GOP silencing another Democratic Representative is what Fascism looks like in 2023
Our Republic and our freedoms are on the ballot in 2024
Today’s GOP—not just the MAGA wing—are repeatedly embracing fascist tactics right in front of us. Please don’t look away or dismiss this. The GOP is telling you who they are: Believe them.
The latest example came Wednesday, when the GOP dominated Montana House of Representatives voted to silence Democratic state Rep. Zooey Zephyr for violating the House rules on “decorum.” Yep, that is the identical reason the Tennessee House GOP a few weeks ago cited as justification to expel two Black Democratic members of the legislature, Justin Jones and Justin Pearson.
So we are to believe that the GOP that overwhelmingly supports Donald Trump—the man who incited the Jan 6 insurrection on our Capitol that shut down Congress and caused elected officials to scramble for their safety--actually cares about “decorum.”
No, this is not about the GOP being concerned with “decorum.” This is about the GOP embracing fascism. Period.
The GOP’s efforts to silence Rep. Zephyr—who is the first transgender American elected to the Montana state legislature---began last week after a debate on a Republican championed bill to ban gender affirming care for transgender teens. Zephyr declared that Republicans who backed that proposal would have “blood on your hands.” She later explained that, “When I rose up and said there is blood on your hands, I was not being hyperbolic. I was speaking to the real consequences of the votes that we as legislators take in this body.” Zephyr’s point is fully backed up by data that finds teens who received gendered affirming care have lower rates of depression, suicidal thoughts, and suicide attempts.
The simple line by Zephyr that Republicans would have “blood on their hands” clearly triggered Republican lawmakers who are not used to hearing the truth said to their face. Consequently, the GOP Speaker of the Montana House refused to recognize Zephyr to speak on the floor unless she publicly apologized.
Zephyr rightfully refused, stating in response: “When the speaker asks me to apologize on behalf of decorum, what he is really asking me to do is be silent when my community is facing bills that get us killed.” The 34-year-old representative added, “He’s asking me to be complicit in this legislature’s eradication of our community, and I refuse to do so, and I will always refuse to do so.”
That led to the vote on Wednesday to ban Zephyr from the House floor and from speaking for the remainder of the legislative session. Before the vote, the Montana House GOP majority leader laughably declared in support of the ban, “Freedom in this body involves obedience to all the rules of this body, including the rules of decorum.” The GOP speaking of freedom while banning abortion, banning books, banning care transgender teens and banning free speech would be laughable if not so dangerous.
As expected, Republicans voted in favor of silencing Zephyr. While Rep. Zephyr is still able to vote remotely, the GOP has effectively erased the first transgender representative from the House chamber, the same way Republicans lawmakers across the nation are seeking to erase the entire transgender community.
In response to the Montana GOP using the apparatus of government to silence her, Rep. Zephyr stated the GOP was using decorum as a “tool of oppression,” explaining that the restrictions on her speech were a “nail in the coffin of democracy.” But Zephyr added defiantly, “you cannot kill democracy that easily.”
Both the actions of the GOP in Montana and Tennessee share two factors. First, the GOP super majority that controls each state’s respective chamber was silencing dissent. And second, the GOP was targeting minority groups not liked--or even despised--by the GOP base. In Zephyr’s case, she’s the first ever transgender American elected to the Montana state legislature. In Tennessee, the two representative expelled were Black.
This is the GOP once again taking a page from the fascist playbook. The father of fascism, Italy’s Benito Mussolini once had in essence a super majority in Italy’s Parliament—like today’s GOP does in 19 states. It wasn’t long until Mussolini’s party voted to expel all opposition party members from Parliament.
Adolph Hitler did the same. He used a legal decree announced by the then German President Paul von Hindenburg after a fire burned the German Parliament known as the Reichstag to silence political opponents. Hitler then weeks later was given power by the Parliament to in essence become a dictator when The Enabling Law passed.
The instincts of today’s Republican Party is no different from the fascists of the past. We see the same use of government power to silence dissent. Yet another example comes from Florida Governor Ron DeSantis who last year removed a twice-elected Democratic prosecutor, Andrew Warren, for daring to announce he would not prosecute people for violating the GOP’s bans on gender affirming care and abortion. DeSantis overturned the will of the people because Warren defied him. Warren did file a lawsuit in federal court in which the judge ruled in January that DeSantis had in fact violated Warren’s First Amendment rights but the federal judge was not empowered to reinstate Warren, noting a state court would need to address the issue.
These latest actions by the GOP follow a long list of the party embracing fascism—from banning books to demonizing minorities to most notably supporting the Jan 6 attack on our Capitol to overturn the 2020 election. As I’ve written about in the past, polls now show over 50% of the GOP base view the Jan 6 attack as an “act of patriotism.” That means Trump and a majority of the GOP base see violence as an acceptable tool to acquire and retain political power. As Madeline Albright stated when discussing her book “Fascism: A Warning,” “Whatever else it is, fascism involves the endorsement and use of violence to achieve political goals and stay in power.”
What is also deeply worrisome for those who follow history is that fascists like Mussolini and Hitler not only used legal means to silence political opponents but also violence to ensure critics remained silent. For example, Hitler infamously engaged in what was known as the “Night of the Long Knives” where political opponents were murdered. Mussolini’s use of violence in his rise to power and once in power had the same goal: Suppressing opposition.
History tells us when confronted with fascist movements our options are either: 1. Submit; or 2. Stand up to the fascists. We are now faced with that same choice in 2024. Our democratic Republic and our freedoms depend on which of these two options we choose.
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