America has been down this road before

The biggest story of 2023 was the threat to American democracy posed by Donald Trump and his supporters. At its heart lurks a white Christian nationalism that targets racial and religious minorities and LGBTQ people.

45, however, did not start the fire. America’s history is pocked with horrific episodes in addition to slavery. Here are some examples:
• The Trail of Tears, which began in 1831, saw the forcible displacement of 60,000 members of five Native American tribes by the U.S. government.
• The Black Wall Street massacre in Tulsa in 1921 destroyed more than 35 square blocks of the Greenwood District, a thriving Black community.
• Hundreds of thousands of Mexican-Americans were scapegoated for the Great Depression by the Hoover administration and deported.
• A rise in American fascism in the late 1930s included prominent figures like aviator Charles Lindbergh.
• More than 120,000 Japanese Americans were held in internment camps in World War II.

The Republican Party is now in thrall to a demagogue who is a willing tool of Vladimir Putin and a threat to the Western Alliance. Far from breaking with Trump after he tried to overturn the results of the 2020 election, the GOP purged its ranks of anyone who crossed him. Republicans have abandoned policy in favor of endless culture wars fueled by disinformation on social media.

Appeals to ignorance, fear, and prejudice have pushed us toward social disintegration. Dividing Americans by pretending diversity is a threat rather than an essential feature of our country is the far right’s only path to power.

Efforts have been made to insulate us from Trump and the Supreme Court he packed. The Marriage Protection Act protects same-sex and interracial couples. A provision was inserted into the National Defense Authorization Act to prevent any president from withdrawing America from NATO.

The trouble is, a high court super-majority shaped by the Federalist Society cannot be counted on to respect those protections. A Trump returned to power could betray America’s allies without leaving NATO.

Trump says of immigrants, “They’re poisoning the blood of our country.” My father fought in World War II against Nazi Germany when it was twisted by the same thinking.

I thought of comparing America’s recurring bouts of intolerance to 17-year cicadas, but cicadas are harmless. When they land on me, I enjoy examining their beautiful wings. Know-nothingism is not at all like cicadas. It is less predictable and profoundly dangerous.

The response to a recent incident where a Senate staffer videotaped a sexual encounter in a Senate hearing room is instructive. The staffer shown in the video was quickly fired by Sen. Ben Cardin, but the fact that the staffer was Democratic and gay was used to attack all Democrats. A lewd, derisive meme with the phrase “Ridin’ with Biden” appeared on social media.

It occurs to me that Republicans might have overlooked the video entirely had it been labeled, “The sacking at the Capitol.”
Decades ago, when Ted Bundy was convicted as a serial killer of women, no one blamed straight white men in general for his crimes. But when Jeffrey

Dahmer’s gruesome murders of men in Milwaukee came to light, there were attacks on gay bars.

Hypocrisy is essential to scapegoating. The dominant group ignores its own members’ lapses while harshly judging minorities for any offenses — real or imagined — by theirs.

Given that the GOP’s leading presidential candidate has been found liable for the rape of E. Jean Carroll (kudos to her attorney Roberta Kaplan), you might think Republicans would know better than to cast aspersions. You would be wrong.

A White House Christmas video featuring a variation of The Nutcracker and including Black dancers has been seized upon by the right as an example of woke depravity. Those wedded to perpetual outrage are always seeing a War on Christmas that is not happening.

The Democratic campaign must lacerate this do-nothing Congress that is all smears and revenge and refuses to govern. Democrats have a serious agenda on behalf of the American people, and a record of delivering for them in the previous Congress. Democracy’s defenders have a couple of advantages: We are aware of the threat, and are not about to relinquish our freedoms easily.

Trump is a master at bringing out the worst in people, and he has many enablers. But Democrats have plenty of talent — not to mention sanity and decency — on our side. It is time to get our fight on. House Minority Leader Hakeem Jeffries wrote on Dec. 18 that “Light will prevail over hatred.” We’d better make sure it does.

Richard J. Rosendall is a writer and activist at Copyright © 2023 by Richard J. Rosendall. All rights reserved.