Wandrea "Shaye" Moss's abuse at the hands of Donald Trump is terrifying for the same reason serial killers are terrifying: Because the victims feel so randomly selected. Ted Bundy roamed beaches and college campuses looking for any long-haired white girl he could torture and kill. Moss did not speculate, during her short but powerful testimony before the January 6 committee on Tuesday, on why Trump and his odious sidekick Rudy Giuliani picked her and her mother, Ruby Freeman, for a vicious smear campaign falsely accusing them of injecting fake ballots into counting machines. She didn't need to speculate, because it was painfully obvious. Trump and Giuliani wanted their victims to be Black women because their conspiracy theories about a "stolen" election are all about tickling the lizard brain racism of the GOP base.
Moss and Freeman were singled out for the same reason that Fox News runs endlessly ridiculous segments villainizing Vice President Kamala Harris for every sneeze or smile. She was targeted for the same reason Republicans turned the confirmation hearings for Ketanji Brown Jackson into a circus of white resentment. Trump zeroed in on these two women for the same reason he spent years hyping the ridiculous conspiracy that President Barack Obama was not a natural born citizen of the United States. It's all a head nod in the direction of the unspeakable but clearly animating belief of MAGA nation: People of color are not legitimate American citizens.
The conspiracy theory about Moss and Freeman was, in both its intent and effect, a hate crime.
With all the right-wing noise about Dominion voting machines and "dead people voting," it can be easy for some to lose sight of how the Big Lie was, from its inception, a white supremacist conspiracy theory. The Big Lie channels the white conservative belief that only they are real Americans and gives them the pretext to discredit voters of racially diverse cities like Philadelphia and Detroit as "frauds." There were endless numbers of photos and videos of election workers counting ballots that Trump and Giuliani could pretend to see illicit activity in. They clearly wanted Black women to be the face of their accusations about "fraud" voters, and unfortunately for Moss and Freeman, they were the unlucky names pulled out of the red baseball cap. The conspiracy theory about Moss and Freeman was, in both its intent and effect, a hate crime.
The background articles giving context to Moss' testimony were a brutal reminder of what unsubtle and noxious racists both Trump and Giuliani are. Falsely accusing Freeman of supposedly passing thumb drives to Moss (it was actually candy), Giuliani literally used the phrase "like they were vials of heroin or cocaine" during a hearing with Georgia lawmakers. He was leaving nothing to chance in trying to make this conspiracy theory go viral on the right. Trump referred to Freeman as a "hustler" in his infamous phone call to Georgia Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger. The over-the-top racism worked, as the lie crashed through right-wing social media like a tsunami, resulting in the horrendous abuse and threats to her life that Moss recounted Tuesday.
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It's not even fair to describe the GOP mask as "slipping" off these days. It's much more like they're gleefully ripping it off.
Over the weekend, the Texas GOP held their convention and released a new party platform, which included a call to repeal the Voting Rights Act of 1965. It's telling how straight-up fascist the overall document was that this item barely registered in mainstream media coverage of it, which was more focused on the declaration that "President Joseph Robinette Biden Jr. was not legitimately elected" and that homosexuality is an "abnormal lifestyle choice." But it's startling nonetheless. The Voting Rights Act was pivotal legislation that made voting a right in practice and not just theory for Black Americans. Openly demanding the repeal of the law is nothing less than publicly endorsing the Jim Crow laws that prevented over 90% of Black Americans in some states from voting prior to the law's passing.
The GOP base is moved by a visceral loathing of Black people, especially women, participating in the machinery of democracy as full and equal members of society
The call to repeal the Voting Rights Act isn't the only direct shot at the right of people of color to vote in the platform, either. As Paul Waldman of the Washington Post pointed out on Monday, the platform also calls for a "state-level electoral college, eliminating one person-one vote" so that "the votes of white rural Republicans will count more" in statewide elections for races like governor, senator, and president. Even the white Southerners who passed Jim Crow laws didn't think to do that. But, as Waldman observed, the goal here is gutting democracy so "the voters can't stop you and all your darkest fantasies can be realized."
These attacks on voting rights are, of course, intimately tied up with the Big Lie.
The Big Lie is wielded as the main justification for the crackdown on voting, which is justified as an attempt to root out "fraud." But the call to repeal the Voting Rights Act and to overweigh white rural voters in elections gives the game away. Republicans aren't worried about dead people voting or double votes or fake votes. What angers them is not illegal voting at all. They're mad at all the legal voting. They're furious that people of color have the franchise, and they're doing everything they can to reduce the power of those votes, if not eliminate those votes completely.
Much of the mainstream media discussion about this white supremacist assault on voting rights reframes it as a partisan issue. Voters of color, especially Black voters, favor Democrats and so Republicans are targeting them for partisan reasons. The presumption is that the desire for partisan advantage is the motivator and the racist results are collateral damage. Hopefully, Moss's testimony rattles that assumption.
Her ordeal is a chilling reminder of how much the Trumpist base is motivated by naked racism. Her image was put out there by Trump and his cronies because they knew how his supporters would react with nearly animal rage at the sight of two Black women in the banal process of counting ballots. He and Giuliani knew because they feel it themselves. The GOP base is moved by a visceral loathing of Black people, especially women, participating in the machinery of democracy as full and equal members of society. It's not that partisanship leads to racism. It's the other way around: White supremacy is why Trump and the Republicans are so hell bent on gutting democracy.