Unfortunately, He’s Right About the Right

There was a story yesterday about a Missouri “legislator” introducing a bill to punish anybody who took their child out of state for gender-related treatment. Paul Waldman of The Washington Post says it’s only going to get worse:

If you thought the abortion vigilante law Texas Republicans passed last year was the most appalling abuse of legislative power you’d ever seen, I have some bad news for you.

That law was a wake-up call, not to Democrats — who seem to have done almost nothing in response — but to Republicans across the country. It said to them, We don’t have to hold back anymore. We can do anything we want.

And that’s just what they’re doing.

We’re witnessing a new phase not only in the culture wars but in American politics generally. Republicans are arriving at a reimagined view of power, one without limit or restraint.

Consider Missouri, where a Republican state representative has proposed to take part of the Texas model — making abortion all but illegal by allowing anyone to sue those who help a woman get one — and taking it across state borders. Her bill would allow lawsuits targeting any Missouri resident who obtains an abortion in another state, so that if a woman who lives in St. Louis drove her daughter to Illinois to get a legal abortion there, anyone could sue her.

In effect, it would make it all but illegal for a woman who lives in Missouri to get an abortion anywhere in the country.

If that shocks you, just wait. In Idaho, the state House just passed a bill making it illegal to provide puberty blockers or other hormonal treatment to trans kids under the age of 18. The bill’s language says that not only physicians but “whoever knowingly gives permission for, or permits on a child” these treatments — i.e., parents — will be guilty of a felony and can be sentenced to life in prison.

Every Republican except one in the Idaho House voted for it.

Meanwhile, the state of Texas is already sending Child Protective Services to investigate families who provide loving support to their trans kids, a potential prelude to declaring the parents “child abusers,” and sending the kids off to foster care.

In state after state, bills that a few years ago might have died in committee because they were too extreme are now on their way to passage.

Republican legislatures are reaching into classrooms to ban the utterance of “divisive concepts” and books that conservative Republicans find unsettling. Florida just passed its “Don’t say gay” bill, targeted at teachers who mention sexuality or gender identity and once again using the threat of ruinous lawsuits against individuals to impose its will.

Something has changed, and it isn’t that a new wave of extremist Republicans got elected at the state level and pushed out their “reasonable” predecessors. That may be part of the story, but it didn’t all happen at once, like the Tea Party wave of 2010.

Instead, extreme Republicans have gotten elected to state legislatures over the course of the last few elections, and have worked their way up the ranks. You’re familiar with trolls in Congress like Reps. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) or Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.), but there are dozens or even hundreds like them in state legislatures around the country.

Even Republicans who have been in office for many years are going along with this new radicalism. The extremists are working with their party’s leadership. Whether out of fear of being primaried or because they finally feel free to indulge their darkest fantasies, the longer-serving members seem nearly as enthusiastic about this new lack of restraint as anyone. And the bills have support from Republican governors who are hardly insurgents within their party.

A number of factors set the stage for the emergence of this new authoritarianism. The most obvious is T____’s takeover of the GOP, which took all the party’s worst attributes — its reliance on anger and resentment as mobilizing tools, its contempt for democratic norms, its loathing for Americans it disagrees with — and supercharged them.

Conservative media has also grown more radical; the most popular conservative media figure in the country is an anti-vaccine crusader whose show is a forum for race-baitingconspiracy theories, and pro-Putin propaganda. That poison is spread to both Republican voters and officeholders, pushing them to be more extreme in their tactics and demands.

Then you have the way power is divided in America at the moment. Democrats control Washington, which creates a visible target for right-wing anger, while Republicans dominate at the state level, which gives them the ability to express that anger in legislation. It’s all enabled by gerrymandering and other means of eliminating democratic accountability that assure Republicans that nothing they do will threaten their hold on power.

Central to the enterprise is the idea that Democrats are the ones promoting an insane agenda, which serves as the justification for almost anything Republicans want to do. Since Democrats are so horrifying, say Republicans, no tactic is too immoral to utilize, no Republican candidate too dangerous to support, and no proposal too offensive to pass in opposing them.

It’s why former attorney general William Barr describes in detail how T____ tried to stage a coup against American democracy — then says that if T____ is the 2024 Republican nominee he’ll vote for him to combat the “threat” from the left. It’s why the hateful Arizona state senator Wendy Rogers can speak at white supremacist rallies and the state’s governor will respond to questions about her by saying “She’s still better than her opponent.”

And it’s why almost no Republican officeholders anywhere will speak out against their party’s authoritarian radicalism. The farther they push, the more they’re convinced they can get away with. It’s only going to get worse.


Meanwhile, one of Waldman’s colleagues “fact checks” Biden’s speech:

“Our economy created over 6.5 million new jobs just last year, more jobs created in one year than ever before in the history of America.”

“The only president ever to cut the deficit by more than 1 trillion dollars in a single year.”

Both of these figures are misleading because of the context — the impact the once-in-a-century pandemic had on jobs and federal finances. Jobs plunged and deficits soared in 2020 when the coronavirus struck and shuttered the worldwide economy.

Thanks for reminding us.