We are in for “some of the worst attacks on the rule of law this country has ever seen,” Democratic Rep. Don Beyer warns Greg Sargent.
In a sane country with two real legitimate political parties, this would seem hyperbolic. Indeed, it still does – unless you’ve been looking under the hood for a while. If you’ve been looking under the hood at the Republican Party as CPAC hosts Viktor Orbán in its ever increasing efforts to bring about further decline in the democratic characteristics of a political system, you should know there is not a bottom in sight.
Orbán achieved what is referred to as “soft fascism” in Hungary by using the same mechanisms Republicans are using in the United States. That’s not an accident, because the dictator gave conservatives a 12 point plan to enact even more democratic backsliding in the U.S. and in the doing, consolidate power. It’s done by changing the law and then using it to steal power, rather than by overt violence or force. Our Supreme Court has already done this in some major ways.
Thus, the warning about what Republicans will do after getting power after the upcoming midterms, which seem likely to hand the House to them, should hold more water. This is not just election cycle propaganda. In fact, it’s more likely that this is the tip of the iceberg. But let’s get to it.
Greg Sargent at the Washington Post wrote on Monday, “While many have noted that a GOP House could stage phony Benghazi-like hearings, there’s another possibility: using specific parliamentary tools to, in essence, defund the investigators.”
Democrats tell him they are preparing for a “worst-case scenario,” the “specifics of this show that the GOP rallying around Trump right now could have appalling real-world consequences later.”
Let’s pause here for a moment. The Republican Party is not running away from their leader, who is right now under investigation for possible violation of the Espionage Act. His alleged theft of top secret and very sensitive documents that should only be looked at and even spoken about in a SCIF has potentially put us all in what is termed “grave danger” — and this is not used lightly.
So this is not, as people say these days, your grandparents’ Republican Party. This isn’t the obstructionists of the now relatively cozy and collegiate Boehner days when they held the government hostage over holidays on the regular. This isn’t even the party of Nixon.
This party runs toward the criminal. It embraces it. It is emboldening itself to assert that only Republicans can determine what is legal and what is not legal, and that is a play right out of Orban’s how-to-take-over-a-democracy book. So this is with whom we are dealing. (This is why I warned before the first impeachment of Donald Trump that Senate Republicans would not convict; they are not the Republicans of Nixon’s era.)
Sargent writes, “Rep. Don Beyer (D-Va.), for example, has been looking at ways Republicans might attack the salaries of law enforcement officials deemed enemies of Trump:
“They want to ensure that Trump is above the law,” Beyer told me in a statement, noting that he expects a GOP House to coalesce around the position that anyone in law enforcement “who poses a threat to Trump must be deterred, blocked, punished, or fired.”
And how would they do this?
Beyer points out that a GOP House majority could reinstate the so-called Holman Rule. This obscure rule — which Republicans revived last time they held the majority, until the Democratic majority ended it — would allow Republicans to use spending bills to try to slash the salary of specific federal officials or eliminate blocks of federal employees, and thus specific programs.
Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (Md.) told Sargent they will “use the levers of government to target, harass, and defund.”
We here at PoliticusUSA suspect this happened to us under Trump, as we were audited with a “fishing” expedition type audit not based on any red flag, not once – but twice. The odds of that happening by chance are almost improbable.
That is an easy way to target “enemies” and “opponents” because it’s costly, stressful, and time-consuming for the target. The Trump IRS managed to audit James Comey and Andrew G. McCabe for a rare type of audit, the NYT reports, “The odds of being selected for that audit in any given year are tiny — out of nearly 153 million individual returns filed for 2017, for example, the I.R.S. targeted about 5,000, or roughly one out of 30,600.”
They are certainly not shy about abusing power. So while there might be big hurdles to overcome for Republicans to do as these Democrats are warning, it would be naive to pretend that is an obstacle for them. If the hurdles are big, they move the goal post. Norms mean nothing, now. Relying upon them is dangerous.
If there is one thing we should all have learned by now, it’s that Republicans will usually find a way to do what they want; legal, traditional or ethical concerns won’t pose much of a burden. The only real principle guiding the current GOP is to grab power, use it harm opponents and consolidate power, and grab more power. They are dedicated to the autocratization of our country, which has already slid down on the Freedom Scale. We get an 83/100 on the scale by Freedom House because:
“However, in recent years its democratic institutions have suffered erosion, as reflected in rising political polarization and extremism, partisan pressure on the electoral process, bias and dysfunction in the criminal justice system, harmful policies on immigration and asylum seekers, and growing disparities in wealth, economic opportunity, and political influence.”
Those are basically modern day Republican values. Republican values are anti-freedom and anti-democracy.
But there is an even larger threat here, and that is to the entire power of western democracy. If Republicans win the House in 2022, they will have a lot of authority to abuse and misuse, with the overall purpose being to assert the right to have all of the power in this country, and not for the purpose of passing legislation that is good for everyday people.
What is their goal? Why have they fallen so low as to embrace a man who has put our country in danger more than once, and who has now put a target on FBI agents? What could be so enthralling that it would compel so many of them to basically spit on their flag pins?
The answer to that question is one that we should ponder, while making sure we are registering people to vote and talking to our friends and family about what is at stake. Don’t look away from the danger, but don’t let it paralyze you either. The people do still have the power here, in the form of their vote. Use it or lose it.
With our votes, we have the power to push toward democratic consolidation of our young country.
Ms. Jones is the co-founder/ editor-in-chief of PoliticusUSA and a member of the White House press pool.
Sarah hosts Politicus News and co-hosts Politicus Radio. Her analysis has been featured on several national radio, television news programs and talk shows, and print outlets including Stateside with David Shuster, as well as The Washington Post, The Atlantic Wire, CNN, MSNBC, The Week, The Hollywood Reporter, and more.
Sarah is a member of the Society of Professional Journalists.