The Audacity of Surrendering to Autocracy

“And the people bowed and prayed
“To the neon god they made.”

– Simon & Garfunkel, Sounds of Silence, 1964

I have reported from Communist countries where the lying, cheating and bending and twisting of the laws to favor the dictators was very much a way of life, the people be damned.

We have borne witness for four years to the malfeasance a would-be autocratic regime can inflict without the benefit of strict laws and supervision. Shall we start with kids in cages? Making money off the presidency? Packing the courts? Racism? Tearing apart government agencies? Vindictive purges? (No wonder Donald Trump wanted to buy Greenland: America’s Siberia.)

Is this what we want the United States of America to become?

It sure seemed to be the case when 126 Republican members of Congress, including two of its leaders, and 18 state attorneys general, all of whom went to law school, launched a fantastical attack against the legal, legitimate overwhelming election of Joe Biden as our president-elect.

What did these attorneys general read in law school? George Orwell’s “Animal Farm,” where some animals – the pigs – became more equal than the other animals?

To try to overturn the will of 81 million people with fraudulent legalese at the behest of a narcissistic pretend king marked a crime against the principles, ideals, morals and everything this country stands for, chiefly its democracy.

“When in the course of human events,” whatever happened to “we the people?” “my country ‘tis of thee?” “the land of the free and the home of the brave?” “crown thy good with brotherhood?” “I pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands . . . ?“ – all of the positive we learned in elementary school.

Who and what are the minority trying to make us become?

Perhaps the Republican crusade against the rule of law was inspired by all of Donald Trump’s failed attempts in the courts and state legislatures to essentially overthrow Biden. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton took up the baton and asked the Supreme Court to overturn the election in four states, invalidating the votes of 20 million people, figuring they didn’t count.

For all of its 6-3 conservative majority, the high court acted with integrity Friday evening when it rapidly dismissed without argument the challenge to voters in Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia. A defeat for Texas. One Alamo wasn’t enough?

“Texas has not demonstrated a judicially cognizable interest in the manner in which another State conducts its elections,” the court ruled.

Trump typically followed through with a tweet Saturday, calling the decision a “disgraceful miscarriage of justice,” adding “WE HAVE JUST BEGUN TO FIGHT.” Oh, another John Paul Jones. Maybe Trump would like to join the Navy.

To top that statement, the chairman of the Texas Republican Party, Allen West, suggested that all the red states that joined Texas in its spurious Supreme Court quest would like to secede from the union, The Washington Post reported.

“Perhaps law-abiding states should bond together and form a Union of states that will abide by the Constitution,” West said in a statement. Texas tried that once before as a Confederate state. That didn’t work well.

West merely was echoing far right radio guru Rush Limbaugh, whom the Post quoted earlier in the week as saying, “I actually think that we’re trending toward secession.”

Jamelle Bouie, the columnist for The New York Times, made it clear that right-wing Republicans were somewhat enamored with autocracy and following their leader, at least when it comes to elections.

“We have learned that the Republican Party, or much of it, has abandoned whatever commitment to electoral democracy it had to begin with,” he wrote Friday. “That it views defeat on its face as illegitimate, a product of fraud concocted by opponents who don’t deserve to hold power. That is fully the party of minority rule, committed to the idea that a vote doesn’t count if it isn’t for its candidates, and that if democracy won’t serve its partisan and ideological interests, then so much for democracy.”

I wonder where all of this is going with a party that’s either enthralled with or fearful of a president who wants things his way, kind of like a Vladimir Putin without a Kremlin Square.

“This new policy of election denialism . . . is the latest manifestation of the Republican Party’s increasingly anti-democratic tendencies,” the Times wrote in an editorial Friday. “Rather than campaigning on issues that appeal to a majority of the electorate, the party has made a strategy out of voter suppression.”

“This really isn’t about Mr. Trump anymore, He lost, and his ruinous tenure will soon be over,” it wrote. “This is now about the corruption of a political party whose leaders are guided by the fear of Mr. Trump rather than the love of this country – and who are falling into dangerous habits.”

And dangerous habits were what eventually got the rulers of those autocratic Communist countries I reported from into trouble. In one, Nicolae Ceausescu and his wife Elena were executed by firing squad Christmas Day 1989 after his conviction for economic sabotage and genocide. Autocratic rulers can’t ignore all of the people all the time.

Richard C. Gross, who covered war and peace in the Middle East and was foreign editor of United Press International, served as the opinion page editor of The Baltimore Sun.