Politics Opinion

America's Right-wing destroying U.S. democracy

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After 14 failed votes, Republican Kevin McCarthy finally succeeded at becoming U.S. House Speaker (Screenshot via YouTube)

America's Republican Party, along with other Right-wing extremists, has caused chaos and division within its country, leading to the decay of U.S. democracy, writes Sue Arnold.

A NON-VIOLENT coup d’état attempt is probably the best way to describe the shit show currently unfolding on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives. After winning a tiny majority in the mid-term elections, Republican attempts to vote for a speaker have paralysed the Government.

It took 15 humiliating rounds and many concessions for Kevin McCarthy to be finally confirmed as Speaker.

The House Freedom Caucus, as it is known, drove the bedlam. The Caucus is made up of fanatical election deniers, far Right-wing folk who have driven major divisions throughout the country.

It’s more than ironic this should be happening on the two-year anniversary of the 6 January coup attempt.

The success of extreme far-Right GOP congressional members cannot be underestimated. A small group of extremists has successfully driven the government of the world’s most powerful country into total chaos.

The many concessions Kevin McCarthy has made, include the ability of one member to issue a notice to vacate the position. This extraordinary power in the hands of one congressperson is likely to result in the shortest speaker term in history.

Given the sheer extent of outrageous demands made by the hardliners, one can only wonder what their end goal must be.    

Unfortunately, it’s all too obvious — preventing government from governing. In the same way as the 6 January attempted coup was orchestrated with the end goal of setting up an autocracy, the GOP extremists want chaos to reign. That’s the goal — chaos.

History demonstrates when civil society is experiencing a breakdown of government, rebellions happen. Autocracy, fascism and extremism rise in the ashes of democracy. The ramifications of what will arise under a GOP House of Representatives are frightening.

The failure to elect a speaker created international angst, particularly in Ukraine, as well as international embarrassment according to President Joe Biden. Significant national security implications arose as four days passed without a result.Congressional representatives and important committees could not be briefed on security issues.Committee chairs cannot be installed.

No newly-elected congresspeople can be sworn in and no committees established. A tsunami of problems for a whole range of issues spills out if the chaos with or without a speaker continues as a result of the hardliner clique.

No legislation can be successfully passed if the small group of hold-outs refuse to bring the legislation to the floor. Representatives are unable to offer formal services to constituents such as providing help with receiving federal benefits for missing payments from the Government. House staff members could lose their pay and benefits.

Student loan forgiveness programs for House employees could be disrupted.

The hardliners' demands include finishing the construction of a wall with Mexico.

More importantly, Congress could not respond to a national emergency. 

The GOP hardliners effectively stuffed the legislative branch of government.

Whilst many observers like to blame former President Donald Trump for the current state of a deeply divided union, the dysfunction and tactics of division go back a long way. Right back to the creation of the Tea Party and the involvement of the infamous Koch brothers. According to Wikipedia, in 2009 an estimated 10% of Americans identified as part of the Tea Party movement which opposed government-sponsored universal health care. Its policies were an indication of the future focus on upending government.

A poll by the University of Washington reported that 73% of Tea Party supporters disapproved of President Barack Obama’s policy of engaging with Muslim countries.

The poll revealed that 88% approved of the controversial Arizona immigration law enacted in 2010 that required police to question people they suspect of being illegal migrants for proof of legal status, 54% felt that immigration was changing the culture in the U.S. for the worse, 82% did not believe that gay and lesbian couples should have the legal right to marry and about 52% believed that ‘compared to the size of the group, lesbians and gays have too much political power’.

Sound familiar?

Donald Trump praised the Tea Party movement throughout his 2016 campaign. Some commentators (including former U.S. politician Sarah Palin) argued that the Tea Party played a key role in the election of Donald Trump as the Republican Party’s presidential nominee.

One commentator stated:

‘With the victory of Donald Trump, the values and principles that gave rise to the Tea Party movement in 2009 are finally gaining the top seat of power in the White House.’

A 2013 survey found that in political terms, 20% of self-identified Republicans stated that they considered themselves part of the Tea Party movement. In the same year, the Tea Party cohort in the GOP orchestrated the 2013 government shutdown which resulted in 800,000 federal employees being indefinitely furloughed with another 1.3 million required to report to work with no known payment dates. It was the third-longest shutdown in U.S. history, lasting 16 days.

The House Freedom Caucus was formed in 2015 by a group of Tea Party movement members with the aim of pushing the Republican leadership to the Right. Dozens of times, the group has tried to repeal the Affordable Care Act. Key players include Matt Gaetz (who voted for Trump as speaker), Byron Donalds and Jim Jordan, all recognised as extremists.

According to the Washington Post, the Caucus demonstrated its desire to break norms with its determination to destroy bipartisan cooperation and deny Obama any legislative achievements or real legitimacy. At the same time, it pushed the racist conspiracy theory that claimed President Obama was secretly a foreign-born Muslim and ineligible for the presidency. 

A Politico analysis reports former Speaker John Boehner once dubbed certain members of the Caucus “legislative terrorists”. Colleagues are reportedly tagging the 19 Republicans who repeatedly rejected McCarthy as the “Taliban 19”.

The debacle is also an indication of what can happen when Right-wing extremists attempt to take control of government. All over the world, we are witnessing growing attempts to establish autocracies with disastrous results.

U.S. democracy has taken significant hits over the past two years and without some adults in Congress, the ongoing loss of democracy will have profound ramifications for not only America but the whole world.

Sue Arnold is an IA columnist and freelance investigative journalist. You can follow Sue on Twitter @koalacrisis.

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