrection state now, death threats are regularly made against legislators and election officials who defy Trump’s demands. Armed militia “stand by,” per Trump’s order. This descent to anti-democracy is laid out vividly and powerfully in the ongoing January 6 hearings. To reverse course, turnout in November must be massive. Young people, who polls show care about climate change and democracy: Vote!
Five: CULTURE WARS
How “extreme”? To distract from their political (anti-democratic) machinations, Republicans inflate and inflame the cultural divisions in the electorate, to an absurd — and dangerous — degree.
“Politically correct” was for years the Republican epithet for anyone enlightened about racism, sexism, immigrants, etc. Now the epithet is “woke”: To be “woke” is not only to be so enlightened, but also to hate America. Going extreme, Republicans took a good thing — humanist enlightenment — and made it an insult; instead they’re “awake, not woke.” And they have theories to back up their “anti-woke” stance: CRT (Critical Race Theory) “proves” liberals want white Americans to feel guilty about America’s Original Sin of slavery, starting by brainwashing schoolchildren; GRT (Great Replacement Theory) posits nonwhite immigrants will replace White America, which “woke” liberals welcome because they gain new voters. Mounting a campaign against this bilge is hard, but, because the entire GOP now spouts it, argument must be made, and can be, point by point — for example: “Politician X, who’s proud of his/her racism….” Skewer first, then redirect to GOP extremism.
These arguments — on abortion, guns, extremist courts, anti-democracy, culture wars — strike at Republicans’ weakest points, where their extremism and, frankly, their anti-Americanism lie masked (barely). Conversely, these arguments resonate with passionate feeling among Democrats. Pursued with passion, these arguments can rebuild American Democracy, for as is clear to all (but Republicans), Democrats are the true small-d democrats of the electorate.
Thus, campaigning for abortion, Democrats can work toward reinstating a Constitutional right for women. Campaigning against guns, Democrats can bolster public safety. Campaigning against extremist courts, Democrats can temper the omni-impactful reach of the law. Campaigning against the anti-democratic GOP, Democrats can rebuild American Democracy norm by norm, institution by institution. Campaigning against the GOP’s phony culture wars, Democrats can redefine who we are as Americans, priming us to achieve our beautiful foundational ideals never yet achieved.
So, Democrats: Ready, aim, argue! Make America great — finally.