Fascist voter intimidation is a problem that will not go away by itself.

Never believe that anti-Semites are completely unaware of the absurdity of their replies. They know that their remarks are frivolous, open to challenge. But they are amusing themselves, for it is their adversary who is obliged to use words responsibly, since he believes in words. The anti-Semites have the right to play. They even like to play with discourse for, by giving ridiculous reasons, they discredit the seriousness of their interlocutors. They delight in acting in bad faith, since they seek not to persuade by sound argument but to intimidate and disconcert. If you press them too closely, they will abruptly fall silent, loftily indicating by some phrase that the time for argument is past.

― Jean-Paul Sartre

It brings me no joy to say that I think this Sartre quote will be important to keep in mind over the next few years. Even without the recent rise in open antisemitism from the right, I think the general idea is important to keep in mind, when dealing with the presence of a growing fascist movement in society. That “they don’t believe in words” bit applies to pretty much all of reality. Whether this is a deep belief, or just a worldview they adopt to justify what they want to do anyway, concepts like “truth” and “reality” are about who has the power to impose their will, not about any kind of verifiable fact. They’ll say otherwise, of course, just like they’ll lie about anything else, but it’s like with Trump – the absolute truth is whatever suits their goal in the given moment.

When it comes to elections, their goal is power. That’s not the same as saying that their goal is to win an election. They do want to win the election, of course, but only so they can use that power to make it harder for anyone else to win the next election. Ultimately, their only use for elections is to provide an appearance of legitimacy, while they feel they need it. If they feel that pretense is no longer necessary, they will shed it just as quickly as they’ve shed the pretense that they’re not racist, or not transphobic.

The same holds true for so many of their so-called beliefs, that unless you happen to know how to decipher their obscurantism and lies, you often have to infer their actual goals from the effects of their actions and the direction in which they seem to be heading. They may say that they’re OK with legal immigration, and that race has nothing to do with it, but at the same time, they’re lying about what constitutes legal vs illegal immigration. They may say that they care about law and order, but they ignore or actively seek to violate laws that go against the hierarchy they believe should exist. For fascists, that hierarchy means “us” at the top, and “them” at the bottom. It’s very, very similar to this famous Frank Wilhoit quote:

Conservatism Consists of Exactly One Proposition, to Wit: There Must Be In-Groups Whom the Law Protects but Does Not Bind, Alongside Out-Groups Whom the Law Binds but Does Not Protect.

When they say “law and order”, they’re talking about a self-serving definition of natural law, and natural order, from a Social Darwinian perspective. Anything is justifiable in defense of that version of law and order in particular. Imprisonment without trial, planting evidence, perjury, torture, murder, theftanything is justifiable.

That’s why efforts to subvert democracy are on any list of characteristics of fascism. It’s not because fascist regimes in the past were authoritarian – though they were – it’s because fascism as an ideology views the concept of “fair play” as weakness. Victory and power are all that matter, hence the Nazi slogan of “Seig heil” – hail victory. That’s also why we should expect fascists to keep trying to scare people out of voting:

Consider this: Two armed individuals – dressed in tactical gear – were spotted at a ballot drop box in Mesa on Friday night, according to Maricopa County officials. The pair left the scene when the County Sheriff’s Office arrived.

“We are deeply concerned about the safety of individuals who are exercising their constitutional right to vote and who are lawfully taking their early ballot to a drop box,” Maricopa County Board of Supervisors Chairman Bill Gates and Recorder Stephen Richer said in a joint statement on Saturday.

There’s reason for concern, especially with candidates who have questioned the results of the 2020 election running as GOP nominees this year – including a full slate of them in Arizona, which became a hotspot of election denialism in the wake of Trump’s loss to Joe Biden in the state. And across the country, there’s concern about how some GOP-controlled county boards run by election deniers will oversee this year’s elections.

Read this report from CNN’s Kyung LahThe Arizona Secretary of State’s Office has already referred to the US Department of Justice and Arizona Attorney General’s Office a separate report of voter intimidation:

The unidentified voter reported that they were approached and followed by a group of individuals when the voter was trying to drop off their ballot at an early voting drop box on Monday.

CNN on Thursday obtained from the Arizona Secretary of State’s Office the report in which the voter detailed the alleged incident. It occurred, the voter wrote, around 6:40 p.m. at the Juvenile Justice Court drop box in Mesa, within Maricopa County.
The voter wrote that a “group of people” filmed, photographed and raised accusations against them as they attempted to return their early ballots.

The voter wrote that a “group of people” filmed, photographed and raised accusations against them as they attempted to return their early ballots.

See for yourself. “There’s a group of people hanging out near the ballot dropbox filming and photographing my wife and I as we approached the dropbox and accusing us of being a mule,” the voter said, adding that the group took photographs of them, their license plate and followed them out of the parking lot.

Part of the incident was captured on surveillance video, as seen here.

Arizona has referred six cases of voter intimidation to the Department of Justice, for its current primary, but this problem goes well beyond the long-standing U.S. tradition of voter intimidation by fascist vigilantes. Florida governor Ron Desantis has already shown that he’s willing to engage in human trafficking for a PR stunt, but he’s also arresting people for “voter fraud”, because they mistakenly believed they were allowed to vote. To be clear, they voted under their own names, and most of them did so after requesting and receiving explicit permission to do so from the Florida Department of Elections:

Of the 19 people arrested by DeSantis’ Office of Election Crimes and Security, 13 were Black and 12 were registered Democrats. Most had applied to register to vote under Amendment 4, a voter-approved 2018 ballot measure meant to restore voting rights for 1.4 million former felons. The stakes transcended Florida and criminal justice reform—a botched state voter purge of purported former felons played what one federal civil rights commissioner called an “outcome determinative” role in the 2000 U.S. presidential election.

Most of the applicants who were arrested were approved by the Florida Department of Elections, which sent their voter registration cards ahead of the 2020 elections. All were charged with third-degree felony voter fraud, a crime punishable by as many as five years behind bars and up to a $5,000 fine.

“The arrests are a grotesque abuse of power by Gov. DeSantis,” ACLU of Florida continued. “Although the governor and Legislature claimed that they passed S.B. 7066 in 2019 to ‘clarify’ Voting Restoration Amendment 4, in reality, the law created an unworkable pay-to-vote system that is intentionally difficult and complex to navigate.”

Bear in mind that in the United States, being arrested and charged with a felony can have devastating affects on your life. Even if you don’t miss work because the cops took you away, many places will still fire you for having been arrested. If you have a conviction on your record, your rights are already limited in most of the country, whether or not you have a conviction on your record. I say that because while a judge has thrown out the case, the disruption to these people’s lives is still very real, as is the message it sends. It doesn’t matter if you think you’re allowed to vote – you might get arrested for doing it anyway.

This will not end here. Remember – the only limit on what they will do, is what they think they can get away with, and they will never stop pushing that boundary. This is also not something that can be solved solely by voting. I really, really wish it was, but when you have a fascist party openly working to subvert democracy (Remember when the GOP candidate successfully sued to stop a recount?), it’s hard to come to any other conclusion. That doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to grab your muskets and rise up, but it does mean that you should be considering what it would look like to participate in organized resistance that goes beyond protesting authorities who’ve already shown they’re happy to attack and maim protesters and journalists. The momentum of our political and economic system is pushing us towards fascism, and the Democratic Party as it currently exists is neither willing nor able to actually change that. The leadership of the party all benefit from the system as it is, and many of them have done so for decades. Voting is still important, in my view. It can get small improvements, like Biden’s recent pardon for federal cannabis convictions, and while that’s not nearly enough, it’s still going to make a few thousand people’s lives a bit easier going forward.

But that’s not enough to change the momentum. The reality is that democracy requires more work than most people have been putting into it. That’s also largely because of systemic problems. Most people’s childhood education doesn’t include stuff about community organizing, how to run a union, or how to form an underground resistance against an authoritarian regime. Once we’re in the work force, a lot of people barely have time to get enough sleep, let alone do more work that doesn’t even come with a paycheck. And yet, somehow, we have to find a way to do more, or at least to do differently. We have to rediscover how to build, sustain, and wield collective power, and we have to figure out what it would look like to have actual self-governance in a modern society.

If you like the content of this blog, please share it around. If you like the blog and you have the means, please consider joining my lovely patrons in paying for the work that goes into it. Due to my immigration status, I’m currently prohibited from conventional wage labor, so for the next couple years at least this is going to be my only source of income. You can sign up for as little as $1 per month (though more is obviously welcome), to help us make ends meet – every little bit counts!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *