Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Breaking Democracy Is A Republican Party Thing Now



Slimeball by Nancy Ohanian

I have no idea if George Packer knew he was comparing democracy to religion in his Atlantic essay Trump Is Trying to Trick Americans Into Giving Up on Democracy... but that's how I read it. "Democracy," he wrote "depends on belief in democracy-- on an extraordinary leap of faith by ordinary people that their rulers will abide by the rules, that their votes will count, that their compatriots won’t tear the country apart, that lies won’t become truth. When the checks and balances have all given way, the last barrier to an authoritarian regime is public opinion. It will stand or fall on November 3. According to a new poll by the international organization More in Common, the only issue that matters to Americans across the political spectrum is the integrity of the November presidential election. In the same poll, more than three-quarters of Americans-- again, from left to right-- still express a belief that citizens can change society through their actions. And yet similarly large majorities expect high levels of voter fraud or voter suppression in November; trust in government, the media, and one another is abysmally low. Another recent poll, by YouGov, finds that just 22 percent of Americans expect the election to be free and fair; when told that experts say the election cannot be rigged, only 19 percent believe it. Americans are in the desperate position of clinging to something precious that they expect to betray them."

Yesterday I was talking with western New York congressional candidate, Nate McMurray about a stunt his opponent, hereditary billionaire Chris Jacobs, pulled on Saturday. The Trumpist incumbent, speaking at a rally of extremists where an effigy of Gov. Andrew Cuomo was beaten and hung, was part of a mob. "This district has a history of political climbers like Bill Paxon, Tom Reynolds, Chris Lee and Chris Collins who used the communities and families of NY-27 for personal gain," McMurray told me. "But the hatefulness on display Saturday was a disgraceful new low. Chris Jacobs and his comrades in western New York have fully embraced the worst of Trumpism. Extreme Republicans like Chris know that if every American votes they will lose. So they traffic in conspiracies, lies and the politics of fear to destabilize the electoral process and end democracy as we know it. And their march toward authoritarianism will not end with a whimper but with the bang and butt of a gun. Chris should be ashamed of how far he has debased himself, all to try and win an election."

Packer wrote that "Democratic faith turns out to be as fragile as it is necessary, and Trump specializes in undermining it. When he repeatedly asserts massive fraud months before Election Day, announces that he won’t respect results that go against him, and refuses to promise a peaceful transfer of power-- the litmus test of democracy-- he is forcing Americans into a mental trap that can resemble madness. The president says that the election is rigged, and he also insinuates that he will rig the election. To believe him is frightening; to discount him is foolish. Either way, Trump becomes ever more powerful, while the people-- on whose consent his power entirely depends-- slip into passivity and paralysis, or are pushed into rage, even political violence.This is exactly the atmosphere of chaos in which Trump thrives. He makes it almost impossible to hold on to the idea that the election can be free and fair. But the survival of democracy, which lives and dies in our minds before anywhere else, depends on that idea. For the election to succeed, we have to think and act as if it will succeed.
Trump uses words the way Russian intelligence employs “active measures” operations: not to inform or persuade, but to poison the mental atmosphere, to confuse and agitate the public until it begins to lose faith in rational discourse and, ultimately, in democracy. Whether or not this continuous ink spray could actually lower voter turnout, Morris said, it will degrade “our belief in each other as common citizens of a republic.” Sizable numbers of Americans in both parties are now willing to tolerate political violence in the aftermath of an election, according to a Democracy Fund Voter Study survey last spring: 20 percent of Republicans in the event of alleged vote fraud, 20 percent of Democrats if Trump loses the popular vote but wins the Electoral College. Americans are edging toward civil conflict.

In the coming weeks, anyone who cares about our democracy has to hold two conflicting ideas in mind while remaining sane. The first is that Trump should be taken at his word when he warns that he will do whatever is necessary to stay in power. This dark prospect requires a constant state of alertness, a refusal to seek comfort in hoping for the best or looking to Trump’s party or his judges for some glimmer of salvation. At this stage of his presidency, naivete is unforgivable.

But the second idea, even more demanding, is that our votes still matter. Not just that they’ll be counted, but that they are sacred, if anything in a secular democracy can be called by that word. This idea means refusing to give way to panic or despair or, most crippling of all, the sullen resentment into which subject populations are worn down by authoritarian rulers. The more we dwell on what Trump might do, the likelier he’ll be to get away with something. He’ll have become the omnipotent central character in the drama, occupying the place that rightfully belongs to a democratic people, who are reduced once more to watching in outrage. We have to believe that power still lies in the people, or else we’ve already surrendered it.

For weeks, Belarusians have filled the streets of their cities to insist that their votes are sacred. Beatings, grenades, flashbangs, arrests, torture, and disappearances by the state have neither deterred them nor driven them to violence. Some commentators have said that the United States is not yet Belarus. This is true enough, though we are closer than seemed imaginable just a few years ago. The real question is whether Americans have what it takes to be Belarusians.
Tuesday, Nick Ackerman, a former Watergate prosecutor, was on CNN, where he said that after reading the NY Times piece on Trump's taxes, he realized that Trump makes Nixon look like a rookie amateur. He sees Trump going to trial if he loses the election because what he's guilty of is not tax avoidance but full-blown tax fraud. "Tax evasion is a 5 year felony. It's a pretty serious crime and the more money that's stolen, the longer you go to jail for... The only thing saving him at this point is the Department of Justice’s guideline that says you can’t indict a sitting president."

Ah... yes, the Department of Justice. It's like when The Mob takes over the FBI. CREW-- Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington-- made an abuse of power case for impeaching Barr. Pelosi is bound to ignore it for narrow partisan reasons but CREW made the case that Barr abused the powers of his office by engaging in a course of conduct that impaired the Special Counsel investigation of Trump, "the conduct of lawful inquiries by the United States Department of Justice (DOJ) and the purpose of that agency, and the oversight and impeachment powers of the United States House of Representatives. These actions violate DOJ’s founding principal to maintain the independence and impartiality of federal prosecutions from political intervention." There can be little doubt that Barr is also guilty of directing federal law enforcement officers to violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens who gathered to engage in peaceful protest outside of the White House and across the country. They want to see an impeachment inquiry by the House that focuses on whether Barr abused the powers of his office by engaging in a course of conduct that was 'seriously incompatible with our system of constitutional government.' At a minimum, that inquiry should consider whether Barr:
Corruptly subverted the Special Counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election and of President Trump for obstruction of justice;
Interfered with the lawful functions of the Department of Justice by overturning the actions of career prosecutors in the cases of Roger Stone Jr. and Michael Flynn and by firing United States Attorney Geoffrey Berman;
Obstructed lawful investigations of the United States House of Representatives; and
Abused and exceeded the powers of the Attorney General to violate the First and Fourth Amendment rights of American citizens.

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At 5:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The day you pundits start calling it the Nazi party is the day that SOMETHING better may be possible.

When you call Nazis a milquetoast name like 'republican', you immediately soften their effect on things like people and democracy.

and the day you ALSO lay some of the blame for breaking democracy on the democraps is the day you may help the potted plants finally yank their seed pods out of their root balls.

it's not all the fault of the punditry. gawd knows you didn't MAKE the lefty voters into the potted flora they all are today... but you never did anything to keep them sentient... did you?

At 8:19 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

No American business is a democracy. They are at best benign dictatorships.

The Republican Party is the party of business - and no one else.

When you delude yourself that a businessman can run the nation better, Trump is what you end up with.

When Trump decides he likes the power and uses it to make himself dictator . . .


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