Although the far right has always had a presence in American politics, especially due to the fact that American politics is slanted so far to the right, in recent years, it has become a more integral part of the mainstream conservative branch. Nazi-like populist rhetoric such as The Great Replacement Theory and a lack of forbearance and mutual toleration on he right has contributed to the rise of democratic erosion in the United States.
Tucker Carlson, America’s most watched conservative, has accused Democrats of “an unrelenting stream of immigration…to change the racial mix of the country, to reduce the political power of people whose ancestors lived here and dramatically increase the proportion of Americans newly arrived from the third world. In political terms, this policy is called The Great Replacement —the replacement of legacy Americans with more obedient people from far-away countries.” This belief contributes to a lack of forbearance. Studies suggest that 63% of insurrectionists believe in this theory.
For a clear example of this breakdown in forbearance, one need only look to the events leading up to the January 6th insurrection. Despite all evidence to the contrary, President Trump, as well as other Republicans, insisted or implied that the results of the 2020 presidential election were fraudulent. Essentially, they called into question the legitimacy of a fairly and democratically elected leader. Ultimately, their narrative prompted the January 6th insurrection in which an angry mob of hundreds of supporters of President Donald Trump attacked the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. They sought to overturn his defeat in the by disrupting the joint session of Congress assembled to count electoral votes that would formalize then President-elect Joe Biden’s victory. Many believe that those willing to commit acts like these are on the fringe of society but, there is evidence that these beliefs have become an integral part of the American Right. 87% of those charged in the Capitol Attack were not part of militias such as the Proud Boys, the Three Percent, and the Oath Keepers, but everyday Republicans. Some polls show that as many as 68% of republicans believed that the election was stolen.
This is the clearest imaginable example of a lack of mutual toleration. This also contributed to a lack of forbearance when, according to one journalist, “In statehouses across the country, Republican lawmakers [used] this stolen-election myth to fuel a campaign to rewrite election rules and limit future voter turnout in predominantly BIPOC communities…Republicans are actively playing constitutional hardball as they work within their current positions to legislate election rules that will maintain their power at the expense of democratic participation.” (Lyons 2021).
Another example of a breakdown in forbearance in the American system is the dealings surrounding the Texas abortion law. Regardless of where one stands politically, this is a breakdown of America’s institutions that are meant to preserve democracy. In a law referred to as a heartbeat bill, Republican Texas legislators abandoned forbearance and used a procedural trick in order to implement a six-week ban on abortion, effectively voiding Roe v. Wade. They were able to do this by deputizing private citizens to sue anyone who aids in an abortion, but not the mother herself. This includes doctors, uber drivers, or anyone who contributes to the cost of the procedure. The typical procedure to keep unconstitutional laws like this from going into effect comes from the Supreme Court’s ruling in Ex Parte Young. Someone raising a constitutional challenge to a state law can sue the state officials responsible for the enforcement of the law. However, in this case, the legislators effectively eliminated state officials from any responsibility by placing enforcement on the shoulders of the public. Therefore, a court injunction against the enforcement would be null. When the case went to the Supreme Court in an attempt to hold state judges liable, the conservative majority failed to grant injunctive relief arguing that, despite constitutionality concerns, it is unclear whether the court has the power to issue an injunction against state judges asked to decide a lawsuit under Texas law.
This appalling misuse of procedure to violate individual rights and avoid federal oversight by the Texas legislators has troubling implications. Essentially, this sends the message that states, should they so desire, can get around constitutional issues by using the same public enforcement mechanism. Imagine the chaos if applied to other constitutionally guaranteed rights such as those expressed in the first or second amendment. As shown through the previous examples, this lack of forbearance and respect for the opposition, inspired greatly by populism and white supremacy parroted by those at the top, have blurred the
lines of democratic norms and the resentment it has created sew the seeds of distrust in our democratic institutions —distrust may mean further actions similar to those taken on January 6th and further erosion of American democracy.