Only Trump’s flamboyant awfulness stands in the way of his party’s power grab.
Donald Trump, it turns out, may have been the best thing that could have happened to American democracy.
No, I haven’t lost my mind. Individual-1 is clearly a wannabe dictator who has contempt for the rule of law, not to mention being corrupt and probably in the pocket of foreign powers. But he’s also lazy, undisciplined, self-absorbed and inept. And since the threat to democracy is much broader and deeper than one man, we’re actually fortunate that the forces menacing America have such a ludicrous person as their public face.
.. If you want to understand what’s happening to our country, the book you really need to read is “How Democracies Die,” by Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. As the authors — professors of government at Harvard — point out, in recent decades a number of nominally democratic nations have become de facto authoritarian, one-party states. Yet none of them have had classic military coups, with tanks in the street.
.. What we’ve seen instead are coups of a subtler form:
- takeovers or intimidation of the news media,
- rigged elections that disenfranchise opposing voters,
- new rules of the game that give the ruling party overwhelming control even if it loses the popular vote,
- corrupted courts.
.. The classic example is Hungary, where Fidesz, the white nationalist governing party, has effectively
- taken over the bulk of the media;
- destroyed the independence of the judiciary;
- rigged voting to enfranchise supporters and disenfranchise opponents;
- gerrymandered electoral districts in its favor; and
- altered the rules so that a minority in the popular vote translates into a supermajority in the legislature.
Does a lot of this sound familiar? It should. You see, Republicans have been adopting similar tactics — not at the federal level (yet), but in states they control... the states, which Justice Louis Brandeis famously pronounced the laboratories of democracy, “are in danger of becoming laboratories of authoritarianism as those in power rewrite electoral rules, redraw constituencies and even rescind voting rights to ensure that they do not lose.”
.. Thus, voter purges and deliberate restriction of minority access to the polls have become standard practice in much of America. Would Brian Kemp, the governor-elect of Georgia — who oversaw his own election as secretary of state — have won without these tactics? Almost certainly not.
.. you get a lot less reassured if you look at what happened at the state level, where votes often weren’t reflected in terms of control of state legislatures.
Let’s talk, in particular, about what’s happening in Wisconsin.
.. Having lost every statewide office in Wisconsin last month, Republicans are using the lame-duck legislative session to drastically curtail these offices’ power, effectively keeping rule over the state in the hands of the G.O.P.-controlled Legislature.
.. What has gotten less emphasis is the fact that G.O.P. legislative control is also undemocratic. Last month Democratic candidates received 54 percent of the votes in State Assembly elections — but they ended up with only 37 percent of the seats.
.. In other words, Wisconsin is turning into Hungary on the Great Lakes, a state that may hold elections, but where elections don’t matter, because the ruling party retains control no matter what voters do.
.. As far as I can tell, not a single prominent Republican in Washington has condemned
- the power grab in Wisconsin,
- the similar grab in Michigan, or even
- what looks like outright electoral fraud in North Carolina.
.. Elected Republicans don’t just increasingly share the values of white nationalist parties like Fidesz or Poland’s Law and Justice; they also share those parties’ contempt for democracy. The G.O.P. is an authoritarian party in waiting.
.. Which is why we should be grateful for Trump. If he weren’t so flamboyantly awful, Democrats might have won the House popular vote by only 4 or 5 points, not 8.6 points.
.. And in that case, Republicans might have maintained control — and we’d be well along the path to permanent one-party rule.
Instead, we’re heading for a period of divided government, in which the opposition party has both the power to block legislation and, perhaps even more important, the ability to conduct investigations backed by subpoena power into Trump administration malfeasance.
.. But this may be no more than a respite. For whatever may happen to Donald Trump, his party has turned its back on democracy. And that should terrify you.
.. The fact is that the G.O.P., as currently constituted, is willing to do whatever it takes to seize and hold power. And as long as that remains true, and Republicans remain politically competitive, we will be one election away from losing democracy in America.
The chief of Kenya’s electoral commission on Wednesday said he wasn’t able to deliver a credible election next week amid meddling from candidates and threats of violence, casting further doubt on the vote just hours after a top electoral official announced she had resigned and said she feared for her life.
.. “It’s impossible under the current conditions to hold free and fair elections,” Mr. Chebukati said in a news conference. “I issue a stern warning to both sides to stop interfering with the work of the commission.”
“Chebukati should stop lecturing us and oversee the elections. He is not doing us & we need no favours,” deputy President William Ruto said in response in a tweet from his verified official account.
Lately, Trump’s stupendous instability has actually been looking like a plus. There he was, telling Democrats that he didn’t want to cut taxes on the rich. Trying to find a way to save the Dreamers
.. Better insane than sorry.
.. Then came the U.N. speech, and the reminder that the one big plus on Pence’s scorecard is that he seems less likely to get the planet blown up.
.. Nikki Haley, our U.N. ambassador, argued that the president’s speech was a diplomatic win because “every other international community” has now started calling Kim “Rocket Man,” too.
.. Does this sound like a triumph to you, people? It’s perfectly possible Kim takes it for a compliment since he does like rockets. And I’ll bet he likes Elton John songs, too.
.. But about the “totally destroy North Korea” part: I believe I am not alone in feeling that the best plan for dealing with a deranged dictator holding nuclear weapons is not threatening to blow him up.
.. We tell ourselves that the president is surrounded by men who are too stable to let him plunge us into a war that will annihilate the planet. But Trump’s U.N. speech was a read-from-the-teleprompter performance, not a case of his just blurting out something awful. People in the White House read it and talked about it in advance... He tried to be super-nice at a luncheon with African leaders, assuring them, “I have so many friends going to your countries trying to get rich.”.. The big takeaway, however, was that the president of the United States had threatened to destroy a country with 25 million people.
Comments:We can survive an ultra conservative president who is not totally insane and who listens to advisors…at least until 2020. It’s not at all clear that we or the rest of the world can survive the insanity of the Child in Chief now in the Oval Office.
.. There’s little doubt that Democrats stand to gain politically from the train-wreck presidency of impulsive and short-sighted Trump. But the Democrats must choose country before party. A sane, hard-line conservative like Pence is better for the nation than an irrational narcissist who could plunge the entire world into war.
.. A president Pence would give the right just what they wanted a twitterless occupant of the Oval Office. If anyone would like to know how a Pence would run the 50 states just look at how he ran the state he was governor of.
.. Trump, while not exactly the devil I know, is at least fairly predictable in that his main concerns are self preservation and self enrichment.
.. It is time for this fantasy of impeachment to stop. An election is not “fraudulent” because a foreign power releases information that persuades Americans to vote one way or another. Absent evidence that Russia actually hacked the voting machines and changed votes, or that Trump personally colluded with Russia to influence the elections, there is no shot at impeachment, and such evidence seems unlikely to emerge. Russia should pay a price for its actions, and the Democrats – and I am one- should forget about Hillary, stop the apocalyptic rhetoric, stop fantasizing and demonstrating, and concentrate on winning state, local, and. Congressional elections in the short term, and the next presidential election after that.
.. Threats like these only ADD to Kim’s determination to escape the fate of Iraq and Libya. The US has a “big stick.” It should “speak softly.”
.. 70 percent of the voters in Pennsylvania were Democrats and yet Pennsylvania is represented by a majority of Republicans.
.. That’s called gerrymandering.
.. In Pence’s favor he does not have a legion of “supporters” who back him no matter what he does or says. Pence doesn’t seem to have won allies either as a governor or a representative from Indiana. Trump supporters seem to tolerate him, but reserve their adoration for Trump himself.
.. there will be no easy end to the Trump/Pence administration. Their crimes against the people of the US will linger for generations. They will not go quietly by vote or impeachment.
.. As awful as he is, I’ll still take Trump over Pence. Trump is so ignorant and unhinged that he’s not helping the Republicans destroy our own country with their selfish, hate-the-people agenda. Pence would be the driving force that would allow the destruction to move ahead unchecked. We’d lose Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, women’s reproductive rights, and religious freedom. (The Republicans and their extreme-right-wing Christian supporters believe in religious freedom only for themselves and want their beliefs turned into law.)