The MAGA Republicans continue to assault the will of the majority, along with the rule of law, whenever the opportunity presents itself. Tennessee’s Republican state legislature voted to expel two Black Democratic members for protesting on the statehouse floor for tougher gun laws. Then, as if it would go unnoticed if he didn’t talk about it, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a 6-week abortion ban into law in the middle of the night. And now, supposedly based on his concern for the state’s “stand your ground” law, Governor Gregg Abbott of Texas wants to pardon a man convicted of murdering a Black Lives Matter protester. Waiting for the next shoe to drop from these MAGA Republicans increasingly feels like a bad nightmare about Whac-A-Mole. I’d say they’re showing their true colors, but those are the only colors they have; they’ve never even bothered to show us anything else.
Clearly, the only reason Abbott wants to pardon the convicted murderer of a Black Lives Matter protester is to win points with his MAGA “base.” “Stand your ground,” the legal principal that allows a defendant to claim self-defense to justify his crime, reflects white America’s desperation to protect themselves from the “other,” who they view as a threat (i.e., justification for racially motivated gun violence). Needless to say, however, it’s often questionable whether self-defense was a legitimate excuse for the perpetrator’s actions. By all accounts, the man Abbott wishes to pardon simply shot a protestor who’s views he disagreed with and thus believed threatened his safety. The jury didn’t buy his story, but for some reason Abbott does.
“Stand Your Ground” is Too Often a Convenient Excuse for Murder.
Yes, Governors Abbott and DeSantis, as well as the Tennessee state legislature, are clearly playing to the MAGA “base,” something we’ve seen all too much of lately. It’s true that Abbott and DeSantis were both reelected by substantial margins, but the Republican Party has suffered numerous defeats across the country in recent months based on their unpopular positions on guns and abortion, never mind their looming threat to Social Security and Medicare. It’s unfortunate when a minority must submit to the unjust rule of the majority, but it’s even more disturbing when the majority must submit to the whims of a minority—and that’s precisely what’s happening whenever the MAGA base gets its way.
The fact that Tennessee’s Republican legislature thought it could get away with expelling two Black members (whose position on gun violence is more in keeping with that of most voters) highlights the larger issue. Did they not realize that such a draconian action would make national headlines and cause their party irreparable harm? Was it their intention to thumb their nose at independent swing voters, regardless of the electoral consequences down the road? Indeed, it would appear their need to appease their MAGA base took precedence over their better judgement. Or maybe they’re so lost in MAGA land they simply forgot that a larger American reality was out there.
Increasingly, the Republican Party appears willing to sacrifice the opportunity to win over a majority of voters. That leaves them dependent on the Donald Trump approach to democracy: skip the unpleasant formalities of winning an election and just claim election fraud. “Sad,” as the party’s de facto leader and 2024 nominee would say. “Very sad.” And, unfortunately for the rest of us, being held hostage by an ignorant and misguided minority, it’s very scary.