Wednesday, February 21, 2024

BTRTN: While Democrats Slept

Do Democrats understand that Republicans actually do want to end democracy in America? Steve says it’s not someone else’s job to fight for democracy. It’s ours.

Nice guys finish last.

With the 2000 election hanging in the balance like a chad on a Florida ballot, Democrat Al Gore sought a “fair” resolution to the crisis. George W. Bush's lawyer, former White House Chief of Staff James Baker, focused on how to win. In his book on the 36-day legal battle for the Presidency, author Jeffrey Toobin observed that Gore's approach was high-minded and focused on ensuring a fair process, where Bush worked the realpolitic.  

Guess where the nice guy finished?

Too often, to be a Democrat is to have a knee-jerk instinct to seek the “fair” solution, to insist on playing by the rules even when competing against brazen cheating, and to accept and respect whatever outcome follows.

It is, in Al Gore’s example, to accept a railroaded, bogus resolution of an election out of a high minded, idealistic concern for the stability of the nation.

The result: the candidate who lost the popular vote that year -- and quite possibly actually lost the Electoral College as well -- became President. This, in turn, resulted in a lightweight President, woefully ill-prepared for the job, who led the nation into a foolhardy trillion-dollar war in Iraq triggered on false pretenses, allowed unchecked acceleration of global warming, and cratered global financial markets due to lax, diminished, and insufficient regulation.

Now, in 2024, the stakes in our upcoming Presidential election will make those of 2000 look like one-dollar bets at Tuesday night church bingo. And the get-along, go-along permissive instinct of Democrats to stand back and hope that the resolution is “fair” could result in the end of democracy.

Today, in a world of frequent, shocking, and unprecedented threats to our Constitution and vital institutions of government, the single most worrisome threat of all is how Democratic citizens seem to be standing by on the sidelines, allowing it to happen. Of course there are pockets of activists and deeply involved citizens, but research suggests that fewer than 15% of U.S. adults actively work on political campaigns. Lending Tree published data noting that 71% of Americans have never donated to a political campaign. A recent survey suggests that only about 5% of Americans give over $200 to political campaigns. Anecdotally, we all encounter like-minded citizens who are appalled at and terrified by Trump -- but who are not actually rolling up their sleeves and doing something about it.

The fact: a large percentage of Democrats are not involved in any way in the political process. Worse, perhaps, is the degree to which Democrats are looking through the wrong end of the telescope. Many seem to express more concern about Joe Biden’s age than about the boiling-hot Third Reich rhetoric of Donald Trump.

Why aren't more Democrats involved? Taking action? Why are they not volunteering, participating, fighting? It can't be that they don't know how to find volunteer work. We live in a world where you can google "Thai food near me" and find seventeen fabulous options in 0.62 seconds. Surely it is not a matter of not knowing where to find the work that needs to be done.

Like the frog lulled to docile inaction as the water is gradually brought to a boil, Democrats need a wake-up call, fast. It is time to sound the alarm. Your democracy could be over in one year. What are you doing about it?

At the root of this inaction may be a misunderstanding – and a gross underestimation -- of the MAGA movement.

All too many Democrats seem to view MAGA Republicans as Hillary Clinton’s “deplorables:” as just so many ignorant rednecks who are furious at and alienated from a government that has allowed foreign nations and immigrants to take their jobs and the comfortable life they viewed as birthright. The mythology continues: MAGA nation loves Trump because he channels their hate of the establishment, the Federal government, and the wealthy coastal elites and their woke culture. The disdain of Democrats finally seems to land on the notion that MAGA zealots are ignorant of civics, Constitutional theory, and simply don’t realize that Donald Trump is running for dictator, not President.

It is time to flip the switch and understand the exact opposite: MAGA Republicans know exactly what they are doing. They do want to end democracy. In a democracy, they are in the minority. In a democracy, they lose.

They may pretend that they are in the majority and that the only reason they lose is because elections are rigged. But the more likely truth is that they fully understand that if free and fair elections occur, they lose… as indeed happened in 2018, 2020, and 2022. Save for the perversion of democracy we call the Electoral College, Republicans lost in 2016 as well. In fact, the Republican candidate for President won the popular vote only one time in the seven elections going back to 2000.

MAGA Republicans know that if democracy endures, they lose. But in an authoritarian regime with their guy in charge, they get exactly the government they want, and they wouldn't be bothered with the quadrennial risk of losing their power in free elections.

Wake up, Dems. If you sit on the sidelines and let it happen, nice guys finish last. Open up your eyes and realize what is about to happen.

Republicans rage that our government is broken, that it is hopelessly ineffective and utterly unresponsive to the will of the people.

Well, you have to give them this one. They are right.

If our government were truly responding to the will of the people, access to abortion would be a Constitutional right. Gun laws would be stronger. Ukraine would be funded to better fight the murderous madman Vladimir Putin. The Electoral College would no longer exist. The Supreme Court would not be wildly skewed to an extremely conservative minority.  A major immigration bill would have passed.  Candidates who do not receive the majority of votes would not end up as President. It would not be impossible to amend the Constitution… and therefore it would be possible to fix many of these problems.

Of course, that’s not why MAGA Republicans think that our government is broken. They believe – with no proof or support – that our elections are rigged, that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, and that all of Trump’s indictments are bogus charges brought on by a “weaponized” liberal DoJ.

So  there actually is one thing that we can all agree on: our government is broken.

The difference is that Democrats do not want a broken government. Republicans do.

Why? Because such raging dissatisfaction about the ineffectiveness of government is the perfect breeding ground for authoritarians. Authoritarians see their opportunity in moments when people question their government. They promise fast action to fix intractable problems. They campaign on the idea that they will invoke non-existent powers to crash through the gridlocked machinery of the legislative process.  They – and only they – can get things done. 

That, in essence, is exactly why Donald Trump blocked the passage of the recent bipartisan immigration bill. He wants the immigration crisis to rage on unabated, weaponize it against Biden, and then promise that he will take radical action -- to be a dictator, though only on "day one" -- because only a powerful authoritarian can fix the problem. 

The dirty little secret, of course, is that Republicans have been intentionally pouring molasses onto government, stripping it of its ability to act, and then pointing to its dysfunction as a rationale for radical change. It began decades ago… with a Republican President who, without malevolent intent, set in motion a chain of events that led to a Republican Party that wants the government to fail.

Ronald Reagan’s goal was to reduce government. His followers seized on his language as an excuse to bludgeon government. 

Republican fury at government started when Ronald Reagan campaigned on the idea that “government is not the solution, it is the problem.” Reagan was no radical or even innovative thinker – his thinking dates to Locke and Jeffersonian principles of limited government.

But the themes Reagan articulated would metastasize: that big government is bad, that government regulation is evil, and that the Federal government was wasteful, bloated, and not as equipped as the private sector to solve problems.

You can thank Reagan for smashing government oversight, which – among many other disasters -- triggered the rise of biased news channels, rampant disinformation, and the cesspool of inflammatory deceit that is social media. Reagan’s na├»ve faith in unfettered capitalism to address societal issues is a darn good explanation of why the United States has done little to turn the tide against global warming. Reagan’s abdication of Federal oversight created a straight line to the porridge of murky financial products and greedy manipulation that cratered global markets in 2008.

But the Gipper couldn’t render government useless on his own. Enter Newt Gingrich, who destroyed the idea that horse-trading and compromise were vital to effective government. As Speaker of the House during the Clinton administration, Gingrich intentionally torpedoed legislation that could be interpreted as a “win” for the opposing party.  

Gingrich’s concept would be formalized as Republican canon when Mitch McConnell officially announced in 2010 that "the single most important thing we want to achieve is for President Obama to be a one-term president." (Yes, that is the exact, precise quote). Where once Congressional leaders felt their job was to create legislation to help citizens, McConnell felt his primary role in government was to ensure that the President of United Stats lost the next election.

The pattern is clear: Democratic majorities win elections, Republican minorities view their mission to be to undermine, thwart, stall, and do nothing... that is, nothing that could be interpreted as a victory for Democrats. 

Now, Republicans want government to stay broken to make authoritarian rule seem necessary and even attractive.

Today, the Republican Party is working hard to make sure that our entire system of government is perceived to be failing and ineffective. 

In recent weeks, we have witnessed a political party intentionally derail majority bi-partisan immigration legislation to ensure that the immigration crisis continues and remains a major liability for the current administration. We witness a former President repeatedly bashing our criminal justice system, seeking to undermine its authority and credibility, all for the sole purpose of keeping himself out of jail.   We see a Supreme Court that has become a national embarrassment, compromised by two-bit grifters who shamefully abuse their office for personal financial gain; a judicial farce finally unveiled as a purely politically operation ferociously bent on reversing settled and confirmed law.

All, note bene, are Republicans… and all contribute to an overall sense that our government can no longer effectively govern.

This alleged ineffectiveness, in turn, becomes the rationale for a strong, authoritarian ruler.

Republicans wage a holy war against our elections in order to create the impression that they are actually in the majority. They are not.

Of course the most profound Republican assault on our democracy is their delusion that elections are rigged, and that Donald Trump actually won the election of 2020. This deceit is the sacred dogma of MAGA Republicans: it simultaneously props up the mythology that the GOP is the majority party while also leveling accusations that the Democratic Party is criminal and that Joe Biden’s presidency is not legitimate.  

It's a very good bet that most Republicans understand the truth: that they are a minority party, and that therefore in a democracy, they are likely to lose far more often than they win. MAGA Republicans get this. So they are desperate to elect a President who, once in office, promises to destroy the democracy and thereby enable them to retain power.

Republican leaders now understand that if democracy is destroyed, they need never worry about job security again.

Ever wonder why senior officials in the Republican Party utterly cave to Donald Trump? Why they trip all over themselves to explain why they think Trump doesn’t really mean the things he says? Why they change their votes, their principles, and their supposed party dogma simply to stay in line behind Trump?

Sure, some may worry about being “primaried,’ but that's just a part of it. Today’s Republican leaders realize that if Donald Trump is elected and succeeds in destroying democracy, they have a lifetime job. They will never be voted out.

Every Republican who cares about democracy has already been run out of today’s GOP. The people who still have their jobs have figured out that total, blind, unswerving loyalty to Donald Trump is the only thing that matters… and that it could be rewarded with a lifetime job.

Democrats do not seem to understand that Republicans actually do want to end democracy.

Democrats, who believe that democratic elections are one of the most sacred components of our constitutional government, simply cannot believe that Republicans no longer want free and fair elections. It is so anathema to their thinking that they somehow cannot believe it is true.

Our problem, in the final analysis, is not simply that Republicans want to end democracy. It is that Democrats refuse to believe that it could happen. Democrats do not seem to be able to imagine how easily Donald Trump can end democracy if he is re-elected.

Let’s say it’s February 22, 2025… one year from today.

That morning, President Donald Trump announces that he will make a nationally televised address from the Oval Office at 9:00 pm.

At this point, Trump has been in office for five weeks. Immediately upon taking his oath of office, Donald Trump has put in motion a plan that emerged from the painful lessons of his first term in office. He nominates only ferocious personal loyalists for critical positions in the Cabinet, DoJ, and military.  He knows how to play the game: if any of his nominees are held up for any reason, he has the power to make “temporary” appointments. Heads, he wins (he gets his Senate confirmation) and tails, you lose (his “temporary” appointments are even more fiercely loyal than his nominees). If the GOP manages to flip the Senate in 2024 – a better than even bet, given the seats in play – the GOP will easily confirm Trump sycophants, toadies, and children to every appointed position of power in the U.S. government.

In his televised speech one year from tonight, Trump delivers on his promise to be a "dictator" on immigration. He declares a “national state of emergency,” announcing that urgent measures must be taken to address the immigration crisis. He declares martial law for three purposes: sealing the Southern border, searching for and arresting undocumented non-residents, and addressing urban homelessness and crime related to the influx of immigrants.

Trump reiterates his campaign rhetoric that immigrants are “vermin we must dispose of in order to preserve our blood.” He orders his hand-picked Head of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to send the United States military to the southern border, to states with significant populations of undocumented non-residents, and into a dozen major cities across the United States, where military commanders usurp authority from Democratic mayors.

The implementation of martial law creates a monumental firestorm of blow-back from the liberal media. Trump, citing concerns about national security, orders his personal lackey at the Federal Communications Commission to “temporarily” revoke the licenses of regulated media unless they cease broadcasting “biased” and "false" news programming, and directs his bag man at the DoJ to issue “cease and desist” orders to liberal print and online news outlets. These are of course ignored… triggering the arrest of opposition media. Yes, that is what Trump's "retribution" could well look like.... arrest warrants for the likes of Rachel Maddow, A. G. Sulzberger, and Stephen Colbert.

Trump orders that all televisions in public venues must be tuned to FOX News to ensure that all citizens see “accurate” coverage of the “national emergency.”

The “temporary” order of martial law stays in place… for months. Then years. Republicans in Congress gleefully support the President’s right to pre-empt their legislative powers. Trump’s hand-picked Supreme Court upholds his right to declare and sustain “emergency powers.”

Trump’s DoJ begins to systematically target Democratic leaders. First, with investigations into tax returns. Arrests for “tax fraud” follow. Bank accounts are frozen. Those who can make plans to leave the United States. 

Trump unilaterally decides to withdraw from NATO. Ukraine falls. The word and bond of the United States of America means nothing. Russia marches. China observes with great interest, patiently awaiting their opportunity.

An overreaction, you say? Sensationalist and far-fetched?

Think again. Nothing that has been cited here is out of the realm of possibility. Ask the nice guys who finished last in the Weimar Republic.

Donald Trump has declared, publicly, that he would not be a dictator, “other than day one,” on which he promises “we’re closing the southern border and we’re drilling, drilling, drilling.” Does anyone believe that a man who would say that he would be a “dictator” has any understanding or respect for our Constitution?

Donald Trump has publicly declared that if elected President, he will be the “retribution” MAGA world wants. Does anyone seriously think that a man would claims he will seek “retribution” will not use the Department of Justice to go after his political opponents?

By this time next year, Donald Trump could be consolidating power in the United States in the manner that Adolf Hitler used to destroy democracy in Germany. Hitler gained power in a legitimate election, and then used the power of his elected office to gain control of the government, the military, and the media...shutting down protest and opposing voices, usurping all authority.

By this time next year, we could be living in that world, and yet millions of ferociously anti-Trump liberals appear to not take that threat seriously.

It is as if they think it simply could not happen here. Not in the United States of America.

It is as if they do not understand that January 6 was simply a poorly planned, badly executed, last-minute, desperate attempt to overthrow democracy. If re-elected, Donald Trump will have the right plan, all the time he needs, and all the power to do it right.

Because if all those liberals actually understood what was likely to happen, surely they would be signing up to take whatever actions they could now to prevent Donald Trump from regaining power.

Anyone who does not believe that Donald Trump is out to destroy democracy in America is a latter-day Neville Chamberlain kidding themselves that they can achieve “peace for our time.”

Anyone who doubts that MAGA Republicans want to permanently rule our country does not understand the college thesis a young John F. Kennedy wrote, which was later published as a book titled “Why England Slept.”

Anyone who is not actively engaged in protecting our democracy from Donald Trump is someone who thinks that democracy is somebody else’s responsibility.

But what do we see from Democrats today? We have Democrats whining that Joe Biden seems “too old” for the job, failing to acknowledge the more relevant and important fact that he has been one of the most effective Presidents in recent history.  We have progressive factions threatening to “sit on their hands” because Biden is not sufficiently aligned with their position on their single issue. We have young people who feel alienated, and while we can empathize with their desire for different candidates, they must realize that this is the choice they have. Do all they can to elect Joe Biden, or let Donald Trump crush democracy.

What can Democrats do?

Wake up.

No one is suggesting that Democrats resort to an eye-for-an-eye, that Democrats break the law to keep Trump out. No, we all understand that Democrats play by the rules… and we must continue to play by the rules even as Republicans stage insurrections, attempt to reverse the outcome of legitimate elections, and flagrantly lie on televised news programs to preserve their power.

No, the urgent suggestion is that we all must do all we can to win the 2024 election. The suggestion is that Adolf Hitler won an election and used the power of his office to subjugate Germany. And that it could happen here.

Winning this election is the thing – the only thing – that ensures that we do not suffer that fate. It is the only thing the protects us from the hideous scenario outlined above.  

Let’s conclude with one of the most encouraging statistics unearthed in these bleak times. A leader of a political action group recently noted a statistic that for every 37 postcards her organization mails to help turn out the vote, one person actually decides to vote.

Some might find that underwhelming… but that is the wrong interpretation. Rather, we must consider the effectiveness of such a post carding campaign. If twenty people write fifteen postcards three times a week, that’s 900 postcards. If that happens every week for ten weeks, that’s 9,000 postcards. And if that happens in 100,000 towns across the United States, that’s 24,324 votes.

That keeps Georgia Blue.

And Arizona.

Do a similar game with the math of grassroots campaign donations and see how you can change the world – if you and like-minded people decide that democracy is truly your job. 

You can have an impact. Volunteer now. Give to Democratic candidates now.

It is time to fight. It is time to work. It is time to act.

Everyone. Please.

Remember this: Nice guys finish last.

Just ask anyone who lived in the Weimar Republic.


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1 comment:

  1. This is terrifying, and true....every single word of it! WAKE UP Democrats, and everyone who loves our country and values democracy, no matter your political party. This election is not about policy. It is about if we will have a 2028 election.....


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