Jeff Sessions wasn't just Donald Trump's doing. Blame radical Republicans, too | Douglas Williams

Sessions’ confirmation and the Elizabeth Warren fiasco show: Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are as much a part of the Republican party’s fabric as old stalwarts

Donald Trump has often been painted as being at odds with the Republican party. Hillary Clinton once declared that Trump was “taking hate groups mainstream, and helping a radical fringe take over the Republican party”. But the Republican party has always been radical – and now we are seeing that radicalism writ large.

The confirmation of Jeff Sessions to the position of attorney general – as well as the silencing of Elizabeth Warren in the Senate – showed that Donald Trump and Steve Bannon are as much a part of the Republican party’s fabric as Mitch McConnell and Paul Ryan.

Elizabeth Warren was silenced in the US Senate because she allegedly “impugned the motives and conduct” of Jeff Sessions by reading a letter by a civil rights leader, Coretta Scott King. You get that? It was not Sessions’s joke about supporting the Ku Klux Klan “until I found out they smoked pot” that impugned his reputation. Nor was it Sessions’s enthusiasm for indicting activists trying to help black people vote. It was Elizabeth Warren reading a letter by King.

The way that Warren was shut down by Senate Republicans should not come as a surprise given the kind of authoritarian moves that the Trump administration has made against the press, immigrants and the American people. But we must not forget: it was the party stalwart McConnell – and not Trump – who silenced her.

That the simple reading of a letter by a civil rights activist was what caused the Senate floor to reek with the stench of poor Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III’s ill repute is, of course, absurd. And it is no surprise that the same party that muffled Warren would give Sessions the thumbs up to become Attorney General.

But we shouldn’t be surprised that this is the true face of Republicans. How soon we forget that Mitt Romney – one of Trump’s biggest rightwing critics during the election – once described voters for Barack Obama as “dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to healthcare, to food, to housing, to you-name-it” who “pay no income tax”.

As recently as 2002, the Republicans counted among their ranks the late Jesse Helms – who started his political career by campaigning for a segregationist and who, among other things, voted against the Martin Luther King Jr national holiday. And who can forget the former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott’s pining for an alternative history in which Dixiecrats ruled the land? Or John McCain’s ads in 2008 asking about “the real Barack Obama”?

Unfortunately, those looking for #Resistance from the Democratic party are bound to be disappointed, too.

Lest we forget, the Democratic luminary Cory Booker once sat on the board of the newly minted secretary of education Betsy DeVos’s Alliance for School Choice. And despite the unrelenting Republican opposition to the milquetoast moderate that Barack Obama nominated to the supreme court, the Democratic caucus in the Senate is remarkably divided on the prospect of doing the same.

So what is to be done about the rage that so many of us feel at seeing the likes of DeVos and Sessions being given the power to destroy what little social equality and justice we have in this country?

Mike Pence breaks tie to confirm Betsy DeVos as education secretary

The truth is that politicians are, as the political scientist David Mayhew once said: “single-minded seekers of re-election”, and will do whatever they must to advance that goal. To that end, the fostering of a mass politics opposed to reaction, revanchism and repression must be the goal.

We have seen stunning examples of how this can work in Standing Rock, the women’s marches throughout the United States, and the protests at American airports that have begun to turn back the tide on Trump’s executive order banning immigrants from seven Muslim-majority countries.

Ballots are not the sum total of democracy. We must speak with our voices, our placards, and most importantly, our feet if we are going to make this moment in American politics a thing of the past.


Douglas Williams

The GuardianTramp

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