What They’re Really Attacking

Most readers of this blog are familiar with the famous Martin Niemoller quote, uttered as the Nazis solidified control of the German government:

First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Communist Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak outBecause I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out
Because I was not a trade unionist Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out
Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left
To speak out for me.

The reason that statement remains so powerful is because it focuses on an essential truth: a government that can pick and choose among its citizens, a government that can empower some while disenfranchising or mistreating others, is a government incompatible with–and threatening to– basic human liberties.

As a former president of the ACLU put it, “Poison gas is a great weapon until the wind shifts.”

And that gets me to my frequent warnings about the real danger posed by the MAGA worldview–a worldview shared by autocrats like Trump and theocrats like Alito. As I have repeatedly noted, the Dobbs decision didn’t just target women’s rights–it undermined the constitutional principle that prevents government from invading everyone’s individual liberties and dictating all personal behaviors.

It isn’t just Dobbs. 

Axios recently reported that Indiana is one of a number of Red states that is refusing to follow a federal regulation meant to protect the civil liberties of LGBTQ+ youngsters.

The U.S. Department of Education expanded protections for LGBTQ+ students under Title IX last month — but Indiana has told its schools to ignore the guidance.

Why it matters: Indiana is one of many states that passed legislation in recent years targeting the LGBTQ+ community, particularly children.

  • A 2023 law requires schools to alert parents if their child requests a change to their name or pronoun, which teachers fear could force them to out transgender students, and earlier legislation blocked transgender girls from participating in girls’ school sports.

Driving the news: Indiana’s Department of Education advised schools “not to change their existing policies” in a memo last month, as first reported by WFYI.

  • “IDOE is currently working with legal counsel to review these new regulations, which among other things expands the definition of “sex” in Title IX,” the department said. “At initial review, these draft regulations will undoubtedly have major implications for Indiana schools and students and will likely be subject to legal challenges.”

The fine print: The federal guidance adds protections against “discrimination based on sex stereotypes, sexual orientation, gender identity and sex characteristics.”

  • The deadline for schools to adopt the rules to remain compliant for federal funding is Aug. 1.

There will undoubtedly be a lot of criticism focused on the fact that this rebellious noncompliance threatens critically-needed federal funding for public education. But it threatens far more than that. It is yet one more assault on the rule of law. It reinforces the Rightwing conviction that disagreement with a law constitutes an entitlement to violate it.

People who don’t believe women should have the right to control their own bodies, who view LGBTQ+ folks as “sinners” or worse, who remain convinced that Whites are superior to other races–in short, people who find it appropriate for government to “come for” some category of “Other”–fail to understand that a government empowered to award or deny privileged status is a government inconsistent with individual liberty and the rule of law.

At the end of the day, that is what is at risk in the upcoming elections. If would-be theocrats like Mike Braun and (especially) Jim Banks prevail (and worse, if their fellow Christian Nationalists should return Trump to power), we will see these persistent attacks on disfavored minorities used to further erode everyone’s individual liberties.

If we look honestly at American history, it becomes obvious that “states’ rights” always meant allowing state governments to privilege some citizens at the expense of others. When Braun says he wants to return the question of inter-racial marriage to the states, when Banks proposes federal legislation to ban abortions with no exceptions, they are just saying the quiet part out loud.

If people like Braun and Banks and Trump are elected, the wind will shift in a profoundly unpleasant direction. And unless you’re a White Christian guy, the government will eventually be empowered to come for you.


  1. “And unless you’re a White Christian guy, the government will eventually be empowered to come for you.” And then it will come for the White Christian guys who aren’t White enough or the right flavor of Christian.

  2. Hmmm. I am a self identified straight ‘glo white male fiscally conservative socially responsible believe and let believe Christian. I am admonished by far right conversants: “no such thing exists”. So I guess they’ll be coming for me, too. 😇

  3. I am not just confident about Biden winning and the rule of law prevailing, but I truly feel the U.S. (outside of Indiana) will take social justice and human rights to new levels of support and enjoyment. NOTICE: I said “outside of Indiana”.

    The “cesspool of legislation” that Indiana has become during the reconstruction of the “reconstruction” has taken place by right before our eyes. The Heritage Foundation, ALEC, religiously fanatical legislators, among others all have put their designs on how they “believe” we should behave here in the heartland. When over 70 percent of our states population live in cities, (where the bulk of jobs and taxes are generated) and yet voting numbers have declined to reflect the rural anger and vitriol of political division based on fear – it reflects the apathy of being “beat down” to the point where it “doesn’t matter anymore.”

    God simply isn’t going to help us through the one folks. “Thoughts and Prayers” won’t save a state that is hellbent on taking itself into the fiery pits of degradation.

    Organizing and getting out the VOTE (GOTV) with a long range plan is the only way to correct the wrongs of the the Right. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. So let’s look outside of ourselves and emulate those states (and legislation) that will make Indiana a more livable place.

  4. If I had a dime for every MAGA cretin who has told me to leave the US for China or Russia or Palestine, etc., I’d be a wealthy man. Trump recently said that he would deport all the students who protested against Israel’s genocide. So, if you have real morals and do not profess to be moral because you’re a believer, you are a real danger to society. I guess I’ll be deported too!

    I do think the pronoun changes might be going too far, and biological males have no business competing with women in high school or college sports. If you have to support all the LGBTQ+ nonsense to be a good liberal Democrat, I don’t fit that description either.

    I’m sure I fit in the “Other” category for both political parties, so I will be deported by whoever wins, especially because I believe China and Russia aren’t our enemies and Biden/Sunak should be slapped with arrest warrants for being complicit in genocide and threatening ICJ jurists.

  5. The Indiana Capital Chronicle covered this story. They actually interviewed a few school superintendents. At this level, they were actively reviewing the rule changes. I suspect they know that despite what our whacko AG says, they can very much be sued in Federal Court (where the Indiana AG has much less influence) for non-compliance and are looking to avoid costly legal fights.

  6. Patrick,

    Well said. Meanwhile, while right-wing ideologues continue to redefine tribalism on a daily basis, 50 million Americans remain food insecure. Oh, but our “governments” have more important things to do … like threatening to deport those who don’t “think” like they do. Alas, what they do is keep validating the premise that half of all humanity has an IQ below 100 … most Republicans, in my opinion, now qualify for that bottom half. Creatures like Alito and Thomas have IQs above 100 … more the pity; so much for IQ testing.

  7. I am speechless – for a moment. I also live in fear for my country. Who, among your readers, wants to erect billboards to list the actions to be taken if Trump wins? The RIGHT erects anti-abortion ones. The LEFT needs to get moving!

  8. Todd, what exactly is a ” biological male “? If you know anything about genetics, you would say it’s complicated. That is an amazing part of our world. We are learning more about the genetics of sexuality as time goes by. Frankly, I don’t like the pronoun changes, either, but if the world isn’t calling you what you know you are, it might be necessary. I will call them whatever they want as long as they understand that it’s hard to reverse so many years of being a grammar cop.

    Just an FYI, I loved playing basketball and tennis when I was younger. You only get better when you play against better, stronger players. When I would watch little girls playing basketball, I could point to the girls who had brothers who would take them to school on the court. They were just that much better than those who didn’t. So I say bring them on!

  9. I fly a pride flag in support of friends and family just below the U.S. flag on the pole in my front yard. That fact would clearly identify me as a danger to my MAGA neighbors. Would they out me to the authorities in the event of a return to power of the tfg? You bet they would! Would local law enforcement comply with orders to violate my right to free speech? A good question.

  10. https://nwlc.org/press-release/new-nwlc-report-finds-over-30-states-legally-allow-forced-sterilization/


    Indiana enacted the first eugenic sterilization law in 1907, and the US Supreme Court upheld such laws in 1927. State programs targeted institutionalized, mentally disabled women. Beginning in the late 1930s, proponents rationalized involuntary sterilization as protecting vulnerable women from unwanted pregnancy.

  11. We are rapidly moving toward a 180 degree version of the ’70’s, “my country, love it or leave it”…

  12. as we watched the Iraq change, and our military and mercinary forces attained a foot hold. the side of sadam was conspired against by the other sects, whereas,we , the invaders were corrupted by these sects in some instances to single out innocent people, for whatever, by those who sought to payback anyone they felt insecure, had a debt, persoanal/religious beef with. the issue here is, will the christian right here in America bring about a fundamental reason in their own self rightious world to condem anyone they feel , well any thing about. the balkans were a grim reminder of how that works. Sebrenica anyone?

  13. Lester, a member of the intelligensia (Rick Perlstein) just this morning in an internet note tells us that he has grown more concerned with the lack of response of the rest of us to authoritarianism than the prospect of a Trump/Maga dictatorship itself. I think he has a point. The wind has shifted, so now it’s time to release the gas – past time, starting with denormalizing the Trump lingo on such oughta be issues as Gaza, deportation promises for those who wish to peacefully protest, and myriad other promises he and his Maga backers have made for our future which make Hitler look like John Locke.

    So would the Constitution and tradition save our democracy? No. Authoritarians ignore any and all constraints on their exercise of absolute power, and Sam and Clarence and their like would probably endorse such exercise in any event.

    We, every one of us, are well advised to, inter alia, fearlessly tell our friends, neighbors, and strangers day and night of the impending doom of our democracy if we continue to allow an authoritarian minority (so far) to normalize what is not normal as preached by a demented Queen’s real estate buffoon.


  14. What is there left to fight for? Best case is division into two countries and mass movements of folks to their preferred one or elsewhere. And, given the current crackdown by other democracies on Americans trying to move there….

    Would the creation of the “Blue States of America” be a one-time opportunity for a revised constitution REALLY providing “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness” for ALL. I doubt it…my “wisdom” at my age suggest that money/greed and power would ultimately rule. IGIO

  15. “They” will attack whatever, or whoever, seems not Xtain enough for them at any particular moment, depending on which way their wind blows. And you can bet that somewhere along the way, at least one of them will believe, or simply claim, that he/she has received a message fro his/her god-thing saying that she/he has been chosen to be “THE ONLY ONE” who can lead them. And then my favorite, oft repeated, quote from Voltaire comes into play: ““Those who can make you believe absurdities, can make you commit atrocities.” So there will be more burnings at the stake, and so on.
    It is imperative that the autocrats and religious zealots be voted away!

  16. Incrementally the power vampires (Magas) are pushing their agenda of their elitist rule and subordination of the rule of law and everyone else. “Nightengale” is a novel (based on facts) about the Nazi takeover of the French countryside in WWll. They started out with food rations that dwindled over time until only subsistence diet was left. Then they rounded up all the young men for forced labor and recruitment to fight. Eventually they posted Nazi soldiers and officers into the French homes and raped the women. All individual freedom was gone, and the people felt hopeless.
    The political Maga movement has encroached on personal freedoms, right to privacy and threatens free speech with intimidation and censor. That’s way too much interference already. They need to be stopped and their policies reversed to keep our freedom’s and lives safe.

  17. Right you are, Rose, and I disagree with Lester and his “What is there left to fight for” view of a breakup of America. If we can survive a civil war, which we have, we can survive an attempt by fascist elements of the defunct Republican Party to force us and our successors via fear and intimidation to acquiese in a dictatorship, but talk doesn’t get it, unless such “talk” is to everyone who will listen about voting this fall in order to send these election denying fascists to their political grave.

    Surrendering to any other alternative is not on my list and a dictatorship is hardly the form of government I want to leave to my successors. I was left a democracy by my predecessors and helped defend keeping it in WW II and want it to be part of the legacy I leave to those who follow me, since our democracy is the greatest asset we hold in common, and one of the last few things left worth dying for.

  18. Sure, they say they support states’ rights, but they sure did not support states’ rights when the Colorado Supreme Court ruled that Trump could not be on the 2024 ballot in Colorado.

    They stomped all over states’ rights.

  19. Freedom requires support from free people. Free people though, especially those economically free as well, might not miss what’s absent from their lives which is the pressure to conform to the beliefs of others.

    Is that why what works best for everyone may not be sustainable?

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