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A Fork in the Road

by WS Editors

Nov 3, 2022 | Opinion

Before heading to the polls next week, voters are encouraged to peer over the horizon at what a government controlled by the far right in this country will actually look like.

For this elections issue of The Washington Spectator we have drawn on some of the valuable reporting and commentary we’ve seen recently that bears on the issues at stake in the coming midterm elections.

For several years we’ve published Anne Nelson’s prescient reporting on the takeover of the Republican party by the far right. We’ve traced the rise of Christian nationalism; the centrality of Steve Bannon; and the role of the libertarian right in financing the communications platforms and disinformation apparatus of the far-reaching conservative movement. We published George Black on the arc of aggrieved veterans from Vietnam to the Capitol steps on January 6th; we ran his unsettling chronicle of the cadres of ex-military that have aligned with MAGA and Trumpism and are now entering electoral politics; and we’ve charted the close ties these various strands of American political extremism have built with the international authoritarian right.

That process is now complete, the new Republican right has purged the old moderates and non-believers and the party stands on the threshold of power at what President Biden is calling “an inflection point” in American democracy. (Never mind that many voters think Biden is saying “infection point” – which is probably more accurate – and that “fork in the road” would have done just fine.)

This analysis by now has entered mainstream coverage of our politics and is shaping much of the reporting on the fast-approaching elections. Less well understood by a distracted electorate are the backstories on themes that have resonated throughout this campaign – how Roe was overturned, the pervasive racism and antisemitism of these “Christian” factions and the extensive and unambiguous documentation of Trump’s venality.

For our cover story on the Republican hijacking of Roe, we turned to Lisa Graves – the respected researcher and reporter who helped build the Center for Media and Democracy and now presides over True North Research. For a decade, Lisa has been reporting on the Chicago billionaire Barre Seid and Leonard Leo, the Co-Chair of the Federalist Society – “one super rich old guy and his regressive buddy” – and their outsized roles in stacking the federal courts with religious zealots and overturning hard won constitutional liberties.

Next up is Charlie Sykes, the veteran conservative talk show host from Wisconsin and now editor-in-chief of the Bulwark, a center-right online news and commentary site that has diverged usefully from Trumpism and the current far right drift of the Republican party. In his piece “The Right Normalizes Antisemitism,” Sykes goes behind all the pandering to the Jewish vote at home and the solidarity with right-wing factions in Israel to expose the pervasive and persistent antisemitism of the American right.

The liberal commentator and long-time Newsweek columnist Jonathan Alter writes from the virtual set of the Select Committee to Investigate the January 6th Attack on the United States Capitol, and calls it a wrap. In his column “Trump’s Criminal Intent – Day 9,” Alter sums up the committee’s incontrovertible case: “Trump is so guilty – and his behavior so indefensible,” that even in the 14-page letter Trump released at the conclusion of the hearing he didn’t try to rebut the charges against him. Instead he opted to recycle the claims of vote fraud dismissed in late 2020 by 60 state and federal courts and his own Department of Justice.

We’ve also included Chris Hedges’ piece on the politics and culture of gun ownership that first appeared on scheerpost.com. Hedges is the author of the celebrated War is a Force that Gives us Meaning, and co-author with Laila Al-Arian of Collateral Damage: America’s War against Iraqi Civilians, another powerful anti-war title he published a number of years back at Nation Books. You can find him on substack (https://chrishedges.substack.com/) and at scheerpost.com. If you agree that at least part of the purpose of the best political and social commentary is to challenge readers to question their assumptions, then Hedges will be a revelation.

In this installment of the ongoing economics seminar Steven Pressman has conducted on our pages, the professor looks at debt in general and household debt in particular, and raises unspoken questions around the impact of rising interest rates and just how much growth in personal debt the economy can withstand.

Finally, in this issue we’re introducing The Wide Angle with Dave Troy, a new column concerned with threats to democracy. Troy is an investigative journalist who focuses on online extremism and the activities of far right actors abroad. Paranoia on Parade: How Goldbugs, Libertarians and Religious Extremists Brought America to the Brink, his essay on the century-old attempts of wealthy industrialists and tech entrepreneurs to control the currency, appeared in The Washington Spectator last June.

Global inflation has taken its toll on the lives of everyday Americans, and the Fed’s sledgehammer efforts to tame inflation by shutting down the economy are adding fuel to the smoldering partisan fires.

Bolstered by billions in dark money contributions, the MAGA extremists, election deniers, climate deniers, originalists, dominionists, nativists, dog whistle racists and corporate puppets that make up the new Republican party are trying to pin these daunting problems on the Democrats.

They’re hoping people will forget who eased the pain of the pandemic, made crucial investments in a crumbling infrastructure and rebuilt a shattered economy, creating more jobs in the process than at any time in our history – all over near-seamless Republican opposition.

Before heading to the polls next week, voters are encouraged to reflect on what they know to be true about the different candidates–their public statements, their records, the sources of their funding and their known affiliations–and to peer over the horizon at what a government controlled by the far right in this country will actually look like.

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