224 Comments

It seems we are on a precipice... a very dangerous place. I have never seen this type of degradation of Democracy in our country before.. it has ground down through the thin layers of decency and respect for the Founders’ commitments and convictions .. and when that veneer is scratched away finally, after being eroded over years, bit by desperate bit, .. you end up in a place where blind ambition and greed is all that remains. I still do not understand why there is no way to stop this approaching perfect “storm” of circumstances. Trump has been allowed to grind us all down with his lying, cheating, treasonous behavior and sheer yoke of mental illness.. he is a malignant narcissistic psychopath who has a terrifying void of human compassion ..

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The way to stop this is for someone or several someones in the Republican Party to develop a conscience and a backbone and to start speaking out.

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It seems an insurmountable task to convince Republicans to have a conscience at this point. The ones who are showing a glimmer of conscience are the ones who are on their way out of there. I found it amusing that people would like to Lisa Murkowski and Susan of Maine for conscience to find votes, because everybody knows that the Republican man, a bunch of stodgy old white guys, could not be counted on to resurrect a shred of their humanity.

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Agreed. 3 thumbs up.

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Thank you for providing historical perspective. This NEEDS to be an Op Ed in the NYT or WAPO. For that matter it should be in the National Review.

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Exactly what I was thinking!

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As always, you have sharpened and deepened the significance of the moment. In this time of unemployment and/or improbable extra time on our hands, it’s clear that we all have a brand-new full-time occupation for the next two months: savings our democracy by whatever non-violent means we can imagine and pursue.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

At the end of the day, once Biden/Harris have cleaned out the Augean Stables...rather than the "swamp" , i think that we will have to recogniize the neither Party as currently constituted fulfills the needs of the electorate as it is seperating into at least 2 seperate polarities. The GOP is waging a war on itself; Rinos fighting the Tea Party. The Democrats are similarly seeing massive mutual frustration generated by the Moderates and the Progressives. Each have their champions and each have their publics. The all have a right to exist and give their point of view...but none should dominated. They must be forced to compromise and negotiate should they want to share power.

We are headed for a 4 party system and coalittion government in the US just like many parts of Europe.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

Four parties would cover more of the electorate, with the right and the left then able to subdivide into their centrist and radical wings. But how to get there? Unless two new parties arose simultaneously, any third party that became viable would only act as a spoiler to whichever side it was closer to by splitting that vote, and putting the opposing party in power.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

History is rarely convenient and accomadating. Massive effort is always required and enormous will power to change anything... but changes of this magnitude require also everybody having their back to the wall and chaos reigning all around them! It's not likely to happen through reasoned decision making but happens when there is no other choice to ensure survival.

Once the parties start to break apart of course different factions will be formed but rarely does any command sufficient power to modify the system on their own. Rules can also be introduced thereafter to require "super majorities" on specified "important" question.

It's a mess but it's human...like nature itself!

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Do you two have thoughts about ranked choice voting?

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I'm not one of the "two" mentioned above, but it's clear that it's critical that we establish ranked-choice voting across the board, especially at the national level. We must have more than two parties, because we've seen that two aren't enough when one of them spins off into fascism and seeks the destruction of our democracy. We need at least another party or two, and ranked-choice voting seems one of the simplest and most elegant ways to ensure that works, because it enables people to vote for third and fourth party candidates without fearing that doing so would put their least-favored candidate into power.

Until now, I've been annoyed by the Green Party, because they jump straight at the Presidency every four years instead of fighting for change from bottom to top, starting with local and state government. However, if we had ranked-choice voting, that might enable them to win more seats at local and state levels and start effecting change between Presidential campaigns, because people could express their preferences for these types of candidates without fear that doing so would "waste their vote" and put Trump, or people like him, into power.

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I understand the interest in the final result but how does each individual feel personally repreresented in his own geography. Frequently somebody you don't particularly care for actually benefits from your vote. Your only satisfaction being driving off the one you didn't want under any circumstances.

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For now, driving off the one I dislike the most will have to do. In the long run, I am hopeful that a ranked-choice system will encourage more people to run, and that more of those candidates will have outlooks that more closely align with the ideals of their voters. Making each of the two dominant parties less powerful would likely be one of the many positive outcomes of this approach.

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I worked on Green Party campaigns 30 years ago. I assure you they do not sit around waiting for presidential elections! They've been working hard for a long time to get responsible people elected to promote sound environmental policies at all levels of government. It ain't easy!

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It would be a lot easier with ranked-choice voting, that's for sure. :)

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My first question would be "what if you didn't want either or any of them and wanted to rank them ZERO?" Secondly, what happens if there are only 2 candidates?

I can see the utility when you are choosing between multi-party candidates most of whom not being mediocre me-too seat-warmers but really have something to say and offer to the people. In a four party system it would also enable you to exclude "opposition" parties however you define it...by ranking only the moderate parties, only left or right or only extremes too.

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I don't believe ranked choice, also known as instant runoff voting, in any way precludes write-in choices, so you'd have that. Also, to my understanding, you vote only for candidates you support. If there are ten candidates offered and you only like one, that's the only one you select. Similarly if there are two candidates. Where IRV gives greater opportunity is when minor party candidates get on a ballot, they can be selected by voters without wasting their vote on a candidate unlikely to win. By making a second, and third, etc. choice, the voter knows if their first choice is not viable, their next choice will be counted instead, in a continuing process, until a winner is declared, with every voter's wishes considered.

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As a long time registered member of the Green Party, and sympathetic to the many other progressive parties out there, I will be thrilled to see ranked choice voting implemented far more widely in this country. I've known about it for at least 20 years, and had more or less moved on from hoping it would happen, since it was rarely ever mentioned, let alone considered. But if I recall correctly, I believe Maine has started using it! I'm very curious how that is working out. It seems like an effective way for (political) minority voices to be heard. I wonder if there are drawbacks when put to use?

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You folks in Maine get to take the lead in the Ranked Choice Voting experiment! RCV plus moving congression representatives into larger districts that elect several representatives are two ways to decrease the polarization that occurs with our current primary system (where the party base pulls candidates away from centrist views or collaborative lawmaking). These systems also increase the chance that you can elect someone who represents your views and identity even if you are a minority in your immediate geographic area. And it means that third parties can gather more attention and demonstrate their usefulness to one or the other main party. I gather no one knows quite what effect RCV will have on a two party system, but it seems likely to retain that shape, but with more moderate and cross-over representatives. Because candidates would have to campaign to appeal to a wider spectrum of voters if they want to be #2 for lots of voters they otherwise wouldn't attract. RCV also gives us better data about how many voters are in favor of other parties/perspectives even if their #1 doesn't win the election.

I'm biased, though, because my super smart and dedicated cousins run FairVote.org Check it out for more research and information. https://www.fairvote.org/fair_rep_in_congress#why_rcv_for_congress

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It's getting a lot of discussion in Oakland, CA, for example. This is the most entertaining, and lucid discussion of it I've seen: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MykMQfmLIro&t=27s

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No expert on ranked choice voting, but here's my 2 cents:

(1) they had problems in California in some of the local elections, I forget where.

(2) this system accelerated the neutering of the California Republican Party at the state level, because when all the people on the ballot are pooled together, oftentimes the two top vote-getters were both Democrats, so the Republican candidates got marginalized and disappeared. Ergo, it was a more democratic process, rather than a Republican squaring off against a Democrat. In California, that means marginalization of the Republican candidates. In a red state, that could mean marginalization of the Democratic candidates for a particular office. I could be wrong, again no expert, but it appears that marginalization of a minority party candidate is more likely under ranked choice. But don't take my word for it.

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I fear we are headed for a civil war first, if Biden wins. The absolute frenzy of hate the GOP have inculcated their followers with for anything 'other' is not going to disappear when the results are announced.

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I think that's what Trump would like, for a number of reasons. I'm not at all convinced Americans are that stupid, though. Wars are far easier to start than to stop.

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I wouldn’t say that Americans are stupid, per se, but I have seen several people I used to think of as friends publicly state that they are ready for and welcome armed response to an outcome other than a continuation of the current regime. These are intelligent, mostly college educated, people. I am, and have been since 2016, dumbstruck that people I once thought I knew, and knew well, can support this but I don’t doubt their readiness to resist change, even if verified by voting. They will support whatever lies are put forth to continue the current regime. I think knowing this, in addition to what I see in the news, in social media, and here in your increasingly concerned and somber letters, supports my own concern and outright fear for the future for us and our country. I plan to vote and I strongly encourage others to do so but deep in my heart I feel a fear and foreboding that we have passed a tipping point and that the future looks exceedingly grim, regardless of the outcome of the election. But, regardless, we must continue to fight.

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Not stupid: just terribly afraid and angry at a world that isn't going the way they think it should, and they're told constantly by GOP leaders and pundits that Democrats, liberals, and independents are the cause of all their ills. They just might be more afraid of 'us' than they are of war. Bruce Carpenter says he doesn't think we'll see violent riots or armed militias: we've already had isolated incidents: the Bundy family, the armed groups gathering on capitol steps. And we have a growing number of sheriff's taking the law into their own hands by defying state or local government orders. It may not be out right war, but things will get messy.

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Because they’re easier to start than stop is what scares me. Much of America doesn’t seem to think that far forward.

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The reality is these armed militias seem to cave at the first sign of danger. Remember when Bundy's bunch at the Malheur Refuge heard that Ammon had been arrested and Lavoy Finicum killed -- they scattered like scalded cats. The psychological profile of most of them is a socially awkward coward looking for companionship. They have guns, yes -- brains, no.

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And Koch etc do not want either to pay for it or see their operations decimated by it.

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I believe we should define for such a discussion what we mean by “war.” I do not believe we will see violent riots or armed militias attempting aggressive takeovers of authorities. However, I do not believe that an electoral loss by Trump this fall no matter how wide the margin will defeat Trumpism. The present core and whatever residual remains of a defeated Republican Party, should that be achieved will remain a Trumpster fire that must be dealt with and if possible controlled. However given my own political views and those of many who I believe align with those also, I do not believe it is our job to “fix” the Republican Party. What we must instead consider is how to deal with it, control and channel, if possible, it’s energy and passions on issues where interests align. This will be a challenge. But the Trump influence is now strongly embedded in the Republican organism and will survive a single electoral defeat.

There must be, however, common interests where alignment to some degree is possible. I believe we have seen political leaders who understand how consensus around those is possible. We need to support and elevate those.

I hope not to hear terms like dominate, defeat, vanquish, destroy, eliminate in political discourse. I prefer seeking rational and reasonable consensus, battle of ideas not warring parties. There is much reform needed and political wars are unlikely to produce winners only losers all.

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I agree. Where possible, don't fight, unite! That said, my current feeling toward the... what to call them? Trumpismos? Trumplicans? Trumponauts (they're way out there, in my opinion)? Anyway, many back him for their own proprietary financial reasons. But I feel that the majority of his support comes from people who's biases are skillfully fed and played into by a very effective and well honed news and propaganda machine that uses words like "freedom" and "democracy" almost like weapons, to rile people up into rejecting ideas and policies without critical thought. I also feel that most people want pretty much the same things, which mostly boils down to safe communities and good jobs. My hope is for some person, or some movement, that can harness that broad underlying agreement and find a way to keep the focus there while expanding the frame of reference to where a true majority of middle and working class Americans understand we're all in this together. All colors, all creeds, all classes. Unless and until that happens, it feels like we're doomed to bury ourselves under our own distrust of each other.

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And that sounds like a good thing! As long as the parties are supporting participatory democracy and government provision of a social safety net.

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They'll then get on with doing what collectively and majoitairement they can agree on ....as long as you've banished corporate money!

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Sorry about the mix with French here..."majoritairememt" ..understandable i trust.

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Oh, but we also have that Electoral College to deal with.

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That has to be abolished rapidly and well before this can happen. It wasn't put in place as a Democratic safeguard but as a means of severely limiting the ability of the populous north to challenge the power of the rich southern "property" owners.

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Abolishing the Electoral College would take, at the very least, an amendment to the constitution that is unlikely to have enough support. The problem of the electoral college could be significantly reduce by the far simpler method of restoring real proportional representation in the House of Representatives. It would take 'only' passing a law to remove the cap of 435 representatives. That cap was created a hundred years ago for the express purpose of further reducing representation in the growing cities. The least populated state would be the measure of one "rep unit". Each state would get reps by dividing its population by the rep unit number. This would effectively make the popular vote far more important in the electoral college than it is today.

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I wouldn’t be so sure about that. Unless you haven’t been paying attention, this country is armed to the teeth (unlike Europe), and filled with far too many fanatical, undereducated morons who wish for nothing more than using their weapons in a misguided cause. The proof of this is the continued support of the president despite those annoying "facts". I’ve lived in Europe and their news outlets are infinitely more balanced than ours. They don’t seem to be as busy chasing ratings by ginning up outrage and setting passions alight. They watched that happen in the 30’s and seemed to have learned the lesson of where that leads. You seem to think that when the dust settles, we’re gonna revert to the rational discourse of years gone by (even if it is 4 parties). I dearly hope you’re right, but for some reason, I don’t think the instant gratification public that exists today will have the patience for anything so lacking in lurid allure.

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European news services are far from being what they were and tend to self censure news that is "inconvenient" for the prevaling political correctness.

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I’m willing to accept that fact. Still, it has to be said that their "political correctness" (an oxymoron if I ever heard one), is preferable to the excited outrage from Fox or MSNBC. All viewpoints deserve a voice, but explicitly presented as opinion rather than actual news. And with less promotional fanfare.

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John, I concur with everything you are saying. I also spent time in Europe, half my childhood. Yes, the US has more weapons in people's homes than possibly the rest of the world combined, no question about it. I can say from personal experience, because I know and work with those people, the fanatical undereducated morons, that their primary concern, aside from crime, is govt corruption. The nightmare scenarios, in their minds, are very similar to the scenarios being expressed on this page. These people are often ex-military and ex-cop, or even current military and cop, and yet they fear those very organizations going bad, going rogue, going corrupt.

I'll be using this point from now on, because it is a big one:

The private armories, and that is precisely what they are, I am not exaggerating, that people in the USA have stashed in their homes is probably the single greatest deterrent to Trump trying to pull a fast one on us. Hitler insisted on gun control. It allowed him to take over the country by force. The private stockpile of weapons in the USA in people's houses is the last and final deterrent to anything untoward happening from the Feds.

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I hope you’re right, but Gavrilo Princip proved the point that all it takes is one (or 2 in his case) bullets to start a conflagration beyond anyone’s power to stop. I continue to fail to see militias as any kind of helpful addition to anything. It’s from militias that hitler got his start and the only people he disarmed were his opponents. In the "Old West" guns were generally banned within city limits and the populace was thankful for it. What you seem to be saying is that everyone is armed to the teeth and terrified of...something. Sounds like a recipe for disaster to me.

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I hope you are right

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From your lips to God's (or your favorite deity's) ears.

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Setting aside the feeling of dread one gets envisioning a Trump victory this November, and the accompanying giant leap toward autocracy, today’s HCR letter touches upon two previous learnings from her writings regarding Political Parties and The Civil War.

Regarding Political Parties, I was of the belief that the mere existence of parties was the problem in our country. I knew the founding fathers didn’t envision parties but they soon formed anyway. But it’s not the parties themselves that are threatening democracy today, it’s the recently adopted disregard for norms and civility. The threat to peaceful transfer of power that we proudly displayed to the world since our founding.

Regarding the Civil War, I recall that since the Union did not “vanquish” the Confederacy, allowing them to instead re-integrate into the Union with their racist/hierarchical beliefs, racial turbulence has existed ever since.

What does that say about our country’s current “Civil War”? With a Biden victory in November the losers must be “vanquished” using lawful efforts of indictment and conviction for crimes against our constitution. If Trump wins, there will be no hesitation on his regime’s part to “vanquish” the losers using whatever means necessary.

Assuming a win by the good-guys, perhaps a realignment of the parties will commence? Moderates from both sides joining forces (a la the Lincoln Project) with extreme right and extreme left parties keeping the moderates in check?

Whatever the party make-up is in a post-Trump era, the return to civility is a must. A continuation of the Trump era has no hope of civility.

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Thank you so much for this clear, cogent statement of why two healthy, legitimate parties are so essential. So many people who are complaining about the deficiencies of the Democratic Party do not realize that they are parroting the attacks by the Republican propaganda machine that's been working for decades to delegitimize their opponents. There are some bad actors; the Party does need work, and it certainly needs an effective platform and better messaging. But its core commitment has consistently been for the good of the American people as a whole. I absolutely want a loyal Republican Party that cares about our country and its citizens to help keep a faithful Democratic Party honest and on task, and vice versa. But what we have now, with the current horror show that is the GOP is far from that, and it's terrifying.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

The simple and difficult solution is to create a tidal wave of opposition to the authoritarian forces that support Trump, and when he is defeated, their public faces in the form of Pompeo, Cotton, Jordan and others. The people MUST do this or the country is lost. Individually we must each do everything we can to support the brave people who are leading this fight on every level. This means doing more than voting. It means throwing active support to organizations that are fighting Trump in particular and who are striving in a valiant and vital fight to re-establish a moderate Republican party, such as the Lincoln Project: https://lincolnproject.us/ It also means supporting those who are working to overturn the GOP majorities at the state level that enabled grotesque non-representative gerrymandering, such as the National Democratic Redistricting Committee (NDRC): https://democraticredistricting.com/ . Above all it means that we must all THINK about our responsibilities as citizens and ACT accordingly. As President Obama once observed, there is only one job title higher than President of the United States, and that is: Citizen. Let's all put on our citizen hats, engage, and WIN the fight to save our country and defeat the forces of authoritarianism and cynical power lust.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

I strongly recommend all read Masha Gessen’s “Surviving Autocracy.” Gessen accurately perceived Trump’s autocratic tendencies and anticipated the evolving autocratic drift we have experienced these last four years in her 2016 essay “Rules for Surviving Autocracy.” Her book now expands on that theme examining Trump’s term and suggests ways to counter this autocratic drift. America’s democratic republic is endangered and may not survive if we fail to act to preserve our ideals and vision.

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Masha’s piece and now her book are an excellent insight into what can evolve... and has evolved... as the patterns of autocracy unfurl in a country. What I do not see enough in America is our own personal sustained engagement in resistance - like someone is still going to swoop in and save us, or right the state of institutions.

Not a perfect example, but the organic and meteoric rise of groups like Indivisible in the post-2016 election came about, in part, to counter the power plays by Republicans with office protests, townhalls, opposition to cabinet nominations and greater and great organizing which led to 2018 retaking of the House of Representatives.

The not so optimistic view: there is vast, dark money being spent in small statehouse primaries (like Kansas) by Koch, American for Progress (a euphemism of grave irony) and the KS Chamber to the tune of $50k+ to knock off “moderate” incumbent R’s and assure a supermajority in the legislature. They organize mightily because they would rather exert that energy there than work with a pragmatic centrist Democratic Governor Kelly. It is an all-hands-on-deck 60 days right now for the viability of government in Kansas. Not hyperbole.

The more optimistic view: Missouri, by dint of the citizens’ ability to put ballot initiatives up, just passed on 8/4 a constitutional amendment to expand Medicaid. They carefully chose an amendment route to subvert the plans by their GOP controlled government (they have Mike Parson as governor as well as GOP legislature) to control for failure-to-implement. The important lesson from the election was that, although only four urban areas carried the majority vote for expansion, large-tho-scattered-rural votes across Missouri amalgamated to the urban majority to carry the day. In other words, although the beautiful NYT graphics showing the sea of red in Missouri gave a quick visual representation of the win|lose numbers, it misleadingly conveyed a visual idea that rural votes are all Republican and that deep concerns about the direction of the GOP leadership don’t exist ‘out there.” Those rural votes combined tallied to over 327,000 and without them expansion of Medicaid would never have passed. Had there not been commitment to organize and reach out in those conservative areas, Medicaid expansion would have failed overwhelmingly.

Each of us must stop waiting for the other, or for the savior, or professionals.” We must stand up and, like magnets, draw together to work on defeating this infection of our democracy so that we may also save ourselves from the infection of this virus.

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Gessen reminds us that political norms will not save us. Norms depend upon the morality and integrity of those in power to have force. When our leaders instead lack integrity and morality, without actual rule of law enforcement of those norms the result is corruption and autocracy. When, I use when rather than if aspirationally, Democrats achieve power they must legislate rule of law enforcement of norms with severe criminal penalties for breach. We must also legislate the necessary independence of our judicial branch and authorities. We cannot afford to allow the absorption of judicial authority within the executive branch. William Barr has demonstrated the danger of this flaw in checks and balances.

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I wonder what would happen if a stiffly moral Congress of 2021 passed a really potent ethics bill, declaring that elected officials are fiduciaries to their offices and mandating severe criminal penalties for breach and corruption.

Would that become a safeguard for honest government, or a tool for a dominant power to persecute the minority? Just as hammers and screwdrivers can build houses or murder homeowners, I suspect that any tool or law can become a weapon of oppression, should the wielders so choose.

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Bruce, I read the NY Books article by Gessen. I fully appreciate your concern, I share that concern. However, empty norms and weak institutions are not what's protecting us. It's the force of will of the American people. That's why polls matter. That's why what the American people think and believe matters.

I am posting another piece, this one begins "**THE ELECTION NEWS IS ALL GOOD** and getting better all the time. It addresses your note " When, I use when rather than if aspirationally, Democrats achieve power . . . "

Btw I agree with absolutely everything you say about legislating those points. And then we also need a Justice Dept. sufficiently well staffed to enforce.

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Totally agree. Masha Gessen's work is always worth reading.

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And if you don't ...your possibly looking at civil war. It's not for nothing that there has been a big increase in gun sales this year. If Trump prevails just watch him close gun shops and make it illegal for citizens to bear or own arms...that would be too dangerous for any dictator.

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I'm not so worried about the pudgy gun-nut down the street. While civilian para-military groups can cause considerable death and destruction (and form the basis of local "death squads"), I worry about the Department of Homeland Security. Does anyone know anyone who works there and can speak to the prevailing attitude of the officers? How infested are they with Q-anon adherents and Trump Forever people?

For most of the DHS sub-departments, the officers and troops are quite willing to corral and shoot fellow citizens; it's part of their job description. Would they follow orders to, say, shoot members of Congress?

I freely admit, with a sense of wane hopefulness, that these musing are very extreme, but in many parts of the world these situations are an ever-present part of life.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

From the moment 45 took office, I have feared these totalitarian maneuvers. People said that I was overreacting ... I didn’t study Hannah Arendt for naught.

“The ideal subject of totalitarian rule is not the convinced Nazi or the convinced Communist, but people for whom the distinction between fact and fiction (i.e., the reality of experience) and the distinction between true and false (i.e., the standards of thought) no longer exist.” Hannah Arendt, *The Origins of Totalitarianism*

This is just one quote, there are many more that I could write down, but I do suggest reading her work.

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"from the moment 45 took office"

Hear Hear!!

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This letter is the starkest and most frightening I've read from Heather since I began reading her letters. With the absence of her usual sentence or two of hope at the end, I am struck wide-eyed with her warning.

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I was thinking the same thing. Her tone in this letter is very different.

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She's anxious. It's a natural reaction when you open the lid to Pandora's Box and begin to discover just how corrupt this President is. He is a pawn of Putin. Putin is a brutal and cunning dictator whose hit teams roam the world poisoning his opponents. It's not warm and fuzzy stuff. The reality under the surface is terrifying if you're not prepared to deal with it.

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Yes, she most likely is anxious. Her letter may also be seen as a call for action to the masses. Use your voice. Vote. Be aware.

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et alia: I am profound.y grateful for the civilized discussion you Have presented today. It is welcomed with sober delight, and reminds me that civil discussion is still possible. Thank you for a reminder of how democracy works.

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Over on Facebook, this same post is swarmed with trolls insisting that it is a hit piece on Republicans when, in fact, it is political theory 101 along with pretty well established recent history. This is exactly why I came over here behind a paywall... these ideas matter, and trying to keep a healthy discussion going when you are constantly zapping gifs of dogs in tinfoil hats is demoralizing.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

Thank you Heather, from the bottom of my heart! Fortunately I never signed up to Fakebook in the first place. I, luckily saw it for what it is (designed to judge women by frat rats). You can take comfort by all the pushback. It means that you’re making a difference and have come under the eye of Sauron (so to speak). Time and energy spent attacking you is time and energy not spent where it really matters. Being an irritable distraction is a very useful role. I think the rest of us here appreciate you and your articulate and diligent message. Don’t lose heart. We❤️you!

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Oh, wow. I never thought of it this way!!! If they're hitting me, they're wasting time! Thank you. Wow. This helps me get my head back after a really nasty day.

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Nothing could please me more than to think I’ve improved your day! In the midst of doing what you’ve doing on a daily basis, it can be hard to see what difference you’re actually making, but rest assured you ARE definitely making a difference. One person can always make a difference. Just ask Gavrilo Princip! The simple fact that you’ve got an old history geek up and engaged is proof positive. Every day, I try to find another person to start reading your letter and I’m sure others are doing likewise. Whatever you do,don’t stop! Pissing off large swathes of the moronosphere is helping, and it’s something to be proud of. In my (not so) humble opinion.

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Thank you for bringing the sexist objectifying origin of Facebook back to the fore.

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You’re very welcome! Not all men are assholes, but I gotta confess that I’ve been guilty of objectifying women in the past. Breaking from social pressures and expectations can be difficult. No one likes to be ostracized. The "training" experienced by both (and the forgotten other) genders can make untangling these perceptions a veritable minefield of miscues and heartache. Luckily I grew up with 5 younger sisters and living an almost feral childhood in a rural area, my sisters were the only playmates I had (one of them became an Olympic athlete as a result) and gender didn’t rear its ugly unwiped tail until I was older. When I did get older, the training women got, tended to reinforce the myths surrounding the weakness of women to my utter confusion, and I despaired of finding a woman (even now I prefer "girl"as well as "boy") who simply "wanted" me instead of "needing" me. In those days it was hard to find women who actually wanted independence. They wanted a "normal" life (unlike me who despised normality). Thank god things have changed (somewhat)! We’ve still got a long way to go though. However, I think we’d be better served if we acknowledged our past and not waste time or energy reviling people for behavior that was acceptable in a different era. Instead why not rejoice in our progress while acknowledging that we’re not finished, and move on towards a better future. I see so much promise in the youth of today. With so many strong young women fighting for their right to be heard, how could you not? Most people (especially the old) fear change (thankfully I’m not one of them), and my generation is a waste of time trying to re-educate. These days I see my role as a cheerleader and enabler for the young. They’re the future; we’ve had our time and we blew it. And, thank you for paying attention to the ramblings of an old oddball. It makes me feel not so alone.

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John, my comment was sincerely to thank you for getting me to realize something I had not realized but made total sense about the origin of Facebook. I never saw "The Social Network" and was well past college when Facebook was started. The good news is that the utilization of Facebook quickly transcended its original dating function. (Now it has other problems!) Similarly, with the gift of critical thinking skills and/or some enlightening interpersonal experience, we manage to transcend old biases and habits. As a woman, it's still something to speak up and add "sexism" to a list of 'isms, including in this socially conscious group. As a white woman, I have appreciated how the national conversation about anti-racism has deepened my consciousness and habits.

I'm not harsh on Boomers, either, since Boomers are not homogeneous and you can "teach an old dog new tricks," as evident by this group so appreciative of learning from HCR how current events connect to history--and by the national conversations of the past few years. Boomers like us do have a lot of wisdom to share with the younger folks, as we are doing.

Kudos to your open-mindedness, and to your Olympic athlete sister!

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

Don't let the *&^% grind you down! You are a national treasure.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

I deactivated my FB as well. Your letter today is a call to action!

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

I finally left FB a couple months ago and I do miss the connection with my many Cyber Friends (which this letter/comments helps alleviate) I got tired of being banned for bullshit reasons and the last was in May when the 'bots banned me for "Hate Speech" because I said I feared that some "evil white monsters" would kill my black grandson like they did Ahmaud Arbery. Algorithms are not yet AI and cannot discern hate speech from nuances in language and there was no human to appeal.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

I enjoyed FB when it was about keeping up with friends and seeing pictures of kids and family. Now it's just a sewer of advertising and quasi-political crap. Instagram feeds my passion for the outdoors. Reading Heather's letters and discussing them with my husband feeds this part of my interest. School starts in two weeks and I'll be too busy for much of it!

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Good luck w/ school! I admit, I love Facebook for the baby pictures. I'm a total sucker for babies.

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I understand!

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

Very demoralizing! I feel for you. I couldn’t handle Facebook anymore. I gratefully subscribed to read civil discourse. I’m learning so much!!

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

I share your posts to Facebook and LinkedIn every day. The trolls don't seem to have found my FB yet.

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Lucky you! :)

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It's probably because my followers number in the tens, not the tens of thousands. Which is fine with me. Hang in there, you have tons of devoted readers.

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Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

Thanks for this discussion. I am very troubled by this looming prospect as it will bear out on my citizen activism work to gain support for a constitutional amendment resolution to limit political spending with non partisan group American Promise. We focus on appealing to both parties but with the GOP party line opposing any support for such an amendment, there are 220 D and only 2 R co-sponsors of HJRes 2 and no Rs among the 47 co-sponsors of SJ Res 51. Our Congress is gridlocked and truly broken when it comes to gaining 2/3 support for passing an amendment when 1 party will privately admit the money in politics is toxic but will NOT do their duty to support this publicly. Even with a Dem trifecta & tRump leaving office (with or without a fight) I am very concerned about the prospects for reforming our democracy itself to resolve SOME of the damage done.

I only joined FB in 2017 once I realized that a lot of grassroots organizing was on that platform. I only use it for organizing purposes but I am very tempted to deactivate as well.

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FB. Blech.

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Shaking my head.

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I’ve recently deactivated my Facebook account. I’m grateful that I can access Heather on email...a much more sane environment. Thank you

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A next step on how democracy works is the protests planned at post offices on Saturday, August 22:

https://twitter.com/waltshaub/status/1295068924946591748?s=21

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Heather, do you have any insight into what the Republicans think their end-game is?

It's perfectly clear they are driving hard toward dictatorship. But look at what they've had to do to the country to get positioned! They've stoked every political, racial, and religious hatred they can find to "sell their brand." They've bungled a pandemic, and face a population growing angrier and angrier WITH THEM. The rule of law is already in question. The economy is a shambles. The government is overrun with cronies, to the point that many agencies don't even function. The military is showing signs of breaking with the Presidency. The States have had to break with Washington just to survive.

Assume the Republicans "win." What have they "won?"

45 himself is a classic narcissist, he seems to be going both senile and mad, and he almost certainly does not have an endgame: or rather, his endgame is becoming more and more fanciful, such as having his face carved on Mount Rushmore, perhaps being crowned emperor, perhaps being invited to serve as advisor to God.

But what about the rest of these guys? McConnell? Cornyn? What are they thinking?

I think Gulf War II indicated pretty clearly that Republicans can forge forward with no endgame in mind at all. Is that what's going on here?

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Once autocratic hegemony is confirmed for the GOP, Trump becomes "expendible" and loses his place to whomever Koch etc name.

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It's a thought, but it doesn't feel right to me.

In their book, "How Democracies Die," the authors talk about one of the common ways an autocrat gets into power in the first place is his underestimation by the underdog ruling group. They decide that this "new talent" will get them back into power, and while he has some worrisome traits, they can "manage" him. Then, they find they cannot manage him, and end up in a submit-or-die position.

I'm more inclined to believe that the Republican party went down this road, and even now, only SOME of them realize they've chained themselves and their party to a runaway locomotive (pun intended) racing toward a brick wall between democracy and autocracy. They can only choose to crash, or to help tear down the wall. They don't want to crash. So they're helping to tear down the wall.

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I find it increasingly difficult to live anything resembling a normal life these days. That which has made my life whole, the interests, the people, (my family and friends, music, boats, Maine, etc), seem increasingly dwarfed by the peril that we as a nation now face.

Magnified by the Pandemic, that peril seems to loom larger and larger each day. Many days it seems to blot out all that seems good.

I’m not becoming unhinged. I care deeply about my family and friends, my interests, my country, and our planet, but the threat that faces us between now and November is immense. Even if Biden wins, and does so resoundingly, it seems more and more unlikely that there will be an orderly transition.

As out of touch with history as American’s are, it is mind boggling how many people support the Republican’s and Trump (or are indifferent to what they are doing), and don’t seem to have a clue as to how close we are to falling off the cliff, and the real life ramifications to all Americans of doing so.

With a Trump “victory” (or more likely, theft of the election), gone (or hollowed out to the point of meaninglessness), would be:

> Any respect and support for a diverse American society

> Social safety nets (Medicare, SS, etc)

> A free press

> Environmental protection

> Any pretense of a stable economy

> A stable infrastructure (roads and bridges, airports, schools, hospitals, libraries, etc)

> and many more things I am sure that I forget

The economy will become increasingly unstable, banks will become shells, and money largely meaningless. Even those of us who are weathering the pandemic with our finances relatively intact will be at risk.

Take a look at Venezuela if you want to see where we could be headed.

I am puzzled at the unwillingness of corporate America and the immensely wealthy through all of this to act. Don’t they realize that a Trump administration will increasingly jeopardize the very society that supports them and increases their wealth?

Do they really think their fancy and elaborate bunkers will protect them and provide a life worth living?

Nevil Shute’s 1957 novel “On The Beach” comes to mind more frequently these days. While maybe not literally facing a nuclear apocalypse, we are facing a long drawn out path towards one. As much as I hate the pretentious view that the well being of America is the well being of the world, if America descends into chaos, the rest of the world, already increasingly unstable, will be dragged down with it.

No lives will matter under a Trump dictatorship as they point to an increasing unstable society (brought on by themselves), as evidence to justify the increasing use of federal forces within our own boarders, to say nothing of the further unleashing of Trump’s unconditional supporters.

Those of us who raise our voices against “the state” will be branded traitors. Suppression will be increasingly brutal.

There will be less and less capacity or willingness to deal with the increasing chaos brought on by climate change, either in the near term from the increasing magnitude of the whipsawing weather, or in the long term the changes in how we live our lives that could reduce the threat of this environmental crisis.

And likewise, any orderly and scientific approach to dealing with CV19 will be further diminished or eliminated.

I fear for our democracy.

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This letter struck me as one of your darkest to date. Is there even hope?

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HCR commented on Facebook that she hoped to sway some Trump supporters who might be wavering.

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Dear Heather,

Not on Twitter, so I’ll just say that I subscribed in order to respond to this post, and of course bottom-line because I love your daily reports.

Obviously I agree that this president and his henchmen are threatening our democracy.

However, I disagree that he has the power, or that he in combination with Republican leaders has the power, to dominate or destroy the Democratic Party. That’s really a stretch.

This is not Syria, this is not Lebanon, this is not Russia or China or Saudi Arabia, this is not Belarus (or a hundred other failed or weakened states), this is not Vichy France, this is not a country where a person in a position of power (like head of the military or head of state police) can just change the constitution at will to establish a never-ending dictatorship or eliminate political parties and suppress dissidents at will.

I believe you underestimate the strength of this democracy. You appear to underestimate the strength of the different systems we have in place for checks and balances against exactly this type of threat.

The independent judicial system, which in many countries can be forced into submission.

Each of the federal military services are independently operated and controlled, even though they now work jointly and cooperatively [I am reading Jim Mattis’s book “Call Sign Chaos,” highly recommend reading it even though as a lifelong pacifist I have been having mixed feelings getting through it].

The free press, and even though the mainstream press has a very bad case of tunnel vision and gives us only superficial and incomplete reporting about issues that desperately need to be addressed much more deeply, even Trump cannot control CNN and WaPo and LA Times and NYT and AP et al.

I can continue listing institutions, including federal agencies that are still independent despite having puppet leaders. The rank-and-file employees are the resistance movement that Trump and his mob shills call “the deep state.”

And then there is the Democratic Party. I’m sorry, but there’s just a little bit too much institutional mass there to be so easily manipulated. Even in space, where technically everything is weightless, if a large object is moving directly at you and pins you against another large object, you will be crushed. And that is what is happening to Trump and the Republican party. They are being crushed, and it is the weight of social change and social transformation that is crushing them. Because a political party is, of course, just a vehicle of expression of political and social will, the will of the people.

If I concede your point and say, hypothetically, that the Democratic Party can be weakened or dominated or even eliminated, nevertheless the forces of social change are grinding slowly and they are grinding finely and they are wiping out the Republican Party as it currently exists.

Roland

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Hey Roland. I can't say I share your confidence in the strength of our governmental checks and balances, but they certainly were put in place to protect against the corruption of Constitutional government. I think HCR is making a more subtle argument about the erosion of the two-party system that could enable a single party to push their political agenda through without the moderating influence of an opposition party. That's the point at which the armor is weakest.

There is nothing in US law that I am aware of that mandates a two-party system, but it has been the de facto arrangement since nearly the beginning of the US Federal government. I would personally advocate for a multi-party system since I am neither a Democrat nor a Republican, but I understand the arguments against such systems, particularly that a multi-party democracy is more unwieldy and difficult to find consensus. But the fact is that no third party candidate has ever won a presidential election - the closest was Theodore Roosevelt's 1912 campaign as a Progressive where he got 27% of the popular vote and 88 electoral college votes.

So as I said above, without viable political opposition, a political party can really push the ethical envelope in order to ram through their agenda. The Trump administration has already, in my opinion, stretched the boundaries of said envelope past the breaking point: they have fired a number of departmental Inspectors General and have ignored the IG reports that have been written and submitted; they have appointed a US Attorney General who regularly conducts his business in a partisan fashion; they have placed a number of people into Acting Cabinet positions and directorships - some (Wolf in particular) staying long past the period allowed for an Acting position - because, as Trump said just the other day, it is easier to hire and fire them in order to get his work done; the Trump admin has dismissed as "laughable" the General Accounting Office's report that tried to bring attention to this ethical breach; on and on, ad nauseum.

Again, I would like to see a more robust system that includes other political parties, but the possibility of downshifting to a single-party system is horrifying. I agree with you that the military would be nearly impossible to politically corrupt, but notice that I am not saying absolutely impossible. As for the power of a free press, we are already seeing how news organizations can be financially undermined, and how people in positions of governmental responsibility are peddling what Kellyanne Conway openly called "alternative facts."

And on top of all this, we have experienced nearly four years of an administration that cannot be persuaded to act according to the rules of governmental ethics - they cannot be shamed, and they seem often to be openly contemptuous of ethics, Constitutional law, business conflicts of interest...excuse my language, but they often seem contemptuous of basic fucking principles of human leadership.

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Hi Jim, when it happens, that party is going to be the Democratic Party, not the Republican Party. The Republican Party is becoming endangered, and crippled. See my post "THE ELECTION NEWS IS ALL GOOD"

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Yeah, I've been going back and forth as to whether it will be the Democrats or the Republicans who ultimately implode. I think HCR's position is that the Democratic Party is vulnerable because of the concerted attack strategy the Republicans have adopted. I would also add that the Democrats are pathetically weak in terms of their ability to operate in a political system that favors simple messaging and repetition instead of informed debate and consideration.

On the other hand, the Republican Party seems to be fracturing into a number of pieces, much of it driven by people's revulsion to the politics of crudity. In the end, though, if Trump were to win a second term, I'm sure a lot of those people would jump right in and claim the victory as theirs as well.

Politics makes my head hurt and causes me to crave alcohol.

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I'll drink to that!

Republicans will implode. Definitely. They are past, the racist/sexist/anti-gay past. Democrats are the future: for now, that could always change.

Do you know there are 7 different all-Republican groups, like Lincoln Project, working full-time for Biden against Trump? That's unprecedented. That's fracture.

The Democrats used to be the party of the KKK, it was LBJ and Voting Rights Act that brought the racists over to the Republican Party. Nothing is static.

But for now, for November 3, 2020, it's a Blue Wave. 10 years from now, who knows.

https://www.politico.com/news/2020/05/28/famed-democratic-pollster-pushing-biden-pick-warren-for-vp-285659

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I'm not sure I have confidence in governmental checks and balances and the 4th estate in the abstract: anything can be corrupted and weakened. Just look at most of the countries in the world. I think at this point, it's institutional mass, institutional inertia. Americans have gotten used to democracy, they have gotten used to the Constitution and Constitutional values. The average American, most Americans, have become accustomed to free speech, freedom of religion (which is really freedom of thought and belief, because freedom of religion means freedom to believe anything including anti-religion), presumption of innocence, fair trials, and even lack of corruption in government. In most of the world, people presume government officials line their own pockets. In Russia and China, they have taken that to a whole new level, billionaires run those countries.

So my confidence is in the people, in the deep routine, the deep habit, of how we do things here. I'm not a govt. employee, but I imagine they are all in deep crisis of conscience at what is happening at the top of their departments and agencies, because they know corruption is wrong.

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Jim, I have to take issue with your statement about the two-party system. Read up on Abraham Lincoln's first election campaign. There were, I forget exactly how many, several parties, and there were in the range of a dozen candidates for President. It was a free-for-all. The two-party system is not a system per se, merely the history of the moment. In the 20th Century, yes, it has been two-party, but in the 1700s and 1800s, it was often 3-party system and on occasion even more than that. And thr dynamics of which party was in power, was dominant, changed constantly prior to the Democrat-Republican 2-party hegemony.

After this election, we are looking at the very distinct possibility of a 1-party system, with all other parties being marginalized, including the Republicans. If Trump and Putin's criminal enterprise don't take over the country first, via Bill Barr and the other cronies.

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When you have finished Mattis’ book I highly recommend Gessen’s “Surviving Autocracy.” Your belief and dependence on norms and institutions is misplaced. Gessen carefully explains how these have failed in the past and are shown to be endangered by Trump and his enablers now. We must not depend upon these to save us. Gessen carefully explains and documents both the dangers and the appropriate response necessary to mitigate them.

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I respectfully disagree that my confidence is misplaced and also disagree with the implication that my understanding of situation is somehow faulty or naive. But I do appreciate your position. There is plenty of fear to go around, I have no trouble understanding the fear or its basis.

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I understand and respect your views and do not wish to be alarmist or over reactive. Rather I hope to urge vigilance and peaceful activism to advance solutions and appropriate controls on Trumpism’s autocratic tendencies.

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I'm totally with you

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You may find it helpful to start with Gessen’s 2016 essay, “Rules for Surviving Autocracy,” published in the New Yorker in November of 2016 immediately after Trump’s election victory. You can find it here:

https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2016/11/10/trump-election-autocracy-rules-for-survival/

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Thanks, Gessen’s essay is great. It aligns with warning by Timothy Snyder in 2017 in his book, On Tyranny: Twenty Lessons from the Twentieth Century, including ways to fight it.

https://twitter.com/waltshaub/status/1295068924946591748?s=21

I’m not going to compare and contrast. Enough talk, on to action.

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I have also read Snyder’s On Tyranny, and recommend it. He and Gessen’s are actually close and often cite each other in their work.

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Snyder’s book Bloodlands was great at laying out how Stalin tyrannized Eastern Europe, then Hitler amplified Stalin’s playbook. I’m not finding in the moment a stronger word than “playbook” to describe the systematic state actions that caused the immeasurable suffering and deaths of millions.

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Hi Bruce and Dan, thanks for the referral to Masha Gessen, I read the NY Books piece. It's a discussion of life in an autocracy. I agree with almost everything Gessen wrote, and my few disagreements are inconsequential. Notice how he predicted several things which have taken place, and notice also where his predictions did not materialize: we do not have more wars, and the press is still independent and free.

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Yes, but also note the ways in which Trump has exerted influence on the military and our foreign policy, and his attitudes toward and opposition to the press. Cries of fake news, restricting access to information from the government and agencies and appointees under His control, increase in defense spending, removal of troops from Syria and now Germany, disregard for and demeaning our alliances, and so much more. While I agree that there is still a long slope remaining before we reach that dystopian, autocratic future Gessen warns of, it is undeniable Trump would move towards it if able.

I suppose the most essential point is not to be complacent, which is the essence of Gessen’s warning. Just because we “are not there yet,” is no reason not to take the danger seriously. When one sees a sign on the pond, “Danger Alligators Present,” to go for a swim because you don’t immediately notice one lying on the bank of the pond is likely not a good idea.

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Of course. Complacency is always an ever-present enemy.

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Trump is out of office on January 20, 2021. At noon Eastern Time. And he will be frog-marched out of the WH by US Marines if he doesn't go willingly. See my post about the demise of the Republican Party called "THE ELECTION NEWS IS ALL GOOD"

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The free press has been in increasingly dire straits for the last decade at least, with no rescue in sight. This worries me enormously, as it's function is vital to a healthy democracy. And no, the internet is not a good alternative. Too disorganized and messy, with no hope of a useful consensus.

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I’ll look into your book referral.

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I certainly see your comment as a very hopeful assessment of the strength of our institutions, and I very much hope you are correct. But by my reading, Dr. Richardson's main point is that a very large segment of our population, and almost half of our political leaders, are actively seeking a government that is essentially the same as presently "enjoyed" by Belarus. (I assume that you've noted that the opposition leader, who by outside observers won 80% of the vote, has had to flee the country to avoid being murdered.)

It's as though Trump supporters, perhaps without quite realizing it, have become tired of actual democracy, and would rather win by any means necessary. They are like my daughter when she was 8 years old when she failed to understand the difference between the word "unfair" and the phrase "no, you can't do that." On hearing "no," she was willing to throw as big a tantrum as necessary to get her way.

Trump supporters have signaled a willingness to throw a tantrum to get their way, using automatic weapons.

At this point, I think a critical factor is the loyalty of the middle-rank officers/troops under control of the Department of Homeland Security. (For some reason, the very name of that agency has always filled me with dread.) They have already shown themselves willing to present massed, faceless, demonstrations of force for photo-ops on the Lincoln Memorial, and they are also willing to snatch civilians off the streets in Portland from unmarked vans.

So, here's a "what-if" scenario: Trump declares his definite, but not massive, loss in November to be a fraud, and orders the troops of the DHS, such as the Bureau of Prisons, ATF, ICE, and Border Patrol, to confiscate all the ballots from the 50 state capitals (for a secure, "official" recount), then declares himself the winner. All the Homeland Security forces back him up, becoming his private Presidential army.

(The National Guard is confused, not sure to whom they look, the President or the Governors, especially since the Governors themselves are split on the matter.)

At that point, the five branches of the "real" military have a most unpleasant choice. Do they accede to this rather obvious power grab, or do they, themselves, start the Second American Civil War? If you were the Joint Chiefs, what would you do?

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DHS was created in the Bush administration under the auspices of Dick Cheney, who in many ways was de facto leader with Bush as his puppet. CIA renditions and black prisons overseas, invasion of Iraq for oil (Cheney is Halliburton), Patriot Act, etc. So yes, DHS is the closest thing we have to Stasi or Hitler’s Sturmabteilung or KGB or even Gestapo. But it’s a matter of degree, the organizations that I mentioned are much more nefarious than DHS. It’s also a matter of who is targeted, and how they are harassed. But DHS could be turned against our own citizens, don’t get me wrong.

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So far, Trump has used DHS and the other police agencies under his authority in DC and in selected cities for so-called riot control. Dan, what do you think would happen if he tried to use them in the ways that you suggest?

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Dan, I can tell I really like you, because every time I happen to glance at this post, I keep finding more. It's like a gold mine that keeps on giving. You must be a gold mine.

I am reposting a response to John, somewhere else in this massive Comments section:

The US has more weapons in people's homes than possibly the rest of the world combined, no question about that. I can say from personal experience, because I know and work with people who have those weapons stockpiles, that their primary concern, aside from crime, is govt corruption. The nightmare scenarios, in their minds, are very similar to the scenarios being expressed on this page. These people are often ex-military and ex-cop, or even current military and cop, and yet they fear those very organizations going bad, going rogue, going corrupt.

The private armories, and that is precisely what they are, I am not exaggerating, that people in the USA have stashed in their homes is probably the single greatest deterrent to Trump trying to pull a fast one on us. Hitler insisted on gun control. It allowed him to take over the country by force. The private stockpile of weapons in the USA in people's houses is the last and final deterrent to anything untoward happening from the Feds.

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My bottom line is still the same: Trump is going to lose, and lose badly, and on January 20, 2021, US Marines frog-march him out of the WH if he doesn't go on his own.

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Ok Dan, I'm going to give your scenario a shot.

1st item: White guys brandishing automatic weapons, they got all the news. Check this out (black guys brandishing weapons to protect their Congresswoman):

https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2020/may/07/michigan-lawmaker-armed-escort-rightwing-protest

2nd item: I agree with you that DHS, ICE are problematic, they are the spawn of the Patriot Act. ATF is much older. Bureau of Prisons I'm not sure. Weak leadership is a problem, puppet leaders have made their agencies susceptible to misuse and abuse by Putin's capo. Legislation could be the remedy. However, if they were used for election tampering, I suspect public uproar would put a stop to it. Don't know for sure, just my best guess. Even Republicans being blackmailed by Trump and Putin might act against that move, even if they didn't say anything public, although blackmail is a very strong deterrent.

#3: Trump declares himself winner. You really think that will fly? Again, he doesn't have the military. Guys like Jim Mattis and his buddies put a stop to that Washington DC Bible-held-high debacle. National Guard, too, belongs to Defense and the Joint Chiefs, and Esper is getting grilled by his own. Again, Trump doesn't have a state police force at his disposal, not like the KGB and Hitler's Sturmabteilung and elsewhere. He's obviously TRYING, but limited success.

#4: How do the SecDef and the Joint Chiefs respond. Do we see the start of a 2nd Civil War. You're putting me on the spot, I am not an expert on the military, I only know what I have been reading about them.

I still think, despite the smoke and attempts at confusion, that we have a clean election (I mean no overt vote tampering, of course I am aware of all the voter suppression and voter brainwashing efforts, including USPS and the Russian propaganda machine on FB and elsewhere). And I think that after that clean election, Biden-Harris wins, there's another blue wave in the House, and the Senate goes blue as well, based on all my research. Remember, the American public is moving forward, not backward, the majority already approve of the George Floyd reforms. Mobster and Putin capo and Hitler-wannabe DJT represents who we used to be, not who we are now, and everybody knows that.

I would be inclined away from a Civil War. I think we are looking at a loud, noisy, messy change in society. The reactionaries are giving up their whites-first men-first straights first social order kicking and screaming, sure. But they know the writing is on the wall. Change is coming. They are being forced to change.

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I fear that we are coming to a first in American history, when the actions of the military determine the outcome of an election. Because in the highly-speculative scenario I described, the true loyalty of the military will be the determining factor.

If the military is truly distancing itself from Trump-the-Autocrat, and views an election day power grab as horrifying, then the grab, in my completely-uninformed opinion, would quickly degenerate into a state by state, region by region, mess. Some states, like my own Georgia, would probably hand the ballots over to Trump's DHS troops wrapped in a ribbon, while the election workers cry "Foul!" and try to block the troops with their bodies. Other states, like New Hampshire or New York, would probably repel the Trump troops at gunpoint, using the capital and local police. Ultimately, attention would turn to the National Guard garrisons and whatever military bases are nearby, as Governors and election officials plead for help fending off Trump loyalists in the DHS, and Trump demands that the same garrisons and bases support him, instead.

That's when the real crisis would occur. If the armed forces then move to disarm the DHS goons and quell the takeover, it would lose steam pretty quickly. God knows what would happen next, but Trump would have lost in the most spectacular way imaginable. On the other hand, if the military leaders are actually complicit in this Trump scheme, and are only feigning disapproval, such a confused muddle would an excellent opportunity for the armed forces to step in, establish a military junta to "restore the Constitution," and possibly never leave, with Trump as the "emergency" head of government.

For a reluctant military to stand silent in the face of such an open attempt to overturn the election by force, I suspect that Trump would have to seize complete control at once, everywhere, relatively bloodlessly, too; that, I think, would be hard to do in our very decentralized society. In fact, the more I write about it, the more this entire thought-experiment sounds like a bad "Eagle is Down"-style novel.

Still, I would be interested in knowing where the Joint Chiefs intend to be during the week of November 1-7. Will they be sitting with Trump, awaiting early results? Will they be scattered around their respective bases, where they enjoy almost complete power? What would either alternative imply? Would anyone like a drink and a pinch of snuff?

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Your characterization of the strengths of institutions is overstated (though I am drawn to your hopefulness, Roland), I fear, since we do not see massive resistance on the part of the second, third and middle tier of its workers, while the criminogenic “acting” directors strip the safeguards away.

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I respectfully disagree that I’m overstating it, but thank you very much for your reply. I will concede that, given 4 more years of this criminal, we would be in deep doo doo. And I will also heartily concede that this is the greatest threat to the American experiment that we have seen in probably two lifetimes, going back to either the Civil War or the war of 1812. I’m not saying I’m not worried. But I’m not fearful. This democracy has survived greater challenges than an attempted takeover by a corrupt and criminal foreign government.

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Let me correct myself, then, Roland. I am nor fearful in that I am quaking. I am resigned that many do not yet fully grasp that in order for your view to be the true outcome they must literally engage in civic ways that they have never done. Too many say that they don’t follow politics, as if it were a sports team. Too many simply don’t understand the power of their voices, whether by vote or vocal protest, or voluble dissent from within. The country is not so much under threat from a ‘corrupt and criminal foreign government” as it is by a largely self-defeating, distracted populace.

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Of course I agree completely with your assessment of the American population. In fact I’ll throw myself in there, because in the past year, I have become way way way more informed about politics than ever before. I never liked politics, it’s the one subject I didn’t even touch in college. So the Trump presidency has activated me as well. And then take a look at the 2018 midterms, the blue wave in California that turned the California republican party into an endangered entity. No more Nixons, no more Reagans, they are done for in this state. Look at the George Floyd race reckoning. The MeToo sexism reckoning. Harvey Weinstein is 2017. This President is the backdrop to a social transformation, like the scenery and sets behind the actors. So I have to be encouraged that Americans are waking up politically as well. AOC, Rashida Tlaib, Deb Haaland, Kyrsten Sinema. And now Kamala. “The times they are a changing 🎶🎵”

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Correction “...not* fearful, “

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I wish I could be as hopeful as you are and I hope everyone votes. I hope we can turn this thing around. But as a victim of a political game being forced into a school where I will be exposed to 340 students in a hybrid school system to 715 students when we go back to f2f, during a potentially fatal pandemic, I feel the weight of being a pawn. The division among colleagues is clear and disheartening. I’ve never felt it like this! I’ve been teaching since 1986.

Where do you see the executive orders, PEAD, falling in this current state? I think they are directly dismantling our constitution. If dumpty can continue to do executive orders unchecked, that will be our undoing.

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I agee that the executive orders are attempts to dismantle the Constitution. This guy is out-of-control, he's constantly testing the system to try and get away with anything. And Stephen Miller and the rest of his cronies are enabling him. That's what drives Heather (Dr. Richardson's) newsletters, that's why we're all here. But he's out of here on January 20. The American public will see to that. Ref: Stan Greenberg, R.I.P. G.O.P., the partner of James Carville and a pollster I trust. All he does is interview people. Or you can read the mainstream media, articles about recent polls.

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Is it too simple to say that the republican party and the president already seem to be acting however they wish? Hard to understand how there is nothing to be done to stop this blatant disregard for governmental norms.

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Whoa, sounds like a manifesto, expressing my personal feelings exactly, but from the perspective of a learned historian. I have been saving these letters in Word documents, bolding & underlining certain parts. This one the first two paragrafs have been bolded. I should put it in caligrafy font and hang it on my wall. Except, I have personally been calling it the Repugnant Party for the past 4 years.

“If we manage to fend off this specific attack on our democracy,” (and that becomes more frightening daily with the illegal actions of this administration and the complicit Repugnant Senate) we need to first get rid of districts and the Electoral College to guarantee each person’s vote has the same weight as any other. Then we need to install and ENFORCE rules of the game to remove billionaires from buying our government. Level the playing field.

In other words, we have discovered with this Repugnant corruption of the past generation the flaws in our 200-year-old playbook.

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