Discover more from Diane Francis
America's State Capture
September 21, 2023
An old joke in Canada is about the Canadian who was asked at the U.S. border whether he was bringing in a gun. When he said no, the American guard handed him one and said “you’re going to need this”. It’s funny, but America’s violence is no longer a joke. Always more dangerous than its northern neighbor, America’s per-capita gun ownership now exceeds its population of 331.9 million and so far this year 25,000 people have been shot and killed. That is why Canada, Australia, Europe, and others now issue travel advisories to warn their citizens about America’s gun mayhem. But last week, the greatest admonition of all was issued by U.S. Senator Mitt Romney when he announced he would not seek re-election because of the ongoing threats and intimidation by Trump’s MAGA thugs that pervade politics. After the January 6, 2021 insurrection attempt — where Romney was saved from the mob by a guard who redirected him to another part of the building — he has spent $5,000 a day, or $1.825 million annually, to protect himself and his family. American democracy has always been a bloody affair, but his departure and story prove that the country is in the grip of a poisonous and disenfranchising political culture.
“State capture” is a form of systemic political corruption that occurs when private interests significantly influence a state's decision-making processes to their own advantage. Pervasive gun ownership and acrimony in America is now being used to leverage those who seek influence and control. Romney’s first-person account in a new book illustrates the danger. He took on the Trump and MAGA juggernaut, but was viciously attacked, isolated, and eventually driven out. His allegations, contained in a new biography, describes the “domestic terrorism” that threatens the nation. Many Americans may simply shrug their shoulders at this, but Romney provides evidence that MAGA may not be winning the hearts and minds of Americans, but it successfully is threatening America’s cornerstone, the rule of law.
He describes Mafia-like intimidation. The book stated that “he [Romney] recalled that some senators refused to convict Trump in the second impeachment trial out of concern for their safety and that of their families. Romney himself had hired a security detail for his family since the attack on the U.S. Capitol, but at $5,000 a day such security was out of reach for most of his colleagues,” reported The New York Times. Statistics show that political-based violence jumped after Trump’s election in 2016 and continues to rise. “I wouldn’t be surprised if a Senator or House member were killed,” Senator Susan Collins said in 2022. “What started with abusive phone calls is now translating into active threats of violence and real violence.”
In 2020, Georgia became ground zero in the deployment of political violence and threats. The result is 61 indictments before the courts against Trump, Rudy Giuliani, and dozens more for actions aimed at overthrowing election results. Victims have ranged from the State Attorney General to polling captains in small precincts who have testified they were subjected to phone threats, political pressure, shakedowns, demotions, job loss, bullying, physical threats, harassment, libel, and abusive litigation. And that same year, in Michigan, MAGA radicals plotted to kidnap and murder the Governor of Michigan to take over the state government, and since then many judges, mayors, congressmen, school board trustees, educators, and police, or their families, have been threatened, stalked, attacked, or murdered.
Entering public life has become downright dangerous because the country armed to the teeth. And now Romney — a successful businessman, lawyer, former Governor, and U.S. Presidential candidate — has been driven from public service. “The author describes Romney as isolated from other Republicans in Washington, unwelcome first because he was disgusted by Trump and vowed to be independent of him and then because, in the first impeachment trial, Romney voted to convict on one of two charges, the first Senator in US history to vote for the removal of a President from his own party,” wrote The New York Times.
Romney outlined the extent of the intimidation and said that “[a]lmost without exception” his Republican colleagues “shared my view of the president [Trump],” but refused to speak up. He described a Republican caucus lunch where Trump received a standing ovation, after a rambling tirade, but was mocked and derided by Republicans after he left. Romney also said his warnings about the possibility of trouble on January 6 to Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell were ignored. “There are calls to burn down your home, Mitch; to smuggle guns into DC, and to storm the Capitol,” texted Romney. “I hope that sufficient security plans are in place, but I am concerned that the instigator—the President—is the one who commands the reinforcements the DC and Capitol police might require.”
Romney said McConnell never responded.
Another victim was Liz Cheney of Wyoming, who led the Congressional investigation into Trump’s role behind the January 6 uprising. She also hired bodyguards and was trounced at the ballot box in a 2022 primary. Romney claimed that McConnell referred to Trump as an “idiot” in private but never in public. Such fear holds Republicans hostage. Worse, Romney said his Republican colleagues fed Trump’s lies to their voters in exchange for power and acknowledged that “[a] very large portion of my party really doesn’t believe in the Constitution.”
Now threats are openlyl used in political campaigns by some Republicans, hardly surprising since Trump has personally flouted the rule of law and fostered an army of “storm troopers” who invaded the Capitol Building and threaten politicians and officials across the country. The ramifications of America’s gun culture and state capture are enormous, both domestically and internationally. Australia now warns its citizens who plan to visit the United States about its gun violence and encourages them to be vigilant and learn about active shooter drills if they move there. “Although tourists are rarely targeted” its website cautioned “there is always a risk of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.”
The Canadian government also suggests its citizens shouldn’t cross the US-Mexico border by car and should avoid travelling at night near the border. It warns of gang- and organized crime-related violence in large urban areas, and just issued an alert to L.G.B.T.Q. travellers that they may be affected by a series of recently enacted state laws that restrict transgender and gay people.
Globally, the concern is that Trump, certain Republicans, white supremacists, and MAGA radicals have been influenced and infiltrated, perhaps armed, by Russian operatives. This is likely, given that they spew Kremlin narratives against Ukraine and American military assistance along with other isolationist twaddle that benefits the Kremlin. “Ukraine is not the 51st State,” says gun-toting Marjorie Taylor-Greene, and in 2022 Trump actually said that “Putin is a great man” and described his invasion of Ukraine as “savvy” and “genius”.
Whatever one thinks about Romney’s politics, he has been dead-on about Russia. In his 2012 Presidential campaign, he said “Russia, not Al Qaeda, is without question, our No. 1 geopolitical foe.” More recently, he was quizzed about that on CNN and responded that “a geopolitical foe they obviously were and continue to be, because Russia continues to fight us in every venue they have. They support the world’s worst actors.” During Trump’s presidency, Romney called out his coziness and admiration toward Putin. “Russia is not a friendly character on the world stage. And for this President to be looking for greater flexibility, where he doesn't have to answer to the American people in his relations with Russia, is very, very troubling, very alarming… I have clear eyes on this. I’m not going to wear rose-colored glasses when it comes to Russia.”
Now Romney’s out and radicals are the tail that wags the Republican dog. Assassinations have marred America’s history, but once more America’s gun mania resembles a 21st version of its Wild West, a lawless trajectory that must be disrupted before it is too late. For every one.