For all the energy I expend on detailing the deleterious effects of the right wing’s political bad faith, I acknowledge – through a clenched jaw and gritted molars – that it is a useful tactic for which there is no easy counter.
The vitality of bad faith attacks launched by the American right is rooted in the leveraging of the left’s principles. It is to the left’s distinct disadvantage that it cares about anything – about the environment, about what is right and wrong, what is fair and unfair, and most of all, about people – their welfare, their health, their standard of living, their access to the essentials of a decent life. The right wing knows we care deeply about these things, and they use it against us at every turn. There is no combatting this kind of bad faith politics because the right inherently cares about nothing except establishing and maintaining hierarchies of power by any means necessary, the advance of capital, the perpetuation of pain for pain’s sake, fear, punishment, and most of all, cruelty deployed against those who will not get in line – the kind of cruelty that leaves a generational mark, a reminder of what happens to those who threaten the right-wing project.
To put it more simply:
There are always examples of this wielding of bad faith cropping up on the political periphery, but rarely does it become the focal point of American political discourse, as it has since Donald Trump and his cronies in 2020’s clown car coup were arrested in Fulton County, Georgia.
Republicans, I take great pleasure in reporting, now care about bail reform.
Harrison Floyd, the former director of a right-wing astroturf group known as Black Voices For Trump who participated in the 2020 coup attempt, was arrested and denied bond when he turned himself in last week in Fulton County. Citing his prior criminal record, a Georgia judge put Floyd – accused of influencing witnesses and soliciting false statements and writings – behind bars for six days before he could post bail.
This enraged the American right and prompted questions for their counterparts on the left: You claim to support criminal justice reform and the rights of the accused, yet you were fine with Harrison Floyd being denied bond – unlike his white coup compatriots – and tossed into a jail cell. Curious!
Even white supremacist Laura Loomer, a Trump surrogate, got in on the bad-faith act, posting furiously about Floyd’s rights being trampled by the U.S. judicial system. The very folks who were downright ecstatic about George Floyd’s execution at the hands of police were livid about Harrison Floyd’s treatment in the Georgia RICO case. It could be considered a moment of pure political enlightenment if it weren’t all an act.
It’s not that conservatives suddenly care about bail reform as millions of innocent Americans – mostly poor and disproportionately brown and black – languish in jail because they don’t have the access to cash that Donald Trump has. They haven’t had a Come to Jesus Moment while poor folks are thrown into jail in order to justify the absurd levels of funding for the corrupt and inhumane prison industrial complex. They just don’t like it when one of their own gets caught up in the eye-watering injustice of our judicial system. Conservatives are extraordinarily tribal people who will take on any belief system if it means protecting in-group members from state power. They will also, at any moment, adopt a belief system that will wield state power against out-group members.
Bail reform is a critically important social justice issue that must be addressed by any Democratic-majority state legislature. There are more than 600,000 Americans locked up in local jails today; most of them have not been accused of a crime. This has created a kind of wealth-based system of incarceration, a truly two tiered system in which middle class and rich folks can pay up and go home while those without access to capital have to go to jail, putting them at jeopardy of losing their housing, their jobs, their families. This wholly unjust bail system, a clear and present violation of the Fourteenth Amendment's right to due process and equal protection, has doubled the number of yearly jail admissions (to 12 million) over the past thirty years.
In some state legislatures, so-called moderate Republicans and libertarian types have worked with Democrats to reform bail rules. We saw that in Illinois, where lawmakers abolished the cash bail system with a smattering of GOP support. But reforming the bail system has in no way become a right-wing cause, and Harrison Floyd’s predicament won’t change that.
The bad faith surrounding the Georgia RICO case against Trump and his co-conspirators doesn’t stop with the arrest and jailing of Harrison Floyd and the subsequent gnashing of teeth over Floyd's bail situation. The days before Trump turned himself in and lied about his weight were rife with stories in right-wing media and some mainstream outlets (I’m looking at you, NPR) about crime in Fulton County. Each story went something like this: There are crimes being committed in Fulton County, yet the district attorney is spending time and resources on a case against a former president who tried like hell to overthrow the U.S. government. Curious! The district attorney should simply end all crime in the county. Only then can she go after Trump’s mob.
The right’s whining about a “two-tiered” justice system in which conservatives are persecuted by the vast left-wing machinery of the FBI – a famously liberal institution – is out to get Republican officials and voters is another cute tidbit of bad faith surrounding the prosecution of Trump and his coup doers. This, of course, is a setup for if a Republican takes the White House in 2024 and installs political operatives at the FBI tasked with jailing the president’s political opponents. Such an action will be presented by Republicans as a correction to an existing problem, rather than a radical act that would undermine whatever we have left of a representative democracy (on a side note: all this crying about the FBI ignores the fact that the only way a former president could be prosecuted is if he tried to overthrow the government. War crimes? Sure, have fun! Corruption up to your eyeballs? Have at it! Just don’t do a coup).
The right feigning interest in an issue of justice is nothing new in the political landscape. When state-level Republican lawmakers leveraged government power against abortion providers in the 2010's, conservatives would pretend to care deeply about women’s health. They’d ask the left: You care about women’s health, right? Well, we do too, which is why we’re shutting down a dozen abortion clinics because their hallways are two inches too narrow, according to regulations we invented specifically to shutter reproductive health care facilities. You claim to care about women’s health, yet you say nothing about slightly-too-narrow clinic hallways. Curious!
It’s happened with gun violence. After one of the many blood-soaked school massacres that have become background noise in our 21st century dystopia, Republican officials said they were deeply concerned about student safety, which could be bolstered by bulletproof backpacks, armed educators, and soldiers encircling schools. When liberals pushed back, the reply was familiar: You claim to care about student safety, yet you won’t cover kids in kevlar and allow the chemistry teacher to walk around with a bazooka strapped to her back. Curious!
It goes on and on, this stupid little game the right wing plays with the left’s principles. The worst thing liberals and leftists can do is to engage with this nonsense. There’s no point whatsoever in saying yes, I agree with you that Harrison Floyd should not have been held in jail. Whoever is making that argument gives not one shit about cash bail reform or injustice generally. They don't even care about Harrison Floyd. They care about the Big Boy being in hot fucking water for directing his idiot hangers on to overturn a free and fair election. They care about protecting a member of the in-group.
Follow Denny Carter on X and Threads at @CDCarter13.