Friday, May 5, 2023

Authoritarian steps in Red state legislatures

Is it so hard to picture a United States that has succumbed to authoritarianism and the sacrifice of our basic democratic rights? Not really, because we can see this process at work in a handful of Republican-dominated state governments already. Here are just a few examples of states in which governors and legislatures are using the power enabled by "super-majority" status to limit the rights and liberties of their citizens with impunity. These are just a few examples, and it would be very useful for a trusted organization like the ACLU to do a full audit of these kinds of actions in the states.

  • Florida -- legislation limiting freedom to teach about "uncomfortable" subjects in public schools and universities; ideological takeover of a public university by the governor and hack politicians; banned books in school libraries; a declared war on a private corporation using the power of the state to punish Disney
  • North Carolina -- new Republican majority on North Carolina supreme court reverses prior supreme court decision on racially suspect gerrymandering and voter ID requirements
  • Tennessee -- expulsion of democratically elected representatives Justin Jones and Justin Pearson from the Tennessee House of Representatives
  • Montana -- Montana Republicans bar duly elected transgender lawmaker Zooey Zephyr for "decorum"
  • Idaho -- legislation prohibiting people in Idaho from helping pregnant minors leave the state to obtain abortions; similar efforts in other Republican super-majority states
  • Texas -- legislation enacted to permit the Texas secretary of state to overturn elections in the state's largest county; legislation prohibiting "Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion" programs at universities moves forward; ban on use of FDA-approved mifepristone to effect medical abortion; other states and conservative Federal court rulings abet this effort
  • Multiple states -- near-total abortion bans in twelve states (Alabama, Arkansas, Idaho, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas and West Virginia)

It is a terrible picture, if you care about the equal worth of all citizens, and a commitment to full and extensive liberties for all. Reproductive rights are suddenly limited; rights of freedom of thought and expression are limited; groups of citizens are singled out for punitive treatment, including LGBTQ and trans people; voting rights for urban people and people of color are deliberately limited; teachers, librarians, and faculty are intimidated from teaching and speaking independently.

How are we to understand all of these regressive uses of state power? Here is a very plausible thought: They represent an incipient authoritarian imposition of Christian nationalist ideology on the whole of our society. And what is this, if not an early stage of Orbánism in America? It seems evident that numerous Republican-dominated states have already taken clear steps in that direction. Is the soft authoritarianism of today's Hungary the future of political life in the United States? What will it take to restore democratic freedom and equality in our country?


Paul D. Van Pelt said...

Depending on where one sits or wants to stand, populists are exerting their authoritarian expectation and influence. Is this a reflection of democracy? I don't think so. But looking at the trend(s), it comes clear where more people have decided to stand. They do not like the America they see, because it does not demonstrate the conservatism they are accustomed to. This runs the gamut of just about every moral and ethical norm that has ever been held dear by red blooded Americans, whether they consistently held to those standards, or not. It is acceptable and easy to point fingers towards everyone else, while averring, ' not me, that was not MY idea'. Social and cultural change comes too abruptly for traditionalist sensibilities. Cooler heads might once have prevailed. Right now, that does not appear probable.

Howie said...

HI, so psychologically the right wing authoritarians feel a sense of chaos, maybe as the result of the 60s, 70s, 80s and they view government as there to assert authority for good people rather than defend rights. IN fact, they probably view rights as immoral license
There have always been folks out there like this; the question is why now?

Paul D. Van Pelt said...

I began a comment, but it left my tablet. I'll say a few things. There are tipping points, beyond which anything can happen and usually does. Along with that, factor in Taleb's black swans. Finally, people gravitate towards charismatics. A perfect storm which continues. None of this ranks among the metaphysical or mysterious, because people are employed to control and massage information, according to interests, preferences and motives. The previous president is, was and will be a gambler. Everything about him, public and private, exudes that personna.

Paul D. Van Pelt said...

Afterthought: review the decision today on alleged rape. The conviction reflects on-going paternalism, through both Church and state. The absurdity of it probably appalls legal scholars, although they know to keep their mouths shut. Notice, if you will, gambling is becoming more popular. And,legalized. Please parse the wording of the decision. It insulated the accused from the charge of rape...probably connected with a plea bargain-another sort of gambling. I am unsure of terms like sexual battery... and the rest of this hot mess, leading up to the so-called conviction. The recommended monetary award, though substantial, equals, in a practical sense, hush money. The gambler is dodging that one too in a far less important matter.

troutsky said...

I think you are correct Paul, concerning the mass hysteria that results from the accelerating pace of change; social mores, technology that is a "back box" to most, and capital eeking out the last bit of profit as things collapse. "All that is solid melts into air" and "the worst are filled with passionate intensity". Probably gets worse before it gets better.

Paul D. Van Pelt said...

This is well-after fact from the post. But things change and my mind is not as agile as it once was. Something HAS been bothering me, however. Maybe others have noticed. Today, was an epiphany of sorts. There was discussion, on one of the big national news feeds, talking about a big win for Republicans. The topic is not the issue. Other outcomes, favorable to Democrats, are characterized as big wins for that party. This litany has proceeded for some time---so seeming innocuous as to masque an otherwise obvious discrepancy. Adversarial politics. Rarely, if ever, is there declaration of a big win for Americans. Or,for democracy. One party or ideology wins, or the other does. Someone else must recognize this? Or is anyone paying attention?