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 ..

Expand full comment

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.

Expand full comment

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.

Expand full comment
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.

Expand full comment

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.

Expand full comment

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.

Expand full comment
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.

Expand full comment
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.

Expand full comment

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.

Expand full comment
Aug 16, 2020Liked by Heather Cox Richardson

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.

Expand full comment

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?

Expand full comment

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.

Expand full comment

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

Expand full comment

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.


Expand full comment

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.

Expand full comment

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.

Expand full comment