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Another US trial where racism decided the outcome

It’s no accident that on the same day the Senate voted not to hear witnesses in its sham impeachment trial, theTrump administration announced it was adding six countries, including Nigeria, Africa’s most populous nation, to its restrictive travel ban.

Beneath the rhetoric, both actions are about race and racism. As have been the outcomes of so many trials and so many immigration policies in US history.

The basic consideration in those Republican senators’ minds when they voted against hearing witnesses was revealed by a conservative former GOP policy director Evan McMullin in a tweet:

Republican leaders in Congress believe—and privately say—that they fear the country is quickly changing in ways that may soon deprive them of power, and that they must use the power they have now to delay it as long as possible, even by harming the Republic if necessary [emphasis added].

Why the GOP refused to allow witnesses

It doesn’t require re-reading the jury verdict from To Kill a Mockingbird to decode that tweet.

“The country is quickly changing” means “the proportion of people of color is growing and white people soon might not be a majority.”

“They must use the power they have now” means “democracy is a nice idea that we’ve said we believe in for decades, but when it comes right down to it, maintaining white power in general and our white power in particular is more important.”

“Even by harming the Republic” means “if authoritarian rule and an above-the-law strongman president will do the job, then let’s get it on. All we need is four more years to create the necessary facts on the ground. We helped the Israelis do it and now, in face of a “demographic threat” in this country, it’s our turn.”

That’s the mind-set underlying the “no witnesses” vote and the subsequent acquittal.

Finding racism useful

This does not mean every Trump voter or registered Republican is motivated by hate. It doesn’t mean that over time many in the Trump camp, especially those facing economic hardship, can’t be won over to a different world view. It doesn’t mean the robber barons on top of the fossil fuel industry or military-industrial complex or Koch brothers empire are mainly driven by racism. But they do see riding this mentality as the necessary route to advancing their class interest in a changing world.

The Senate vote does show that outright racist authoritarianism is in the driver’s seat in today’s GOP. It’s “get in behind the Supreme Leader” or be kicked out of the club.

This is how fascism comes to power. People who start out quite a distance from blatant haters will cut deals with them because they share some common aims and think they can stay in control.

It’s a slippery slope

Many who don’t jump off the toboggan soon enough find themselves abandoning every principle they once claimed to hold dear (Lindsey Graham, Marco Rubio, Lamar Alexander). They may squirm but they keep rationalizing one destructive, sycophantic action after another until lies, self-dealing and great-leader-worship become normalized. And millions get numb or “go private” hoping to find some shelter from the storm.

We can stop them if we act

In today’s US the Trumpists can be stopped. But only if the most conscious sector of the opposition is clear-eyed about the danger and absolutely determined to do two things:

First, confront the drive toward a racist authoritarian regime with a passionate resistance rooted in defending the humanity and equality of everyone across the globe;

Second, inspire and bring into unified action the substantial majority of people in the US who disagree with one another on many things but agree that Trump and his enablers are a danger to people and the planet, Defeat Trump and the GOP at the ballot box in November, Take to the streets to defend that victory in the days after the balloting when he declares the results illegitimate. Then keep on pushing toward a society that works for all.

Max Elbaum is the author of Revolution in the Air: Sixties Radicals Turn to Lenin, Mao and Che (Verso, third edition, 2018), and an editor of Organizing Upgrade.

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