Start changing the border signs: ‘Welcome to Gilead’

See update for June 24, 2022, at end of post.


When I read Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale, I both marveled at how plausible it seemed, and wondered at how it might come to pass that the U.S., or at least a significant part of it, might become Gilead, the country in which Atwood set her dystopian novel, located south of Canada.[1]

My latter question is being answered. As Roe v. Wade stands likely to be overturned,[2] contraception, privacy, and LGBTQ+ rights may be next.[3] Even the legality of divorce could conceivably come into question if the traditionalist conservative (mostly conservative Roman Catholics) faction, mostly allied with the social conservative (mostly evangelical Protestants) faction,[4] in an increasingly monolithic conservatism, that is, white Christian nationalism,[5] has its way.[6]

And the prospect of any possible effective electoral resistance to a forthcoming white Christian nationalist authoritarian regime is diminishing:

The Jan. 6 committee [investigating the coup attempt on January 6, 2021] will release a damning report this fall, and maybe we’ll see prosecutions. But here’s another possibility: No one is prosecuted, Republicans take Congress, Jan. 6 headlines fade, and after the noise dies down, many pro-coup Republicans are in positions of control over election machinery — and Trump or a designated successor is a favorite for the 2024 GOP nomination.[7]

If the U.S. were truly a country of law, as so many like to claim, there would be little question that Donald Trump would be tried, convicted, and imprisoned. Attorney General Merrick Garland hesitates, likely because he fears unrest.[8] But there is a question, and indeed, considerable reason for doubt that a prosecution could succeed before Trump or another white Christian nationalist wins back the presidency.

Which is to say that, between Republican Supreme Court appointments and the fear of violence, white Christian nationalists have already effectively captured the criminal injustice system. Greg Sargent foresees a scenario in which Republicans, that is, white Christian nationalists, whether Donald Trump or Ron DeSantis, capture the presidency in 2024.[9] It’s pretty much a consensus that these same Republicans, white Christian nationalists, will do well in November, capturing at least the House of Representatives; the Senate, which is already hostage to Republicans, yet again, white Christian nationalists, could fall as well. My expectation is that all of these things will happen; I in fact fail to see what will stop it[10]—it certainly won’t be the Democrats.[11]

Sargent also repeats[12] his own warning, a warning comprehensively explored by Ishaan Tharoor, that these same Republicans, again, white Christian nationalists, will then be in control of electoral machinery, thus deciding elections, and effectively taking over the country at the federal level and unimpeded, whether by courts or federal law, from doing so in many states.[13]

My question of how Gilead comes to be is no longer a question. And I see nothing that will stop it. You might as well start changing the border signs: “Welcome to Gilead.”


Update, June 20, 2022: When I was defending my dissertation, sensing the rage of authoritarian populism, I predicted that Donald Trump would win the White House in 2016.

As Trump kept spiraling ever downwards in his rhetoric, being offensive toward more and more people, I walked back that prediction. When he won anyway, I figured that some way, somehow, he wouldn’t finish his term. He did and I came to understand him as a sort of black hole, sucking the country ever deeper towards a bottomless gravity well of grievance and hatred.

We know now that, far from feeling ignominy in his 2020 defeat, he claims fraud, that his backers are preparing to ensure they never again lose an election, and that if Trump is able, he will surely run to resume the presidency in 2024.[14]

And if you want a sense of what is now a white Christian nationalist[15] rage, take a look at the Texas Republican platform.[16] Even as they are about to win control of the entire country,[17] and to impose white Christian nationalism on all of us,[18] they’re talking about secession[19] from a country that, in large swaths, mostly shares their values, but mostly in urban areas, often does not.

This is madness. It is also fury. Fury that remains undiminished as it has been for a thousand years.[20]


Update, June 24, 2022: The U.S. Supreme Court today overruled Roe v. Wade.[21]

  1. [1]Margaret Atwood, Handmaid’s Tale (New York: Anchor, 1998).
  2. [2]Josh Gerstein, “What falls after Roe? Liberals warn of a privacy rights nightmare,” Politico, May 3, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/03/supreme-court-abortion-privacy-rights-00029871; Josh Gerstein and Alexander Ward, “Supreme Court has voted to overturn abortion rights, draft opinion shows,” Politico, May 2, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/02/supreme-court-abortion-draft-opinion-00029473; Josh Gerstein, Alexander Ward, and Ryan Lizza, “Alito’s draft opinion overturning Roe is still the only one circulated inside Supreme Court,” Politico, May 11, 2022, https://www.politico.com/news/2022/05/11/alito-abortion-draft-opinion-roe-00031648; Peter Hamby, “The Dark Truth Behind the SCOTUS Ruling,” Puck News, May 9, 2022, https://puck.news/the-dark-truth-behind-the-scotus-ruling/; Molly Jong-Fast, “My Mother Was Wrong,” Atlantic, May 3, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2022/05/supreme-court-overturn-abortion-peaceful-protest/629746/; Molly Jong-Fast, “It’s Mask Off for the Supreme Court,” Atlantic, May 12, 2022, https://newsletters.theatlantic.com/wait-what/627d0d9366d6b500218d7450/supreme-court-partisanship-roe-v-wade/; Amy Davidson Sorkin, “How Alito’s Draft Opinion on Abortion Rights Would Change America,” New Yorker, May 8, 2022, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/05/16/how-alitos-draft-opinion-on-abortion-rights-would-change-america
  3. [3]Alexandra Martinez, “Birth control, gay and interracial marriage, and more may be at risk if Roe v. Wade falls,” Prism, May 5, 2022, https://prismreports.org/2022/05/05/civil-rights-roe-v-wade/
  4. [4]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  5. [5]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, June 17, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  6. [6]David Benfell, “Conservative Views on Undocumented Migration” (doctoral dissertation, Saybrook, 2016). ProQuest (1765416126).
  7. [7]Greg Sargent, “Stunning Trump revelations raise fears of a dark, violent future,” Washington Post, June 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/17/trump-revelations-jan-6-hearings-violent-future/
  8. [8]Farnoush Amiri and Michael Balsamo, “Jan. 6 panel puts Garland in ‘precarious’ spot, ups pressure,” Associated Press, April 1, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/capitol-siege-merrick-garland-donald-trump-f70143880cb9be8a0610edcad1ed18e8
  9. [9]Greg Sargent, “Stunning Trump revelations raise fears of a dark, violent future,” Washington Post, June 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/17/trump-revelations-jan-6-hearings-violent-future/
  10. [10]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, June 17, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  11. [11]David Benfell, “The Democrats as the danger within, enabling the Republicans,” Not Housebroken, June 17, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/14/the-democrats-as-the-danger-within-enabling-the-republicans/
  12. [12]Greg Sargent, “Stunning Trump revelations raise fears of a dark, violent future,” Washington Post, June 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/17/trump-revelations-jan-6-hearings-violent-future/
  13. [13]Ishaan Tharoor, “The Orbanization of America: How to capture a democracy,” Washington Post, May 18, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/18/orban-democracy-trump-united-states-elections-hungary/; Ishaan Tharoor, “The troubled paradox of U.S. democracy,” Washington Post, June 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/06/17/democracy-american-global-decline-backsliding/
  14. [14]Tina Nguyen, “To Be or Not to Be: Trump’s Big 2024 Question,” Puck News, September 13, 2021, https://puck.news/trumps-2024-question/
  15. [15]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, June 20, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  16. [16]Bill Chappell, “Texas GOP’s new platform says Biden didn’t really win. It also calls for secession,” National Public Radio, June 20, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/06/20/1106229988/texas-gops-new-platform-says-biden-didnt-really-win-it-also-calls-for-secession; Dana Milbank, “Texas Republicans want to secede? Good riddance,” Washington Post, June 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/20/texas-gop-platform-secession-theocracy/
  17. [17]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, June 20, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  18. [18]David Benfell, “Start changing the border signs: ‘Welcome to Gilead,’” Not Housebroken, June 18, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/18/start-changing-the-border-signs-welcome-to-gilead/
  19. [19]Bill Chappell, “Texas GOP’s new platform says Biden didn’t really win. It also calls for secession,” National Public Radio, June 20, 2022, https://www.npr.org/2022/06/20/1106229988/texas-gops-new-platform-says-biden-didnt-really-win-it-also-calls-for-secession; Dana Milbank, “Texas Republicans want to secede? Good riddance,” Washington Post, June 20, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/06/20/texas-gop-platform-secession-theocracy/
  20. [20]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’” Not Housebroken, November 4, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/04/barack-obama-asks-why-is-it-that-the-folks-that-won-the-last-election-are-so-mad-all-the-time/
  21. [21]Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin, “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Eliminates Constitutional Right to Abortion,” Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-overturns-roe-v-wade-eliminates-constitutional-right-to-abortion-11656080124