A Quote to Ponder

A somber thought about this present moment.

“Confused Democracy” by Steven Taylor is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 4.0

As we learn more and more about the Trump administration and January 6th, 2021 as well as looking around at how many American citizens regard that election, I was struck by this from Barton Gellman’s essays in The Atlantic: Trumps’ Next Coup has Already Begun:

“Nothing close to this loss of faith in democracy has happened here before. Even Confederates recognized Lincoln’s election; they tried to secede because they knew they had lost.”

FILED UNDER: Democracy, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is a Professor of Political Science and a College of Arts and Sciences Dean. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter

Comments

  1. Flat Earth Luddite says:

    Ouch. True, but a painful truth. I’m going to be thinking about this one all day.

    3
  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Thank you.

  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    America’s democracy is circling the drain.

  4. Neil J Hudelson says:

    I read the Gellman essay yesterday morning before work. Went in pretty damned despondent, only to start our Monday morning meetings with an extended analysis of SCOTUS’s Texas decision, and what that means for abortion rights and for Constitutional order (spoiler: not great!). Following that, I got an update on the ACLU of Indiana’s “Dark Cell” cases. Our newest client–the 25th such case we’ve filed in 8 weeks–was kept in a cell for 14 days without water–water to drink, water to bath, water to flush away feces.* Of course, eventually his commode overflowed, and the sewage water covering the floor infected his foot, which had pins and screws from a recent surgery. So that foot’s gone now.

    Finally, I couldn’t take work anymore and just started browsing some news just to discover that Louis CK was nominated for a grammy. This year. In 2021.

    Long story short, read the Gellman essay. It’ll be the high point of your day.

    *TBF, as the state pointed out, he did get a juicebox each night with his dinner.

    6
  5. CSK says:

    “I’m really worried about a return of Donald Trump this time, because this time, the Velociraptors have figured out how to work the doorknobs.” — David Frum, Nov. 10, 2021

    5
  6. Erik says:

    I’ve spent a lot of time trying to understand the mindset of the MAGA crowd, and how to protect democracy from them.* This piece highlighted the loss of trust in institutions as a key component. I’ve been finding that thread in my reading frequently recently. Unfortunately trust is easy to destroy and very difficult to rebuild. I am not optimistic that it can be done, given the structural advantages of the Republican Party and their program to not just convince their followers to not trust, but to make institutions actually untrustworthy so it isn’t rational for anyone to trust.

    *no luck yet

    1
  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Gelman is far more erudite than I but, yeah, I’ve been saying something similar for a long time.

    1
  8. @Neil J Hudelson:

    just to discover that Louis CK was nominated for a grammy. This year. In 2021.

    Something. Something. Cancel Culture. Something. Something. Me too. Something.

    7
  9. matt bernius says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    Following that, I got an update on the ACLU of Indiana’s “Dark Cell” cases.

    Thank you for the work the org is doing on these.

    Finally, I couldn’t take work anymore

    I know that feeling. Working in the spaces you work in–even if your specific job is tangential to the people directly working on those cases. Be sure you’re taking care of yourself.

    4
  10. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:
    You probably don’t hear this enough, but I am impressed by, and respect, the work you do.
    It’s invaluable to your clients and this country.

    6
  11. Neil J Hudelson says:

    @matt bernius: @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    I appreciate the kind remarks, and receive them in the spirit in which they were intended. But, I always want to make clear how privileged my position is. Our lawyers work 80+ hour weeks routinely, our paralegals and volunteers process 800 intakes a month, and our advocacy team has successfully worked behind the scenes to stop abortion bans, stop anti-trans bills, and advance criminal justice reform in deep-red Indiana.

    I take rich people out to nice dinners to ask them for a check.

    My colleagues are heroes; I have the privilege to bask in their aura.

    18
  12. dazedandconfused says:

    @Erik:

    There are reports that nearly half the MAGA crowd of 1/6 had recent, serious financial troubles. This is the angst being exploited.

  13. Mikey says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    My colleagues are heroes; I have the privilege to bask in their aura.

    That’s exactly what a hero would say. 😉

    Seriously, though, your work is indeed vital. Your colleagues may be the motor and the steering and the headlights, but you fill the gas tank. Don’t sell yourself short.

    3
  14. matt bernius says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    I take rich people out to nice dinners to ask them for a check.

    I totally get what you are saying. And also, I won’t be able to do the work I do on criminal legal system reform and social safety net stuff without folks like you doing development work.

    I’ve been at nonprofits where there were not robust D-Teams and I can tell you it isn’t fun.

    Also, don’t undersell the stress of knowing you need to raise the money to make sure that work can continue to happen.

    4
  15. flat earth luddite says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:
    Neil, a sincere and heartfelt thanks for all the good you and the people you work with do, from someone who saw it from the other side of the bars. Recently celebrated (very quietly, in my own head) the 40th anniversary of my return to society.

    6
  16. gVOR08 says:

    @dazedandconfused:

    There are reports that nearly half the MAGA crowd of 1/6 had recent, serious financial troubles. This is the angst being exploited.

    But they could all afford to travel to DC and many can afford $1,000 guns. Maybe they should protest their own decision making skills.

    7
  17. flat earth luddite says:

    @flat earth luddite:
    and to @Matt Bernius too, along with all the others fighting the hard fight. One of the things that used to anger my late FIL (a retired hard-nosed Homicide cop) was that I couldn’t take part in working with at-risk juvies because I’m an ex-con. Well, that and the fact that his daughter couldn’t rent many places because her hubby had a record.

    3
  18. Erik says:

    @dazedandconfused: yes, and that isn’t the whole story, not is it that simple. It isn’t as if someone had canceled their debt that they wouldn’t have showed up Jan 6 and our democracy would be safe. The destruction of trust is everywhere on the right: CDC for mask mandates, FDA for not supporting ivermectin use, both for approving COVID vaccines, media (even some right wing media) for not telling the “truth”, the list goes on. Cooperation on the project of government isn’t possible without trust, and we are losing it.

  19. matt bernius says:

    @flat earth luddite:

    One of the things that used to anger my late FIL (a retired hard-nosed Homicide cop) was that I couldn’t take part in working with at-risk juvies because I’m an ex-con. Well, that and the fact that his daughter couldn’t rent many places because her hubby had a record.

    But I thought the entire point of our punishment and system of human caging was redemption and reintegration into the community in order to decrease recidivism.

    /s

    Sorry that you had to (and possibly continue to) deal with those issues.

    2
  20. dazedandconfused says:

    @gVOR08: Perhaps, but it reminds of the specious argument that black people have no cause to complain because they have TVs and refrigerators. Shaming these people, deeply imbued with the sense of entitlement to power inherent to white America, is probably a bad move. They are in fact becoming poorer, and it’s a change they definitely do believe in.

    The angst is being exploited extremely unethically, even stupidly. Trying to own a government they have trained the public to distrust and hate? They poison a well they seek to own.

    2
  21. flat earth luddite says:

    @matt bernius:

    But I thought the entire point of our punishment and system of human caging was redemption and reintegration into the community in order to decrease recidivism.

    Well, at one time it was. At the time of my release in 1981, background checks were relatively expensive, and employers (in Washington state) couldn’t ask about your background. My employer knew (because I was on parole), but when she saw I typed 110 wpm and could handle a 12-line phone system, she didn’t care what my background was. I worked for a number of law firms and attorneys in the NW over the years, and it just never came up. It did keep me from following one attorney who ascended to the bench – I wouldn’t have passed the background check, so I passed without explaining it to him.

    One of the results of 9/11 was an increase in background and security theater. You have to have a clean background for pretty much ANYTHING. If anyone in your immediate family has a record, you are ineligible for public housing, most apartment rentals in the private sector, and renting space in a mobile home park (can’t have the unwashed living there). Of course, the greatest impact is on the poor and/or lower class.

    Wrongful convictions are a huge problem, and I don’t see that changing. However, America’s premise for the last 30+ years hasn’t been “catch and release” it’s been “punish forever, Amen.” Frankly, there is no redemption. No reintegration. Like the song ‘Signs’ said, “you ain’t supposed to be…”

    Sorry for the rant. Obviously still a sore point for me. Even 40 years (and years of therapy) later.

    11
  22. Scott F. says:

    The Gellman piece is important and well written, but we’re going to need more than strongly worded essays in The Atlantic to wake the citizenry to the threat.

    4
  23. Mikey says:

    @Erik:

    Cooperation on the project of government isn’t possible without trust, and we are losing it.

    It’s being deliberately attacked and stripped away, both from within and without, by those who benefit from a divided citizenry (within) and a weakened America (without).

    And as we’ve seen the last few years, within and without sometimes cooperate.

    2
  24. Neil Hudelson says:

    @flat earth luddite:

    Wrongful convictions are a huge problem, and I don’t see that changing. However, America’s premise for the last 30+ years hasn’t been “catch and release” it’s been “punish forever, Amen.” Frankly, there is no redemption. No reintegration. Like the song ‘Signs’ said, “you ain’t supposed to be…”

    Sorry for the rant. Obviously still a sore point for me. Even 40 years (and years of therapy) later.

    I think that’s starting to change (or, at least, the political will to effect this change is starting to align) but it’s so damn precarious–for politicians of either party “soft on crime” is an effective cudgel, the efficacy of things like increased support services can feel like a leap of faith since (as you pointed out) we have half century of going in the other direction, and one bad apple can ruin any nascent relief program.

    3
  25. Erik says:

    @Mikey:

    It’s being deliberately attacked and stripped away, both from within and without, by those who benefit from a divided citizenry (within) and a weakened America (without).

    And as we’ve seen the last few years, within and without sometimes cooperate.

    I absolutely agree with all of this. What particularly worries me is that the left is also losing trust (USSC anyone?) I personally think there are good reasons for this, primarily that Republicans are intentionally and successfully demolishing reasons to trust, but this introduces its own set of opportunities for further exploration by anti democracy forces. It provides cover for those trying to convince the right that they should not trust through false equivalence/ bothsiderism, and it can be used to gaslight the left. We are in a seriously bad state.

  26. liberal capitalist says:

    I want to be on record talking about my record… In my younger says, I was not so much a capitalist as an anarchist, in many different ways.

    The first time I went to get my TSA Pre-check, I had the face-to-face interview. I was able to schedule it in some remote airport location, as Denver had a huge waiting list.

    So, while on a biz trip, dressed in the usual suit, I went to this airport tsa cop shop, sat down, and had a nice face to face list of questions…

    And the last one… Have you ever been arrested?

    And I was like: Oh hell yes! And he looked at me, suddenly shocked, taken aback,

    I said: I grew up in Detroit… Of course I’ve been to jail!

    ————————————-

    The point is, there are a whole lot more of us, hidden by a thin veneer of “law abiding citizenship” than all the MAGA loyalists.

    Push-comes-to-shove, they will find out what democracy really means.

    4
  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Neil J Hudelson:

    I take rich people out to nice dinners to ask them for a check.

    Hey, don’t be so hard on yourself. That’s an important job, too!

    2
  28. mattbernius says:

    @flat earth luddite:

    Sorry for the rant. Obviously still a sore point for me. Even 40 years (and years of therapy) later.

    Don’t apologize for speaking your truth! And thank you for sharing your story and an accurate history of how records have come to follow people around like never before. It’s only through these sorts of stories that we can make progress on things like automatic record clearing.

    @liberal capitalist:

    The point is, there are a whole lot more of us, hidden by a thin veneer of “law abiding citizenship” than all the MAGA loyalists.

    Yup… It’s also interesting to see what is happening when certain loyalists are suddenly becoming involved in the criminal legal system. I hope that empathy will lead them to become more interested in reform versus “roughing those guys up.”

    I think that’s starting to change (or, at least, the political will to effect this change is starting to align) but it’s so damn precarious–for politicians of either party “soft on crime” is an effective cudgel, the efficacy of things like increased support services can feel like a leap of faith since (as you pointed out) we have half-century of going in the other direction, and one bad apple can ruin any nascent relief program.

    This! The criminal legal system reform movement is one of the best examples of “cross-the-asile” folks working together (including some libertarians who actually live up to the core of that philosophy). Sadly it is fragile. And we are still making progress.

  29. Chris says:

    The decline of America’s democratic-republic follows the rise of the baby boomers… America’s most selfish generation.

    1
  30. Dude Kembro says:

    @Chris: You’d better duck and run.

  31. Chris says:

    @Dude Kembro: As a baby boomer myself, I’m more likely to duck and cover.

  32. Dudley Sharp says:

    @matt bernius:

    No. Te purpose of sanction is a just response to the crime, decided by judge or jury, within the legal framework decided by the legislature.

    Rehabilitation, is, primarily, up to the individual, but with some excellent rehabilitation sources available.

    Recidivism rates are in the 70-80% range, with, only, about 25% of crimes solved, in the US.

  33. Dudley Sharp says:

    @Neil Hudelson: @flat earth luddite:

    There are huge discrepancies within the title of “wrongful convictions”, ranging from 0.016% to 5%.

    REHABILITATION

    ” . . . individuals will desist from crime upon release from prison based on a variety of individual and community level factors not directly related to the availability and/or quality of prison programming.”
    On Behalf of the First Step Act Independent Review Committee, December 2019,
    The Effectiveness of Prison Programming:A Review of the Research Literature Examining the Impact of Federal, State, and Local Inmate Programming on Post-Release Recidivism, DR. JAMES M. BYRNE, Professor and Associate Chair, School of Criminology and Justice Studies, University of Massachusetts at Lowell, https://firststepact-irc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/12/IRC-Effectiveness-of-Prison-Programming.pdf

  34. KM says:

    @dazedandconfused:
    How is it a specious argument to compare owning necessary items like a fridge to an option trip across the country? One holds food needed to live and one is, well, optional.

    People who are poor are still entitled to own luxury items if they want but let’s face it, guns ain’t a cheap hobby. Ammo’s expensive (especially if you’re out burning through it) and rarely do these folks own only one gun. You’ll have one fridge and one TV if you don’t have a lot of money but you can have a half dozen weapons worth more then the fridge and TV combined. You need a fridge to live; you can make an argument about needing a TV, computer or smartphone to be able to function and hold down a job /go to school. You don’t need a gun unless you’re out hunting to bring in meat (meaning you need a fridge and likely freezer).

    You *want* one but it holds little economic value if you are on a limited budget. It shows poor decision making because you’re favoring pleasure purposes over practical use. So yes, if you claim “economic anxiety” but have a bunch of expensive boom sticks and their various accessories around, you are very likely a big contributor to your own misfortune.

  35. Mister Bluster says:

    @dazedandconfused:..they have TVs…

    When I heard the honkies whine about this back in the ’60s it was always:
    “…and they have color TVs.”

  36. Jay L Gischer says:

    @Chris: I just saw a statistic that breaks down the Trump-Biden vote for white people by age category. The age category that went the strongest for Trump was 40-55 or something like that. Not the Boomers.

    The “blame the Boomers” thing is fun for many, but it’s generally factually wrong. The Silents did a lot of things that are blamed on the Boomers, but what the heck, they are silent, so nobody noticed.

    And now Gen X has a role, but again, nobody pays any attention to them.

    So honestly, anybody who puts that forward these days gets my suspicion as someone who is trying to start something, and to drive an inter-generational wedge in the opposition or something.

    That may or may not be true of you, but I don’t really know, as I don’t really recognize your handle.

  37. KM says:

    @Jay L Gischer:
    “Boomer” and “Millennial” now mean older and younger, respectively. Anyone screaming about Millennials and referring to teens or twenty-somethings are just as wrong as those who call 90yr olds Boomers. Millennials are the newest group to hit middle age and Boomers are the ones becoming geriatric but hating the term; Millennials are at the older end of parents now, not the kids and Boomers are starting to be great-grandparents not on the first grandkid.

    1
  38. Jay L Gischer says:

    @KM: Your description engages with facts and definitions, which I greatly appreciate and endorse.

  39. Jay L Gischer says:

    I just read all of Gellman’s piece. He complained about the weakness of Biden’s call to action. But I don’t know what a stronger one might be.

    I think the only recourse here is the voter. Make it an election issue. If we can’t win on “elections need to be respected, and votes counted rather than nullified by state legislatures”, then the day is lost. But is it?