There have been seven gun massacres in seven days, but congressional Republicans are staying the course of claiming that passing any kind of gun-control legislation “would do nothing to stop these murders.” It’s a message that they’ve paired, for good measure, with the road-tested racist tactic of stirring up white delusions of Black criminality among their base. The message is, essentially, guns don’t kill people, Black people do — so be sure to lock and load.
Senator Tom Cotton argued that Black people calling police “bigoted and prejudiced” and “demanding that they be defunded” is what causes mass shootings to happen, because despite being in Congress for nearly a decade, he apparently didn’t hear about all the mass shootings in this country long before the defund movement gained traction last summer.
Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene chooses violence almost every day by tweeting equivalencies between BLM and terrorism, while Ron Johnson basically claimed guns don’t even count as lethal weapons as long as white people are carrying them (“This didn’t seem like an armed insurrection to me,” Johnson said about the Capitol insurrection, though he admitted he would’ve been scared if the rioters had been “Black Lives Matter and antifa protesters.”).
Senator Ted Cruz, the biggest congressional recipient of gun lobby dollars at last count, went on TV this week to pin mass shootings on BLM because—I’m still confused by the racist math here—white people are worried that roving bands of Black civil rights protesters are “going to come into the suburbs and raid people’s homes.”
“In Texas, a whole lot of the homes, people believe in the right to keep and bear arms, and if you come after their families you’re going to meet the business end of a firearm,” Cruz said. “The Democrats, they want to take that away, which endangers you and your family.”
While all these white Republicans refuse to take even the most minor steps toward mitigating gun violence overwhelmingly committed by white “lone wolves,” they’ve gone all in on stopping Black folks from voting. “Election integrity” is the Republican rhetorical ruse that’s supposed to barely cloak the new voter suppression campaign the GOP just dropped. It’s no secret that Republicans—who’ve spent recent years purging voter rolls, shuttering polling sites and gerrymandering around the country—don’t want Black folks voting. It’s just that they’re kitchen-sinking their obstructionism now.
“States are not engaging in trying to suppress voters, whatsoever," Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell claimed Wednesday, a brazen lie contradicted by the Republican National Committee’s new “election integrity’’ commission, empaneled to think up new ways to end Black voting rights, and more than 253 voter suppression bills currently pending in nearly every state legislature. One of Georgia’s proposed 68 voting laws includes a petty provision that would make bringing “food and drink” to people in lengthy voting lines—like those in Black neighborhoods where the GOP has shuttered polling sites—a misdemeanor punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 or a year in jail.
Arizona’s legislature is contemplating a bill that “would require every absentee ballot to be notarized,” while Pennsylvania would do away with no-excuse absentee voting. Cindy Hyde-Smith, the Mississippi Republican who once said voter suppression is a “great idea” before backpedaling it as a joke, defended the elimination of early voting on Sundays—an effort to keep Black churches from continuing “Souls to the Polls” voter drives—by claiming the practice desecrates the sabbath. Apparently, like so many white enslavers and segregationists who came before them, these Republicans really think God is on their side.
This is what motivates otherwise “do-nothing” GOP members: threats of the Republican-voting white majority losing power to Black and brown demographic expansion and democratic voting rights. It’s right there in Arizona state Representative John Kavanagh’s declaration that “everybody shouldn’t be voting,” and his insistence that “quantity is important, but we have to look at the quality of votes”—as if some votes are worth inherently more than others based, presumably, on who cast them.
And it’s also in Cruz’s declaration that the For the People Act—which just cleared the House, and makes voter registration easier, gerrymandering harder, and re-enfranchises the disproportionate number of Black and brown population with felony convictions—is “the single most dangerous bill this committee has ever considered.”
It’s also in Texas Senator John Cornyn’s lamentation that “President Biden has instead emphasized the humane treatment of immigrants,” in the bevy of upcoming Senate Republican bills that paint migrants as criminals, in the insistence by Cruz (yeah, him again) that expanding voting rights gives “illegal immigrants and child molesters” the vote, and Greene’s dumb white supremacist tweets claiming “we are being invaded and @JoeBiden invited them all.”
To be sure, they’re not wrong about what moves their base. There was a surge in gun buys during 2020, with the most precipitous rise occurring in June as anti-racist protests raged—and the greatest sales increases in states where researchers detected the most anti-Black racism. We know that the more intensely racist white folks are, according to multiple studies, the more likely they are to own weapons and oppose gun control.
This is the party of white folks who remain so angry over millions of Black and brown votes being counted they still delusionally believe the last election was stolen. (And, just as a reminder, hundreds of them tried to undertake a white power coup.) They’ve been telling pollsters that they’re getting angrier about the current immigration situation, as if this administration has not kept the cruelty going in ways you might assume they’d appreciate.
All political parties have priorities. The GOP’s lies in approaching every problem with an eye toward ensuring that whiteness, particularly of the conservative stripe, reigns supreme. That is their principal goal, and their policymaking is dictated by that outlook.