In last week’s hearing of the January 6 Committee, we heard testimony that on the day of the Capitol putsch, the Secret Service agents assigned to protect then-Vice President Mike Pence were calling their families over their service radios to say goodbye. Remember this, the next time the MAGA-fied Republican Party repeats the ancient Nixon slogan that it is “the party of law and order.”
There is more than one way to destroy the rule of law, of course, and the MAGA fascist movement appears determined to try all of them. There is the enactment of grotesque and absurd laws that actually encourage violence; in many Red States, it is officially legal now for drivers to run over protestors (and you know which protestors they have in mind). There is the obscene series of rulings from the Trump junta that dominates the Supreme Court, the overturning of Roe v. Wade being only the most notorious so far.
But there’s a problem neatly encapsulated in the title of this essay. The word outlaw probably calls to your mind someone like Antonio Banderas in the title role of the 1998 movie, “The Mask of Zorro.” Oscar Wilde once observed that “the Americans are certainly hero-worshipers, and always take their heroes from the criminal classes.” It is debatable whether Americans really idolize criminals more than people of other nationalities, but the tendency is certainly there.
That’s one unacknowledged motivation in many Republican voters’ minds. But the contrary tendency also exists, of people “fed up with crime” to vote Republican. It is vitally important that such people understand that if they cast their ballots for the radical right Republican Party of Donald Trump and Marjorie Taylor Greene, they are not voting for law and order; they are voting for lawlessness, in a party that wants to put military-grade weapons in the hands of every “disgruntled” young racist and woman-hater who wants one. The Capitol putschists, Oath Keepers, Proud Boys, etc. are comparable to the original Nazi stormtroopers, the Sturmabteilung (S.A.), who helped propel Hitler to power in 1933, only for him to turn around and crush them in a 1934 purge known to history as the Night of the Long Knives. The likes of the “Q-Anon Shaman” do not understand any more than S.A. leader Ernst Röhm did that they will share a similar fate, should they succeed next time in bringing Trump, DeSantis or some other fascist leader of the radicalized Republican Party to power. That’s because the stormtroopers bring unseemly violent turmoil to settings like your local school board meeting, and once the Party is firmly entrenched in power, it will likely heed the complaints of “law-abiding Middle Americans” on this score, just as the Nazis were seen to be restoring Teutonic law n’ order back in ’34.
Even then, the MAGA regime will embody the opposite of law and order, because it will be totalitarian. Remember, when the hero Winston Smith starts his diary in George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, he reflects that this action “was not illegal (nothing was illegal, since there were no longer any laws), but if detected it was reasonably certain that it would be punished by death, or at least by twenty-five years in a forced-labour camp.” Legality under such a regime is defined solely by what the Leader and the State want. That is the American future we must avoid.