Report from Capitol Hill: Still the Trump Era

BY PAUL STREET

Image by Clay Banks.

It’s up to Merrick Garland

– Ro Khanna, June 23, 2022

The Trump Republicans’ Amerikaner fascism marches on in the face of passive resistance from the Inauthentic Opposition party, the dismal, dollar-drenched Weimar Democrats.

Two days ago, I spent hours in a Capitol Hill bar and restaurant doing jail support for three Rise Up 4 Abortion Rights (RU4AR) activists arrested by Capitol Police outside the United States Supreme Court. I was a curious sight for US Congressmen and their obsequious staffs as I sat bedecked in green bandanas (see below), working my phone and taking notes from teeth-pulling conversations with jail officers while I downed one overpriced IPA draft after another. Unlike everyone else in the establishment, I wasn’t wearing a medium-priced suit.

I was struck by how differently humans fall out. Earlier that morning I had beheld glorious and self-sacrificing popular solidarity as RU4AR and other abortions rights cadres made powerful, moving statements against the coming likely Supreme Court decision to re-impose the female bondage that is forced motherhood. I had made a statement myself, as I would the next day.

I was reminded of the night before, when I had interviewed Guido Reichstader, who had recently affixed himself to the gates of the Supreme Court. On June 6th, this gentle, intellectual, scientifically trained and deeply moral activist – an Extinction Rebellion veteran – hopped a security barrier and chained and locked himself by his neck to the giant black security fence that rings the Court. While authorities struggled to remove him for fifteen minutes, he chanted “Overturn Roe? Hell No!”

RU4AR put up a video on Twitter showing Guido holding a green bandana, symbol of the remarkable successful abortion rights social movements led by militant Latin American feminists in Argentina, Columbia, and Mexico. “I’m doing this as the first step, kind of like throwing down the gauntlet, the first step in a call to the people of America who support abortion rights – and that’s the vast majority of us – to step out of inaction and passivity and sitting back and to enter nonviolent resistance,” Guido said in the video.

I caught up with Guido on Father’s Day, Sunday June 19th. He was in day five of a hunger strike to save abortion rights in the U.S. “My daughter is 12 and I’ve got a 14-year old boy,” he told me, “I intended this as a call to action to men but especially to fathers. It was just, you know, the conviction I felt in my daughter’s eyes. I just felt like I couldn’t do anything but to resist what the Court is threatening to do to her future.”

There weren’t any Guido Reichstaders in the tony Capitol Hill tavern where I sat trying to track down RU4AR’s most recent arrestees across multiple possible locations. Here it was all about egotistical calculation. Ambitious House staffers did their best to kiss their Congressman’s ass, asking him how his kids were doing in private school, when he’ll be running for governor, and what his vacation plans were. The reptilian Representatives basked in the dutiful attention, providing long and dignified answers on how well their children were performing academically, why they stand behind their existing red state governor. Luxurious European itineraries were shared, eliciting oohs and ahs from well-groomed staffers.

Meanwhile my arrested comrades were freezing in an ugly lock up on the other side of town, in a police district that deals mainly in the confinement of Black people. Their crime: standing up and speaking out for reproductive justice and against the women-hating war on abortion rights.

The next day I would participate in RU4AR protests outside that same police district. Numerous Black passers-by stopped to discuss with me the instructive difference between (a) activists being locked up for making public demonstration against the reversal of a basic human and constitutional right supported by more the two-thirds of the population and (b) the fascist gangster Donald Trump still walking free even as it becomes yet more clear than ever that he was centrally involved in an attempt to overthrow the nation’s electoral, rule-of-law bourgeois republic and establish himself as a de facto dictator before, during, and after the 2020 presidential election.

Near the end of my restaurant adventure, I noticed that the establishment’s large telescreen was showing the US House hearings on the Trump coup attempt. The subject of the day’s hearings was the criminal RepubliNazi plot to produce fake Trump Electoral College slates in states Joe Biden won. I stayed a bit longer to hear some riveting testimony.

Nobody else in this bar full of House members and staff was paying the slightest attention. Maybe that’s because they knew that nothing much is going to come out of the House January 6th committee, thanks to a longstanding ruling class gentleman’s agreement holding that presidents and ex-presidents don’t get prosecuted for crimes they committed while residing in the White House. Rep. Jamie “Love and the Constitution” Raskin (D-MD) can have all the checks and balances wet dreams he wants, but smart bettors know that the agreement holds even in the case of an attempted fascist coup.

I ran into leading House liberal Ro Khanna (D-CA) outside a Capitol Hill café this (Thursday) afternoon. Here was his answer when I asked him if the January 6th committee hearings might elicit a federal prosecution of Trump: “It’s up to Merrick Garland.”

Nice to know. That’s like hearing that I have been tapped to pitch the Seventh Game of the World Series for your favorite major league baseball team. Garland is a milquetoast centrist and power-worshipping institutionalist in the miserable mode of Joe Lieberman and Barack “Look Forward, Not Backward” (so don’t prosecute George W. Bush for torture and war crimes) Obama. Rightly named after a lifeless decoration, he has had abundant evidence, duty, and opportunity to prosecute Trump for at least a year. He has shown no serious signs of wanting to upset the aforementioned gentleman’s agreement.

The conventional wisdom here is that the hearings are a public relations exercise meant to help the Democrats in the mid-term elections, which they will almost certainly lose (inflation will seal the deal on that).

My guess is that Garland is too busy prosecuting Russian war criminals on behalf of the oligarchic state of Ukraine to take on the Trump Hall Putsch in, you know, “the world’s greatest democracy.” Here is a recent report from Reuters:

WASHINGTON, June 21 – U.S. Attorney General Merrick Garland affirmed the United States’ commitment to identify, arrest and prosecute those involved in war crimes and atrocities committed during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in a visit to that country on Tuesday…Garland met with Prosecutor General Iryna Venediktova near Lviv, Ukraine, and announced the creation of a team focused on war crimes accountability, the Justice Department said. “The United States is sending an unmistakable message. There is no place to hide. We will, we and our partners will pursue every avenue available to make sure that those who are responsible for these atrocities are held accountable,” Garland told reporters as he entered the meeting…The newly created team will assist Ukraine with criminal prosecution, evidence collection and forensics of human rights abuse, war crimes and other atrocities, the department said, adding that the team’s lead counselor is a Justice Department official who once led the effort to track down Nazi war criminals.’

When it comes to Russia, it’s “no place to hide.” When it comes to the fascist threat at the homeland door, all indications are it’s going to be run and hide.

The deeply conservative neoliberal Democrats are all about “reaching across the aisle” and not rocking the boat even as the hyper-partisan radical(ly reactionary) Republicans are ready to sink the (bourgeois) “democratic” ship of state and replace it with a white nationalist destroyer. That’s why the Dems wouldn’t put masses in the streets to pre-empt the long-telegraphed Trump coup attempt in November and December of 2020 and the opening days of 2021, consistent with Biden’s pathetic post-election call for “patience” since “democracy is messy sometimes.”

That’s why the Dems and their allied “pro-choice” organizations Planned Parenthood and NARAL surrendered Roe v. Wade in advance and are egregiously missing outside the autocratic, absurdly reactionary Supreme Court. The Court, so far to the right of the populace as to mock the nation’s last democratic pretenses, may well have shredded abortion rights by this (Friday, June 23rd) morning. After such a (frankly likely) decision tomorrow or next week (so what if 70% of the populace wants to keep Roe intact?). If and when the Christo-fascist abortion axe falls, expect the Dems and their “pro-choice” allies to advance a handful of thoroughly inadequate “fixes” and “work-arounds,” with abortion sanctuary states being the top pretend solution – and a leading excuse for Dem inaction. Anything not to have to mobilize the masses – the dangerous, many-headed mob known as the people.

Doubts about the right-wing illegitimacy of the Trump Court were further erased today by rulings that erased a key Miranda right for arrested persons and wiped out a New York law restricting open firearm carry in New York, quite recently the site of a mass and racist gun massacre committed by an open fascist.

It’s worse than mere surrender when it come to the Dems and abortion rights. The Dems are looking forward to the horrific decision promised in the infamous leaked draft Jackson v. Dobbs decision that was crafted by the woman-hating Christo-fascist Sam Alito. They think it will help them “keep Congress” (which they don’t really “have” in the first place thanks to the deeply reactionary nature and power of the US Senate) despite the historical partisan record of mid-terms (the party newly in White House power almost always loses the mid-terms), despite rampant inflation (the worst in four decades), despite the endless bumbling of Biden, despite the baby formula fiasco, despite the historically high percentage of US Americans who say the country is “on the wrong track, and despite savage right-wing House gerrymandering and voter suppression in red states.

The perverse hope for an abortion rights backlash as the key to Democratic electoral success will if anything be intensified by Democrats’ apparent willingness to let the Republi-fascist party off the hook for its NRA-captive sponsorship of the nation’s ongoing gun violence epidemic. In its usual spirit of “reaching across the aisle” to the Republi-fascists to “get things done” no matter how limited and narrow, the Weimar Dems have let the far-right major party set the terms for a post-Buffalo/-Uvalde gun reform bill that falls so sickeningly short of serious change that it doesn’t even include raising the legal age for purchasing military-style assault rifles from 18 to 21.

Maybe the party of passive resistance likes the horrific New York gun ruling, seeing it as another source of electoral advantage.

The fall of Roe, it cannot be said often enough, will be about more than abortion rights. It is the leading legal battering ram in a broader Christo-fascist Republikaner offensive meant to dismantle every human, civil, and democratic right the rightmost major party can get its hands on.

Only furious masses in the millions, an angry and organized populace, the people, can stop this revanchist juggernaut. The Democrats will never bring their resources to bear on behalf of such an uprising. We have to do it ourselves. Think about coming to DC.

Paul Street’s latest book is This Happened Here: Amerikaners, Neoliberals, and the Trumping of America (London: Routledge, 2022).

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