This is very serious stuff and demands our attention. I grew up about 70 miles west of DC in Hagerstown. It was a nice safe place to grow up for kids. We could ride our bikes anywhere and stay out all day during the summer and just play. My high school friends who stayed there are mostly Trump supporters, (except for the artists & musicians) those of us who got out are mostly not. We had the same up-bringing...and many of my friends who stayed or didn't, went to college. A lot of this feels like it's rural vs urban. Those of us who have lived a more diverse life and interact with a broader spectrum of people have a different point of view. I'm really trying to figure out what action I can take, what use of my time, talents and resources can help make a difference. Heather does an excellent job of compiling and interpreting the happenings and trends. We need to harness this information and use it to keep this democracy more healthy than not....and it's an on-going job, there will likely never be an end game to this.

Expand full comment

For the life of me, I do not understand the prioritization of the Democrats political agenda. We are at a crossroads in America. The Democrats are not only doing a horrible job of messaging, they're talking about the infrastructure legislation far too much, while virtually ignoring the disenfranchisement of millions of their supporters by failing to enact legislation to restore voting rights.

It's like showing everyone your plans to build a big bookcase in your den, while your house is being threatened by a raging wildfire. If your house burns to the ground, the bookshelf will burn right along with it.

The Republicans are playing the long game far better. They want to tie up the infrastructure package because they know that Manchin and Sinema are their allies They can drag this on and on, all the while getting the state legislatures to enact more restrictive voting legislation. The infrastructure bill is wildly popular, but it has zero chance of being enacted and implemented unless the Democrats not only hold their majority, but strengthen it.

It's time to move the infrastructure bill to the back burner and turn up the heat to pass the two voting rights bills under consideration. It's time to recognize that relying on traditional methods of legislative negotiating no longer hold any value. In short, it's time to call the fire department!

Expand full comment

We knew we were in deep trouble, but we kept holding onto an illusion of the past. Heather has doused us, again, with the real reality. I was already unsettled more than usual tonight after reading that Oklahoma school boards are banning “To Kill a Mockingbird.” My wife and I named our son after Atticus Finch, and at 16 he carries the name well. But he will need more strength, more resolve for what’s ahead.

Expand full comment

Okay. The most basic human freedom is to choose our own attitude (Viktor Frankl). Is this current crisis a calamity or an opportunity? In reality, it's both. A sizeable (15 - 30%?) minority created this crisis in order to use it as an opportunity to take power. All crises create/liberate tremendous energy. The Trumpists have handed the rest of us an opportunity to come together and 'create a more perfect union'. Without this crisis, I never would have found my way to this forum and the support and teaching it provides.

We can lose our Democracy. In just over a year. To morons (as TCinLA pointed out).

We can win our Democracy. Now. Together. By not being morons. We have all the tools we need. Dr. Cox-Richardson gives us the truth. Stacie Abrams has shown us a way. We have half the Senate and just over half of the House. 70 - 85% of the American People are us. It will not be easy.

Expand full comment

Interestingly enough, a few weeks ago, I asked a friend living in Eastern Europe why it is that so much trouble for Europe as a whole comes from the Eastern half. He pointed out that - outside of Czechoslovakia that had a functioning democracy from 1918-38 that actually started to take root before Hitler uprooted it, the rest of the states in Eastern Europe outside of Greece have a "democratic tradition" that extends to a few years after World War I before indigenous dictatorships were re-established in Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria, (their elites all collaborated with the Nazis leading up to and throughWW2) and a government not unlike what is in Poland today ruled there before the war, while no democratic anything was ever established in the Balkans (which became Yugoslavia), and then those dictatorships were replaced by Stalinist dictatorships that lasted another 45 years after World War II, there has only been democracy established after the Cold War in those countries, while they have thousands of years of "traditional autocracy" (as he put it). He pointed out we have a few hundred years of "democratic tradition" and find it hard to operate a democracy.

Expand full comment

🔥 When you’re on fire like this today, HCR, I know it’s time to really really worry and to up my game and additionally mobilize/organize/persist.

Expand full comment

"It is not an accident that the insurrectionists of January 6, 2021, carried the Confederate battle flag."

It is a direct and intentional consequence of Nixon's Southern Strategy, as fully realized by Reagan.

Trump is Reagan, writ large and writ vulgar. No need any longer to dog whistle pander to white supremacists, a la Lee Atwater's infamous 1981 essay How To Be a Racist Without Sounding Like a Racist. Today's seditious Republican party is the ideological heir, as well as actual sons and daughters, of the Confederacy. Red Hats are the new white hoods.

In the down the rabbit hole and through the looking glass world of Republican rhetoric, the Confederate flag once only symbolizing racist oppression now signifies American freedom and liberty. And to deny civil rights protections to Democratic voters in general, and Black and Hispanic voters in specific, even Maine GOP Sen. Susan Collins is singing from the State's Rights songbook.

Economic injustice keeps so many Americans so insecure that they are willing to stand on their most vulnerable neighbors' necks to keep their own heads above water. The real threat to Republicans who are arousing the racist populists to service the grasping plutocrats - as personified by Mitch McConnell et al - are the promises of the Biden Harris Build Back Better agenda. Obstructionists such as Joe Manchin and Krysten Sinema are so blinkered by their self interests that they can't see how democracy depends on economic and racial justice.

We did not to pull together to defeat Republicans in 2016. The ensuing catastrophe united us for our Democratic 2020 victory. But our razor thin majority is not enough to defeat the Republican racist right wing religious extremism undermining our government. 2022 is closer than it looks.


Expand full comment

HRC's summary precisely covers the points that I have been digging out of her letters and many other experts. I would clarify that tanks were used in Eastern Europe by Russia as they pushed Germany back. And on occasions of protest and unrest in these countries. But the secret police, trained and directed from Moscow, were the principle enforcement tool. One of the speakers at Trump's January 6th insurrection rally mentioned "taking names". The Moscow communists did exactly this as they promoted spying on family members, friends and work associates. They used this to create fear and demand loyalty. Purging both citizens and party members, just as Trump names his own party members as "enemies" when they don't carry out his orders and wishes. The technology is different today, but the intimidation, punishment and potential violence are the same.

Expand full comment

Wow! I am speechless. Heather you have taken the pieces and put them together in such a succinct and powerful message. After seeing on the news today of all of the Secretary of States (mostly Democratic women) being harassed and threatened by the Trump cult, as well as all of the non partisan election workers whose lives have been threatened, I am very worried. Many of them are leaving their jobs for fear of the safety of their families. They are being replaced with partisan election workers. All signs point to the fate of democracy in name only and rule by the minority. Elections will be predetermined and window dressing to appear like we have a democracy. I have to admit I am frightened. I vote, contribute to democratic candidates and try to inform people about the threat. What else can we do to stop this?

Expand full comment

These are indeed frightening times and POTUS seems little concerned that primarily Southern GOP states are disenfranchising millions of people they don't consider worthy of exercising their right to vote.

As with gerrymandering, politicians determine who will vote for them, the opposite of a true democratic state.

Gerrymandering also has features similar to Facebook's (and tech's) infamous algorithms, in that both mechanisms deliberately choose the audience they can best influence, by hook or crook.

Demographically, the GOP understands the reality that their older, primarily white, conservative base is declining. This decline in the face of other groups' growth doesn't necessarily mean millions automatically joining the ranks of the Democratic Party, but it does mean a diluted, less potent and strident GOP base.

Thus, what desperate Republicans can leverage at this point-aside from violent insurrection-is voter suppression, fear of the other and a packed Supreme Court, all very formidable tools of oppression.

I also take your point, that in the case of voter disenfranchisment, the pen is much more potent than the gun.

Thank you for this post.

Expand full comment

Just a minor point: I personally think that serious commentators should stop saying that critical race theory is not actually taught in public schools. Instead, they should clarify that "critical race theory" is stand-in terminology for ANY teaching about diversity in history, and defend that. Because the term used is not the point.

Expand full comment

Thank you Heather.

I had a long conversation with a friend the other day who admitted to me that she no longer watches or reads the news. Her rationale is she has seen this pattern of action in other countries, loud and clear. With as many phone calls made, letters written, marches attended she has done in her 79 years, she feels that she needs to self preserve. Her parents were German immigrants. She is a retired academic.

As she has said to me, the pattern is there. The GOP are making changes to this country, not just with a bullhorn, but with laws.

She is a barometer for me. If we are not truly looking at what is happening, we have a rude awaking ahead. Make all the phone calls and write your letters with your left hand, but damn well get your ducks in a row with your right hand.

Be safe. Be well.

Expand full comment

You can add this historian's name to the list...

This open letter is being published simultaneously today by The Bulwark and The New Republic:

We are writers, academics, and political activists who have long disagreed about many things.

Some of us are Democrats and others Republicans. Some identify with the left, some with the right, and some with neither. We have disagreed in the past, and we hope to be able to disagree, productively, for years to come. Because we believe in the pluralism that is at the heart of democracy.

But right now we agree on a fundamental point: We need to join together to defend liberal democracy.

Because liberal democracy itself is in serious danger. Liberal democracy depends on free and fair elections, respect for the rights of others, the rule of law, a commitment to truth and tolerance in our public discourse. All of these are now in serious danger.

The primary source of this danger is one of our two major national parties, the Republican Party, which remains under the sway of Donald Trump and Trumpist authoritarianism. Unimpeded by Trump’s defeat in 2020 and unfazed by the January 6 insurrection, Trump and his supporters actively work to exploit anxieties and prejudices, to promote reckless hostility to the truth and to Americans who disagree with them, and to discredit the very practice of free and fair elections in which winners and losers respect the peaceful transfer of power.

So we, who have differed on so much in the past—and who continue to differ on much today—have come together to say:

We vigorously oppose ongoing Republican efforts to change state election laws to limit voter participation.

We vigorously oppose ongoing Republican efforts to empower state legislatures to override duly appointed election officials and interfere with the proper certification of election results, thereby substituting their own political preferences for those expressed by citizens at the polls.

We vigorously oppose the relentless and unending promotion of unprofessional and phony “election audits” that waste public money, jeopardize public electoral data and voting machines, and generate paranoia about the legitimacy of elections.

We urge the Democratic-controlled Congress to pass effective, national legislation to protect the vote and our elections, and if necessary to override the Senate filibuster rule.

And we urge all responsible citizens who care about democracy—public officials, journalists, educators, activists, ordinary citizens—to make the defense of democracy an urgent priority now.

Now is the time for leaders in all walks of life—for citizens of all political backgrounds and persuasions—to come to the aid of the Republic.

Todd Gitlin

Professor of Journalism, Sociology and Communications

Columbia University

Jeffrey C. Isaac

James H. Rudy Professor of Political Science

Indiana University, Bloomington

William Kristol

Editor at Large, The Bulwark

Director, Defending Democracy Together


Affiliations listed for identification purposes only.

Sheri Berman

Professor of Political Science

Barnard College

Max Boot

Senior Fellow

Council on Foreign Relations

James Carroll


Leo Casey

Assistant to the President

American Federation of Teachers

Mona Charen

Policy Editor

The Bulwark

Noam Chomsky

Institute Professor and Professor of Linguistics Emeritus

Massachusetts Institute of Technology

Jelani Cobb

Professor of Journalism

Columbia University

Eliot A. Cohen

Robert E. Osgood Professor

Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies

David Cole

National Legal Director

American Civil Liberties Union

Laura K. Field

Senior Fellow

Niskanen Center

Carolyn Forché

University Professor

Georgetown University

Francis Fukuyama

Olivier Nomellini Senior Fellow

Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies

Stanford University

William A. Galston

Senior Fellow

Brookings Institution

Jeffrey C. Goldfarb

Michael E. Gellert Professor Emeritus

New School for Social Research

Hahrie Hahn

Stavros Niarchos Foundation Professor of Political Science

Director, SNF Agora Institute

Johns Hopkins University

Roya Hakakian

Author and poet

Fellow, Davenport College, Yale University

John Judis


Ira Katznelson

Ruggles Professor of Political Science and History

Columbia University

Michael Kazin

Professor of History

Georgetown University

Randall Kennedy

Michael R. Klein Professor of Law

Harvard University

Steven R. Levitsky

Professor of Government

Harvard University

Robert Jay Lifton, M.D.

Susie Linfield

Professor of Journalism

New York University

Damon Linker

Senior Correspondent

The Week

Dahlia Lithwick

Senior Editor


Jane Mansbridge

Charles F. Adams Professor, Emerita

Harvard Kennedy School

Win McCormack

Editor in Chief

The New Republic

John McWhorter

Professor of Linguistics

Columbia University

Deborah Meier


James Miller

Professor of Politics and Liberal Studies

New School for Social Research

Nell Irvin Painter

Edwards Professor of American History Emerita

Princeton University

Rick Perlstein


Katha Pollitt


Claire Potter

Professor of History

New School for Social Research

Jedediah Purdy

William S. Beinecke Professor of Law

Columbia University

Jonathan Rauch

Senior Fellow

Brookings Institution

Adolph Reed

Emeritus Professor of Political Science

University of Pennsylvania

Kim Lane Scheppele

Laurance S. Rockefeller Professor of Sociology and International Affairs

Princeton University

Charles Sykes

Founder and Editor at Large

The Bulwark

George Thomas

Burnet C. Wohlford Professor of American Political Institutions

Claremont McKenna College

Michael Tomasky

Editor, The New Republic

Editor, Democracy: A Journal of Ideas

Jeffrey K. Tulis

Professor of Government and Law

University of Texas

Dorian T. Warren


Community Change

Joan Walsh


The Nation

Michael Walzer

Professor Emeritus of Social Science

Institute for Advanced Study

Sean Wilentz

Sidney and Ruth Lapidus Professor in the American Revolutionary Era

Princeton University

Benjamin Wittes

Senior Fellow

Brookings Institution

Expand full comment

I read this morning that the Brazilian Senate approved an indictment for Bolarsaro for his handling of Covid, and other crimes. Would that the same might happen for tRump !

Expand full comment

We are listening. We are well-informed thanks to your "Letters from an American." Thank you Dr. Richardson.

Expand full comment

So-called “Citizens United” dealt the mortal blow to this democracy. Corporations are NOT people—they are a legal tool to protect business management from personal liability when “corporate decisions” result in harm. Yet, today, government officials are beholden to their massive donations supporting their offices. So long as this situation stands, there is no “We, the People.” Who runs our world? Those who run Blackrock and Vanguard. They have their Peeps in high places regardless of the party in power.

Where Victor Orban is concerned, he is a Putin puppet —THE Putin puppet— who assisted the RNC for Trump’s election. He hired the “Finklestein Group—Manafort, Roger Stone, Rick Gates—so they could launder money (NRA assisted) through a shell company; they helped his climb to power, taking money from Oleg Deripaska, who then passed info to Russia’s GRU & the Kremlin re: Trump. Ultimately, Russia is a mob state and the real leadership comes from Mogilevich. This must be suitable to the Corporate Suits because it is the status quo. Why does Trump’s cult still follow lockstep? Fear. Apparently, even Mueller tip-toed.

I would also urge you to read up on Charles Koch and his billionaire gang—he masterminded the RNC infrastructure that led to Citizens United.

So, yes, the GOPigs embrace authoritarianism and not until “Citizens United” is repealed will there be any hope to stop this March toward fascism in the USA.

Expand full comment