My Point of View: Republican Party is headed down the path of autocracy

Published 8:45 pm Tuesday, May 3, 2022

My Point of View by Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

A key difference between major parties as we begin campaign season is that Democrats defend civil rights and widespread opportunity, while Republicans defend privilege and narrow advantage to the point of plotting a coup.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson

Democrats are better at running democratic government. More than a year after President Biden took office, it’s still nice not to be interrupted multiple times a day by whatever outlandish thing the former president said while his inexperienced staff scrambled in the chaotic wake. 

Biden’s team is boring and competent, and they hit the ground running. They work well with our European allies and have repaired our diplomatic relationships. Biden doesn’t fawn over corrupt dictators the way his predecessor did.

Other Republicans are vying for Trump-like attention with their own manufactured dilemmas. Besides Gov. Ron DeSantis tilting at Disney in Florida, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott’s brief period of “enhanced safety inspections” last month resulted in a backlog of trucks at the U.S.-Mexico border and hundreds of millions in immediate losses from spoiled produce. The Houston Chronicle reported that Abbott’s political stunt cost Texas an estimated $4.2 billion without finding any human trafficking or drugs. The needless disruption will ripple out and further inflate the costs of groceries and many other products in the U.S. 

For what gain? These are both forays into asserting “states’ rights.” It’s part of Republicans’ continued attacks on the foundations of democracy and their erosion of civil rights. 

Republicans in the U.S. Senate have made no secret about wanting to roll back federal guarantees of civil rights, far beyond voting rights and abortion rights. This includes Marsha Blackburn (Tenn.) questioning the constitutional basis of Griswold v. Connecticut (1965), which guarantees married women the right to contraception, Mike Braun (Ind.) saying the Supreme Court made the wrong decision in Loving v. Virginia (1967) which guarantees the right to interracial marriage, and John Cornyn (Tex.) signalling he wants to overturn Obergefell v. Hodges (2015) which guarantees the right of same-sex couples to marry.

In other words, dismantling civil rights from the past 60 years. Republicans offer no worker protections that would raise wages and guarantee benefits, they just promise to bring back discrimination.

Republicans are packaging this to [white] men as some kind of restoration of masculinity. Last May, Sen. Ted Cruz (Texas) compared the Russian military favorably to the “woke, emasculated” U.S. military. 

Seeing the images of destroyed homes, mined playgrounds and bodies of civilians with gunshot wounds to their heads, and women’s accounts of being dragged from their homes and raped, are the Russian soldiers who committed these atrocities in Ukraine anyone’s idea of “masculinity”?

Furthermore, if you run “woke” and “emasculated” through a GOP-decoder ring, “woke” means the U.S. Army includes and promotes people of color, and “emasculated” means it includes and promotes women. 

The results of promoting savagery and corruption instead of fairness and competency are horrifying. Russian soldiers are committing crimes against humanity.

It gets weirder. Fox News personality Tucker Carlson recently touted testicle tanning on his special “The End of Men.” Carlson’s calling card is stoking male anxiety, which intersects with his open admiration for strongman autocrats like Russia’s Putin and Hungary’s Viktor Orban. 

I grew up surrounded by men who were farmers or tradesmen, and there’s not a dang thing a man with long, immaculate fingernails like Carlson can tell me about authentic masculinity. Men don’t need gonad toasters and authoritarianism, they need jobs with good pay and democracy that protects their rights.

Why do so many Republican and conservative leaders think of masculinity in terms of exploitation and subjugation of others instead of sustaining and nurturing others? Their siren song of autocracy offers false hope of a better life. For all but those at the top of the heap, it would mean suppression. 

Do not voluntarily trade democracy for a new order like Russia or Hungary’s kleptocracies. These countries are ruled by thieves who enrich their own families and cronies at the expense of ordinary people. Nearly half of rural Russians still rely on outhouses because they lack indoor toilets. A hearty no thanks to that.

We should be focusing on husbandry, a rural term, rather than a shallow construction of “masculinity” as dominance, exploitation, wanton waste and vanity. In contrast, the term “husbandry” means care, cultivation and nurturing of animals and crops. It means conservation of resources. This is the path forward to building a sustainable future.

Autocracy is the enemy of freedom, but Republicans are headed down that path, having lost the ability to win majorities with their unpopular economic agenda. Their leadership plotted a coup to overthrow democracy on Jan. 6, 2021.

Republicans are scared of accountability, and they should be. Demand that coup plotters be brought to justice. Vote for Democrats up and down the ticket. Choose democracy.

Jennifer Vogt-Erickson is a member of the Freeborn County DFL Party.