Nancy Pelosi is the speaker of the US House of Representatives, and her 82-year-old husband was badly beaten by a Trump supporter who had broken into their home in San Francisco, searching for her, presumably to kill her1. Where did this come from? The Republicans would have you believe the lie that it was because the 2020 presidential election was stolen from Trump. Of course, there is no evidence for this. Indeed, where Trump pointed to some sort of election fraud, there was an enormous amount of evidence that there had been none2. But evidence is of no concern to his gullible supporters.
Fortunately, this sort of equine ordure has not yet made it to Australia to anything like the degree it has in the US. I presume this is in part because unlike the US, we have the Australian Electoral Commission which runs federal elections, which largely prevents gerrymanders, disenfranchisement, and other methods of election rigging. So, that avenue is largely closed to rabid supporters of the far right. However, it will come here if we are not careful. This is because we suffer the same sort of malevolence as in the US. There, that malevolence most often manifests itself in the most horrifying way, by the refusal of most politicians there to regulate semi-automatic rifles and handguns which, in 2021, killed a record 49,000 people, including over 4,000 children. This is a death rate of almost 11 per 100,000 people3. Indeed, guns have now become the leading cause of death among children in the US, having overtaken vehicle accidents in 20204. Some of these children are in schools when they are killed. So far in 2022, in Australia, 241 people have been killed by firearms (less than 1 person per 100,000)5.
Why does the US not do anything? Because it costs a huge amount to run election campaigns, and the NRA and gun manufacturers donate an enormous amount of money to election campaigns of candidates6,7, and without these huge warchests, running a successful campaign would be impossible. In 2016, the National Rifle Association spent over $50 million to back Donald Trump and several Republican Senate candidates, establishing itself as a major force in the election8.
The more money you have to spend, the more likely you are to win your seat in Congress.
It also costs a huge amount to run campaigns here in Australia, but this is not nearly on the scale of that in the US where billions are spent on election campaigning. However, the gun lobby in Australia is active. Between 2011 and 2019, $1.7 million was donated to Australian political parties and this only includes donations which were publicly disclosed. Up to two thirds of political donations are secret. The main beneficiaries of gun lobby donations were Katter’s Australian Party, with over $800,000, and the Shooters, Fishers and Farmers Party, with almost $700,000. One of the major donors include firearms supplier and manufacturer NIOA. This explains why Katter himself is such a proponent of relaxation of gun laws; his son-in-law, Robert Nioa, is the managing director of NIOA, one of Australia’s largest firearm importers9,10.
In Australia, the gun lobby is relatively small, but there are huge amounts of other money which goes into political parties. Where does this money come from in Australia? This is the malevolence of which I write. The wealthy and their corporations donate to political parties and expect something in return. They often try to pass it off as ‘supporting democracy’ but it has nothing to do with democracy, except to try to subvert it. They do not give money to all political parties, just to those they think will benefit them. We could find out how much they love democracy by only allowing donations via the Electoral Commission such that it would be spread between all candidates in an election, with the candidates having no idea where the money came from. If you think donations would remain at the same level from the same corporations, I have a harbour bridge I’d like to sell you.
My partner and I have friends in the US, with whom we talk on Zoom from time to time. They are liberals, although one of the group of five used to vote Republican – he says he’s ashamed of that, and we tell him there’s nothing to be ashamed of, since it’s a different organisation now. When he voted for them, they at least believed in the democratic process, and now they obviously don’t.
Anyway, this group are now genuinely alarmed at the way the US is going, and suggest that there is a real possibility of Civil War 2.0. I’ve never seen them so alarmed. We are fortunate not to have chosen to live there, and I would be reluctant these days even to travel there.
It certainly is alarming, and I don’t envy anyone who lives there. Like you, I’d be reluctant to travel there.
The Republican – and their rw extremists-racists-conspiracy theorist supporters – lust for power over principle (something we saw happening here under the LNP to a lesser extent), and their eschewing of law, ethics, integrity and basic honesty isn’t just a concern for Americans. If the USA was to fracture into widespread lawless violence – something Russia obviously knew an unhinged Trump could facilitate – world balance would shift massively. Not only would economies crash, Putin and the similarly driven Xinping would be emboldened. With our pathetic defences we’d be a sitting shot without significant external support from allies. The irony of the French coming to our aid wouldn’t be lost on anyone other than the clueless Morrison.
Republican “lawmakers” aren’t the only dangers though as Hartcher points out in today’s article:
Yeah, there is a feeling of powerlessness on this side of the Pacific. One of the things which struck me in the article was Khalil’s assertion that it is the long term inequality in the US which is driving this MAGA idiocy. This all started when neoliberal economics was adopted by Reagan. The US has been in a downward spiral ever since. One of the first steps the US could take to attempt to preserve its democracy is to reinstate truth in news legislation, which was repealed by Reagan. That would help alleviate the malevolence of Murdoch.