There's a growing body of evidence showing the Republican Party has a paramilitary wing

United States Senator Ron Johnson said recently that he wasn't scared when, on January 6, armed insurgents sacked and looted the United States Capitol. They "love this country," the Wisconsin Republican said. But "had the tables been turned and President Trump won the election and tens of thousands of Black Lives Matter and antifa [stormed the seat of government], I might have been a little concerned."

That statement was disturbing not only for the implicit racism it carried, but for the stunning confirmation of what's becoming clear to those of us who are paying attention. The Republican Party has a paramilitary problem, and it isn't new.

During his 2016 campaign, Donald Trump alleged, without proof, that the electoral system was fraudulent, raising concerns about the impact that his false accusations would have in the event of his defeat. His unexpected victory opened the door to the far-right fringe and legitimized efforts that contributed to strengthening the ties between them. Many feared that this close relationship would be critical in the 2020 presidential election cycle, with rising domestic tensions and the role that paramilitaries would play in addition to Trump's false claims about the election.

It has been clear for some time now that the Republican Party had a more-than-welcoming attitude toward certain paramilitary groups. The deadly events in Charlottesville in 2017, although fundamentally led by white supremacists called by the former president "very fine people," also had protection services provided by paramilitaries. The following year, more signs of backing for their man in the White House came from Trump-supporting paramilitary groups targeting Muslims. In Oregon, a walkout staged by Republican state senators, in 2019, gained support from paramilitary groups that made credible threats against a planned rally.

For almost three decades, these paramilitaries (thought to be in the hundreds across the country) have viewed the government as the adversary. With a friend residing in the White House, however, these groups experienced an identity crisis. This need for an enemy explains the shift into targeting immigrants and religious minorities. It wasn't just to please their man. It was to embrace a cause allowing them to grow.

After Trump won, there was an increase in the number of paramilitary groups, but the GOP has been no stranger to them. In 2017, a local chapter of the Republican Party in Oregon passed a resolution allowing paramilitaries (the Oath Keepers and the Three Percenters, for instance) to provide security at the local party events. These groups are part of the Patriot Movement, a loose far-right network affiliated with the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing and armed confrontations in Nevada and Oregon in 2016.

The Republican Party seems to be very comfortable with these groups around, as we have seen in Nevada, Oregon, Michigan, and other states. However, this is not a recent venture, since the accounts of strengthening ties can be traced back even before Trump won the election in 2016. The openness about their common interests is perhaps new, but it's not surprising. Alarms were sounded when state Senate Majority Leader, Republican Mike Shirkey of Michigan, participated in a rally organized by paramilitaries that stormed the Michigan Capitol back in April 2020 alongside a member of a group involved in the planned kidnapping of Gov. Gretchen Whitmer.

Though Michigan has a history of paramilitaries, the state GOP had tied itself to them, especially since the election as party co-chair of Meshawn Maddock. She organized a protest to interrupt ballot counting in Detroit, where paramilitaries were present.

Johnson's statement is outrageous, not only for the racism, but also for the approval of white armed groups as opposed to unarmed groups as well as the acknowledgement that he didn't feel threatened by them since they were exercising their freedom. Compare that to his comments about BLM and Antifa, but that's another discussion.

The connections the Republican Party has with paramilitaries are not ambiguous, yet the ongoing investigation into the Capitol attack will likely provide more evidence of the extremely disturbing behavior of the formerly conservative party. Ties between not only Trump and his associates, like Roger Stone, whose security detail included members of the Oath Keepers, but the GOP at state and local levels, should bring into the discussion how one of the major parties in the country is going to stand for democracy while leading a double-life with paramilitaries bent on racial supremacy.

Republicans couldn't give Trump what he wanted on Jan. 6 — so they're going for a consolation prize

Republican lawmakers couldn't please former President Donald Trump by attempting to overturn the election results on January 6, so they decided to change the laws for the next election. State legislatures have introduced more than 250 bills intended to significantly reduce voting rights across the country. These efforts in voter suppression have historically targeted minority voters, especially Black voters.

Voter suppression has been a fundamental feature of the formerly conservative party, and whether by gerrymandering, passing restrictive voter ID laws, upholding felony disenfranchisement, promoting voter registration purges, or eviscerating the 1965 Voting Rights Act, the Jim Crow era doesn't seem to be so long ago.

After the insurrection, Joe Biden's inauguration came as a sign that democracy was safe, momentarily, but that the underlying problems were still there, representing a critical threat to the system. The string of lies the former president, his followers, and the GOP have continued to spread, leading to the violent sacking of the Capitol, are indicators of the perilous situation American democracy finds itself in.

After the insurrection, the string of lies the former president, his followers, and the GOP have continued to spread, leading to the violent sacking of the Capitol, are indicators of the perilous situation American democracy finds itself in.

For the past three weeks, the Democratic majority in the Congress has demanded answers from former and current officials responsible for the safety and intelligence failures that allowed the Capitol to be stormed. This was not only a shameful episode in American history, but also a warning that if the threat represented by anti-government actors aligned with the former president is treated with impunity, the consequences could provoke the breakdown of democracy in the near future.

Republicans didn't wait long to plan for the next election, while also contesting the results that unequivocally made Joe Biden the 46th president of the United States.

It was clear that Republicans were not going to allow people to vote easily, especially after their defeat in Georgia. Voting by mail has been a tradition in some Republican-leaning states, like Florida, where the governor is now proposing changes to the state's vote-by-mail laws, making the case for limiting its use. It seems the Republican Party doesn't mind if with this decision they could be hurting themselves, especially considering that in Florida the retiree population depends on voting by mail.

The governor's proposal makes it clear that for the Republican Party it is crucial to prevent minorities from voting by mail; they must have done their math, and with this measure, they can suppress the vote sufficiently to allow them to win.

The most recent Supreme Court arguments make clear the GOP will do anything, even recognize before the Court that preserving the right to vote goes against their interests. The Arizona case allowed the Republican Party to be on the record in their historical voter-suppression efforts with the support of a conservative supermajority that seems committed to continuing to break up the Voting Rights Act.

These state cases are mostly based on the argument of alleged electoral fraud being made under the cover of the pandemic; however, the lawsuits are not only going after voting by mail, which was extended due to health and safety concerns after the covid outbreak. These cases are attempting to make it easier for GOP-controlled state legislatures to eliminate provisions that protect minorities' voting rights. According to Bruce V. Spiva, a lawyer representing the DNC, "More voting restrictions have been enacted over the last decade than at any point since the end of Jim Crow."

This is not an unusual ploy. There has been a pattern giving the GOP the freedom to admit that allowing certain groups to vote is detrimental to its electoral interests: from Lindsey Graham to Donald Trump, the formerly conservative party has publicly expressed that voting rights should be limited to a certain type of voter: Republicans.

Republicans don't want racial minorities to vote. Whether it is disenfranchising voters by limiting their registrations; manipulating districts, or blocking voter access to ballots and polling stations—these are actions that must be defeated.

The country needs to get behind the most recent legislation passed by the House of Representatives. Otherwise, the states are going to continue limiting voting rights, and in consequence, create the conditions for a renewed Jim Crow era.

The Republican embrace of white Christian nationalism and the decomposing trajectory of the GOP

A functioning democracy needs political parties to connect problems with solutions. In the current state of affairs, American democracy has only one effective democratic party. The other one has been drifting toward illiberalism in a trend that started long before Donald Trump became its leader. The violent insurrection of January 6 confirms its abdication of the values and principles for which it supposedly stands.

A society as diverse as the United States needs all-encompassing representation from its political parties. Yet the former conservative party has become so homogeneous that, today, the white non-college educated population makes up 57 percent of its voters, with 25 percent of white college-educated and 17 percent of non-white voters identifying as Republicans or Republican-leaning.

This demographic shift can be seen in the composition of both parties. The base of the GOP has become increasingly white (82 percent) while the Democratic party has developed into a more diverse constituency, and with that, the policies that the party moves forward. The diversity within the Democratic Party has provoked a backlash in the Republican Party, solidifying its embrace of Christian nationalism.

The argument, from a conservative standpoint, is that American democracy has lost its commitment to uphold what they consider to be the authentic American way of life; that is, a white, religiously-conservative majority has fallen for the conspiracy theories that have given prominent political status to otherwise extremist beliefs. The Republican Party base has backslid as a reaction to the electorate's demographic reshape, and to the GOP base's displacement.

Nonetheless, the Republican Party didn't just suddenly become a white nationalist party. The background for this behavior can be traced back as far as to the administrations of Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, and George H.W. Bush, where efforts to encourage white voters were intended to quash the non-white voter. The Republican Party has been known as the gerrymandering and voter suppression champion for years.

Trump's presence in the White House made white nationalism among Republicans acceptable again, bringing back memories of those who advocated in the past for voter suppression, with his campaign candidly recognizing it as a strategy for winning battleground states. There is no honest way to understand the demise of the Republican Party if Trump is the only one taking the blame. The GOP enabled a man without any political experience, but with a vast history of racism. That should have been enough to break with him. Instead, they not only embraced his rhetoric, but reiterated his discourse, and supported his falsehoods by adopting them as their own.

It wasn't that the Republican Party unexpectedly cut ties with democracy. The complicity with discrediting the electoral system, even though they have all been elected under the same norms and procedures, has to be found in their silence, if not support, considering the blatant effort to overturn the results of a lawfully held election.

In the election's aftermath, Mitch McConnell chose to remain on the sidelines, while Trump falsely announced his electoral victory. He then moved on to block the second impeachment procedure after the January 6 assault on the Capitol, making sure it reached the Senate after Biden's inaugural, paving the way for Trump's second acquittal. McConnell's final act was to blame the House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, for the failure to convict Trump and hold him accountable for inciting the insurrection, in a whitewashing speech aimed at Republican donors, pretending to take back control of the party.

This behavior is perhaps the peak in the decomposing trajectory of the conservative party in the United States. The Republican Party has seen its de facto majority, via the Electoral College, drop to the point that Georgia was lost, at the presidential as well as the Senate levels, with the threat of Texas turning purple looming large. In response to the concerns among moderate members of the party about its decline, Republican leadership has reacted by doubling down on voter suppression.

The Republican Party's crisis shouldn't be assumed in any way as a hostage situation. This party is not supporting Trump out of fear of his sway over the base. That's naive. The party found in Trump more affinity than they had initially thought. Their mutual disdain for the first African-American president should have given you a clue of the many coincidences and common interests Trump and his party have. They now belong to each other, and it seems unlikely there is a chance for a breakup anytime soon.