On Saturday night, state Republican parties in North Carolina and Georgia took actions alarming to not just our democracy — but to our nation. The first and most dangerous was in North Carolina, where the state’s GOP party welcomed Donald Trump to speak at its annual state convention.
Before Saturday, Trump’s only public speaking event since leaving office was at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) in February, but that group is not formally part of the Republican Party. The North Carolina speech was the first time a state Republican party publicly embraced Trump in this way. And it did so on the eve of the five-month anniversary of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol, which FBI Director Christopher Wray testified in March was an act of “domestic terrorism.”
Surprising to no one, Trump repeated Saturday the very lies that incited the Jan. 6 insurrection, including calling the 2020 election, “the crime of the century.” He even added a new line that sounds like something coup leaders would say to defend their action, telling the audience, “I am not the one who is trying to undermine American democracy, I am the one who is trying to save it.”
Trump radicalized Americans to believe his “Big Lie” that he was the real winner of the election — a claim that led his supporters to storm the Capitol to try to stop the certification of President Joe Biden’s victory. We know this because the rioters told us that in real time during the attack, with comments captured on video mid-siege such as, “Our president wants us here.” And the indictments of members of the right-wing Oath Keepers arrested for their roles as alleged conspirators in the Jan. 6 attack suggest they were there because they believed Trump had called them to Washington with his Dec. 19 tweet about a “big protest” on that was going to be “wild.”
Despite those facts, the North Carolina state GOP party invited Trump to be their headline speaker. Imagine what Republicans would have said if a Democratic president had engaged in the same conduct as Trump did after losing an election. All of it, from spewing non-stop lies to inciting an act of what the FBI sees as “domestic terrorism” designed to overturn a lost election. And then the Democratic party celebrated that ex-President just months after the attack. Any doubt the GOP leaders would denounce the Democrats as supporting terrorism?
In Georgia, the GOP state convention also showcased their devout loyalty to Trump. First, GOP Gov. Brian Kemp was loudly booed by the crowd, presumably for refusing to help Trump illegally overturn Biden’s win in the state. And then the GOP delegates voted to censure Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger, a fellow Republican, who in the aftermath of the 2020 election rebuffed Trump’s efforts to help him “find” votes to overturn the result.
As reminder, there were three recounts in Georgia after the election that all confirmed Biden’s win. After the third one, Raffensperger stated, “Georgians can now move forward knowing that their votes, and only their legal votes, were counted accurately, fairly, and reliably.”
But to the GOP base in Georgia — just as to those in Utah who booed Senator Mitt Romney for voting to impeach Trump — facts don’t matter, the truth is only what Trump says it is. Thus, the GOP voted Saturday to censure Raffensperger for “dereliction of his constitutional duty.” This is akin to Trump saying he wants to defend, not undermine, our democracy with his lies. The Georgia GOP formally condemned Raffensperger, who literally followed the Constitution, for “dereliction” of duty.
The threat today’s GOP poses to our nation, though, goes far beyond these latest two events. We are seeing a multi-faceted assault by the GOP on the very bedrock of our Republic. First, there’s the GOP’s war on voting access. Since January, at least 14 GOP-controlled states enacted 22 new laws between January 1 and May 2021 to make it more difficult to vote, according to the Brennan Center for Justice.
Worse, in some cases, these laws in places such as Georgia make it easier to overturn an election after it has taken place. A proposed law in Texas would have had a similar effect had Democrats not blocked a vote on it last week.
Then there are the GOP’s efforts in various states to effectively criminalize peaceful protests after last summer’s Black Lives Matter movement took to the streets. In Oklahoma, the law there even alarmingly grants criminal and civil immunity to motorists who injure or kill protesters with their vehicles if the drivers believe they are fleeing a riot.
Third, we have the GOP’s war on academic freedom that bans schools from teaching about systemic racism — aka “Critical race theory” (CRT). As of late May, five GOP-controlled state legislatures had banned CRT or related topics and conservatives in nine other states are pushing for similar measures. This is in essence a modern-day book burning by the GOP.