The end of American democracy is unimaginable

by John Quiggin on January 30, 2022

I should know, I tried to imagine it.

Every few days, there’s another article pointing out the likelihood that a Democratic win[1] in the 2024 US election will be overturned, and suggesting various ways it might be prevented, none of which seem very likely to work. The best hope would seem to be a crushing Democratic victory in the 2022 midterms, which doesn’t look likely right now[2]

What I haven’t seen is anyone discussing what the US would be like after a successful Trumpist (or other Republican) coup. The closest approaches I’ve seen are “looking backwards” pieces, written from an imagined distant future when democracy or something like it have been restored.

I decided to attempt the task myself and found it very hard going. The resulting piece is over the fold. I tried a few outlets for it, and no one was interested in publishing it. So, I’m putting it out here, with all its faults.

Suggested improvements are welcome, as is serious criticism. Snarks and trolls will be deleted and permanently banned [3].

The anniversary of the insurrection of Jan 6, 2021, and the realisation that it was almost successful has brought increasing number of Americans to the realisation that the end of democracy in the US is, if not inevitable, at least highly likely. The New York Times, the leading representative of mainstream liberalism, has said as much. But it’s easier to understand this point intellectually than to imagine what life will be like after democracy.

It is now clear that Republicans are both willing and able to overturn electoral results that don’t go their way. Officials who protected the electoral process in 2020 have been removed and replaced by partisans who assert that the election was stolen. The handful of elected representatives who have unequivocally condemned Trump’s assaults on democracy are being forced out, or have chosen to resign. It therefore seems highly likely that the Republican candidate will be declared victorious in 2024, whatever the voters might say. Given that assurance, it is even more probable that this candidate will be Donald Trump.

One possibility, which seemed very real until 2021, was that a large group of decent Republicans would recoil from attempts to overthrow democracy, and defect either to a third party or to support for Democrats. If even a quarter of Republicans had moved in this way, Trump and Trumpism would be finished. In reality, though, the number of elected Republicans who have made such moves, at either national or state level, can comfortably be counted on two hands.


The same is true of Republican voters. A substantial majority endorse the baseless claim that the 2020 election was stolen, and can be expected to endorse any measures, up to and including a second insurrection, to ensure victory in 2024. Of the minority who accept the obvious non-existence of cheating, some small group may shift sides. But even assuming a resurgence in the popularity of Biden’s presidency, there is little that enough will shift to produce the overwhelming Democratic victory that would be needed to forestall a successful attempt to overturn the results.

In these circumstances, it seems virtually certain that a Democratic victory in the 2024 presidential election, will be overturned. In the event of a legitimate Republican victory (under existing electoral college rules, and allowing for legal voter suppression), the chances of a fair election in 2028 will be reduced even further.


This isn’t a novel conclusion. Nearly every serious student of failing democracies regards the US as being in grave danger. Resistance relies mainly on an argument from incredulity: the end of American democracy is unthinkable and therefore impossible. To break down this incredulity, it might be helpful to think about what a post-democratic America would be like.

Initially, at least, the changes would not be obvious, and would undoubtedly be dismissed by many. A rigged election outcome would not automatically do away with electoral politics. Modern autocracies like Putin’s Russia maintain the façade of elections and multi-party competition, even though the winner is generally known in advance. And there have been enough surprise results in such countries that the Democrats will be likely to persist with business as usual in the hope of eventual success. But there is no reason to think such efforts will be more successful in the US than in other backsliding democracies.

An example closer to home is experience of the US South, where the attempt to create a genuine democracy in the Reconstruction era was decisively defeated by the ‘Redeemers’ who instituted the Jim Crow system: one party rule, cemented by a combination of voter suppression, vote rigging and violent intimidation, both by police and by rightwing thugs, with significant overlap between the two. https://www.opb.org/article/2021/10/15/dozens-of-oregon-law-enforcement-officers-joined-far-right-oath-keepers-militia/

In considering possible resistance to the Civil Rights movement in the 1950s and 1960s. The Trump restoration is in large measure, the latest stage of the backlash against Civil Rights that began with Nixon’s Southern Strategy, and most recently represented by the attack on ‘critical race theory’.

It makes sense, therefore, to assume that these struggles will dominate the political scene in the future, most obviously through the Black Lives Matter movement. Against this will be range the anti-BLM repression movement epitomised, in its legal form by slogans like Blue Lives Matter, and in the form of extra-legal violence, epitomised by Kyle Rittenhouse, and even more by the adulation he has received from the mainstream right.

The big difference between the coming struggle and that of the Civil Rights era is the role of the national government. Civil rights activists sought the involvement of the national government and the Supreme court to override racism at the state and local level, epitomized by the campaigns in cities like Montgomery and Selma

In the coming years, those roles will be reversed. The residents of cities and metro areas more generally will be overwhelmingly opposed to the national and state governments, which will rely on the support of exurban and rural voters

In 2020, the largest metro areas made the difference for Democrats

The Supreme Court will almost certainly act to back Republicans at every level. In these circumstances the odds will be stacked against the defenders of democracy. But the defenders of Jim Crow, facing similar pressures, put up a determined resistance for decades in support of a cause even they knew was morally indefensible. There’s no reason the same resistance can’t be sustained in the cause of democracy.

Class conflict is also likely to take place under conditions stacked in favor of capital. Among the few policy achievements of the Trump Administration was a massive tax cut, weighted towards corporations and high income earners. Conversely, worker militancy has been increasing ever since the 2008 Global Financial Crisis brought an end to the illusory prosperity of the early 21st century. Successful campaigns for a $15 minimum wage are among the outcomes

Despite this, the success of Trumpism owes a great deal to the Republican capture of the ‘white working class’, typically defined in US political parlance as those without a college education. White men without a college degree voted overwhelmingly for Trump.

The equation of ‘no college’ with ‘working class’ is problematic. The ‘no college’ group includes many farmers and small business owners, and is skewed towards older age cohorts, for whom college education was less common. And it includes lots of retirees, who have no direct interest in the outcomes of labor struggles, whatever their pre-retirement class position.


There are important countervailing trends. In electoral terms, the relationship between income and political alignment hasn’t changed. High income households are predominantly Republican (and also more likely to vote). Union households still vote predominantly for Democrats, though the long decline in union density has made this group much smaller than it was. And once we shift the focus from whites to the entire population, it’s clear that the majority of voters of working age supported the Democrats.


Despite all of these qualifications it seems likely that most whites who work for wages voted for the Republicans in 2020 and that most will be unlikely to join unions or support political campaigns in support of labor rights.

A crucial question here is the stance taken place by big business. There are obvious reasons for business to back a Republican seizure of power, and call on the state to suppress worker resistance. On the other hand, global corporations rely on a professional workforce that is ethnically diverse and mostly college educated as well as being more likely to be unionised. Furthermore business has to reckon with the fact that a Trumpist government will be inherently unstable and prone to collapse from within. Enlightened self-interest would prescribe sustained support for democracy. But the short-term benefits of collaboration with the Republicans are likely to prove more persuasive.

At a day-to-day level the struggle will mostly be over the culture wars that are at the heart of Trumpism and Republican politics more generally. Here we can expect to see the politics of resentment become even more poisonous. The key driver of Republican resentment has been the fact that, even where they hold political and economic power, the Republican base (old, white, Christian, rural or suburban, and less educated, but often well-off economically) has found itself culturally marginalised. From their perspective, the history of the decades since the Reagan Presidency has been one of continuous defeat.

The change is most obvious in relation to religious belief. When the current older cohort of white Americans was growing up, they were surrounded by people like themselves. It could safely be assumed that nearly everyone was, or least professed to be a Christian. Not only that, but the great majority of Christians were Protestants. And, in large parts of the country most Protestants were evangelical. Non-believers were non-existent, or at least invisible.

As recently as 2007, 78 per cent of the US population was Christian, compared to only 16 per cent ‘Nones’ who described themselves as atheist, agnostic or ‘nothing in particular’. White Christians, at around 55 per cent, constituted a clear majority. Barely a decade later … White Christians account for only 43 per cent of the population, compared to nearly 30 per cents Nones. On current trends, Nones will outnumber White Christians by the end of the 2020s.

The shift away from religious belief is most evident among those with college education or more, rising to near unanimity among the eminent natural scientists who are members of bodies like the National Academy of Sciences. Resentment against these ‘elites’ reflects a perception that they look down on ‘real Americans’, that is, white Christians without college education


That won’t change, even with unchallenged Republican dominance of national and state politics. Rather, the reverse is more likely. In the early stages of the Trump era, there was, among mainstream liberals, an earnest desire to understand why so many American with little to gain from rightwing economic policies would support someone like Trump. It was, in large measure, this desire that propelled JD Vance’s Hillbilly Elegy to the top of the bestseller list.

Vance’s own moral collapse, in the words of Tom Nichols, from ‘truth-teller in his own community, contemptible and cringe-inducing clown’ https://www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2021/07/moral-collapse-jd-vance/619428/ is a symbol both for the actual moral decline of the Republican base and for the shift from sympathy to contempt in the view of that base held by the supporters of democracy. It’s reflected in heavy-handed, but effective, satires like Don’t Look Up.

It is important to recognise that cultural dominance can be misleading. Although the youth culture of the 1960s was overwhelmingly radical, it wasn’t representative of the age cohort as a whole. The older Baby Boomers who make up the ‘Vietnam generation’ have voted roughly in line with the US electorate as a whole over their lives, sometimes slightly favoring Democrats and at other times Republicans.

In the current context, it’s important to distinguish the impact of demography from that of age per se. Young rural whites without a college education are still strongly Republican, but they are a much smaller population of younger age groups. Conversely, larger proportions of young people are non-white, urban and college-educated than in previous generations. But these qualifications are ultimately unimportant, given the steepness of the age gradient in voting.

So, the post-democratic USA will be one which the great majority of educated urban dwellers, and the majority of employed workers, will be alienated from a government of crony capitalists like Trump, kept in power by ignorant and bigoted voters, stereotypically old and rural.

This is a recipe for disaster. It is hard to predict precisely what form this disaster will take. Still, it is time to think about the possibilities rather than waiting for the catastrophe to happen.

fn1. There’s also the possibility that the Republicans win legitimately (that is, under the existing Electoral College and voting rules). But the same problem would then arise in 2028 under even less favorable conditions for democracy.

fn2. Please, no discussion of whether a coup will happen or how it might be prevented. I want to focus on the aftermath.

fn3. This includes jibes to the effect that US democracy has always been a sham. Tell it to the ghost of Ernst Thalmann.

{ 138 comments… read them below or add one }

1

George Michaelson 01.30.22 at 5:11 am

Amended constitutions in a modern age of litigation.. it would be a heinous circle of process, Americans obsess with process dances. A clever actor could use this to prolong some emergency state for decades. “Under review”

Recall of the states convention to redraw the union comes up online periodically when “Texas will succeed” type discussions are running. Getting a constitutional convention running against multi-stage multi-state opposition would be hard. This too plays to a “prolong the state of emergency” game.

Basically, as we see in post dissolution Russia, a kleptocracy is not easily displaced, democracy not withstanding.

2

Chetan Murthy 01.30.22 at 5:48 am

John, thank you for this. Some thoughts:

A key thing to remember (to me) is that this time around, they’re all going to remember all the people who resisted them, all the structures of resistance, and will be sure to put appointees (with political commissars, just like last time) in place to grind those places down. With lots of judges already in-place to ensure that any legal resistance is squashed. Even if the GrOPers garner more votes in 2024, TFG will be rarin’ for revenge. I think it’ll rapidly become untenable for at least some of the leading Dem politicians, to hang around: remember what happened to Don Sigelman in Alabama. [convicted and imprisoned for stuff that every pol does.] All of this will turn much more of the Federal Government to “working towards Hair Furore”, and drive out of government anybody with a thought of resisting.
there are enough Trumpists in California, heck even in SF, that with the backing of the po-po they could institute a Jim Crow-like regime even here. B/c most people aren’t going to fight, are they? OK, that might be exaggerating a bit. But in lots of purple areas, and even some light blue ones, this will be true. Much more of the country will be under a Jim Crow 2.0 regime, than during the 20th century. Much more. B/c much more of the North is now effectively Confederate territory.
You can count on federal laws criminalizing protest and decriminalizing vigilante “justice” against protestors. E.g. “run down protestors, get away scot-free”. Ditto shooting protestors. This will put a serious damper on protest.
The protests of the civil rights era didn’t just happen when it was possible to have recourse to the Federal Government: they happened when there was a large undecided Northern population to convince of the rightness of the Civil Rights cause. That population is gone, baby, gone. And since the Feds will be unmoved by such protests, they’ll be toothless.
The key gambit will be separating the white “squishy liberals”/”race traitors” from people of color, and especially Black people. That’ll be done by making it clear that whites who give up their treason won’t be harmed, and that’ll convince them to at least become passive in the face of what’s going on.
In Red areas/states, I think we can expect a wave of racist repression of all people of color except the richest, who will flee to safer areas. A reversion to the times when Black people walking alone in public areas were fair game, seems likely. Recall that racist attacks have been on the rise. Things like interracial couples’ homes being burned, interracial children being attacked by their teachers, etc. [All already happening here-and-there] Remember that a Black person holding a weapon is automatically sentenced to immediate death. And once the GrOPers command the might of the US military, any small-scale militia resistance would be squashed like a bug. It’s the observation that people made about all these gunhumpers: that if they were to face the US Army, the’d be squashed; it’ll be just as valid about Blue resisters.
The one factor that might change things, is if states organized to resist. But I don’t think this’ll happen, b/c they simply don’t have enough truly-committed Blue/Dem voters to be able to purge their po-po of fascists, and to do is quickly enough that they can rebuild loyal police forces. No state is doing anything to prepare its citizenry for what’s coming, so when it arrives, those citizens will each have to make decisions individually in the face of this massed oppressive power. And that means that anybody with a brain, who can “bend the knee” will be forced to do so.
We can expect that just as in China, the Feds use network surveillance to find resisters: I’m sure guys like Thiel are creaming their jeans at the prospects.
But you’re right, that the incompetence will be just rampant. There’ll be all sorts of fraud and crime at the highest levels, and there’s every chance that they’ll fuck up their governance royally. But they’ll probably still be able to hang onto power, b/c it will take a lot for their base to give up that “racist psychological wage” and for sure, their satraps in the states where they hold the trifecta will still be well-compensated.
Just as in TFG’s first reign, where undocumented immigrants were ratted-out by their neighbors (just as happened in Nazi Germany, b/c the po-po/Gestapo weren’t very effective without that aid) we should see lots of “Good Americans” turning in their race-traitor and otherwise-undesirable neighbors. That will also put a damper on resistance.
TFG bleated on about his “deportation force” during the 2016 campaign. With the government well-cleaned of “deep state resisters”, we can expect that imprisoment and deportation of undocumented immigrants will happen at a brisk clip, and without much in the way of due process (after all, that costs $$, and we can’t really spare it, can we?) If a few brown citizens get caught up in the net, it’ll be no big deal (just as during TFG’s first reign).

3

Chetan Murthy 01.30.22 at 6:14 am

Oh god, I forgot to list all the ways that this will affect women (though I would hope that some female commenters would do so):
1. expect to see Red States come to resemble some of those Central American countries where women can be imprisoned for miscarrying.
2. And I think we can expect to see a Federal law outlawing abortion.
3. lots more, I’m sure.

4

oldster 01.30.22 at 7:00 am

Typo here?
“from ‘truth-teller in his own community, contemptible and cringe-inducing clown’”
Missing a “to” after “community,”?

5

Brett 01.30.22 at 7:03 am

So, the post-democratic USA will be one which the great majority of educated urban dwellers, and the majority of employed workers, will be alienated from a government of crony capitalists like Trump, kept in power by ignorant and bigoted voters, stereotypically old and rural.

We’re seeing a stronger tendency towards polarization on education grounds. Unfortunately, that means you’re going to see a larger share of non-college-educated workers shifting towards Republicans (including a greater proportion of non-white voters without college education).

Couple that with a hostile conservative-dominated judiciary, and they could just straight up win a lot of elections at the federal and state level even not counting gerrymandering, the Senate bias, and voter suppression.

The large, younger, and college-educated part of the population will be seething over this and likely organizing, but I just don’t see them launching any sort of revolution or the like that could shake the above to its core unless the conservative regime is utterly discredited by economic calamity like the Great Depression.

6

Tim B 01.30.22 at 7:19 am

If an illegitimate government only maintains power by the support of corrupted institutions (as opposed to say, force of arms and intimidation of opponents), I rather imagine it would be vulnerable to people recognizing that those institutions aren’t worthy of trust. So I would expect fear-based responses to any who would attempt to question the integrity of those institutions, or even look too closely at them. And especially to attempts to make them trustworthy.

But most of the post seems to be more about “what would things look like with the Republican party in charge” rather than “what would things look like if democracy stops working” (either of which could be called “post-democratic” which is confusing). In which case, I’d expect to see more of their current attempts to ban treating people differently by race, more attempts to ban killing the unborn, probably something intended to ban viewpoint-based censorship by private companies which would somehow backfire horribly, probably a reversal of direction on recent policy changes about what having women-only spaces means, probably something intended to encourage families to stay together which would somehow backfire horribly, probably slightly less official antagonism towards gun owners, the official stance on due process for college students would flip again, etc.

7

Brett 01.30.22 at 8:35 am

In which case, I’d expect to see more of their current attempts to ban treating people differently by race, more attempts to ban killing the unborn, probably something intended to ban viewpoint-based censorship by private companies which would somehow backfire horribly, probably a reversal of direction on recent policy changes about what having women-only spaces means, probably something intended to encourage families to stay together which would somehow backfire horribly, probably slightly less official antagonism towards gun owners, the official stance on due process for college students would flip again, etc.

Yes, I imagine they would at least make an effort at fear-mongering over more honest discussions about race in American history and present, try to restrict or ban women’s reproductive rights, aggressively attack internet companies until they’re actively supporting conservative media organizations (like Facebook used to do with their misinformation committee), and just generally reverse whatever pro-women policies they can (including enforcement of college rules against sexual assault). Not so convinced they’ll try to undermine divorce law.

Whether they can do that depends on whether they bother to overturn the filibuster.

8

Jacques Distler 01.30.22 at 8:55 am

Don’t forget the Supreme Court overturning New York Times v. Sullivan. Suing the free press into submission will be a key element going forward. Not that your big corporate media won’t happily roll over for our new overlords anyway. But they’ll still need to drive your ProPublica’s, etc., out of business.

Anyway, I don’t see which part of this is particularly difficult to imagine. Just think of a liberal, college-educated resident of New York or LA as being in the same boat as a liberal, college-educated resident of Budapest.

9

John Quiggin 01.30.22 at 9:43 am

Jacques D @8 I wrote a bit about Hungary, but left it out of this version. I think the big differences from the US future are
1. The option of emigration to other EU countries. Despite talk of moving to Canada, this isn’t really an option that large numbers of Americans can take
2. The EU. It moves super-slowly, but it’s a constant source of pressure. For the moment, Orban can rely on Poland for backup, but when one falls they both do. That provides a source of hope

10

Kit 01.30.22 at 10:02 am

Democracy is not an all or nothing proposition, and as long as the country keeps its name, it will be a democracy, even if it be the 1% milk of democracy. People will bend in endless contorsions to keep their identity, and we, as a people, are proudly democratic.

As to what happens if Trump attempts to ride back to power in 2024? All I’m comfortable predicting is that, win or lose, large segments of the population will lose faith in election integrity across the board.

A Trump loss sees off the man, but so much would ride on his spiritual successor that you can pretty much choose your own adventure.

A Trump win would so completely upend the status quo that prediction again becomes nigh impossible. My guess is for ineffective and short-lived protest on the Left. However, a potential realignment on the Right could push the country in unforeseen directions. I suspect that we will start talking about the military in new and uncomfortable ways.

The old stability is slipping. We all feel it. Whether the new stability takes five years or fifty, it will find us a democracy still, just a weaker one.

11

nastywoman 01.30.22 at 10:18 am

@ ‘fn2. Please, no discussion of whether a coup will happen or how it might be prevented. I want to focus on the aftermath’

IF ‘Trumprule’ (the worlds new word for: ‘Utmost Right-Wing Racist Science Denying Idiocy’) will be the ‘aftermath’ we already got such a HUUGE taste of it already that it is easy to predict that ‘Comedy’ and ‘Comedians’ in my homeland America will rule and lead like never before – and perhaps? – like already in the Ukraine -(and before in Italy) Political Comedians finally will ‘führ’ the Right-Wing Clowns ad absurdum?

And I hope this prediction will not be seen as ‘Snark’ ore ‘trolling’ as the major reasons for
the cure from ‘trump’ had and has been the beautiful successful ridiculing of everything he stood and stands for.

And the point – that in my homeland it sometimes takes a while before such a tremendous enjoyable deconstruction of ‘trump’ (and thusly everything he stands for) ‘sinks in’ –
in the last corner of every Red State – might lead to another ‘trumprule’ in 2024 –
and only –
THEN! –
America finally will have learned it’s lesson –
(like Germany before) shouldn’t scare US too much –
as Paul Krugman once -(in another context) – wrote:
‘Americans tend to be sloppy’ and they NEVER will be able to come up with the type of
Utmost Evil Anti-Democratic Fascism – Germany once organised so brutally frightening.

In other words: ‘The Aftermath’ will be just the usual Complete Clownesque Chaos – as during ‘Trumprule 1’

12

nastywoman 01.30.22 at 10:34 am

BUT it’s true –
that the ‘Thälmann-angle’ might be UTMOST worrisome?!

As all of these narratives of (Greenwald)parts of the American Left – believing that ‘the real enemy’ are some other ‘Lefties’ and
‘Trump’
will NOT only help to
‘FREE Assange’ –
but also
‘bring on the revolution’ –
are still faaaar too popular and in too many Confused Voters Mind’s…

13

Stewart Gale 01.30.22 at 12:07 pm

Would secession of some states be a possible outcome? Could some groups of states form distinct groupings and gradually separate? I am thinking about the west coast states and the New England states. Or is the concept of ‘USA’ too strong?

14

Adam Roberts 01.30.22 at 1:01 pm

I was a kid during Watergate. Though it was all over the news as I was growing up, it felt like background noise. I have only come to undertstand, very belatedly, not just its importance, but the way it figures so very differently depending on one’s political allegience. The All The President’s Men narrative, the one with which I have grown up, sees it as a moment of danger averted, US democracy saved by plucky investigative reporting etc. But a large demographic manifestly sees it, on the contrary, as a lesson in humiliation, the moral of which is: never again allow Liberals the power to shame you in public. That’s the big take-away from the 6th Jan, it seems to me: everybody, left and right (a few lunatic paranoiacs excepted) know what it was. That’s really not in question. The point is that the right are determined (and from the perspective of a year later seem to have succeeded in their determination) not to let the Liberals hold this over Republican heads. That’s all that matters: humiliation is not to be endured, and if flat denial, counter-attack, chaff and bollockspeak can avert the humiliation then that is what we will use. It’s more than just the pollster effect; its more fundamental. From a particular place on the political spectrum, if the choice is between “we accept our humiliation, Trump was a disaster, 6th Jan was an attempted coup, we should be ashamed” on the one hand, and “we will dispense with democracy” on the other, then that’s really a no-brainer.

15

Jake Gibson 01.30.22 at 1:58 pm

Hungary and Russia are the templates, with a little of Saudi Arabia thrown in.
Pure crony Capitalist Gilded Age economics with a rigid reactionary social hierarchy.
Sounds dystopia, but I have learned that one person’s dystopia is another’s utopia.
The single most influential group in the right wing coalition are people who think their reward for a “virtuous” life is eternity in a totalitarian Theocracy.

16

JimV 01.30.22 at 3:13 pm

I imagine that 100 or so years from now, someone will write the great opus “The Decline and Fall of USA Democracy”. I expect it will start with the 2000 election and the activities of the Florida state government and the Supreme Court. The precedent was set then, and nobody involved suffered any penalties for it.

But maybe it will go back further, to the confirmation of Thurman Thomas, or even to Nixon sending Kissinger to prevent the Paris Peace Conference from ending the Vietnam War, which was a millstone around Democrat candidates’ necks.

I think the lesson will be, if bad behavior is condoned , you will get more and more of it. (A very old and well-known lesson.)

Of course there is plenty of corruption to go around, among politicians, Democrats and Republicans. We need impartial referees, preferably from Canada or Australia (and vice-versa).

In better news, Nadal just won the Australian Open! (The good guys don’t always lose.)

17

Greg Koos 01.30.22 at 3:19 pm

A recent analysis suggests that anti-vaccination is the glue holding the Rs together. With that concept, spread of disease and the resulting erosion of medical systems will occur. Favored groups would receive care, but medical martyrdom will be a short-term status symbol. This will have electoral consequences as corporations need able-bodied workers.

18

Tim Craker 01.30.22 at 4:57 pm

One difficulty I have imagining this scenario has to do with the variable of climate change. What will a MAGA crew do if climate change upheaval arrives sooner rather than later? Obviously, that would create real problems for whomever is in charge, however they were “elected,” but would resentments turn from the “scientific elite” to the MAGA elite that told them climate change was a hoax? Or would resentments stay fixed in place because no one wants to hear “I told you so” from scientists, liberals, etc? (And what would happen if we add to catastrophic climate upheaval maybe the variable of another “once in a century” communicable disease or two?)

I think what may be missing from this attempt at imagining the near future is any option of ruthlessness or violence, as perhaps arises when we consider the upheaval of climate change. Not that I am advocating potentially violent resistance strategies, but I think here of Belle Waring’s response to Kim Stanley Robinson on both the unavoidability of imagining ruthlessness as necessary and the difficulty of thinking of violent and non-violent responses by the same person or organization, at the same time.

19

ChasM 01.30.22 at 5:45 pm

I have a somewhat contrarian idea that things post-democracy will be anything like life going back to normal, but with more fascism. If the GOP steals an election by say, having legislatures in several states deny certification of the vote and instead appoint slates of electors to the candidate that lost the popular vote in those states, I don’t think big blue states like California are going to be OK with that. I think the USA is basically over at that point.
Imagine this: 2022 doesn’t go as badly for the Dems as people are predicting because after the monthlong televised Jan 6th hearings, the arrest of everyone up to Giuliani for their crimes and the 6-3 decision banning abortion nationwide, the country’s mood has turned sour on the GOP. Then in 2024, the economy is still going ok so it’s a close race. Voter suppression successfully takes back MI, WI, GA and MN, but then the unexpected happens and Texas goes blue! By a lot. Biden wins 292 to 245. The networks all call it on election night, including Fox.
But on Dec 14, the Texas Lege meets and, without even a quorum because the Dems leave the state, just throws out the states votes on some BS and certifies a slate of Trump electors and sends the cert to the Archives.
Californians would rebel. Hell, Texans would rebel.
I don’t see the Gov and Lege of the 5th largest economy in the world just doing nothing under those circumstances. Seizing the Fed in SF and redirecting payroll taxes to the state treasury would be my first move, and would get peoples attention. Then after the state captures Reno and Lake Tahoe, there’s not really that many Interstates to seize and install boarder controls. After that, mayhem. Markets around the world would freak out. Trump, once seated, would send troops to seize the Port of LA. There will be street fighting.
I would also imagine every Dem legislator from and in every state would decide that the president is illegitimate, and therefore the entire branch illegitimate, and so participating in governing is supporting an illegal regime.
States that need a quorum of all members will not be able to legislate. And Texas State Troupers will not be welcome in California to arrest wayward politicians.
Cali and Texas will get their Republics back, and New York can have its’ Empire. Everyone else will be fucked.

20

Starry Gordon 01.30.22 at 5:50 pm

I believe that the ideological superstructure of the state (which what most of you seem to be talking about) is dependent on the objective material conditions which underlie and support it. If that is the case, then as the condition of most of the people grows worse, as I think it is doing now, and the ruling class and their servitors pull away from the rest of the people in power and wealth, then regardless of the names of the parties and the ideologies they ostensibly propose, the imposition of authoritarian rule (probably resembling that of China) will become inevitable. There is already a good deal of authoritarianism issuing not only from ‘conservatives’ but from ‘liberals’ as well, although thus far the existing order of things has not been greatly challenged — yet.

21

ChasM 01.30.22 at 5:53 pm

Adding…
And frankly, under the circumstances above, I don’t see much of the Federal workforce, especially most of the DOJ, showing up for work on Jan 21st. I think more than just voters will lose confidence in the system, I think every Fed employee will have lost faith and that will matter.

22

Tirri 01.30.22 at 6:53 pm

The first thing to happen would be the repeal of the ACA. What’s happened so far in the COVID pandemic will be prologue to the horrors after that.

Why use extermination camps when holding medical care out of reach during a pandemic will do just as well and at far less cost? Add in the moral “dubiousness” of vaccine and mask mandates, and they’ve got enough grey area to come out of the stink smelling faintly of roses.

23

LFC 01.30.22 at 6:58 pm

I’ve read JQ’s post, but not most of the comments.

A couple of remarks.

1) I’ve deleted some discussion of the likelihood/mechanics of a coup – JQ

2) The description of the Jim Crow system in the OP is deficient. It was not simply a system of one-party rule; it was a legalized racial caste system, featuring among other things a de jure “dual” school system, which the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 1954 but which, due to “massive resistance,” took a number of years, and a lot more litigation, to finally dismantle. You might think all Americans already know that so there’s no need to mention it, but I’m not so sure. In any case, it won’t do to describe the Jim Crow system, as the OP does, as “one party rule, cemented by a combination of voter suppression, vote rigging and violent intimidation, both by police and by rightwing thugs, with significant overlap between the two” without mentioning that the whole reason for the system of one-party rule and voter suppression was the maintenance of a legalized racial caste system and legalized white supremacy and a dual school system. None of those things any longer exists in the US South, despite the successful efforts of the SCOTUS to eviscerate the Voting Rights Act and despite recent voter suppression legislation. The fact that Jim Crow was dismantled means that there is an empowered and enfranchised class of African American voters in the South (and has been since the late 60s or early 70s, or perhaps since 1965, the date of the Voting Rights Act) who are not simply going to roll over and accept an illegitimate theft of the 2024 election in Southern states.

I have some more to say, but I’ve gone on long enough for one comment box.

24

LFC 01.30.22 at 7:20 pm

P.s. I think there’s a difference, though perhaps it’s not crucial to mention in this piece, between voter suppression and voter exclusion, via such means as the poll tax and literacy tests, etc. The latter were abolished with the dismantling of the legalized racial caste system. Of course (as perhaps with the end of apartheid in South Africa), the end of a legalized racial caste system does not necessarily lead to an era of economic empowerment, racial equality, and interracial harmony. (And that’s probably an understatement.) Still, the dismantling of Jim Crow and the solidifying of voting rights in the South was a major achievement. (See e.g. this).

25

RobertD 01.30.22 at 7:32 pm

The period after the fall of the Berlin Wall, where the U.S. had no peers or near peers, is over, and we are a few years into what could be a long period of rivalry between China and the U.S. An American government devoted to graft and the racist persecution of large number of its own citizens is unlikely to be a very fit competitor in this race, even though the Chinese regime appears to be by no means above either of those things.

This may put some constraints on the actions of a future post-democratic G.O.P administration.

26

Cheez Whiz 01.30.22 at 7:33 pm

I’ve deleted some discussion of the likelihood/mechanics of a coup – JQ

This has a little bearing on your question “then what?” . Given the fig leaf, and the apathy of the third of eligible voters who can’t be bothered, it’s very likely there will be a lot of noise but not much else, at least at first. This should cause the Democratic Party to go to the mattresses, but the instinct to protect the power base they have might limit their response. Decent, ethical people would rally to them, but as the political philosopher Adlai Stevenson said, “but I need a majority”.

Long term, will Republicans be satisfied with the new status quo? Maybe? But they weren’t satisfied with the back-and-forth that held after WWII. But the level of corruption this system requires guarantees incompetence, and whether it’s another plague, financial collapse, or the frog-in-the-pan of Global Warming, they will screw the pooch, and it’s hello some horrible combination of Black Tuesday and firing on Fort Sumter. And it’s likely states like California and New York will be busy meanwhile trying to find levers of power of their own to mitigate the damage, which could lead them to ideas they might not normally consider.

27

Tangurena 01.30.22 at 8:50 pm

With the media backlash against the “lay flat” or “great resignation” movement, I predict a future GOP controlled dictatorship to ban the minimum wage and every state’s version. The NLRB will be gutted and replacing every pro-worker regulation with a pro-employer one.

I agree that the acquittal of Rittenhouse will lead to more extrajudicial murders.

DirectTV decided to drop One America News and the head (CEO?) of OAN wants his viewers to send him any bit of dirt on the CEO of DirectTV. Also, OAN keeps emphasizing that the CEO of DirectTV is black. I don’t think the further radicalization of American politics could survive the so-called “news” networks being deplatformed. Before the sale of Fox to Disney, Fox could bully all of the satellite and cable providers with “if you want the sports channels, you must carry Fox News on the free tier of your network”. With Disney refusing to take Fox News, I don’t think that bully maneuver can work any more.

The future, after the GOP has outlawed Democracy, is the past they love so much: Aristocracy. One past commenter pointed it out very well.

28

Peter Smith 01.30.22 at 9:19 pm

What about the climate?
Another four years of a Trump-like government will guarantee climate disaster.
All of these discussions will be irrelevant, I’m afraid.
Bye!

29

John Quiggin 01.30.22 at 9:55 pm

I’m cautiously optimistic about climate. Coal-fired electricity in the US is done for, no matter what happens after 2024. And the push towards electric vehicles will be hard to reverse. It’s really China and India that matter now. Hard to say how China will react, but an obvious move for them would be to switch to soft power, presenting Xi as “the good dictator”, by contrast with Putin and Trump. Pushing ahead on climate would be one way to do that.

30

Peter T 01.30.22 at 10:53 pm

Thermal inertia will ensure climate change is an issue for decades – even if the worst is mitigated by a switch to renewable power. And it’s only one of a number of environmental challenges. In the shorter term, an openly authoritarian and incompetent (they go together) US will find it hard to maintain its role as the guarantor of the world financial system – and the privileges that come with it. China cannot step in, which leaves the EU. So we would be in for a period of messy transition, probably rolling financial crises and some major changes as client states move on and sanctioned opponents take advantage.

31

Peter Smith 01.30.22 at 11:19 pm

Thanks John, you have cheered me up quite a bit!

32

LFC 01.31.22 at 12:01 am

From the OP:

The Supreme Court will almost certainly act to back Republicans at every level. In these circumstances the odds will be stacked against the defenders of democracy. But the defenders of Jim Crow, facing similar pressures, put up a determined resistance for decades in support of a cause even they knew was morally indefensible. There’s no reason the same resistance can’t be sustained in the cause of democracy.

I think it’s an open question whether, or how many of, the defenders of Jim Crow thought their cause was “morally indefensible,” but put that aside. The paragraph does point to the fact that resistance to courts’ rulings is certainly possible. Federal court rulings facing resistance may ultimately need the backing of coercive force from other branches of government to be enforced (see Little Rock, 1957). It’s not clear, though, exactly how such resistance would work in the face of federal court rulings favoring Trump and Trumpists. I think it’s likely that at least some federal courts would rule against them.

The last time SCOTUS involved itself in a presidential election (or other election where the outcome directly hung in the balance) was 2000. It’s difficult to predict from that whether today’s more right-wing Court would intervene to help Trump. Maybe. Maybe not. We do have the recent precedent of the Court saying by 8 to 1 (the lone dissenter being Thomas) that Trump can’t shield certain allegedly privileged documents and records from the Jan. 6 congressional committee, at least not when the current admin is willing, as it is, to turn them over.

33

ANDREW BELL 01.31.22 at 12:47 am

Trying hard to see how what the US practices can legitimately be called democracy, but OK…

It seems to me that in most ways the Republicans have most everything they want. They may make abortion illegal, build their wall, and make access to the safety net harder than it is now, but we’re already so far right it seems hard to picture substantive changes.

Mostly, like the dems, they want to be in power, regardless of whether or not they do anything with the power.

34

Barry 01.31.22 at 1:31 am

John: “But the short-term benefits of collaboration with the Republicans are likely to prove more persuasive.”

The companies which stopped contributing to the GOP after Jan 6 resumed, from my casual observations.

35

Barry 01.31.22 at 1:41 am

JQ: “Hard to say how China will react, but an obvious move for them would be to switch to soft power, presenting Xi as “the good dictator”, by contrast with Putin and Trump. Pushing ahead on climate would be one way to do that.”

IMHO, Xi and Co. have made their decision on that.

Also IMHO, the USA going GOPocracy would alleviate a lot of competitive pressure on the Chinese government. They’d spend more time worrying about how to manage rhe USA’s decline.

36

Alan White 01.31.22 at 3:36 am

Anger and emotivist “arguments” drive the GOP and has for decades. If they get everything they want, and the basis for that anger diminishes with respect to issues like BLM, abortion, and voter fraud, then the only thing they can do is ramp up the divisive ante with things much closer to what the Nazis did, but I’d think they also then run up against basic demographics of the shrinking white male minority. The only recourse would be the Nazi one–enlist the military to enforce minority rule. Can the GOP really place enough military higher-ups to get that done, and spread their attitudes among the ranks of a million-plus of increasingly diverse soldiers? It may be that ironically a strong and diverse military could be the only thing that is the last hope for any trace of democracy in the US.

37

PatinIowa 01.31.22 at 5:38 pm

I would like to congratulate Crooked Timber. It’s been 36 comments and counting and no TPUSA twerp, easily imagined in a bow tie, has said, “It’s never been and it was never intended to be a democracy. It’s a Republic.”
Even so, I do think the problem of democracy in the US is less losing an existing democracy than it is increased barriers to rendering institutions more democratic, or perhaps, better less undemocratic.
I think Jim Crow is a case in point. In many ways its power has been diminished, especially people’s willingness to support it. But “finally dismantled”? That ignores the two-tier educational system that presists, some of which is a class issue, much of which is still white privilege, not to mention the economic inequalities that prevent varieties of people (notably poor women, especially women of color) from full access to democratic possibilities, and on and on and on.
It’s easy to despair. Still, I remember how it felt when a 60% of Americans who voted for president gave Richard Nixon license to pursue his political enemies at home, including extrajudicial execution, in the case of Black radicals, and countenance genocide abroad.
It’s bad. As bad as it has been in my lifetime. But let’s not imagine a golden age in the past. There has never been a time when the US has been sufficiently democratic (by most of our lights, anyway), just as there was never a time when most people lived in racially harmonious neighborhoods, Dad working a secure job, Mom happily making a home, and the kids in Boy Scouts, playing football, and cheerleading.

38

J 01.31.22 at 6:18 pm

@9 re: moving to Canada:

It’s true that it isn’t realistic for most Americans, but I wouldn’t be surprised if there was some sort of brain drain of the highly educated/skilled, perhaps even encouraged by Canada at both the federal and provincial levels. So it’s possible that the crony capitalists that welcome the Trump regime see their competitiveness and profits gradually erode (granted, they still might not care).

39

Chetan Murthy 01.31.22 at 6:21 pm

PatinIowa: grin OTOH, maybe the reason no TPUSA dorkbot has shown up, is that our kindly host has removed all their comments. For which I say, huzzah!

“Jim Crow is a case in point. In many ways its power has been diminished”: 3yr ago, I was at the D/FW airport waiting for a pickup, and saw a Black man dropping off his blonde wife/partner: they kissed, etc, and I thought (instantly): “jesus, that’s one brave man”. Growing up there, I would never have dared express a public display of affection (of any sort, not even holding hands) in Texas. So yes, Jim Crow has abated. But I would note that in the years after the Civil War, things got better for Black Americans too, only to get much, much worse, as Jim Crow was imposed. No win is permanent, and the arc of the moral universe doesn’t bend in any particular direction, and for sure not towards justice.

Jim Crow abated; we can all feel it gathering force for a resurgence, and to a great extent that is what MAGAts are demanding.

40

Ebenezer Scrooge 01.31.22 at 6:43 pm

I don’t think that the Supreme Court will be particularly relevant if the Republicans take over the other two branches of the federal government. Yes, the Supreme Court will try to restrict progressive government at the state level. But it has almost no means of enforcing such restrictions, apart from its legitimacy. And some blue state will realize this, and the other blue states will follow.

On substance, John Roberts is just another reactionary judge. But unlike the others, he has excellent political antennae. He is terrified of the Supreme Court losing its legitimacy through overplaying its hand. It will, because it will.

41

Chetan Murthy 01.31.22 at 6:56 pm

J, John Quiggin:

Your mention of emigration (and the ability of trained professionals to do it more easily) reminds me of something that has bothered me about this entire saga we in the US are living thru (and that hopefully won’t be experienced by other Western countries, ugh): the incapacity of local governments to defend their populations.

It has been written that it’s a lead-pipe cinch that sometime in the next ten years, the GrOPers will take the trifecta (Presidency, House, Senate; they already have the Supreme Court) and that once having done so, they will never relinquish it at the ballot box. Also, every cycle that they do not take these positions of power, their base gets angrier, they rev up their base to be angrier, and deny that any Democratic victory is legitimate, that any Democratic official is legitimate. To things seem to follow:

when they take the trifecta, there will be a lot of revenge to go around. A. Lot. Their base will demand it, will take it and dare the authorities to imprison them.
Many people (like me) are currently evaluating their options; some will emigrate.

Part of why I’m doing it, is that even though I sit in California, in San Francisco, I’m not under any delusions that that will protect me and my family. There are thousands of MAGAts in the city, and the police (po-po) are not reliable defenders of the population. This is repeated in every big city in the country without exception that I know of. So even in the Bluest of bastions, we’re going to be under threat.

But California is majority-minority, and that means that there are enough of us, to protect ourselves. Why isn’t that enough ? Well, as they used to say about the gun-humpers, even if they organized themselves into a ragtag militia, a single trained Army fire team could take them down like a knife slicing thru butter. Training matters, after all. As they say, “government is how we collectively solve problems that are too big for us to solve individually”. And government is how you stand up reliable and organized military force.

With that setup, to my point: Blue States could be spending these years doing two things:
1. educating their population about democracy and protecting it, and about protecting their neighbors in the coming time of Fascism.
2. cleaning-out their police forces of all Fascist elements, replacing them with reliable police who live in the neighborhoods they’re policing. It’s a widely-understood phenomenon that police live in mostly-white exurbs while working on big diverse cities. That holds true in the Bay Area too. Cities could be instituting residence requirements (with no grandfather clauses) and with the very rational justification that protecting a neighborhood that you don’t live in is both harder, and manifestly isn’t happening.

State and local governments could be taking steps to both ensure and to demonstrate that they take the threat of Federal Fascism seriously, and plan (not merely “intend”) to protect their citizens and residents from that threat.

But they’re not doing so. And so, because clearly there is no organization to which we can turn, to which we can contribute, for our collective security, we are each forced to make our own arrangements.

Let me say that again: we are each forced to make our own arrangements.

I’m a loyal Californian, and if I saw my local & state governments taking steps to protect me in 2025, I’d stick around and contribute to the fight. Absent that, it’s time to look into emigration.

42

Chetan Murthy 01.31.22 at 7:32 pm

J @ 38: Ah, yes, this is another prognostication for future Fascist America:

We all know that there are capitalists who understand the value of regulations, and those who do not. The latter are the ones backing TFG and the GrOPers, and it’s clear that the GrOPers generally are now opponents of the administrative state in all its forms and at every level. We can expect that under a Fascist Restoration, regulations will go out the window at the drop of a hat, and this will result in progressive chaos and pillage in the economy, the environment, and the health of our population.

And our trading partners aren’t going to take this lying down: when manufacturers produce shoddy products (b/c no reliable regulatory/inspection regime in the US), importers are going to start holding-up shipments. This isn’t new news: it’s what’s happening to exports from the UK to the EU, and simply because the UK will not credibly commit to maintaining current standards into the future, only saying “hey, we’re enforcing them now, what’s the rumpus?”

43

KT2 02.01.22 at 1:43 am

“The end of American democracy is unimaginable”… with a free press.

Not much above about a free press. Nor MAGA types sliding toward woke.

“Hannah Arendt Explains Why Democracies Need to Safeguard the Free Press & Truth … to Defend Themselves Against Dictators and Their Lies

HA:…:On the receiving end you get not only one lie—a lie which you could go on for the rest of your days—but you get a great number of lies, depending on how the political wind blows. And a people that no longer can believe anything cannot make up its mind. It is deprived not only of its capacity to act but also of its capacity to think and to judge. And with such a people you can then do what you please.”
https://www.openculture.com/2019/11/hannah-arendt-explains-why-democracies-must-safeguard-the-free-press-truth.html

And language. JQ, your byline of “COMMENTARY ON AUSTRALIAN AND WORLD EVENTS FROM A SOCIALIST AND DEMOCRATIC VIEWPOINT”, the word and concept – socialist – would become dangerous.

Fortunately at this time  “Plenty of local and state officials came out against the rally on Saturday, in which a handful of members of the…
* National Socialist Movement *
… held up swastika-laden banners on the side of a busy corridor in Orlando and chanted anti-Semitic slogans.”
https://www.huffpost.com/entry/nazi-rally-florida-desantis-christina-pushaw_n_61f80aa3e4b02de5f51c5588

And John Bolton’s tiny survey provides light toward Trump & GOP slowly falling out of favour;   “These findings are based on a national survey conducted on behalf of John Bolton Super PAC of 1,000 likely general election voters.”

“New Poll Shows Trump Unraveling
Voters identifying as “Trump Republicans” drop 14 points, Trump’s support tanking

January 19, 2022

“Statement by Ambassador John Bolton: 
“The trend lines across our polls are definitive – support for Donald Trump is tanking within the Republican party. Trump’s endorsements are becoming irrelevant at best. For over a year, Trump has been telling anyone who’d listen ‘the election was stolen’ – now, when Trump says that voters shake their heads. 79% of all voters say Biden is ‘legally President,’ and 67% of Republican primary voters say Biden is legally President. Voters also think their vote will be counted fairly, and they see Trump’s personality as a major weakness. 

“One final example: Last January, President Trump told Vice President Pence to throw out Electoral College votes. Pence said he did not have authority under the Constitution to do so. A majority (53%) of Republican Primary voters now agree with Pence not Trump. In fact, only 20% agree with Trump. Our party is not dominated by Trump.” 

“Key findings from the poll include: 
“Joe Biden has rebounded and now narrowly leads Donald Trump in a general election match up (44%-43%) after trailing in the September poll. Both Independent and Undecided voters now dislike Trump more than Biden. With Independent voters….”
…
https://www.boltonsuperpac.com/poll_011922.php

44

M Caswell 02.01.22 at 12:41 pm

Does the analysis here fit with the fact that Trump’s non-white vote share went up in 2020? Since church attendence rises with education level, I wouldn’t be surprised if his ‘nones’ share went up, as well. His white male vote share (while still a majority) went down.

45

Mike Furlan 02.01.22 at 5:44 pm

While putting gas in my car this morning, the ads playing on the gas pump made me think about how a future non-democratic America will be different from the Jim Crow South, or any other option discussed.

As was speculated in Stephenson’s “Fall; or, Dodge in Hell”, the average person will soon be surrounded by a carefully crafted stream of text, sound and images that will define for her the actual world that they live in. In the novel the elite can pay for editors who curate the stream, but for most they are swimming in a hyper Joe Rogan style illusion.

So departing from the story in “Fall” I would guess the future will be one of transnational corporations, with little allegiance to this country using their sophisticated techniques to manipulate the rubes to vote for the party of lower taxes and less regulation, by making them think it is the party of white supremacy and antisemitism.

The basic problem is still the average white person, but the new tools to channel that emotion will be more powerful than a Klan Rally.

46

Alex SL 02.02.22 at 1:03 am

As implied, the most likely outcome in the USA is not an open dictatorship, but a system with distorted, gerrymandered elections that merely makes it extremely difficult for the Democrats to ever win a anything beyond their core states and at most, from time to time, the House of Representatives; access to courts, but with courts stacked by conservatives; and theoretical rule of law, but with selective application, e.g. police treating leftist demonstrators differently than right-wing demonstrators.

That actually sounds rather familiar already. And that is the point – not that democracy is always a sham, but that there is a gradient from a system where parties have a fair chance in elections and everybody is treated mostly equal to a system where only one party can ever win and its opponents are targeted for mistreatment, with most real life democracies somewhere along that gradient. For example, countries with only direct, one-member electoral districts versus countries where nation-wide vote counts determine number of seats in parliament (e.g. New Zealand, Germany); in the former, you can get 15% of the vote everywhere but still have zero parliamentary representation, because you don’t get a plurality in any district. Is that still a democracy? Yes, but not as open to minority views as the latter, unless they happen to be heavily concentrated in one region.

Because “post-democracy” will be a shift along this gradient instead of a single event after which a military junta holds power, the resulting system will still look legitimate enough that its supporters can claim “all is well, we still have elections, you just lost”, and its opponents can delude themselves into thinking they could still win next time. That may dissipate resistance much better than more heavy-handed, transparent power grabs.

47

nastywoman 02.02.22 at 3:12 am

@
“New Poll Shows Trump Unraveling”

as predicted in a new
(possible?)
Right-Wing Racist Science Denying US ‘Trumpstate’
‘Trump’
(the worlds new word for: Utmost Stupid)
will play NO role anymore –
OR just as the type of Silly Clown he was before he became President –
and that might be the ‘sad’-dest aspect of any new ‘Trumpstate’ –
BE-cause you one just can’t make as much fun about Idiots like DeSantis.
(and just joking – if it’s allowed?)

48

Doug Alder 02.02.22 at 10:34 pm

If after the 2022 midterms Congress is controlled is controlled by the GQP any state that is also controlled by the GQP, will give their state the right to overturn any state/federal election results for that state, will pass TX style anti-abortion laws reverse any and all LBTQ laws, take gerrymandering to a whole new level, overturn most if not all environmental laws, to start with. Likelihood of a civil war will be greatly increased.

49

Whirrlaway 02.03.22 at 3:57 am

After ’24 the continued existence of the Federal government will be in question. Control of the several states has been a core Republican strategy and as it succeeds the states have been gaining power to write their own rules, which SCOTUS seems inclined to enable. Bannon wants to “deconstruct” the bureaucratic state altogether. So, how much will the present DC people permit or be able to retain hegemony? How much will Big Capital want a uniform field and international heft or will they be happy to jurisdiction-shop? On the sane, well-regulated end there is the crony capitalist/jim crow/Handmaid’s Tale state y’all are discussing, on the far end the country breaks up into self-governing regional or smaller jurisdictions (probably a few of them somewhat liberal) and the US role as a global leader is definitively over. Off the chart beyond lies ungovernable tribal areas and colonization by a foreign power.

The Roberts SCOTUS might be willing to let Biden win with a solid R congress, for stability. If it really is Trump in ’24 then we reap the whirlwind, the nation can’t function and I would have to assume the unreconstructed McConnell and the new kids on SCOTUS like it that way. Maybe the rich guys will become concerned about the apocalyptic destruction of shareholder value, but so far each dragon with their own horde in their own cave.

50

LFC 02.03.22 at 4:57 am

PatinIowa @37

My understanding of the label Jim Crow is that it refers to a particular system in which, among other things, racial inequality was written into law, as opposed to being generated and supported by social, economic etc. forces alone. In that sense it’s accurate to refer to Jim Crow having been dismantled. That does not mean of course that deep racial and socioeconomic and educational etc. inequalities are gone; obviously, they aren’t.

51

Eric Chaffee 02.03.22 at 12:26 pm

HISTORY REPEATS: Jeremiah told his fellow Jews that Jerusalem would fall to the Babylonians. Their response: “The Temple of the Lord, the Temple of the Lord!” meaning it was protected from on high. (In other words: Can’t happen here.) But it did.

52

Tm 02.03.22 at 12:40 pm

LFC: My understanding is that Jim Crow laws included both direct racist/segregationist statutes and indirect ones that were written to be race neutral but were designed to specifically disenfranchise Blacks. Which is why the current Republican campaign to prevent their opponents from voting and steal elections (not exclusively but diproportionately affecting African-Americans) is rightly referred to as “New Jim Crow” even though they try to hide the discriminatory intention.

While the 14th and 15th Amendments prevented state legislatures from directly making it illegal to vote, they devised a number of indirect measures to disenfranchise black men. The grandfather clause said that a man could only vote if his ancestor had been a voter before 1867—but the ancestors of most African-Americans citizens had been enslaved and constitutionally ineligible to vote. Another discriminatory tactic was the literacy test, applied by a white county clerk. These clerks gave black voters extremely difficult legal documents to read as a test, while white men received an easy text. Finally, in many places, white local government officials simply prevented potential voters from registering. By 1940, the percentage of eligible African-American voters registered in the South was only three percent. As evidence of the decline, during Reconstruction, the percentage of African-American voting-age men registered to vote was more than 90 percent.
https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/black-codes-and-jim-crow-laws/

53

Tim H. 02.03.22 at 1:27 pm

Seems to me that one of the attractions of GQP misrule is capital wins more often which implies a weaker consumer market because of the demands of rentiers and business owners misperceive the erosion of buying power in the working class as progress. This implies to me that whatever is left of the United States becomes a less attractive market for exports, which should make life even more interesting, given how much manufacturing capacity no longer exists here.
Given the tendency of recent GQP administrations to overturn any treaties signed by a Democratic preceding administration, even if we avoid another civil conflict, we’re likely to become irrelevant to much of the world, impotent to build alliances, if they need to last more than 4 or 8 years. What passes for Republicans will reign unquestioned here, but their influence will end at the border.

54

David Crisp 02.03.22 at 8:07 pm

Fiona Hill made a good point on Bill Maher’s show the other night. What we are likely to see, she predicted, is increased violence by small groups–militias on the right, perhaps, and violent extremist adherents of Black Lives Matter or antifa on the left. She said that only a few hundred radicals actually engaged in violence in the Northern Ireland unrest, but that was enough to disrupt the country for a couple of decades.

55

alfredlordbleep 02.03.22 at 8:27 pm

CM makes devastating points.
But to the black man kissing
the blonde woman at a Texas airport
we should oppose
the thought of Chief Justice Roberts
contenting himself with the image
of Clarence Thomas & blonde wife
parting at National airport. . .

Now there’s a different valence—

56

Aswann 02.03.22 at 8:36 pm

I think that the democratic instinct seeing itself blocked after 2024 will seek to transcend USA politics and it will find renewed vigour in the idea of a world democracy. This will become the great project for liberalism in the 21st C

57

Chetan Murthy 02.03.22 at 10:33 pm

LFC: “Jim Crow” also refers to the systematic subjugation of Black Americans, by methods both legal and customary. So the carceral state, the War on Drugs, unequal application of the Castle Doctrine, qualified immunity (that in real life, means qualified immunity if a po-po shoots a Black person howsoever young, but don’t go shooting a pretty white lady), massive differences in voting location provision and wait-times (conveniently mostly based on Black population), and many other things. It’s the construction of a state that delivers “facial equality” but not equality in fact.

As Faulkner wrote, “The past is never dead. It’s not even past.” And this is true of Jim Crow, for I listed only the things that continue to this day, not the things that ended in the recent past.

58

Orange Watch 02.03.22 at 11:13 pm

I’d broadly agree with AlexSL@46 more than any other prognostication here. If there’s an overturned election, we’re not going to see a hard pivot to dictatorship with purges and reprisals. We’ll see entrenchment of the mechanisms that let the overturned election happen plus a hard push to recover a veneer of legitimacy. A plausible veneer of legitimacy – even a paper-thin one – will keep the Democratic leadership willingly in the role of loyal opposition, and give businesses an excuse to avoid instability that could disrupt the economy. It will also ensure the careerist portions of the military and security services go along with things. Over time, the screws would be tightened, but in the first electoral cycle after an “adjustment”, gaslighting would be the order of the day.

59

LFC 02.04.22 at 1:41 am

Tm: I take your point, and to some extent Chetan M’s, but I don’t think Jim Crow is simply a synonym for all kinds of racial subordination or subjugation (or inequality). That’s because these can and do take a variety of forms, and I think the term Jim Crow is better given a more historically specific application. That said, I take the pt that I was likely using the term too narrowly.

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Chetan Murthy 02.04.22 at 2:09 am

Orange Watch: “If there’s an overturned election, we’re not going to see a hard pivot to dictatorship with purges and reprisals.”

You might be right. But on the other hand, two things argue that your “optimistic” (for pretty dour definitions of “optimistic”) projection is too-rosy-by-half:

TFG is out for revenge. Seriously, seriously out for revenge. And he’s teaching that to the GrOPers too. He won’t content himself with just winning: he’ll demand (and get, b/c he’ll fire the ones in-the-way this time (they learned that last time)) investigations of everybody who tried to stop him last time, everybody who’s investigating him now, every prominent Democratic official starting with President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, etc, etc. Every one.
In order to retake power, TFG and the GrOPers are bit-by-bit enraging their base, more and more. I’m reminded of how, a few months after Hitler took power (1933), he tried a nationwide boycott of Jewish-owned businesses. It was reckoned (e.g. by Gellately) to be a failure. So he took a few years, and by 1938 he was able to pull off Kristallnacht and the Good Germans were onboard. You have to be carefully taught, they say. Yes indeed, and Hitler took 5+ yr to carefully teach his Germans to hate.

But in the case of TFG and the GrOPers, they’re doing that teaching, only out-of-power, and they’re doing it as a means to regain power. Every time they’re denied victory, they double-down on the hate, teaching their base to hate, hate, hate.

I don’t mean to be alarmist, but ….. what’s the result of that going to be ? If they retake power, are these MAGAts going to run wild, getting their revenge ? Will there be a Kristallnacht-like series of events where homes of LGTBQ, mixed-marriage, or prominent Black folks are vandalized, burned, or worse? I sure wouldn’t put it past them.

David Crisp: I recently read Barbara F. Walter’s How Civil Wars Start: And How to Stop Them; in that book, near the end, she has a chapter describing what might happen if the Democrats keep power, let us say, thru the 2028 election. And she describes a wave of terrorist acts, assassinations, etc, all across the country.

I read and thought “and this is the best-case scenario; the worst-case is the Dems lose, and there’s no random terrorism, but rather we endure a regime of state terrorism”.

What I’m saying is: if the GrOPers retake power, they won’t need terrorist acts, will they? They’ll hold the levers of power, and will be able to force LGBTQ people back into the closet, be able to force Black people to bend the knee, be able to force mixed-marriages to flee, etc, etc.

And their base will demand it, be baying for it, and will regard any GrOPer who stands in their way as a RINO traitor.

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Chetan Murthy 02.04.22 at 2:12 am

Here’s a relevant example of what we can see in the future: https://politicalwire.com/2022/02/03/prosecutors-say-missouri-bill-would-legalize-murder/

Missouri state Sen. Eric Burlison’s (R) “bill seeks to give shooters and other assailants the benefit of the doubt that they were acting in self-defense,” the AP reports.

“If passed, it would mean that prosecutors could not bring charges against people who reasonably believed they were acting in self-defense. Police would need to find probable cause that shooters or other assailants acted unlawfully before arresting them.”

As we saw/see with “stand your ground” laws, these will be afforded only to white male defendants: Black defendants will not be able to claim these protections.

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LFC 02.04.22 at 2:18 am

P.s. I’m aware of though haven’t read Michelle Alexander’s book on mass incarceration called The New Jim Crow. Not having read it, I don’t want to comment on the book or on the title beyond saying that I do have some qualms about the title, but maybe those would be allayed by reading it. I think that there is something to be gained by keeping the term’s historical specificity rather than using it as a synonym for either systemic racism or the persistence of racial inequalities and discriminatory practices. The term to me conjures up a whole culture and society that took a historically specific form in the U.S. South, esp the deep South, starting with the end of Reconstruction and really reaching its height from the early decades of the C20 until circa 1965, when it began to weaken (but persisted for some years after that in some ways). But the courts had started slowly to chip away at it as the early as the 1940s, with a ruling that the statutory all-white primary was illegal (I think I have that right). I don’t think there’s much to be gained, politically or otherwise, by pretending that there wasn’t something distinctive about that time and place. I’m not a historian but that is my impression, and the recent exchange in the Senate on this between Tim Scott and Cory Booker did not change my mind, though I completely understand why Booker got emotional in his response and told Scott not to lecture him. In the unlikely event that a professional historian or other historically oriented scholar wants to weigh in here, that wd be welcome. I realize this is getting off the topic of the OP.

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nastywoman 02.04.22 at 7:38 am

AND I HAVE to quote the following tweet of ICE-T:

‘I can’t believe people are comparing Trump to Satan. Yes, he’s evil, but he’s certainly not as evil as Trump’.
AND doesn’t that say EVERYTHING which has to be said about:

‘The end of American democracy is unimaginable’?!

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MikeW 02.04.22 at 10:07 am

US collapse (or faltering) acts as catalyst for other bad actors to step up across the globe. The low bar set by Trump which has gone substantially unchallenged has already caused faultlines to appear. Even America’s allies reaise that the US is unreliable and may default on promises post-Biden.

Climate disasters and a likelihood of PRC taking Taiwan will screw supply chains for a long time. Resource skirmishes across the globe will increase.

In the US, the generation on the voting threshold may turn against parents who have voted for crippling their education and environmental future.

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Frank Wilhoit 02.04.22 at 2:34 pm

There is a lot of overthinking going on here, along with many pinprick flashes of insight.

But a search for the string “1980” on this page gets no hits (until now, that is).

If the back word is sadism, the front word is nostalgia.

When they say “the election was stolen”, they don’t mean 2020. They mean 1960.

When they say “I’m being cancelled”, they don’t mean their actual selves, here, now. They mean their parents and grandparents, after Pearl Harbor.

Reagan won 60%. Apparently, although there are still plenty of people living who ought to remember that campaign, no one actually does remember it. Reagan had only one message, only one promise: headbreaking. Then he reneged on that promise. That is their fresh wound, the pain that consumes and blinds them. Time stopped in 1980. Nothing has happened since, for good or ill.

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Tm 02.04.22 at 6:53 pm

Iowa Republicans just gave an ominous answer to the question what a fascist USA will look like: They introduced a bill that mandates cameras in every public school classroom. Calling this idea Orwellian is an understatement.

https://truthout.org/articles/iowa-republican-authors-will-demanding-cameras-in-every-classroom-in-state/

I’m reminded of Masha Gessen‘s appeal (at the beginning of Trump’s presidency) to „believe the autocrat“. They are serious. Don’t delude yourself into thinking they can’t possibly do this, they can’t possibly cross that line, they can’t possibly overturn elections, annul women‘s rights, burn books, turn public schools into prisons, … Yes they can and they will. Listen to the fascists and believe them.

The extremists now running the Republican Party aren’t simply power hungry thugs, they are dedicated to a totalitarian ideology and they will turn it into reality as soon as they can. to the extent that they can. The only limit will be the extent and efficacy of the resistance. Let that sink in.

I’ve lived in the US for many years. I’m glad I’m out there. In my perception, US liberals and leftists have been suffering from a boiling frog syndrome. They have far too long failed to understand what is happening to them because much of the change is gradual. This explains why the threat to democracy posed by Trumpism has been so severely underestimated by part of the left (Corey Robin writing on CT is the iconic example, persistently denying that authoritarianism can come about by mostly gradual, legalistic means). Masha Gessen has understood this from the beginning. If only more liberals had been paying attention to these warnings.

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Tm 02.04.22 at 7:14 pm

Iowa Republicans just gave an ominous answer to the question what a fascist USA will look like: They introduced a bill that mandates cameras in every public school classroom. Calling this idea Orwellian is an understatement.

https://truthout.org/articles/iowa-republican-authors-will-demanding-cameras-in-every-classroom-in-state/

I’m reminded of Masha Gessen‘s appeal (at the beginning of Trump’s presidency) to „believe the autocrat“. They are serious. Don’t delude yourself into thinking they can’t possibly do this, they can’t possibly cross that line, they can’t possibly overturn elections, annul women‘s rights, burn books, turn public schools into prisons, … Yes they can and they will. Listen to the fascists and believe them.

The extremists now running the Republican Party aren’t simply power hungry thugs, they are animated by a hateful, totalitarian ideology and they will turn it into reality as soon as they can. to the extent that they can. The only limit will be the extent and efficacy of the resistance. Let that sink in.

I’ve lived in the US for many years. I’m glad I’m out there. In my perception, US liberals and leftists have been suffering from a boiling frog syndrome. They have far too long failed to understand what is happening to them because much of the change is gradual. This explains why the threat to democracy posed by Trumpism has been so severely underestimated by part of the left (Corey Robin writing on CT is the iconic example, persistently denying that authoritarianism can come about by mostly gradual, legalistic means). Masha Gessen has understood this from the beginning. If only more liberals had been paying more attention to these warnings.

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Raven Onthill 02.04.22 at 7:22 pm

(Short note in lieu of a longer comment I do not want to spend time to write. Besides, I just wrote a longish blog post addressing this and I’ll point everyone there.) This has happened before, twice, I think, once in the early USA, when a slaveholding aristocracy dominated the Congress through terror and filled the Presidency and the Supreme Court with supporters of slavery. That ended, as we know, in the Civil War.

There followed a brief period of democracy, and then a new aristocracy rose on the basis of the stochastic slavery of Jim Crow and employment at will. That ended in the Great Depression. We then had a period of improved (but not perfect) democracy, followed by a period when a new aristocracy decided that it was better to treat the hoi polloi decently than lose to the USSR or nuclear war.

Almost as soon as the threat of Communism ended – it never was much of a threat, but do not underestimate the folly of aristocrats -, the process of taking it all away began, and we are back to a deadlocked Congress and a corrupt Supreme Court. I do not think this will be a loss as total as 1877. People of color, women, gays, will not easily go back to their closets and corners.

Extended piece, with thoughts about how to buttress democracy (but, really, it could be a book, or several) at Aristocracy in the USA on my own blog.

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Raven Onthill 02.04.22 at 7:24 pm

No. One more thing. Concluding remark from “Aristocracy in the USA”:

Mass democracy is still an experiment, new in history. The US government – indeed all democratic government – as of 2022 is not the final form of democracy. It is still finding its way; methods of governance are still being proposed and tested. As always in America, we must turn to the future.

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Jonathan 02.04.22 at 8:24 pm

The title and substance of this post seem very disconnected. The substance seems to me to make it much easier to imagine the end of American (read, U.S.) democracy than I had previously thought. So now I feel like I’ve just missed … something? What is it in the post here that makes it hard to imagine an end to democracy in the U.S.?

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John Quiggin 02.06.22 at 12:18 am

Jonathan @70 I’ll take that as a compliment. It was hard going to write the post, but at least for you, it seems to have worked.

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MikeW 02.06.22 at 12:40 am

Chetan @ 61: “the stand your ground defense” has a strong relation in the “gay panic defense”, where defendants imagine that a gay man is going to touch them and feel entitled to beat them to a senseless pulp. This can be easily extrapolated along many lines in the US legal environment.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gay_panic_defense

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MikeW 02.06.22 at 12:43 am

Frank @ 65

Having trouble connecting your citations of “Pearl Harbour” (1941), “1960” and “1980”. Only the latter is connected to what follows with Reagan. Even then I can’t find any background to Reagan and “headbreaking”, whatever that is.

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PatinIowa 02.06.22 at 2:04 am

LFC at 59. Let me be clear: I have no reason to suppose you’re arguing in bad faith. I am surrounded by people who do.

Definitions are funny things.

I am fully aware that the range of devices that prevent Black people from full participation in our (ostensible) democracy that I encountered in Indiana when we moved there in 1963 weren’t “Jim Crow,” but that many of the same practices counted as Jim Crow in Houston where we lived before. Indiana didn’t join the Confederacy and wasn’t a slave state. The fact that the KKK ran the state government for much of the 20s and 30s, and overt racism was thick on the ground as long as I lived there didn’t change that.

However, to limit Jim Crow to the de jure segregation and disenfranchisement, seems to me a definitional step too far. Jim Crow was always an articulation of legal, extralegal, and illegal activities. Lynching has never been anything other than murder.

Jim Crow’s defenders have been aware of this. Here’s an example: “The central question that emerges-and it is not a parliamentary question or a question that is answered by merely consulting a catalogue of the rights of American citizens, born Equal is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not pre- dominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes the White community is so entitled because, for the time being, it is the advanced race.”

The question then, is whether the practices of school segregation, barriers to the ballot, and intimidation in the areas governed by Jim Crow are continuous enough with practices that existed for decades before the 60s civil rights acts to be called “Jim Crow.” You and I clearly differ on that. As you suggest, that’s a question for the classroom and the scholarly discussion.

We can content ourselves what is sure: school segregation, barriers to the ballot, intimidation, and a host of other systemic practices throughout the US that serve the material interests of (some) White people as such, are racist, undemocratic, and should be extirpated immediately.

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JAD 02.06.22 at 2:26 pm

I think increased militancy by forced-birth proponents at abortion clinics is inevitable. As a clinic escort, I see it already. The anti-abortion right is emboldened.

Surprisingly few Americans are aware that most abortions used to be performed in hospitals. The credible threat of violence was instrumental in largely driving this practice out of hospitals and into even more physically vulnerable standalone clinics. This had the further effect of changing the optics of anti-abortion terrorism; when hospitals were threatened, the general public was exceedingly morally affronted, but when independent clinics are threatened, people are likelier to be indifferent. After all, the threat of getting killed by an anti-abortion zealot during your hernia repair has disappeared.

Banning abortion was a laughable “fringe” idea just a few decades ago. Now it’s tantalizingly within reach for the evangelical (and Catholic) right. Their patience, such as it was, is pretty much gone. Once abortion rights are gutted by SCOTUS and states across the country put abortion clinics out of business, that impatience will not be satisfied; it will turn instead toward the clinics that remain in states where abortion is still legal.

I am skeptical that we will see a national abortion ban come to pass, even in a kleptocratic/theocratic/fascistic post-democratic US. The idea is wildly unpopular, and not just on the left. And I think this will very quickly drive the anti-abortion right wing to vigilantism, i.e. a new normal of clinic bombings and shootings.

Logistically, the more clinics are shut down by law, the fewer targets will remain, which allows for greater concentration of crowds of “antis” at the clinics. In turn, it will become harder for clinics and their volunteer escorts to monitor the crowds for active threats. Clinics will probably need to rely on cops more often. (From experience, I can say that cops often resent being asked to “defend” abortion clinics from threats of violence–their patience for this is limited.)

I think we can safely expect that federal intervention to protect abortion clinics in this landscape will be… muted, to say the least. And this reality alone will cause many more clinics to close. Many brave clinicians will hold out, but many others will likely decide they’d rather not be murdered.

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JAD 02.06.22 at 2:29 pm

Lest I forget: a further effect of this will be increased security costs, which will result in greater costs to patients, putting abortion access further out of reach for the average patient.

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Orange Watch 02.07.22 at 5:12 pm

CM@60:

It looks an awful lot like alarmism, yes. Trump may want to become a dictator and conduct purges, but there’s no evidence he can do so. At the end of his last administration, even his most loyal yes-men would not act on his plans, and his ability to dictate what crowds at his rallies want rather than pandering to them is growing more evident. He will find himself reliant on other GOP leaders to perform extrajudicial actions, and unlike him they have a vested interest in the veneer of legitimacy. They’ve been working for 20-40y to establish a chokehold on the federal gov’t, and that project only works if overturned elections are “restoring normalcy”, not ushering in a new order.

Re: radical proposed state bills… that’s not new. When they become law, and especially when the courts uphold them, it’ll mean something – particularly bills like the one mentioned that places limits and restrictions on law enforcement’s discretion to pursue or not pursue cases according to their biases.

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Orange Watch 02.07.22 at 5:27 pm

(I’d also add that this is not optimism or faith in institutions. American democracy is severely compromised and broken, but the ways it’s broken do not favor a would-be dictator whose personal attention span is too short to ensure their will is executed, especially one whose cult of personality is waning, not waxing. Purges and a radical, obvious change benefits Trump at the expense of the other GOP leaders – and Trump’s ability to threaten them via withheld endorsements or redirected donations has shown its limits. A GOP that has locked in a GOP federal gov’t has no incentive to undermine the gov’t they locked in to benefit an aged, decreasingly-relevant figurehead who will be forced out by term limits in 4y unless they very aggressively act to keep him.)

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Orange Watch 02.07.22 at 11:07 pm

Something that occurred to me after my prior comment is that a reason to expect a mantle of normalcy draped over an overturned 2024 election is simply a lack of organizing by the people who would be in power. Nazis taking over the Weimar Republic this would not be – Trump lacks an ideology or plan beyond self-aggrandizement, and as such his coterie was (and by all appearances will be) a gaggle of disparate opportunists who are chosen for an appearance of personal loyalty and nothing else. There is not an apparatus being developed to convert the existing gov’t into one that is radically different, nor is there a cadre being organized to man such an apparatus. Even ideologues like Bannon in the prior administration were more fashy technocratic wonks than organizers willing to do the hard work of creating new structures from whole cloth – the elite aloofness they carry with them impedes their ability to import a pre-crafted political apparatus into the US gov’t rather than just trying to redirect the existing bureaucracy.

If there’s to be a post-“readjustment” reordering of the US gov’t, it won’t happen in 2024 under a newly-reinstated Trump. His ego won’t let him delegate sufficient authority to truly restructure the balance of power, and his ambition and attention is not strong enough for him to complete such a project himself. And such restructuring also would not come from the legislature or courts – both of those branches are working hand-in-hand to subvert the existing order and to weaponize its faux tradition of apolitical norms and institutions. 2025 after a soft coup would mostly look like 2017 because that would be what best served to keep the ascendant one-party state in power, even if that wasn’t precisely what a reinstated Trump might like.

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Mike Furlan 02.08.22 at 1:28 am

“No state is doing anything to prepare its citizenry for what’s coming, so when it arrives, those citizens will each have to make decisions individually in the face of this massed oppressive power. And that means that anybody with a brain, who can “bend the knee” will be forced to do so.”

Not even “massed oppressive power”, just the pressures of careerism, or the addiction to a respectable middle class life.

A while back Rick Perry visited my Lab. I said nothing. I could have confronted him, let him know that he was supporting a horrible President, but I didn’t. Would have lost my job, my family would have lost health insurance, and Rick Perry would still have been the Secretary of the Department of Energy, and Trump would still be President.

Where do you draw the line? When is it time to say, “No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part.”

Because it will always seem like a futile and stupid gesture.

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TM 02.08.22 at 8:16 am

Orange Watch 77/78: “Boiling frog syndrome”. A few years ago, none uf us could have imagined the Republican Party officially announcing that breaking into the Capitol in an attempt to violently overturn democracy represents “Legitimate Political Discourse”. Now this happens, everybody shrugs, and people like Orange Watch tell us it still “can’t happen here” because GOP leaders will never go along with a Trump (*) dictatorship, citing no relevant evidence whatseoever.

The extent of delusion is breathtaking.
(*) It doesn’t have to be Trump – the implicit assumption that once Trump somehow goes away, the GOP will revert to their bad but not fascistic old ways is part of the delusion.

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TM 02.08.22 at 8:39 am

“radical proposed state bills… that’s not new. When they become law, and especially when the courts uphold them, it’ll mean something”

There have been so many radical state laws enacted these last few years that only the most dedicated observers can even keep up but surely you have heard about those:
– Almost total abortion bans that not only became law but have been upheld by the courts
– Radical vote disenfranchisement in dozens of states
– Laws threating teachers and superitnendents with firing if they teach subjects that the Republican Party disagrees with, along with lists of banned books and purges of school libraries

A few years ago, these latter laws would have been universally considered “unamerican”. We are at a point where right wing politicians openly call for burning books and there is hardly any outrage (and none, absolutely zero outrage from conservatives). A few years ago, their careers would have been over, today they almost certainly can expect a brilliant career in the Republican Party. It is now considered normal in the US to debate which books should be banned and which academic subjects should be forbidden, and not just to debate but to act: to fire teachers for teaching facts, ban books about the holocaust. But yeah, nothing to see here, move on.

https://www.vanityfair.com/news/2021/11/virginia-school-board-book-burning

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steven t johnson 02.08.22 at 3:01 pm

The events in Ottawa are highly relevant to US politics. It is not clear to me how anti-vax or moral panic about pedophile conspiracies or good old fashioned anti-Communism are the White people’s commitment to race war against people of color. I do not see how small businessmen who own a mortgage on an expensive truck are working class, even if they drive the truck themselves, either.

Foreign policy and domestic policy are both expressions of the goals of any state. Thus the support for fascism in Ukraine is entirely relevant to US politics as well. The most notable fact that I can see is, the mass media, owned by the rich, turned universally against Biden over Afghanistan. I suppose everyone else here denies that is a fact. But again, that’s what I see as the determinant. But if the owners of the mass media loathe Biden for failing the imperialist project even for a loser like Afghanistan, what will they demand in Ukraine? Whatever it is, it is likely to change the political climate even by fall.

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Chetan Murthy 02.08.22 at 10:20 pm

steven t johnson @ 83: “I do not see how small businessmen who own a mortgage on an expensive truck are working class”

I won’t go as far as you: any such “small businessman” who can afford to spend a week-or-two not earning, is not “working class”. The definition of “working class” is pretty much “gotta work, got no real savings”. These “protestors” ain’t that.

TM: “boiling frog” indeed. Look at what’s happening in the Bluest of cities: Asian-Americans being attacked by loners, and also mobs. I never expected that to happen in San Francisco, where Asian-Americans have lived and brought up families since long before the Civil War. But it’s happening here.

Mike Furlan: Yes, exactly this. Between careerism, needing to pay the mortgage, needing to keep money coming in b/c children gotta eat and be clothed (as a liberal once noted: “it is amazing the lengths that parents will go to, to keep their children alive and healthy”), people are going to “bend the knee”. They’re going to acquiesce in their undocumented neighbors being taken away in chains, and then their documented-but-not-really-sure-maybe-they’re-not, and on and on and on.

I certainly don’t mean this in a mean way towards you, Mike. But I think you and other Americans of good faith should be prepared for having to swallow your consciences, so that you can keep your families safe. It. Will. Come. To. Pass.

Orange Watch: I remember when you were arguing that what really mattered was some broad class-based front. And today, we can see that the right to abortion is about to be nuked, voting rights are gone baby gone, and on and on and on. It’s a little late to be arguing that nothing will change: lots already has, and lots of changes are in-the-pipe in the states, waiting for SCOTUS to strike down more precedents (surely you can’t put any faith whatsoever in Coathanger, Rapey-K, and the Asshole Three, can you?)

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Chetan Murthy 02.08.22 at 10:25 pm

John, speaking of prognostications of the future, we got a missive from there a few days ago: https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2022/feb/08/boris-johnson-jimmy-savile-remark-not-apologise

TL;DR: 1. BoJo slurs opposition leader Starmer by saying he let the prosecution of Jimmy Savile slide; 2. protestors mob Starmer, he has to saved by the police; 3. BoJo refuses to apologize for this slur.

Yes, this is today, now, in the UK. The tactics of brownshirt mobs, egged-on by the Fascist leader, today, in the UK. This is going to spread all over the world, just like the #FluKluxKlan caravan in Ottawa (which they’re trying to spread all over the world, already in Australia and New Zealand).

This sort of terrorism will become more and more commonplace everywhere the Fascists don’t rule, b/c the mobs will be given aid&support by established Fascist governments.

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Chetan Murthy 02.08.22 at 10:31 pm

I should have added: of course these aren’t “protestors” at all; they’re brownshirt terrorists.

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Orange Watch 02.09.22 at 12:57 pm

TM&CM:

What evidence do you have to suggest your prognostications are not alarmist? The track record established by your failed predictions under the prior Trump administration and your failed predictions about its unwillingness to relinquish power – both of which were predicated on claims that state power would exercised nakedly – are not contradicted by the evidence you’ve presented here of the GOP continuing to operate its anti-democratic project under a veneer of lawfulness. Nor, might I add, do we learn anything of how state power will be applied by discussing lawbreaking by stochastically-radicalized lone wolf hate criminals. Everything so far – particularly the uptick of explicit state-level bills to subvert elections – point to GOP unwillingness to act mask-off as Trump’s allies did on Jan 6. We are seeing GOP legislatures who will want to argue democracy is healthier than it has been any time in our lifetimes – and a FedSoc judiciary who will want to argue that the courts are less activist and more apolitical than they’ve been in a century – even as those two groups tighten their stranglehold on power. These groups have been working together towards these ends for decades, and are showing no sign of changing their MO. If we see a coup in 2024 – which I will remind the both of you is the baseline assumption we’re all operating under; no one is assuming “it can’t happen here” – the evidence points to a soft coup, followed by attempts to maintain an appearance of legitimacy in the subverted institutions rather than purges and naked state power being brought to bear against Trump’s enemies. Indeed, I would argue it’s critical to recognize that an appearance of lawfulness will pervade throughout the events – a lack of triumphant mask-off fascism will not mean no coup has occurred even though a post-coup GOP would do everything in its power to convince us of that.

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Orange Watch 02.09.22 at 3:41 pm

It occurs to me that I can probably distill into one sentence my impressions of what 2025 would look like after a GOP soft coup: it’ll look like (and be modeled after) Orban’s Hungary rather than Putin’s Russia.

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Chetan Murthy 02.09.22 at 9:08 pm

Orange Watch @ 88: You contradict your post at 87. I don’t think we’re going to Putin’s Russia in one step. No shit, Sherlock. And maybe you should read the works of historians of Nazi Germany (like Eric A. Johnson, Robert (?) Gellately). They wrote that most Germans, ordinary Germans, “Good Germans” didn’t see that time as a totalitarian state AT ALL. NOT AT ALL. Let me say it again, so you can get it: NOT TOTALITARIAN AT ALL.

And why? Because they knew that the power of that state would NEVER be turned against them: they weren’t the race enemy, were they? They weren’t the pollution in the body politic. They knew that they were safe, and that even if they transgressed just a little, no harm would or could come to them. They were the volk.

The power of the totalitarian state was aimed first at political enemies, and then at the pollution of the body politic: the race enemies, the gender enemies, etc. You think it’s safe for LGBTQ people in Hungary ? You think that’s not a harbinger of worse things to come? How about Roma ? Orban has his knives out for them, too.

You minimize away, but even in your minimizing you betray yourself: And let’s remember that Hungary is part of the EU, which restrains them. What will happen here, when the US Federal government isn’t there to restrain, but rather to encourage, the states to enact discriminatory laws, to encourage the po-po to brutalize vulnerable populations?

Oh, and you write about how the state stymied TFG. Tell that to the many thousands of undocumented asylum seekers who were separated, right down to toddlers, infants. Tell that to the American CITIZENS who were deported (YES, it happened) b/c the Border Patrol couldn’t be bothered to check their status. And yeah, then there’s all the anti-abortion shit going on.

Jesus, why don’t you just buy a MAGA hat.

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TM 02.10.22 at 9:20 am

OrangeWatch: Nowhere have I made any prognostications. For your special benefit I’m gonna repeat myself:

The extremists now running the Republican Party aren’t simply power hungry thugs, are animated by a hateful, totalitarian ideology and they will turn it into reality as soon as they can, to the extent that they can. The only limit will be the extent and efficacy of the resistance.

I have repeatedly made it clear that I find the prognostication game so often played around here tiresome and irrelevant. Some guy once said that the point is not who can best interpret the world but how to change it. The future is not deterministic. Whether there will be a fascist transformation depends both on the strength of the fascists and on the strength of the resistance. I want that resistance to be strong. People who deny that fascists are fascists, who deny the urgency of resistance, are ultimately making the fascist victory more likely. That is true for those pretend leftists who argue that the Republicans aren’t much worse than the Dems, just as well as for the centrist both-siders. They are both enablers of fascism, blind to history and blind to what is happening before their very eyes.

91

afeman 02.10.22 at 2:54 pm

To some extent I’m unsure of where the contradictions lie in the positions here, or elsewhere on the Robin/Stanley axis. The right wing has been solidifying a minoritarian rule through means judged constitutional by the supreme court, and 2024 (and 2022) could very well go to Trump by perfectly norms-correct ways. The courts are already primed to deliver what they want, including de-facto immunity for whatever color shirts, with little prospect of reversal in that trend. A clown-show mob being wielded in the rescue of an incompetent bustout of federal state capacity seems perfectly in line with a devolvement to a more private life of power, with a merely locally directed totalitarianism. The concern for loss of legitimacy on the part of (some) Republican politicians doesn’t seem terribly salient to me: Short of mass labor action, why would they as a group care? Perhaps for fear of being accused of hypocrisy?

Conceivably at some point there could be concern within capital that asset-stripping the state and commonwealth will take the wheels off of the money machine – I think they would find a way to live with the retro social policies – but then I think of Doug Henwood, in a recent show regarding the political economy of Texas, recalling on how in 1914 the execs of Bank of England pleaded with the government to avoid war with Germany, because of all the shared financial interests. Particularly after the past few years, relying on somebody else’s sense of self-preservation feels like a bad bet.

92

Orange Watch 02.11.22 at 3:44 pm

afeman@91:

I’d argue the saliance of GOP concern for legitimacy is essentially what you mention in your final paragraph. As long as there’s a semi-plausible way for capital to justify keeping calm and making money, they’ll do their best to do just that. The Democratic Party is led by the same financial interests as the GOP ‐ the wealthy gerontocracy does not want disorder, they want continuity and profit. If the GOP hollows out democracy while maintaining its institutions, they will go along with it. We will not see succession movements from blue states, we will see the ostensible leaders of the American left performantively denouncing the GOP while crowing about improved fundraising prospects off the latest outrages against democracy (see e.g. their initial tonedeaf reaction to TX SB8).

The significance of legitimacy is precisely that the GOP project is a slow-boil project. A soft coup would be a recognition that the frog might get out of the pot, but instead of dropping a heavy iron lid onto it they’ll put a glass lid in place and seek to convince us there is no lid. If the iron lid fell, self-preservation might drive the loyal opposition to move to finally abandon its stubborn institutionalism, but as long as they’re being moderately gaslit, they’ll continue to lecture us about the importance of having a strong GOP even as they denounce the actual left as saboteurs who’ve enable the GOP’s continued march towards overt authoritarianism.

We’ve come a long way from Bush v. Gore, yet the leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t seem like it’s noticed a day go by. I fear their self-preservation instincts remain as narrowly focused as they were in 2000.

93

TM 02.12.22 at 11:11 am

OW: “they [the Democrats] ’ll continue to lecture us about the importance of having a strong GOP even as they denounce the actual left as saboteurs”

What if I call your bluff and ask you for some actual evidence for this idiotic claim? And if you are referring to Lord Manchin, don’t bother. He doesn’t speak for the Democratic Party. Or are you referring to Sinema, former Green Party activist, “Prada socialist” and Nader 2000 campaign supporter? One has to admit, she’s really a great piece of evidence for the rottenenss of centrism and the need for anti-Dem Third Party activism.

94

TM 02.12.22 at 11:31 am

P.S. OW 92 is really Murc’s Law taken to the extreme. Two Dem Senators in their incredible narcissism, one of them a former Green Party activist, and 100% of the Republican Party are preventing the Democratic Party from taking steps to protect democracy, which proves the rottenenness of you-know-who. These tiresome tirades are beyond parody.

95

Orange Watch 02.12.22 at 2:20 pm

I’d add that a recurrent theme with some of the more liberal predictions in these comments of what 2025 would look like after an overturned election show a remarkably lazy understanding of the state of American conservatism. The GOP is not a homogeneous bloc unified behind one driving goal. The neocons and paleocons are waning in their power, but they’re still a significant chunk of the party – and more importantly, the donor class. The National Conservatives are the ascendant strain, but they’re not what gets recognized as such – that’s still the marginal alt-right faction. The GOP and the Federalist Society are treated as indistinguishable despite the former being far more given to open reformist ideology while the latter are wedded to a perverse form of institutionalism – though somewhat ironically, the GOP is more inclined to federal obstruction and devolution while FedSoc is eager to wield the power of their federal judiciary to reshape the nation.

(I don’t mention libertarians in any of this b/c at the federal level libertarianism appears to have been reduced to a rhetorical style rather than a meaningful faction w/in conservatism.)

Given how trends seem to be evolving, it appears that a National Conservative minority (or possibly plurality) will be in control of the GOP by 2025, but it does not look like it will yet have a stranglehold on power. It will remain beholden to (cowed, complicit) traditional conservatives, both in government and corporate America. Hence, even after overturning an election, the interest will likely be in maintaining an illusion of normalcy. The question I’m most unsure of is whether they’d be willing to act graciously enough to allow institutionalist centerist liberals to retain enough power and influence that they’ll lie to themselves and seek to continue with business as usual as the screws are tightened. No meaningful group within American conservatism is great about acting gracious, so that may be a saving grace…

96

Chetan Murthy 02.12.22 at 7:33 pm

[formatting fail, trying again]

TM : OW is a [content redacted b/c I don’t want to give our host agita] and so of course when it suits his MAGAt ways, he quotes out-of-context, mangles, etc. In this case, it’s well-established that Speaker Pelosi went on-record saying that she looked forward to a strong Republic party someday in the future. What got left out of the relevant context is two things:

Her actual quote: “I say to my Republican friends, take back your party. The country needs a big, strong Republican Party. And I say that as a leader in the Democratic Party… Don’t have it be a cult of personality on the extreme, extreme, extreme right.”

It’s relevant to note that the asymmetric polarization of American media forbids Democrats from speaking the truth about the GrOPers. If Nancy Pelosi got up and spoke the truth about GrOPers: that they’re undemocratic, racists, misogynists, in thrall to Russia, and one and all insurrectionists (ok, aside from Cheney/Kinzinger, and even they are steadfast in opposing voting rights), she’d be pilloried in the press. It happens regularly when Democrats speak the truth. what OW pretends to not understand, is that Dems have to be the grown-up party, or lots of American voters will abandon them; those same voters are just fine with the GrOPers being basically the drunk father who comes home to beat up the kids and wife after propping up the end of the bar all night.

But to your substantive point: yes, even Speaker Pelosi is on-record, and you can find it easily on Twitter.

97

afeman 02.12.22 at 8:48 pm

TM:

Speaker Pelosi: “I say to my Republican friends, take back your party. The country needs a big, strong Republican Party. And I say that as a leader in the Democratic Party… Don’t have it be a cult of personality on the extreme, extreme, extreme right.”

https://twitter.com/thehill/status/1436347974066622466

98

TM 02.13.22 at 8:17 am

afeman and Chetan: Come on folks, context? Pelosi is appealing to Republicans to refute right wing extremism. She is absolutely not “lecturing us about the importance of having a strong GOP even as (she) denounce(s) the actual left as saboteurs”. Don’t do this it’s silly.

99

TM 02.13.22 at 8:44 am

Also, instead of taking one quote out of context, look at Pelosi’s actions. She protected the integrity of the January 6 commission and rebuffed McCarthy’s sabotage attempts, taken strong actions (by congressional standards) against extremists like Taylor Greene and Gosar. She is definitely not among those appeasing the fascists.

Meanwhile I would suggest to take a look at all the apologetic, friendly and sometimes even enthusiastic stuff that heroes of the Jacobinite “left” like Greenwald and Taibbi have been saying about Republicans.

100

Donald 02.13.22 at 4:08 pm

An interesting data point—

https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/13/us/mcconnell-trump-primaries-midterms.html

It is about how some Republicans like McConnell are trying to take back the Republican Party from Trump because they think his choices of candidates in various races would lose.

I’d comment on this except I am not sure what to think and if I did, I wouldn’t want to engage in some theological debate about exactly how one is supposed to say Trump and the Republicans are a danger to democracy ( which they are). But in reading the above article about these two Republican factions I come out wanting both sides to lose.

101

Chetan Murthy 02.13.22 at 11:22 pm

TM: I guess I was unclear, so: I agree with you. I was merely noting that Pelosi did state that she wants a strong Republican Party. I thought I tried to note the context in which she said that, and also the context in which a politician like her is forced to say these things, b/c to do otherwise is to be pilloried in the mainstream media as some kind of nut.

Yertle the Turtle McConnell (the gravedigger of democracy) can publicly state that his plan is 100% intransigence, his goal to failure of the Biden administration; but Biden must be seen to reach out to Yertle nevertheless, or the chattering classes that write op-eds for FTFNYT and FTWaPo [I ended my subscription on 15 Dec 2021, their “news” pages are more and more filled with agitprop and gaslighting] and blather on the TeeVee will take to their fainting-couches, for the partisanship.

It is what it is, as a famous philosopher said from his golden throne.

P.S. You and I also agree about Jacobin and the plague “leftier-than-thou” commentators.

102

anon 02.14.22 at 12:17 am

As an American citizen I always find it illuminating to read what those from other places think of us. I have to say that this time I found it to be … sobering.

As a retiree I likely have more time than most to surf the web.

And not feel guilty about it!

So I visit lots of websites with all sorts of diverse viewpoints. I likely visit more right-of-center websites than the typical reader here. And many of those places appear to agree that American Democracy is threatened.

Their reasoning is somewhat different however.

Thanks for the interesting reading everybody.

103

TM 02.14.22 at 10:26 am

Glenn Greenwald defending fascism:

“He went on to say that he “would describe a lot of people on the right as being socialists,” such as former White House strategist Steve Bannon and “the 2016 iteration” of former President Donald Trump as a candidate, “based on what he was saying.” “I consider Tucker Carlson to be a socialist,” Greenwald said of the Daily Caller co-founder.
“I think the vision is, you know, you have this kind of right wing populism, which really is socialism, that says we should close our borders, not allow unconstrained immigration, and then take better care of our own working class people, and not allow this kind of transnational, global, corporatist elite to take everything for themselves under the guise of neoliberalism,” Greenwald said.”

“I spoke on Fox this morning with @HowardKurtz about the new sedition charges brought by the Biden DOJ — the first attempt to bring those oft-abused charges in a decade — and the ongoing radicalism of much of the Congressional 1/6 Committee’s actions”

“Remember, this [January 6 investigation] committee itself has a pretty treacherous history, in that it was the first tie the Speaker of the House rejected the selection of the House minority leader to sit on that committee, which is why there are only two Republicans (the Democrats’ favorite Republicans and then five Democrats).”

104

RobinM 02.14.22 at 11:12 pm

Re Chetan et al.

Some of us may actually be “leftier than thou.” And we may be right too.

105

afeman 02.15.22 at 2:51 pm

OW: What do you see as the dividing line between Hungarian and Russian scenarios? Both allow a degree of notional opposition, though I don’t have a good idea of how much.

106

Chetan Murthy 02.16.22 at 5:26 am

RobinM: there’s a saying I read once: [the “you” doesn’t mean you personally] If you don’t give primacy to the struggle of groups of people who have been oppressed basically in all modern times (women, Black Americans, people of color generally in the West, LGBTQ), then just how “lefty” can you claim to be ?

One of the things that I (and, I bet, TM) find really irksome, is that these “leftists” like the folks over at Jacobin, Greenwald, Tracey, and on and on, are 100% ready to sacrifice the rights of these minorities and women in their drive for their preferred solution. There are actual “very leftist folks” who don’t do that. OTOH, those people typically don’t shoot liberals “from the left” — b/c they understand that progress (at least, in America) has to be incremental. This country is far more “conservative”[1] than many people believe.

[1] == “racist, sexist, homophobic”, etc. To my lights, there’s literally not one good thing to say about “conservatism”, just to be clear.

107

nastywoman 02.16.22 at 9:28 am

@104+103
“He went on to say that he “would describe a lot of people on the right as being socialists,” such as former White House strategist Steve Bannon and “the 2016 iteration” of former President Donald Trump as a candidate, “based on what he was saying.” “I consider Tucker Carlson to be a socialist,” Greenwald said of the Daily Caller co-founder.
“I think the vision is, you know, you have this kind of right wing populism, which really is socialism, that says we should close our borders, not allow unconstrained immigration, and then take better care of our own working class people, and not allow this kind of transnational, global, corporatist elite to take everything for themselves under the guise of neoliberalism,” Greenwald said.”

And isn’t that one of the… the…
‘funniest thing’?
All these efforts of some Crazy Right Right-Wing Science Denying Idiots to give some even Crazier Right-Wing Science Denying Idiots the honour to call them ‘Socialists’ – and the other day I even saw on the Internet some… words – where somebody tried to redefine the Right-Wing German NSDAP as ‘Left-Wing’ Socialists’ – or actually such Idiocy get’s propagated since quite some time?

And how EVER in the world could some dudes on the tubes get soooo confused as my poor ole Glenn?

BUT we are working on a family intervention – and if all you guys would help me – to free him from the spirit of ‘trump’
(the worlds new word for: ‘Utmost Right-Wing Racist Science Denying Stupidity)

AND I know THE VIRUS also brought a lot of ‘political confusion’ and even in Germany there are Idiots who can’t differentiate anymore between ‘Reactionary Idiotic Right-Wing’ and ‘Good Left-Wing Socialists’ –
BUT HEY!
a ‘Neo Nazi’ ist und bleibt ein ‘Neo-Nazi’ even if he tries to come up with some: but, but,but I’m just for ‘Free Speech for Nazis’ babble…

108

Orange Watch 02.16.22 at 6:21 pm

afeman@105:

The divide is messy b/c both Orban and Putin expend a lot of effort posturing on both sides of said line. I’d say it mostly comes down to how the nominal opposition is kept in its place. Orban has generally been softer-touch and appears to be more vested in stacking electoral odds in his favor via gerrymandering and media control, presumably b/c he is constrained from adopting extremely open authoritarian methods by Hungary’s EU membership. There are censorship laws on the books, but they’re not as aggressively enforced as in Russia – critics are being chilled out of speaking out via police harassment rather than being imprisoned for years or dying. Electorally, Hungarian opposition parties face institutionally unfair elections rather than having their candidates jailed or barred from running, and there is less evidence of outright fabrication of polling results compared with Russia.

Putin is adored by the alt-right because his dedication to democracy is pro formo and abandoned as soon as it’s inconvenient. Orban is adored by National Conservatives because his dedication to democracy is consistent, but the democracy he embraces – his so-called “illiberal democracy” – is what is pretextual and bad faith. The former is a tool for gaslighting your opponents, but the latter is a tool for gaslighting yourself.

To bring it back to the US, Trump wants to be Putin but he lacks the personal organizational structure (or discipline) to carry it off w/o GOP support – and they don’t appear to want to go further than Orban. It seems quite likely that the Roberts court (which yes, Roberts has lost control of) would act as a loose check on a post in the same way the EU does on Orban – democracy would be hobbled any time it looked like it might get away from them but excesses against it by the executive would be performatively reined in to prove to themselves that democracy still reigned.

109

Orange Watch 02.16.22 at 6:24 pm

*act as a check on a post-soft-coup GOP regime in the same way…

110

Chetan Murthy 02.16.22 at 11:33 pm

Orange Watch @ 108: This is a lotta bafflegab (look it up) to avoid having to confront that the point of Fascism isn’t to oppress the”majority”/”base”/”Good German” population: it’s to identify, isolate, and oppress a “foreign element” that is deemed to be alien, not a part of the body politic, and undesirable.

You keep on babbling about some sort of …. hell if I know what you’re on about …. when that is irrelevant. It’s almost as if you’re trying to distract.

111

Orange Watch 02.17.22 at 10:10 pm

CM@106:

The problem with this just-so narrative is that the “incrementalist” liberals have been in charge as the center in the US marched right over the last 40y, and your prescription remains to keep marching it right so as not to spook the suburban center-right that’s gonna flip and join the Democratic Party any… day… now. Your “incrementalist” (who are moreso institutionalista) leaders don’t have a plan for how to regain control of the courts, how to eliminate deadlock in the legislature, or how to overcome the disproportionate allocation of the electoral college. They certainly don’t have a plan for how to deal with the courts devolving authority to the states, aside from “everyone but the coasts can rot”. The DNC & Dem gerontocracy care about their allies in the campaign industrial complex more than they do the marginalized groups who you claim liberals give primacy to. It’s absurd to claim that liberals help marginalized groups more when they’re devoted followers of the Iron Law of Institutions – you can’t help marginalized groups if you’re unwilling to do what it takes to hold onto power, and you’ll lose every race you don’t compete in. I’m inclined to believe you’re fine with this – you abandoned a purpling state to go live in the bluest of blue echo chambers, have in the past freely expressed contempt for people outside blue states, and frankly seem a bit too happy about the (unlikely) prospect of coastal blue states seceeding. It seems like quite a stretch to suggest that abandoning marginalized communities to oppression if they can’t afford to relocate to coastal enclaves (especially as those coastal enclaves crack down on the unhoused) is centering your praxis on marginalized populations rather than on C-suite diversity.

This is why your predictions for a post-soft-coup seem so Pollyannaish. The initial establishment Democratic reaction to SB8 going into effect was to crow about how the GOP had overplayed their hand since it’d increase fundraising next cycle. The idea that the gerontocracy isn’t happy with being the loyal opposition as long as it keeps them in power and they can keep capitalism running smoothly is ahistorical and unconvincing. You concede the US would not become Putin’s Russia overnight, but you given no reason for us to believe that spineless institutionalists would react to pro formo institutional illiberal democracy by leading a secession movement when they’ve been content to cede the GOP all the power they needed to get to the brink of democratic collapse – or that complacent liberals would be willing to cast aside those leaders when they refuse to act. Barring a (seemingly-unlikely) hard coup, the past 40y suggests that liberal institutionalists will do little but performatively protest as a post-coup GOP incrementally precludes any non-violent path back to democracy.

112

Chetan Murthy 02.18.22 at 5:10 am

OeW @ 111:

you abandoned a purpling state to go live in the bluest of blue echo chambers

Keep up the bafflegab. In the real world, it’s not simply “purpling”: it’s also polarizing, and the ones with power are polarizing towards White Supremacy. You don’t actually give a good goddamn about the lived experience of people on the ground, but I know, b/c of both lived experience there in 2019, and reports from relatives who live there to this day (despite my protestations) that things are getting worse in Texas, not better.

As in: “a man walks up to my relative when she’s out for her daily walk, in an area she’s lived since NINETEEN FUCKING SEVENTY FIVE and starts yelling at her that she doesn’t belong there, needs to go back where she came from, etc.”

Purpling my ass.

This is why your predictions for a post-soft-coup seem so Pollyannaish.

You think my predictions are POLLYANNAISH? Get a moral compass, asshole. My predictions are apocalyptic. But then, WHITE MAN, they aren’t apocalyptic for you, are they now?

113

Tm 02.18.22 at 12:30 pm

OW: ‚“incrementalist” liberals have been in charge as the center in the US marched right over the last 40y‘

In charge of what … the US government? Incrementalist liberals like Reagan und Bush?
None of these ramblings make any sense in the actual universe we live in.

Pollyannaish: couldn’t make sense of that reference either.

114

nastywoman 02.18.22 at 1:24 pm

Just a question –
What are ‘liberal institutionalists’?

Are these people who still are able to differentiate between Right-Wing Racist Science Deniers and EVERYBODY else?

115

afeman 02.18.22 at 3:33 pm

I’ve never understood the predictions for organized street action come Trump’s election and/or installation, much less civil war or secession. Protests, certainly, if votes get effectively wholesale annulled at the state level, but there’s none of the sponsorship for armed insurrection that the right enjoys. Are we supposed to expect Silicon Valley or the entertainment industry to step in? Certainly the Democratic leadership has little to gain in a hard stance, and if the nostalgia displayed for the GOP of W, Gingrich, or Reagan is just to placate the press, then that just indicates a deeper elite complacency problem – not a problem for them, though.

(This isn’t just a liberal fantasy – there were people who seemed genuinely disappointed when Bernie didn’t lead a guerilla army into the hills after Dems closed ranks in 2020.)

116

nastywoman 02.19.22 at 1:46 am

@’In charge of what … the US government? Incrementalist liberals like Reagan und Bush?’

and doesn’t that question say it all –
that so many Americans have no idea anymore who are what in politics is ‘right’ or ‘left’ anymore – as the other day on the Internet –
OR
WAIT? –
for years now –
I have read on the Internet – that in order to be a ‘good left wing American’ you have to believe in the FREE SPEECH of Crazy Right-Wing Racist Science Denying Idiots and Liars?
And it’s as easy as that –
that this issue already defines if you are truly ‘one of the good guys on the left’?

And if –
what has very little to do with –
if you support BLM matter –
or you are for wearing masks or support vaccine mandates -(which for years were laws anywhoo) – you might be one of these –
‘Anti-Free-Socialistic-Revolutionary who is the US government?
‘Or wants to apple the real US government of Trump’?
AND
It’s ALL the fault of some ‘MainStreamMedia – which isn’t somehow and mysteriously ‘NOT Trump State TV’?
AND how have Americans – and Brazilians like Glenn greenwald become soooo confused that they even don’t know anymore what and who they are?

And isn’t that the real reason why so many confused Americans have NO idea anymore whatever ‘democracy’ means?

117

Orange Watch 02.19.22 at 7:21 pm

CM@110:

It’s pretty damning that you consider talking about how conservatives have divided themself, justify their behaviors, and the faultlines of their infighting bafflegab – and it’s tediously telling that you wrote them off as such rather than making even a pretense of engaging with the content of them. You’ve placed yourself in an echo chamber where thought-terminating cliches like “Murc’s Law” are considered insights rather than shibboleths.

CM@112:

You’re doing what you always do here: you’re reducing politics to a lazy essentialist framework where you’re correct b/c of your identity, and everyone who disagrees with you fits into neat identitarian pigeonholes – and almost invariably that pigeonhole is well-off cishet white male college-educated Berniebro cosplaying at understanding anything but their easy life of white male privilege, b/c it makes your argument easier. You don’t know what identity groups I belong to, b/c I don’t openly proclaim them, but you’re wrong in your assumptions, and that’s as damning of your lazy thinking as the rest of your comment. See, I live in a red rural area of a purple state and I’m quite keenly aware of the extent of bigotry and hatred that exist. I also don’t have the luxury of wearing my identity on my sleeve, and being doxxed could have immediate ramifications for me that it obviously wouldn’t for you. I have little choice but to be judged by what I said rather than making an argument from personal authority by invoking lived experience and identity. Not that this bothers me overmuch, obviously.

Having said that, your predictions of what would happen after a soft coup are absolutely Pollyannaish – before you backpedaled and said they wouldn’t, you predicted the GOP would jump straight to Putinesque levels of repression to tighten their grip on power, and liberal-ruled coastal blue states would eagerly rise up and secede from the compromised union. That’s Pollyannaish precisely because it’s apocalyptic. Again, the GOP model is Orban, not Putin. The slow boil isn’t going to transform into a mustache-twirling monologue, and blue states (especially west-coast blue states who currently have their own secession movements, militias, and “patriot” street gangs in their deep-red, very-white-supremacist hinterlands that voted for Trump by the millions in 2020) would not neatly separate themself to form a new and better coastal republic purged of all those unwelcome elements. The grim irony is that this seems like you’re falling victim to the whole Murc’s Law misdirection here: it’s Pollyannaish precisely b/c you take seriously the idea that (liberal, technocratic, insitutionalist incrementalist) Democrats are acting as vigorously as they could and should be at any given moment, and noticing that they’re not is pretending that only they have agency. The truth is that Murc’s Law* is most commonly deployed to shut down criticism when Democrats absolutely have agency but choose not to exercise it, and that’s the most likely outcome to a soft Orban-flavored coup – which is certainly more likely than a hard Putinesca coup. Your predictions are not Pollyannaish b/c you’re predicting a better immediate fallout, but b/c you predict a better reaction to it. Democratic leaders have not spent the last 20y savvily choosing not to act for strategic purposes; they choose not to act b/c they see no need to. They stopped organizing in vast stretches of the country b/c they didn’t see a reason when they could instead focus ever-greater fundraising in marquee races. A soft coup will not change that – their #resistance to the GOP will be performative, but their resistance to any progressive or leftist attempts to unite the left into direct-action resistance (which necessarily would be neither institutionalist nor incrementalist, nor under their control) against the GOP will be very real, and very vicious.

*It’s depressing that there’s a useful grain of truth in Murc’s Law which is erased by how it’s used rhetorically. Political actors are generally more willing to ascribe agency to their opponents than to themself, b/c defining yourself according to what you oppose rather than what you accomplish makes it harder to hold you accountable for failures. From a Democratic POV, that will look like everyone else assigning agency to Democrats but not to themselves. The problem lies in the refusal to notice they’re doing the same thing, and indeed are invoking Murc’s Law precisely to prevent themself from being held accountable for their agency in a situation which had a negative outcome.

118

Orange Watch 02.19.22 at 10:23 pm

afeman@115:

Even more damning than the strength & limits of #resistance to Trump 2016 was the internal reaction of liberals in deep blue regions to mass mobilization & reform movements over the last two years. It’s hard to expect the liberal ruling classes in CA, NY, or WA to back popular uprising when their likely alternative in the short run is the post-coup GOP devolving power from the federal gov’t to states. They know this devil, and if it’s offering them home rule, they’ll likely take that over risking actual popular democracy if we’re to judge by the responses and media narratives about e.g. crime run wild because Defund the Police movements slowed the growth of LE budgets and saw reformist DAs elected. It’ll only be made worse by the fact that the people most prepared for popular uprising in these states are preppers and militias in rural red regions. It’s entirely possible leftists and progressives would – as with BLM – ignore the liberals and self-organize at a massive scale, but I don’t have faith that liberals would accept the loss of power resulting from letting those movements drive the reaction to a compromised federal gov’t, nor do I think popular movements have the level of organization and mutual aid networking they’d require to resist both federal troops and state & local LE working to put them back in their place. Liberals either actively or passively taking the side of authoritarians when faced with actual popular uprisings is sadly an old, old story…

119

J-D 02.20.22 at 3:08 am

They stopped organizing in vast stretches of the country b/c they didn’t see a reason when they could instead focus ever-greater fundraising in marquee races. A soft coup will not change that – their #resistance to the GOP will be performative, but their resistance to any progressive or leftist attempts to unite the left into direct-action resistance (which necessarily would be neither institutionalist nor incrementalist, nor under their control) against the GOP will be very real, and very vicious.

I read this comment and the questions that came into my mind were these:
(1) what likelihood is there of progressive or leftist attempts to unite the left into direct-action resistance?
(2) if they do happen, what are the chances of their succeeding?

Then I read Orange Watch’s following comment, and I got the impression that the following answers were being offered to those two questions:
(1) a significant likelihood;
(2) practically none.

It’s possible, though, that I have radically misunderstood.

120

TM 02.20.22 at 12:18 pm

Wisconsin Republicans (notabene representing a minority of the electorate) seek to imprison a number of elected Democratic officeholders:

https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2022/02/banana-republicans-2

All it takes for them to succeed is a bunch of Trumpist judges. Anybody who still thinks Republicans aren’t serious about putting their fascist rhetoric into practice are deluding themselves.

121

Orange Watch 02.20.22 at 5:47 pm

nw@116:

FWIW, I think TM was trying to be flip by invoking Reagan and Bush, while forcefully ignoring that this timeframe also saw Clinton and Obama – and even more pointedly, Democratic Congressional leaders, and their reactions as both majority & minority to Reagan, Bush, and Bush II – and their reaction to SCOTUS. Oh, and internal leadership foibles like the DNC emphatically rejecting Dean and the gains he oversaw in the states under his 50-State Strategy. TM’s implication that leadership only matters when you’re in charge of the Presidency is really what says it all. McConnell (spit) has very definitively refuted that idea, not that it should have ever been entertained in serious conversation…

122

nastywoman 02.21.22 at 1:09 am

@121
‘I think TM was trying to be flip by invoking Reagan and Bush, while forcefully ignoring that this timeframe also saw Clinton and Obama’

Nah –
TM just reacted to some silly: “incrementalist” liberals have been in charge as the center in the US marched right over the last 40y‘ –
by writing: In charge of what … the US government? Incrementalist liberals like Reagan und Bush?
None of these ramblings make any sense in the actual universe we live in.
Pollyannaish: couldn’t make sense of that reference either’.

And by responding like that he might have tried to remind everybody here –
that indeed –
there is this HUUUGE battle going on right now – between very, VERY BAD ‘Undemocratic Right-Wing Racist Science Denying Idiots –
against
very, VERY GOOD democracy loving people – EVERYWHERE in the world –
and with Crazy American Right-Wing Idiots like ‘trump’ –
(the worlds new word for: Utmost Right-Wing Racist Science Denying Stupid) –
the very, VERY undemocratic Right-Wing had been ‘winning’ -(a lot) in my poor homeland America.
AND that’s why Prof. Q and ALL the other democracy loving people in the world are very, VERY worried about the democracy in America – and can you please try to understand that
OW(eh).

And –
TRY TO FOCUS!
(will y’a?)

123

nastywoman 02.21.22 at 1:19 am

or how about saying it in Italian –
as in Italian it sound so… so much more… ‘crooked timbre like’ as in any other language:

La pazza scienza di destra che nega l’idiozia ci segnala un problema,
le tirannie amano sé stesse più di quanto noi amiamo le democrazie…

Capisce?!

124

Tm 02.21.22 at 11:42 am

„TM’s implication that leadership only matters when you’re in charge of the Presidency is really what says it all.“

Leadership of what? Of the DNC? Seriously? I’m nowhere saying that the leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t matter, but I’m calling BS on OWs insistence that it is virtually the only thing that ever matters in American politics. In OW world, there are no voters, no party activists, no Senators, no courts, no media, no state governments – there’s only liberal „leadership“ responsible for everything that happens or doesn’t happen.

This Murc’s Law account of US politics comically disregards the agency of the Right but interestingly in this context, it also completely denies the agency of many players on the Left. Apparently, as long as the Democratic Party exists, nothing that the Jacobinites, the DSA, the Green Party, and so on do has ever any consequences – the only agency that matters are the „liberal incrementalists“ „in charge“. This may be convenient – so the „non-incrementalists“ don’t have to take any responsibility for their own stupid mistakes, like helping GWB and Trump become president – but it also seems awfully fatalistic. Why do these folks do what they do if they really believe that nothing matters?

J-D: I suggest you have overlooked OWs main point: (1) there will be no or little direct action resistance on the left, (2) it will be the fault of the liberal incrementalists.

125

Tim Wilkinson 02.21.22 at 12:51 pm

Re: Boris Johnson’s attack on Starmer over Savile (https://crookedtimber.org/2022/01/30/the-end-of-american-democracy-is-unimaginable/#comment-816367)

It’s not obvious esp. from across the Atlantic, but this story has essentially been confected, due to the confluence of three (related) factors:

Starmer is very popular with (those who decide policy for) the UK press – like Blair in the 90s, he is – accurately – seen as (a) highly acceptable as a substitute for the Conservatives and also like Blair in 97, (b) potentially needed to play the role of good cop taking over from the Cons when their bad cop gets so out of control that sufficient electoral support can no longer be maintained. (Corbyn was the opposite of course and actually was mobbed, in the sense of facing physical jeopardy – but not by grassroots groups nor the general public but by organised right-wingers and the press itself. The press far from denouncing this approved of and encouraged it.)
Related to 1(b) above, Johnson is out of favour with much of the right wing – from being just the thing in 2019 to counter Corbyn’s insurgent appeal and capitalise on Labour’s Brexit woes (an obviously pointless and electorally disastrous Remain-fundamentalist positioning engineered by a certain K Starmer as shadow Brexit secretary!). Johnson is now seen as a liability and his sub-Trumpian demagoguery is something to be denounced rather than encouraged (again contrast the varied and virulent demonisation Corbyn was subjected to at the hands of the press in concert with both Conservative and right-wing Labour politicians and outriders – but of course they don’t fit the profile of ‘demagogues’.)
The Savile business is a sore point (with the press, BBC and numerous Con politicians implicated in enabling his activities, eg Thatcher dismissing concerns about his lifestyle’ to overrule civil servants and insist on getting him a knighthood) and too closely related to the once-again-buried Westminster Child Abuse Network issue. Johnson also referred to Assange – Starmer ‘prosecuting journalists while failing to prosecute Savile’ which is also not an acceptable topic of criticism – but presumably it was deemed more expedient to ignore this – and overshadow it with the Savile furore – than to try and defend Starmer over it and potentially reignite it as an issue.

The ‘mob’ was actually a handful of people – about 15 – and were’t violent or physically threatening to Starmer, just heckling him – shouting out hostile questions – as the press pack routinely did to Corbyn on a daily basis, though in this case less intrusively, without jostling etc and from behind a cordon of police and security that were there already as a matter of routine.

The protesters seem to have been from a group known for anti-vax sentiment and were actually accusing him of abandoning the working class, voting with the Tories to give away our civil liberties, and going for Assange. That is how the incident was initially reported e.g. by ITV (TV news, regulated) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iUO4OcNdgNk and the Mirror (Labour-leaning tabloid) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1rNEqcCp4K0 both said it was primarily ‘anti-vaxxers’.. Still of course that is another outgroup of benighted, + probably in some way right-wing, nutters, rather than people with legit grievances. And both still include the narrative of Johnson whipping up the unwashed masses with Savile ‘smear’ – ITV has Chris Bryant (right-wing Labour MP) expounding an obviously well-prepared classical liberal consensus account straight out of Hofstadter.

Channel 4 (TV news, regulated) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qVbn1PSg7D4 too said anti-vax, but also (dismissive nose-wrinkle, consult piece of paper) ‘all sorts of things’: Assange, Magna Carta… still the main issue was ‘Savile was mentioned’ (this does seems audible @ c. 1:45) and shouts of ‘paedophile’ (not in evidence). Bryant comes on there too to do his outraged barbarians-at-the-gate act.

The Sun (right-wing Murdoch tabloid) put out a unique version featuring off-camera shouting about Savile: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y2aLQkGKSXo. This was not audible on the other recordings. The comments below the Youtube video don’t really seem to indicate the pearl-clutching shock horror that the media-political class were hoping for…

Indeed in my opinion pushing this Savile narrative could backfire – a lot of target voters aren’t in the same supercilious privileged liberal mindset as the media & RW Labour politicos. They might not think ‘ugh ignorant paedo-averse ruffians, probably Brexit morons – Johnson is a dangerous ‘populist’ like I have thought he was ever since that became the orthodoxy (but not before)’ – they might instead think ‘What’s this about Savile you say? Hmm maybe there’s something in it – maybe Starmer was indeed part of the unelected establishment that protected Savile and the rest of that lot’…and I think that would be a fairly reasonable thing to think.

TL;DR, and in any case, Jonathon Cook’s piece about the affair is worth a read:

https://www.jonathan-cook.net/blog/2022-02-07/boris-johnson-smears-starmer-corbyn/

Of course Johnson did raise the issue as a diversionary counterattack in the usual way. My point is ony that the way it has been reported, and the narrative of Johnson as an unusually proto-fascist demagogue successfully rousing a rabble of pitchfork-weilding paedo-hunters is not accurate.

So much for setting the record straight in the interests of truth. I’m not saying that the kind of radical loss of confidence in the political class that has been developing over the past 20 years or so won’t get channelled into naked extra-parliamentary fascism – after all the left alternative presented by Corbyn was very systematically and ruthlessly destroyed by the entire media and political class along with the rest of the establishment. But more probably the status quo will prevail – i.e. creeping fascism-lite under Conservative hegemony punctuated, perhaps, with the odd term or two for right-wing Labour PMs.

126

Orange Watch 02.21.22 at 2:45 pm

nw@122:

That’s not at all what TM was trying to say. They were saying that liberals weren’t in charge in the US during the last 40y b/c they weren’t in charge for 40y straight. They were saying that the liberal Democratic leadership – who steered our party right for 40y while enabling and emboldening the right – did everything they could, couldn’t be held responsible then, and shouldn’t be held responsible now even as they continue to tack right and tut about how sadly inevitable it is. They were saying that now is not the time to question the leadership that brought us here, b/c we’re on the brink of catastrophe – just as they’ve been telling us for 20y, with the brief exception of fall 2016 when they were crowing about the impending permanent collapse of the Republican Party. It’s been two minutes to midnight for two decades, but the only time the liberal Democratic leadership acknowledges that is when their power over the party is threatened – the rest of the time they act like it’s two minutes to noon.

If there’s a coup in 2024, it will be a soft coup. And the liberal leadership of the national and state Democratic Party has demonstrated absolutely no ability to cope with that kind of threat – incremental institutionalists are procrastinators who put off hard decisions that require changing the status quo until “tomorrow” every single day. The proverbial frog-boiling pot is one set of incrementalists out-incrementalizing another set. A hard coup they could respond to – which is why the most dangerous fascists in the US aren’t the accelerationists, it’s the right-wing incrementalists (and their centerist and left-wing incrementalist enablers) who’ve patiently subverted the institutions of civic society so we’ll have a soft veneer of democracy over the slowly-mounting illiberalism that will follow.

We could respond to the January 6th we had, and could probably have responded to one where the insurrectionists hanged the Veep. We would have been confounded if Pence had objected to the submitted slate of electors and either turned the decision over to the House delegations or sent the slates back to the states. That would have ended in Bush v. Gore 2.0, and Trump in the White House. If it didn’t, it would have been because of direct action from desperate, motivated activists in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, not because of comfortable septuagenarian incrementalists with everything to lose.

127

nastywoman 02.21.22 at 9:57 pm

@126
What are you talking about?

As everybody in the world knows that THE PROBLEM for the US Democracy are the Crazy Right-Wing Racist Science Denying Idiots -(being members of any political parties or not)

And why do you always post this… this silly stuff about some people who are NOT
‘Crazy Right-Wing Racist Science Denying Idiots’

There NEVER will be a problem with them -(if members of any parties or not) in trying to maintain a workable Democracy.

And everybody in the world knows that –
(just with the exception of all these CRAZY Americans, who have completely lost any sense of… (political?) direction?)

128

J-D 02.21.22 at 11:33 pm

J-D: I suggest you have overlooked OWs main point: (1) there will be no or little direct action resistance on the left …

To me, this interpretation seems difficult to reconcile with what Orange Watch wrote:

It’s entirely possible leftists and progressives would – as with BLM – ignore the liberals and self-organize at a massive scale …

As I mentioned earlier, it’s possible that I have radically misunderstood Orange Watch’s meaning, but by the same token it’s possible that Tm has radically misunderstood Orange Watch’s meaning.

Since then, Orange Watch has written this:

If it didn’t, it would have been because of direct action from desperate, motivated activists in their 20s, 30s, and 40s, not because of comfortable septuagenarian incrementalists with everything to lose.

When I read that, the question that came into my mind was this: In the US, what are motivated activists in their 20s, 30s, and 40s doing now, and how is it working out?

129

Donald 02.22.22 at 4:26 am

I read the LawyersGunsandMoney crowd and while they like to go after Greenwald and Green Party types, where do people like Adam Johnson fit in? He despises some of Greenwald’s positions and supports “ identity politics” and is also intensely critical of the incrementalist Democrats.

https://twitter.com/adamjohnsonNYC/status/1495893130125664260

And speaking for myself, I think Trumpism is a danger to democracy but don’t see OW denying this. And on some issues Both Sidism is correct. Both Sides have a horrible record on human rights issues like the war in Yemen and as some mainstream libs like Ezra Klein recognize, Biden is on the verge of creating a gigantic humanitarian catastrophe in Afghanistan.

It’s probably hard to be outraged about so many different things at once and people tend to focus on a few, but there really are multiple terrible things all happening.

130

Orange Watch 02.22.22 at 7:29 pm

TM@124:

You’re doing exactly what I discussed above: you’re using Murc’s Law as a thought-terminating cliche. The point is not that ONLY Democrats have agency, it’s that Democrats HAVE agency even when they’re losing. Murc’s Law as stated doesn’t deny Democrats agency, but Murc’s Law as used in conversation does – and how you and CM have used it here is typical of that. You’re absolutely “saying that the leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t matter” – your sentence immediately prior to that claim suggested it was meaningless. It was also deeply dishonest, ofc, because it ignored Democratic control of Congress during close to 50% of that period, and that 40% of that span had Democratic Presidents. It ignored how the DNC stopped organizing and campaigning in much of the country, and it ignores how they frame themself in media and campaigns. Most damningly, it also ignored how much McConnell has managed to do with “just” the RNC.

The other thing, ofc, is the false equivalency you slyly bring to the conversation. Not all agency impacts events equally, and asserting that the agency of disparate political activists and voters is more important than that of candidates, leaders of a party, pundits, journalists, and donors is a flat lie.

When you state that the reason Democrats lost the presidential election in 2000, 2004, and 2016 is leftist treachery, but the reason leftists and progressives lose primaries to liberals is incrementalists campaigning on what the electorate wants, you deny agency to liberal Democratic leadership only and exactly when it would hurt them to have agency, and you grant it to them only when they would benefit from it. Their successes are always their own, but their failures never are. You’re doing exactly what you claim Murc’s Law calls out in your opponents. It seems you don’t feel it’s fair to afford more impact to the agency of leaders of one of the two most powerful political parties in the US, but I assure you they have dramatically more impact on their own political fates than ill-defined, scheming bands of backstabbing leftists. You don’t have trouble seeing this when Democrats are succeeding (see e.g. CM@106’s paean to incrementalism), nor do you have trouble seeing the parallel agency of Republicans for their actions – or Democratic agency when the GOP is thwarted. It’s only when it comes time to try to understand Democratic – specifically, liberal Democratic – failures that the party leadership’s agency vanishes…

Trying to keep at least some of this comment on-topic, I’ll note that Biden is currently said to be in talks with Senate Republicans about who should replace Breyer on SCOTUS. The nominal reason? To restore the legitimacy of the Court in the public eye. The court’s composition wouldn’t be meaningfully changed, and if anything getting Republican buy-in would mean installing a tepid moderate institutionalist like Breyer himself. My nightmare pick would be if Biden was convinced to go back on his campaign promise and nominated Garland, bringing the FedSoc count of SCOTUS to 7. But even if the GOP decides pure obstruction is better than getting Biden to shoot himself in the foot, the desire on the part of Biden and Senate Democrats to work with the GOP to bolster the compromised Court’s institutional legitimacy bodes very ill for how liberals would respond to a soft coup. This is collaborationist behavior, and it’s hard to imagine them behaving radically different when they’d have even more to lose by not playing along.

131

Orange Watch 02.22.22 at 7:39 pm

J-D@119:

I think self-organizing direct-action resistance to a soft coup would be likely. I also think that politically significant liberals would distance themselves from it and willingly paint it as economic sabotage or domestic terrorism. I am not sanguine about the ability of activists to roll back a coup w/o some state support – e.g. mutual aid organizing is not strong enough in the US to sustain a general strike (or even a critical-sector logistics strike) even if there was widespread support for one, which feels optimistic – and I see no reason to believe liberal state and local gov’ts would support widespread disruption of the economy if the alternative is business as usual, but with less democracy at the federal level along with less federal authority in general.

132

TM 02.23.22 at 9:00 am

I’ll respond one last time to OW’s rants but then I hope to leave it there.

“You’re absolutely “saying that the leadership of the Democratic Party doesn’t matter” – your sentence immediately prior to that claim suggested it was meaningless.”
No I’m not saying that anywhere. I’m pushing back against the claim that “liberals have been in charge for 40 years”, a claim that OW has undeniably made.

“It was also deeply dishonest, ofc, because it ignored Democratic control of Congress during close to 50% of that period, and that 40% of that span had Democratic Presidents.” Democratic control of Congress: 1987-1994, 2007-2010, 2021-? Democratic trifecta: 1993-1994, 2008-2009, 2021-?

These quibbles are really uninteresting. We all know that the US political system is insane. We also know that unless we find ways to reform that insane system, leftists have no choice but to work within it. Revolutionary rhetoric and hand-waving about “incrementalism” doesn’t change that. The problem is that OWs whole framing is bonkers. The question of incrementalism vs. revolution is completely beside the point if you don’t have anything resembling a revolutionary movement. Where is OWs famous non-incremental left and where are its political successes? What non-incrementalist strategies does it use to promote socialism, fight capitalism, imperialism, and fascism, and what has it achieved?

I’m by no means generally dismissive of the idea of non-incrementalism but I am dismissive at what counts as the contemporary radical Left in the US – because of its abysmal track record. Literally the only tangible successes they can be proud of is having helped Bush and Trump into the White House. And how? Through the eminently incrementalist strategy of Third Party electioneering.

Back in 2016, I had debates with leftist American friends who in all seriousness claimed that their refusal to vote for Hillary Clinton was a revolutionary strategy that would shatter the two party system. That is the US “radical left”. The only thing that they actually are good at is fighting liberals, not fighting capitalism or fascism. And that’s why more and more frequently, proponents of this faction act as apologists for fascism and imperialism (*). This battle, against the hated liberals, is a battle they might very well win, by teaming up with the fascists. Greenwald (who himself never was a leftist but is greatly admired by many who think of themselves as radical left) is leading the way and many are following him.

(*) See Jacobin justifying Putin’s Ukraine invasion, an aggression committed by a revanchist right wing autocrat who openly talks about restoring the Russian Empire:
https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2022/02/you-do-not-under-any-circumstances-gotta-hand-it-to-maga-fascists

133

TM 02.23.22 at 4:08 pm

“Back in 2016, I had debates with leftist American friends who in all seriousness claimed that their refusal to vote for Hillary Clinton was a revolutionary strategy that would shatter the two party system.”

I should have mentioned that we had exactly these debates here on CT, I’m sure everybody remembers them fondly.

Re OW “the desire on the part of Biden and Senate Democrats to work with the GOP to bolster the compromised Court’s institutional legitimacy”
This may be a good time to point out that with respect to judicial appointments, Biden has been doing a fantastic job, he has been doing everything right and has gotten more diverse, more progressive judges nominated than any other president, perhaps more than all the other presidents combined.

Of Biden’s 14 confirmed appeals court nominees, only two have gotten more than 53 votes in the Senate. Of course, to folks like OW, the suggestion to judge a president by his actual empirically observed actions as opposed to rumors and speculation must appear far-fetched.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_federal_judges_appointed_by_Joe_Biden

To be sure, Biden’s fantastic nominees probably won’t be able to make much of a difference because Bush and Trump have had enough time and opportunity to secure near complete right wing control of the federal judiciary. And for that we have the “anti-incrementalist” crowd to thank, among others of course, but credit where credit is due.

134

afeman 02.23.22 at 6:38 pm

Here’s a Dredd Scott scenario for the latest in rightwing accelerationism:

https://twitter.com/BrynnTannehill/status/1496537708834996230


Let’s suppose a family with a trans kid in Texas, today, had a 16 year old child on HRT, per the standards of care set forth in the WPATH SOC7 and Endocrine Society Guidelines.

They realize that they’re in deep trouble, and flee to California almost immediately.

The school, doctors, and other who are mandatory reporters report that this child has likely been on HRT, and was on HRT when the governor’s decree came down, meaning they were “abusing” their child in the window between issuance and fleeing the state.

Texas AG issues a felony arrest warrant for the parents of the trans youth, claiming that they were abusing their child in the window between issuance and leaving the state.

Now, the state of California has to decide whether to comply with the warrant. …

135

J-D 02.23.22 at 10:39 pm

J-D@119:

I think self-organizing direct-action resistance to a soft coup would be likely. I also think that politically significant liberals would distance themselves from it and willingly paint it as economic sabotage or domestic terrorism. I am not sanguine about the ability of activists to roll back a coup w/o some state support – e.g. mutual aid organizing is not strong enough in the US to sustain a general strike (or even a critical-sector logistics strike) even if there was widespread support for one, which feels optimistic – and I see no reason to believe liberal state and local gov’ts would support widespread disruption of the economy if the alternative is business as usual, but with less democracy at the federal level along with less federal authority in general.

The question which now forms itself in my mind is this:
How should somebody in the US choose between the following options?
A. Become politically involved in and through the Democratic Party and try, as far as possible, to shift it to the left.
B. Become politically active outside the Democratic Party and seek, as far as possible, to move America to the left through extra-partisan political activity.
C. Both A and B.
D. Abandon hope of achieving anything politically and devote time and effort to other ways of improving the country and/or the world.

The question isn’t directly applicable to me, because I’m a Foreignanian, but having formulated it I realise that an Australian analogue is applicable to me and that I have chosen option D, but not because I think A, B, or C are irrational choices: to me, they all still seem reasonable choices for other people even if not for me.

136

TM 02.24.22 at 8:57 am

Another openly fascist, openly totalitarian policy actually implemented by a Republican state government. I’m really glad Corey Robin and all the others explained to us so eloquently why we don’t need to worry about fascism in the US, it’s never going to happen.

“It is now the official policy of Texas that adults are required to assess the genitals of every child they interact with and to report what they observe to the government so it can send agents out to forcibly inspect children’s genitals and remove the children from their homes.”
https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2022/02/texas-government-goes-to-war-against-human-dignity

137

Ronald 06.28.22 at 1:34 am

We should decide what to call the United States after it’s no longer a democracy and so no longer the United States. Calling it the post-United States is probably the simplest option. But, as a tribute to the President Trump, I am going to suggest “Shithole America”.

138

Kent 08.12.22 at 8:56 pm

Food for thought. The Republican establishment has succeeded in arming a large segment of the population. In particular their supporters. I wonder if, in time, many of these people will eventually recognize their increasingly suppressed position in society and revolt violently. Perhaps leading to a “low boil” civil war. Not something I look forward to.

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