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Members of "The Proud Boys" join a November 2020 MAGA rally claiming the election was fraudulent. Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images

Just Do Your Duty: Democracy Yay or Nay

Abby Zimet

The January 6 Committee just announced they'll begin holding public hearings in the new year, which is good news. But it's clear that, even before they open that particular Pandora's Box of malfeasance, we're already awash in ever more sordid details about the ongoing right-wing march to fascism. There's asshats telling the  president to go fuck himself on a benign Christmas call with his kids and then whining about freedom of speech when they're castigated for being asshats. There's MAGA conspiracy wingnuts working to boost the careers of other wingnuts so the party can tilt so far right they fall off the planet. There's the dozen militia thugs plotting to kidnap and/or kill Michigan's Dem governor for trying to save lives during a pandemic now arguing the government entrapped them. And there's former trade advisor Peter Navarro who, while hawking his Trump memoir, is brazenly boasting he should get more credit for his role in trying to overthrow democracy with Steve Bannon on Jan. 6 per their "perfect plan," dubbed "Green Bay Sweep" 'cause if you're planning a fascist coup why not add insult to injury by tagging it with juvenile football analogies? In a Daily Beast interview, Navarro brags "we spent a lot of time lining up" 100 complicit lawmakers, some of whom he blithely nails - "Gosar and Cruz did exactly what was expected of them.” Praising the “political and legal beauty of the strategy," his job was to put together a report to justify "the actions to be taken"; it was the job of "Brother Bannon" to go for it - which, later that day, he did: "Play's been called. Mike Pence, run the play. Take the football...You've got big, strong people in front of you. Just do your duty."

As the year comes to an end, historian Thomas Zinner takes a succinct but cogent look at this atrocity and all the others - at a dogged, systematic, "accelerating authoritarian onslaught" now threatening our democracy. Seeking "the big picture" of the right's political project to "entrench white Christian patriarchal dominance," Zinner breaks it down into a host of federal, state and local efforts. While Repubs in D.C. have embraced an impressively totalitarian obstructionism, he says, things get scariest on the state level, where conservative white Christian men work at maintaining traditional hierarchies - ie them running things - in the name of "preserving 'real' America." It starts with "not letting too many of the 'wrong' people vote"; thus, hundreds of bills to make voting more difficult. If poor and black people are still voting, you make their choices count less through gerrymandering. If that doesn't work, you change things up in order to nullify their votes; hence, "an all-out assault on state election systems." If such blatant abuses spark protests, you call them riots and pass laws allowing those protesting to be attacked or run over; you also encourage white extremists to use violence, and celebrate them - Kyle! - when they do. You wrap it all in broad, often imaginary culture wars - banning books, fighting mandates, creating anti-CRT hysteria, taking over school boards. "We need to pay attention to how these efforts are connected," Zinner argues, given a GOP that knows they're in the minority and will do whatever it takes to keep power. To date, Democrats have failed to fight back. Next year, just do your duty.

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet

Abby Zimet has written CD's Further column since 2008. A longtime, award-winning journalist, she moved to the Maine woods in the early 70s, where she spent a dozen years building a house, hauling water and writing before moving to Portland. Having come of political age during the Vietnam War, she has long been involved in women's, labor, anti-war, social justice and refugee rights issues. Email:

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