Written By: Ken Wang
The runoff election in Georgia meant victory for the incumbent Democratic Senator Raphael Warnock who defeated Trump-backed Republican Herschel Walker. Warnock’s victory tipped the scale in the Senate, creating a democratic majority by just two seats. Democrats largely maintained the status quo leading up to the midterm elections. Now, both Democrats and Republicans alike have begun gearing up for the 2024 Presidential Election.
There will undoubtedly be fierce political battles between the two political parties over the next two years. The party lines will be drawn over issues like abortion, same-sex marriage, and the legalization of marijuana. There are key things to remember before the next election cycle hits. Their effects have the potential to greatly affect the political landscape.
Recent events have not been kind to Republicans. Most recently, following the Jan 6th investigations, the Department of Justice released a statement stating that the leaders of the Florida chapter of Oath Keepers, an American far-right anti-government militia, had been charged in court. Elmer Stewart Rhodes III and Kelly Meggs have both been found guilty of seditious conspiracy and other crimes related to the storming of the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6th, 2020. The crimes committed that day have not been forgotten.
According to the same DOJ statement, three other leaders and associates of the Oath Keepers were also charged. Kenneth Harrelson, Jessica Watkins, and Thomas Caldwell have all been found guilty of similar crimes. They are now awaiting trials and deliberations.
In addition to convicting key leaders of Oath Keepers, far-right conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, the host of the infamous show, InfoWars, recently filed for bankruptcy. Jones faces court-ordered reparations that total nearly $15 billion. These payments are to families of Sandy Hook shooting victims who Jones claimed had not actually died, but were rather actors part of a government-orchestrated hoax. He used his show, InfoWars, to deliberately spread misinformation, the court decided, in order to garner fame and monetary gains.
Jones also made the bold move to host Ye West (formerly known as Kanye West), who has recently made inflammatory anti-Semitic comments over the internet. West made similar comments during his appearance on InfoWars. During the episode, Ye explicitly said things like “I like Hitler” and “I [love] Nazis.” Rhetoric like this has been proven to increase anti-semitic sentiment, and the perpetuation of it by Jones and those like him only continues to sow the seed of hatred and extremism in the United States.
If all these events were not bad news enough for American conservatives and right-wing voters, former President Donald Trump’s company was convicted in Manhattan last week for criminal tax fraud. The conviction marks the first time that a jury has succeeded in finding one of Trump’s companies guilty of criminal tax fraud.
New York Attorney General Letitia James has sought prosecution of Trump, he recently announced his intention to run for President again in 2024. Legal troubles like these could spell worry within the Trump train. However, his accumulation of powerful and extremely conservative political allies in Congress could be enough to steady his boat. He might even be able to gain his former allies back– and gain new ones on the way. Legal troubles do not necessarily translate into prosecution. We cannot know whether Trump will ever face jail for the litany of charges against him. But one thing is certain: Trump can no longer hide behind executive privilege.
In November, Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel of the Republican National Committee (RNC) said that they would stop paying for Trump’s legal bills should he announce to run in the 2024 election cycle. So far, she has remained silent on the matter.
If the RNC does not follow through with its commitment to restrain Trump, how can the conservatives trust the GOP and RNC-backed candidates? According to the early polling numbers, support for Trump dropped from 64 percent in July to 55 percent in November. Perhaps this is a good thing.
Republicans have so far been guessing that current Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R-FL) will win the party primary and enter the general election. DeSantis has been an active advocate for regressive policies such as sponsoring Florida’s controversial Don’t Say Gay Bill and the policy of sending illegal immigrants to Martha’s Vinyard.
The reality is that until Trump is behind bars, Democratic candidates will likely have to face one of the two extreme Republican candidates in the 2024 General Election. Whoever the Democratic candidate is will have a tough battle. Now more than ever, many feel that the stakes are as large as protecting democracy and human rights, especially after January 6th and the recent reversal of Roe. Now more than ever, simple party politics have lost traction among voters. Voters have begun to worry about the foundation of our society.
As party politics grow ever more partisan, there is an observable phenomenon within the GOP arising that I will refer to as regressive conservative extremism. This growing movement is driven by Trumpist ideologies that encourage extreme beliefs, purporting itself to stand against the status quo.
Ye’s growing anti-Semitic behaviors stand as a strong example of this phenomenon. More importantly, the use of rhetoric like is growing and has become relevant in popular discourse. The rise of white nationalism in the United States has also become mainstream. Voters worry about the courts as well, given decisions like the Supreme Court allowing football coaches to lead prayers in public schools, and the overturn of crucial precedents like Roe.
Another example of these continuing efforts is book banning. Tennessee was one of the first states to begin the book-banning movement. Over time, book banning is now commonplace in 86 school districts across 26 different states, the top three of which are Texas, Florida, and Pennsylvania. Furthermore, most of the censored books have been banned because of LGBTQ+ content and issues of race and racism. With the recent Black Lives Matter Movement, Stop the Asian Hate Movement, and Congressional passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, some have begun to wonder what the true impetus is for Republican lawmakers.
Books are a form of expression, and prohibiting the free circulation of books is an infringement upon freedom of speech– whose main purpose is the ability to freely receive and express ideas. Freedom of speech is a key to a healthy democracy because it allows the public to express its voice and openly exchange ideas. Some Republican politicians have begun to undermine the fabric of our democracy by institutionalizing these bans.
These are just a few examples of the regressive conservative extremism in U.S. domestic politics/policies. Regarding foreign policies, especially regarding immigration, Republicans have racialized terrorism in the United States and supported regressive immigration policies (i.e. restricted them, commonly known as the Muslim Ban). Under Trump, the United States halted immigration from seven Muslim-majority countries, including the admission of Syrian refugees in 2017. Most recently, the Republican Governor of Florida, Ron DeSantis, sent a group of unauthorized immigrants to Martha’s Vinyard.
Moreover, 19 Republican-led states have put in requests to hold their pandemic-era restrictive immigration policies. Republicans have heavily politicized the pandemic since the beginning, and they have repeatedly use “national security” as an excuse to enact restrictive policies regarding immigration. From the Muslism Ban to the restriction on Chinese scholars from entering the United States on baseless accusations of property theft, Republicans under Trump’s precednats have brought back isolationism and a hyper-level of white nationalism that is designed to only legitimize cisgender, Christian, and white Americans, which is an act of regression in today’s globalized world.
Republicans have grown increasingly extreme and continue to adopt more regressive policy positions. For Democrats, the 2024 Presidential Elections, much like the 2022 Midterm Elections, are going to be a battle for maintaining the integrity of democratic institutions like the Supreme Court and deterring regressive conservative extremism. But, a lot still hangs in the balance. Whatever the outcome may be, we can definitely expect to see a relentless fight leading up to the election – one that is drawn across party lines.