Letters from an American, March 17, 2023

ImagesReaders of Follow Me Here will be familiar with my admiration for the daily newsletter from Boston University history professor Heather Cox Richardson. Her commentary on daily developments in the authoritarian threat to democracy is immeasurably enriching, particularly on heavy news days like yesterday.

For instance, she discusses the issuance of an arrest warrant for Vladimir Putin by the International Criminal Court in The Hague for war crimes against the children of the Ukraine While I initially dismissed it as an inconsequential gesture since, of course, it is highly unlikely that Putin will be taken into custody and it will do nothing to end the war, Richardson explains how it may further isolate Russia, making it harder for leaders of other countries to associate with him just as Xi Jinping is about to make a state visit to Russia. Increasing evidence of Chinese material support for Russia’s war could lead to sanctions against its already-fragile economy.

Although the US is not a signatory to the Rome Statute that created the ICC, the warrant will also be significant here, further undermining the  American far right’s lionization of Putin, falsely portrayed as a champion of Christianity and children’s rights.

Richardson reflects on the advancing anti-democratic trends on display at the recent meeting of the Federalist Society, an organization founded in the 1980s to advocate for judicial restraint in service of the will of voters. It originally argued that years of pro-civil rights rulings by liberal judges represented corrupting democracy by “legislating from the bench”. However, now that the Supreme Court stacked with Federalist adherents overturned the right to abortion, the Federalist Society has shifted to the opposite view. The Society now believes that judges should interpret the Constitution to support right wing voters to counter “the tyranny of the majority”.

The idea that all legal and governmental processes of modern American society have been corrupted by liberal democracy and need to be destroyed and replaced was reflected in trump’s comments yesterday that the “deep state” and “not Russia” poses the greatest threat to Western civilization. This view was promptly endorsed by his former national security advisor Michael Flynn, forced out of office by lying to the FBI about his ties to Russia (before pardoned by trump). For those of you who have made the same mistake as I had of stopping paying attention to Flynn as irrelevant, he has been battling secular democracy on a far-right road tour across America to recruit an “Army of God” to put Christianity at the center of American life and governance. As a tour organizer said, “At this ReAwaken America Tour, Jesus is King [and] president donald j. trump is our president…” (As is my usual practice, I cannot bring myself to dignify trump by capitalizing references to him.)

Flynn and his supporters’ latest target is Sarasota Memorial Hospital in Florida, which they accuse of killing COVID patients by following FDA guidelines instead of treating them with the horse deworming drug ivermectin. They have organized a group called The Hollow 2A (complete with its own version of the Hitler Youth) calling for local activism with guns to “lawfully take back our country”. They plan to swamp the hospital board meeting this coming Monday to protest its “malpractice”. I worry we could see another January 6-like situation on Monday, and will be watching the news from Sarasota and the activities of The Hollow 2A carefully.

Many see such bombastic events orchestrated by the Orange Menace and his followers as attempts to divert attention from his mounting legal difficulties. (Despite the corruption and bankruptcy of liberal democracy, it still holds consequences worthy of inspiring fear?? Democratic civil process may not be dead yet!) The potential Sarasota insurrection occurs just as the legal noose appears to be closing more tightly around trump’s neck. CNN reported that the Manhattan district attorney’s office has been meeting all week to prepare for a possible indictment of trump as early of next week — preparations that are doubtless heavily slanted toward preempting a violent response against the New York State Court by the far right. And at the same time, the Chief Judge of the D.C. District Court threw out claims of attorney client privilege between trump and his attorney, compelling the attorney to testify in the investigation of his handling of classified documents after he left office.This may open the door to further criminal indictments.

— via Heather Cox Richardson

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