For as long as I’ve been aware of politics (and longer), “communist” and “red” have been conservatives’ go-to attacks. It was true during the Cold War. It’s true now, when they use “communist” and “Marxist” as something equivalent to “poopyhead.”
But with Republicans, it’s always projection. Much as they decry communism, they’re increasingly embracing old-school USSR-style government. After all, the USSR is pretty close to their vision for America: a one-party state where the Party wins every election. Business owners must either support the party or pay a price (it says a lot that much as Republicans revere business, suppressing votes is more important to them).
Or consider Ron DeSantis. In addition to endorsing the right of drivers to murder protesters, he wants to make sure everything taught at Florida colleges conforms to party dogma. You know, nothing upsetting about the U.S. history of racism that might make people uncomfortable with the Republican commitment to white supremacy. As Vaclav Havel observed about the Eastern bloc communist regimes, Republicans believe the center of power is the center of truth. Dissent and protest are poison to that worldview, not because they threaten to topple the authorities but because they point out the government lies. He’s not unique, either — a lot of Republicans are dancing to the same autocratic tune.
A Politico article about how DeSantis is rising in the party but afraid it’ll look like he’s challenging Trump also reminds me of the power struggles in the old communist dictatorships (satirized in The Death of Stalin). Republicans hate communists the same way they hate Islamic theocracy — their only real objection is not being the ones in charge.
The Tampa Bay Times‘ article about the education bill includes one interesting detail: “the measure DeSantis signed into law will bar university and college officials from limiting speech that “may be uncomfortable, disagreeable or offensive.” I presume in practice this means anyone who wants to tell gays they’re pedophiles, use the wrong pronouns on trans people or simply scream “n-word n-word n-word!” will get a free pass. I’m quite sure that if the shoe’s on the other foot and right-wingers get called on their bullshit, DeSantis will hold this up as an example of oppressing intellectual diversity and therefore Bad (much as the right to run over protesters won’t apply if they’re blocking the road to an abortion clinic or the like).
And where Russians shipped their dissenters to the Soviet gulag network of prison camps, we have an OAN host saying we should just execute Democrats as enemies of the state.
And much like the communist leaders, the right wing has no qualms about making money in the process of taking away people’s rights (a long conservative tradition). Gen. Michael Flynn, who recently said we need a military coup, is also finding ways to monetize QAnon. The leader of the bullshit voting audit in Arizona is appearing in a Qanon movie. There are lines of fashion for fascists.
I’m inclined to see the current freakout over the military as part and parcel of the same thing. While the military is hardly free of sexism, racism and harassment, it’s also much more diverse than many parts of America. Women and gays can serve openly in combat now. So the new Republican talking point is that a military that worries about diversity can’t win wars. Russia will crush us, Ted Cruz claims. If you worry about diversity, Hitler will destroy us! Tucker Carlson sneers that the chair of the joint chiefs doesn’t know how to win wars any more because he’s concerned about racism. Laura Ingraham says even discussing racism with the troops is racist.
So much for supporting the troops. I think Cruz & Co. may be more worried about what the military would do in a coup, given that The Former Guy wanted to unleash the military against protesters after the death of George Floyd.
It’d be funny if they didn’t have a good shot at winning.