Conservative Republican Demagogues

“This country is frightening” (Author’s italics.)

– Philip Roth, “American Pastoral,” 1997

Republican state legislatures and governors, with Texas leading the way, are dismantling the essence of American democracy, and the conservative Supreme Court is helping them reach their goal.

Get ready to kiss goodbye to Roe v. Wade.

These conservative demagogues are building on the authoritarian, anti-democratic highway to hell paved by a despicably unorthodox former president and would-be dictator to the point of denying women their constitutional right to abortion and curtailing the voting rights of Blacks, Latinos and other minorities who vote Democratic.

Are we still living in America?

The excesses have been so boldly extreme that House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy of California publicly threatened to retaliate against private telecom and social media companies if they cooperate with a special Democratic congressional investigative committee’s requests for GOP communications about the Jan. 6 insurrection at the Capitol.

They include those of Donald Trump’s, who the House impeached for inciting the attempt to prevent the certification of Joe Biden as president. McCarthy and other Trump lackies have been trying to sweeten the attack on the Capitol as an act carried out by patriots and to exonerate Trump from having anything to do with it. More lies, yet again.

“If these companies comply with the Democrat order to turn over private information, they are in violation of federal law and subject to losing their ability to operate in the United States,” McCarthy said. “If companies still choose to violate federal law, a Republican majority will not forget and will stand with Americans to hold them fully accountable under the law.”

There’s no law preventing Congress from seeking information by request or with a subpoena.

McCarthy gave no indication what laws he was referring to. It’s unusual for politicians to threaten private companies in public, perhaps even more so considering the size and power of the telecom and social media industries.

In sum, the country is creeping toward a police state with laws that strike at its freedoms that in some cases, like civil rights statutes, have taken generations to achieve.

Of all the oppressive laws going into effect in some red states, the insidious Texas anti-abortion statute is the worst of them. Not only is it unconstitutional, but it presages the elimination of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 law that honored a woman’s right to undergo a legal abortion.Chief Justice John Roberts sided with the liberals in the 5-4 decision, made nearly at midnight, to let stand the Texas law that bans an abortion about six weeks into a pregnancy, when it’s said a heartbeat can be detected in an embryo, a time when a woman may not even be aware she is pregnant. He said the law should not have gone into effect until lower courts decided its legality.

What’s so sinister about the Texas law is a unique twist that depends on ordinary people instead of law enforcement officials to sue someone seeking an abortion or “aids or abets“ her in getting one, say, by driving her to where the procedure would take place.

If the person who files such a lawsuit wins the case, he or she would receive $10,000 plus attorney’s fees. It’s an incentive to bring charges, a welcome mat for bounty hunters.

Other red conservative states are certain to use the Texas law as a template to enact their own restrictions against abortion, Roe v. Wade and the Constitution be damned. Florida, North and South Dakota, Indiana, Mississippi and Arkansas reportedly are interested in copying Texas.

Using ordinary people to essentially rat on someone violating the anti-abortion law is comparable to the Nazis having encouraged citizens to uncover Jews in hiding or children having squealed on their parents or other relatives for opposing Hitler’s brutal regime. Welcome to the fledgling proto-fascist America.

Biden condemned the unprecedented law Friday as “almost un-American” (Almost?) and said “the most pernicious thing about the Texas law, it sort of creates a vigilante system where people get rewards to go out and to . . . “ He stopped short.

“The court’s order is stunning,” Justice Sonia Sotomayor wrote in her dissent. “Presented with an application to enjoin a flagrantly unconstitutional law engineered to prohibit women from exercising their constitutional rights and evade judicial scrutiny, a majority of justices have opted to bury their heads in the sand.”

In what is known as a “shadow docket,” the court ruled on the issue without hearing any arguments for or against and without it first having gone through the appeals courts. Justice Elena Kagan severely criticized the procedure.

She complained about the absence of “any guidance from the court of appeals,” that the justices reviewed “only the most cursory party decisions, and then only hastily” and “barely bothers to explain its conclusion – that a challenge to an obviously unconstitutional abortion regulation backed by a wholly unprecedented enforcement scheme is unlikely to prevail.”

But the conservatives on the court got away with it. And Roe v. Wade will be on their docket this fall in a challenge to the law by Mississippi. Pray the law survives.

Not to be overlooked in this season of right-wing cultural successes, the sound of popping beer bottle caps nearly was audible among conservatives nationwide when the Texas legislature finally passed a Republican voting measure, among the most restrictive in the nation. Its outstanding feature gives party poll watchers more power to influence the counting of votes.

Imagine what that would have meant in the last election, with Trump insisting that he was the winner.

The law also creates rules intended to prevent people from helping others to register to vote or to vote, bans 24-hour and drive-through voting and limits voting by mail – all justified by the lie about widespread election fraud based on the bigger lie that Trump won the election. Similar voting restrictions exist in at least 17 other states, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.

Worried about the Taliban takeover of Afghanistan and the threat to hard-won women’s rights and the end of the experiment with democracy there?

Better to worry about the spreading tentacles of an American Taliban ending democracy and women’s rights and “one man, one vote” right here at home.


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.