Start the Steal?

Cries that American democracy is in jeopardy are not hyperbole.

EDS NOTE: OBSCENITY – Pro Trump supporters rally outside the State Capitol, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Phoenix. President-elect Joe Biden defeated President Donald Trump on Saturday to become the 46th president of the United States. (AP Photo/Matt York)

Erstwhile Republican Max Boot warns about “The Republican plot to steal the 2024 election.”

Republicans have spent nearly seven months making bogus charges of fraud in the 2020 election under the banner of “stop the steal.” Now they have segued into a “start the steal” offensive to ensure that they will win the 2022 and 2024 elections — even if most voters once again support the Democratic Party.

The Brennan Center for Justice reports that “between January 1 and May 14, 2021, at least 14 states enacted 22 new laws that restrict access to the vote” and “at least 61 bills with restrictive provisions are moving through 18 state legislatures.” Those bills are designed not to avert nonexistent voter fraud but to avert another election defeat for Republicans — and they are drawing perilously close to that goal.

In Georgia, for example, a new law stipulates that mobile voting stations “shall only be used in emergencies declared by the Governor,” who is a Republican. That will put out of business two “mobile voting units” — a.k.a. buses — that collected 11,200 ballots in Atlanta’s Fulton County in November. Also, under the new law, provisional ballots will no longer be accepted from voters who go to the wrong polling place; 11,120 provisional ballots were counted in November. “Combined,” writes my Post colleague David Weigel, “the ballots cast by both methods are nearly double the margin by which [Joe] Biden won Georgia.”

A new election law in Texas, which has been temporarily blocked by a walkout of Democrats from the state House, would outlaw many of the methods used to increase minority turnout, such as drive-through voting and early voting before 1 p.m. on Sundays (crimping “souls to the polls” events after church services). But the most alarming element of the bill is that it makes it easier to overturn election results even if there is no evidence that fraud affected the outcome.

The Georgia law, for its part, includes a pernicious provision giving the Republican-controlled state legislature the right to suspend county election officials and to name the chair of the State Election Board. Previously, Secretary of State Brad Raffensperger had chaired the board, but he incurred Republican wrath by certifying Biden’s victory. Raffensperger is being challenged next year by a Donald Trump-endorsed opponent, Rep. Jody Hice (R-Ga.), who insists that Trump would have won in Georgia if the election had been “fair.”

Meanwhile, in Arizona — another state Trump narrowly lost — Republicans are trying to strip Secretary of State Katie Hobbs (D) of her power to defend election lawsuits. They want to vest that authority in the Republican attorney general. If she runs again, Hobbs, like Raffensperger, will face an election challenge from an advocate of the “big lie.” Trump die-hards are also running for the secretary of state posts in Nevada and Michigan.If the challengers win, pro-Trump conspiracy theorists will be supervising elections in key swing states.

Meanwhile, a collection of respected scholars have signed a “Statement of Concern: The Threats to American Democracy and the Need for National Voting and Election Administration Standards.” While it’s posted under the auspices of the Democratic-leaning New America Foundation, several names that I recognize as traditionally conservative or libertarian, including some from the Republican-leaning Hoover Foundation.

We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm. Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.

When democracy breaks down, it typically takes many years, often decades, to reverse the downward spiral. In the process, violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity. It is not just our venerated institutions and norms that are at risk—it is our future national standing, strength, and ability to compete globally.

Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes. They are seeking to restrict access to the ballot, the most basic principle underlying the right of all adult American citizens to participate in our democracy. They are also putting in place criminal sentences and fines meant to intimidate and scare away poll workers and nonpartisan administrators. State legislatures have advanced initiatives that curtail voting methods now preferred by Democratic-leaning constituencies, such as early voting and mail voting. Republican lawmakers have openly talked about ensuring the “purity” and “quality” of the vote, echoing arguments widely used across the Jim Crow South as reasons for restricting the Black vote.

State legislators supporting these changes have cited the urgency of “electoral integrity” and the need to ensure that elections are secure and free of fraud. But by multiple expert judgments, the 2020 election was extremely secure and free of fraud. The reason that Republican voters have concerns is because many Republican officials, led by former President Donald Trump, have manufactured false claims of fraud, claims that have been repeatedly rejected by courts of law, and which Trump’s own lawyers have acknowledged were mere speculation when they testified about them before judges.

In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.

Democracy rests on certain elemental institutional and normative conditions. Elections must be neutrally and fairly administered. They must be free of manipulation. Every citizen who is qualified must have an equal right to vote, unhindered by obstruction. And when they lose elections, political parties and their candidates and supporters must be willing to accept defeat and acknowledge the legitimacy of the outcome. The refusal of prominent Republicans to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, and the anti-democratic laws adopted (or approaching adoption) in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Texas—and under serious consideration in other Republican-controlled states—violate these principles. More profoundly, these actions call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy. As scholars of democracy, we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms as a betrayal of our precious democratic heritage.

Looking at most of the electoral changes in isolation, one might be tempted to dismiss this all as partisan hyperbole. Many of the provisions in question were emergency responses to the COVID-19 pandemic and were never intended to be permanent. And experiments with changes to make voting easier in some fashion don’t necessarily have to be sustained; there could well be valid reasons, including cost, for repealing them. Indeed, since I still think of “polls are open from 7am to 7pm on Election Day with modest provisions for absentee voting for those who are out of town on Election Day” as the default standard, I’m more-or-less fine with states going in that direction.

But, of course, these changes aren’t happening in isolation. They’re part of a longstanding but escalating pattern by Republican-controlled legislatures to make it harder for constituencies who tend to vote Democratic to do so. Given that pattern—and, frankly, quite often without much attempt to disguise what’s going on and occasionally outright bragging about it—benefit of the doubt is no longer in order.

Standardization of voting laws at the national level is part of the solution proposed by both pieces but, alas, Senate Republicans will surely filibuster it. The Statement of Concern signatories urge the repeal of the filibuster if necessary to pass this particular law and, while several Democratic Senators (not just Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema) have made it rather clear they oppose doing so, protecting the integrity of our democracy itself is sufficiently urgent that doing so is justified.

But, frankly, I’m not sure even that would enough. Boot outlines a possibility that would have struck me as absurd as recently as January 5:

This brings us to a nightmare scenario: a Republican-controlled Congress overturning the 2024 presidential election results to install Trump or a Trump mini-me in the White House. In January, 139 House Republicans and eight Senate Republicans voted not to certify electoral college results in at least one state. Since then, the most prominent GOP opponent of the “big lie,” Rep. Liz Cheney (Wyo.), has been purged from the House leadership. Willingness to lie about election fraud has become a litmus test for Republicans, with the implicit threat of mob violence if they don’t go along. Republicans are so scared of Trump and his fanatical followers that most of them just voted against a bipartisan investigation of the Jan. 6 attack on the Capitol.

Many congressional Republicans will refuse to certify a 2024 Democratic win in swing states. If Republicans control Congress, they could deny the Democrats an electoral college majority and throw the election to the House — where each state delegation, regardless of population, would cast one ballot. Given that Republicans already control a majority of state delegations, they could override the election outcome. If that happens, it would spell the end of American democracy.

It is, frankly, a distinct possibility. Our system depends on state legislatures, state election officials, and Members of Congress acting in good faith.

This cycle, despite the unconscionable conduct of the sitting President of the United States, elected politicians of his own party at the state and local level acted honorably, putting the integrity of the election over their own self-interest and, indeed, their personal safety. Far too many Members of Congress did not but, thankfully, not enough to reach a critical mass necessary to change the election outcome. Given that the Big Lie now seems to be a prerequisite for winning Republican primaries, though, there’s not much reason to hope for integrity to win out the next time.

So, we have the minority party in the country—but one that controls the state legislatures in a majority of states—trying to rig the voting system so they win at the ballot box. And, if they lose anyway, to give themselves an opportunity to reject that outcome.

For a variety of reasons, we have roughly half the country believing the system is rigged against them when in fact the opposite is true. And they’re willing to protect their perceived interests by any means necessary. A democracy simply can’t function under those circumstances.

FILED UNDER: Society, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Not the IT Dept. says:

    Over the course of the next decade, we’ll find out how many real Americans there are in this country – how many people would actually resist efforts to destroy our system of government by GOP traitors. I wish I could say I was optimistic about the outcome but if my optimism is correct, we wouldn’t have gone through the past 5 years in the first place. We are in for some scary times.

    “A republic – if you can keep it.” Ben Franklin

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  2. wr says:

    Not to derail what I suspect will be an interesting conversation, but on a side note I love the fact the photo editor had to warn of an obscenity, presumably because the woman with the sign had her arm covering the “o” in count…

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  3. Kathy says:

    If you need a lot of money and can’t earn it, you steal it. If you lust for power in a democracy and can’t get enough willing votes, you steal the power.

    But then you stop living in a democracy.

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  4. @Not the IT Dept.:

    we’ll find out how many real Americans there are in this country

    We’ll find out many Americans are democrats (small-d). Sadly, there is nothing about being a “real American” that requires one to be a democrat, as our history has often shown.

    And while I know I risk sounding like I am defending the anti-democrats (I am not), I am not a fan of dividing the country into “real” and “fake” Americans. If anything, I would note that it has been the move of the anti-democrats for years now, so I don’t want to emulate that (among other reasons).

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  5. @wr: Well, it is obscene to promote authoritarianism, so there’s that too!

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  6. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    Huh?

    All right, if the adjective “real” is offensive, then “genuine” might be substituted. I think most readers will know what I meant.

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  7. JohnSF says:

    My unhumble opinion is that the 2022 midterms could be among the most significant elections in recent American history.

    So, a brief epistle from a Brit:

    Dear Democrats:
    You do not have permission to screw this up.
    Yours sincerely,
    John

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  8. Michael Cain says:

    Indeed, since I still think of “polls are open from 7am to 7pm on Election Day with modest provisions for absentee voting for those who are out of town on Election Day” as the default standard, I’m more-or-less fine with states going in that direction.

    I am always interested in regional differences, and find the voting system thing fascinating. In the 13-state West, the default standard for the vast majority of the population is “we will mail you your ballot, which you may return by mail or convenient drop box; in-person voting is intended to handle the edge cases and will probably be inconvenient.” CO, OR, and WA have been vote by mail for years. HI and UT changed to vote by mail the year before the pandemic. NV changed to vote by mail during the pandemic and made the change permanent this year. CA changed to full vote by mail during the pandemic (from about 65% before) and extended the change at least through the end of 2021. Since the CA Secretaries of State have supported full vote by mail for years, it seems unlikely that they will ever switch back. AZ and MT are >80% vote by mail, with permanent mail ballot lists. My own opinion is that despite how much the eastern press seems to enjoy the AZ Republican proposals, in fact zero of the major changes are going to survive the legislative process and the veto referendums. NM is about 65% vote by mail despite not having a permanent list. The other three states have such small populations that they collectively have more Senators than Representatives.

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  9. Paine says:

    Yep. If the future of our democracy depends on a minority of voters with outsized political power who have been listening to tyranny of the majority nonsense for years offering to curtail their own power for the good of us all then we are truly, royally screwed.

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  10. SKI says:

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    All right, if the adjective “real” is offensive, then “genuine” might be substituted.

    No. Denying that these horrific humans are “real” or “genuine” Americans hides the reality – and disclaims responsibility. It becomes as “No True Scotsman” issue. The reality is that these anti-democratic impulses have always been part of the American fabric.

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  11. SKI says:

    As to the principal point of the post – that we are indeed facing a genuine threat to American democracy, I concur completely. My angst is that I’m not sure what we can actually do about it.

    Yes, if they go so far as to overturn the actual votes, we will certainly be taking to the streets and it will get very ugly, very fast. But I am actually more concerned with the efforts to institute a modern-Jim Crow such that votes are suppressed and districts gerrymandered such that the GOP takes power despite a significant majority of the population voting for the Democrats. What do we do then? What do we do now to prevent that?

    We see this crisis upon us. What can we actually do?

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  12. Teve says:

    what SKI said.

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  13. Scott F. says:

    From Max Boot:

    Willingness to lie about election fraud has become a litmus test for Republicans, with the implicit threat of mob violence if they don’t go along.

    To my mind, is the most pernicious part of our current situation. It’s the destruction of truth by force and it’s pure authoritarianism.

    This willing susceptibility to lies becomes a powerful anecdote to any effort to combat it. Max Boot can bring evidence all day and it’s just “fake news.” A bipartisan collection of scholars can sound the alarm and it’s dismissed as elitist propaganda on behalf of “The Swamp.”

    These are dangerous times.

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  14. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not a fan of dividing the country into “real” and “fake” Americans.

    Neither am I…but this is such an odd situation.
    We have a vast number of people who are…let’s say coup adjacent…for absolutely no reason, other than they idolize a single personality. Most would call that a cult…I understand you don’t agree.
    I have to say…the people who attacked the Capitol on January 6th may be Americans…but they aren’t very good at it.

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  15. Michael Reynolds says:

    @SKI:
    We can end the filibuster and hold the House.

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  16. Nightcrawler says:

    This is why, as I said on the other thread, that violent conflict will ultimately end up at all of our front doors, whether we want it or not.

    I don’t want it to happen. I sincerely hope I am 100% wrong, and that everyone who says I’m talking crazy is 100% right.

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  17. Nightcrawler says:

    @SKI:

    Unfortunately, there’s nothing I can do. So, I’m spending my time doing whatever the hell I want, as much as realistically possible. When I get money, I spend it. If I want to take a trip, I do it. If I want to buy something, I order it.

    YOLO

    I’m not saving for a future I doubt will exist. When I do eventually fall, I’ll fall having done what I wanted, as much as I could.

    I know I’m not a “real” American, because I don’t care about “keeping the Union together” or any such nonsense. I care about myself and my household. If the apocalypse hammered anything home for me, it’s that we’re all islands. It’s everyone for themselves. My household first, always.

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  18. @Not the IT Dept.:

    Huh?

    All right, if the adjective “real” is offensive, then “genuine” might be substituted. I think most readers will know what I meant.

    I will be more explicit: the more we divide ourselves into “real” Americans or “genuine” Americans (as opposed to the fake and so forth), the deeper we make the partisan divide and the closer we bring the whole country into deeper division, even violence.

    This is a real problem and I see it growing even in the commentariat here.

    That “they did it first” doesn’t make it good, right, or useful for the practice to be amplified.

    The path to dehumanizing one’s opponents includes stark divisions of who is genuine and who is not. This is dangerous.

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  19. Not the IT Dept. says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    You’re totally misreading what I said. Whatever. I’m out of here.

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  20. Michael Cain says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    We can end the filibuster and hold the House.

    The window for 2022 is rapidly closing. Someone must have pointed it out to Schumer, who without explanation changed his schedule to push S1 from late September to late June. S1 requires state legislatures to make (in at least most cases) massive changes to their election systems. The state legislative session season is winding down. Eg, the Texas legislature has adjourned sine die and except for special sessions called by the governor for subjects of his choice will not meet again until 2023. There is, at least IMO, high probability that states who wish to dodge redistricting commissions are safe for this census cycle (ie, the gerrymanders will continue). Given even a bit of foot dragging in the SCOTUS, the rulings will come down too late to be implemented before 2024.

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  21. MarkedMan says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    for absolutely no reason, other than they idolize a single personality

    I don’t think this is right. How many of them are paying attention to him right now? Virtually none, I think. I’ve said for years that Trump IS the Republican Party, and by that I mean that the Party has been a rancid, faux populist, violent, racist, reality denying mess for decades. It started with Goldwater, metastisized with Reagan, overtook the body with Gingrich and reached runaway spread with the Tea Party. The Republican Party was a toxic and diseased shambles years before Trump. Trump didn’t cause anything. He was just the perfect embodiment of what the party had become, and so they rallied around him. If he disappeared tomorrow it would make no difference to their poisonous bile.

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  22. @Not the IT Dept.:

    You’re totally misreading what I said. Whatever. I’m out of here.

    And, I think you are misreading me (at least if my comments result in you going off in a huff).

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  23. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Dr. Joyner:
    Broadly I agree with much of what you’ve offered here, however I was taken aback somewhat by your

    I still think of “polls are open from 7am to 7pm on Election Day with modest provisions for absentee voting for those who are out of town on Election Day” as the default standard

    Years ago, the accepted default was that only male landowners could vote. More recently, the default was that women could not vote. Even more recently, the default was to deny the right to vote to 18 year olds.
    The point is that the “default” evolves.
    The you are stuck on only voting 7-7 on election day, with some ill-defined “modest” accommodations for absentees strongly suggests that you are not favorably inclined to make voting as easy (and legal) as possible.

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  24. MarkedMan says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’ll repeat what I’ve said before and the than accept that we must agree to disagree. I think you give way too much importance to what the entirety of self identified Republicans profess. In reality, it doesn’t matter a jot what 70-80% answer on some poll. They are going to vote for whoever has an R in front of their name, and for the most part that will only be in general elections, not in primaries. They will know nothing about what they are actually voting for and instead substitute some vague ideas likely to be diametrically opposed to reality. And they are happy that way.

    Are they traitors? No more so than the 70-80% of Dems or Independents that fall into the same category.

    We are left with the 20-30% who are active, for good or ill. And in today’s Republican Party almost all of those are for ill. The decent Republicans have been left or been driven from the party and the elected officials have been primaried out and then shat upon. Those still in office are doing nothing to stand against the mob or are actively promoting it.

    These 20-30% that have absolute (if chaotic and amorphous) control over the party ARE un-American. They ARE traitors. In former (and, yes, present) days they would be the klansmen riding to terrorize or murder their black neighbors. They would be the “reliable” deputies leaving the prison door unlocked and the keys by the cell as he slips out the back door to give the mob access to the terrified and innocent Black man or Irish Papisr or Jew, and they would be the mob who, high on adrenaline, dragged that poor soul into the street and then tortured him and hung him from a lamp post in the town square.

    Bottom line, you keep fretting that the “average” Republican is not as bad as we fear and worry about antagonizing them. The reality is that once you pull out the ones that have loyalty to the party but no effect over it, the remainder is as bad as we fear, or worse.

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  25. Kathy says:

    Three’s a major problem when people assume “American” means something like good or virtuous, rather than the political jurisdiction a person is a citizen or resident of.

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  26. Scott F. says:

    @MarkedMan:

    The Republican Party was a toxic and diseased shambles years before Trump. Trump didn’t cause anything.

    While I agree that Trump is more an end point on a downward trajectory the GOP started on long before him, I strongly disagree with your premise that Trump isn’t a cause of where we find ourselves now.

    Trump’s brazenness is unprecedented. He lied at levels never before seen from a POTUS and so far he has gotten away with it. Though his caustic behaviors repulsed many, his fans loved him for it. What was once dog-whistles and spin is now open lying and alternate facts. It’s not the approach that is new, but it is of a scale and a magnitude the US hasn’t really seen before. And the Republicans have seen that massive lying can work and they are leaning in to this new key to power.

    So, though it is true that removing Trump wouldn’t cure the rot that is the modern GOP, doing everything that can be done to reassert facts and evidence into the public discourse could undo some of what is driving the country off a cliff.

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  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I don’t think he is misreading you. As I see it, you’re observing that the path he wants to take leads to the mirror image of the demagoguery of the Glen Becks, Mark Levins, El Rushbos, and whatnot, and he’s observing that he doesn’t care–“it’s time to fight fire with fire.”

    At least, that was MY reading of the exchange. Maybe I’m the one misreading, though.

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  28. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Scott F.:

    It’s not the approach that is new, but it is of a scale and a magnitude the US hasn’t really seen before.

    Systems, social constructs, and conventions evolve and adapt to their environment just like biological organisms do.

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  29. SKI says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Can we? What steps can we take to make that happen? How can we get Manchin and Sinema on board?

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  30. SKI says:

    @Kathy:

    Three’s a major problem when people assume “American” means something like good or virtuous, rather than the political jurisdiction a person is a citizen or resident of.

    THIS!!!! A thousand times this. Americans are not innately more good or smart or humane or kind than other humans.

    We also see this with “Christian” as well where it is used as a synonym for good or virtuous – despite the reality that we have centuries of examples of truly evil Christians who both were devout and committed atrocities.

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  31. @MarkedMan:

    Bottom line, you keep fretting that the “average” Republican is not as bad as we fear and worry about antagonizing them.

    I think you misunderstand what I may, or may not, be “fretting” about (although we do agree on some basics as you describe them in your post).

    In this specific case I am pointing out that language that divides us into real American and not real American is dangerous, and it was dangerous when Palin did it (which helped get us to where we are now, in fact, which is not a good place).

    I am not a fan of the use of “traitors” either, as the penalty for treason is death.

    All of this language matters and escalation is not all that it is cracked up to be.

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  32. @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    “it’s time to fight fire with fire.”

    Perhaps. But one ought be careful fighting fire with fire, as in the end we might all get burned.

    But, more to the point, I am not sure that it is the efficacious route in any event.

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  33. @Kathy:

    Three’s a major problem when people assume “American” means something like good or virtuous, rather than the political jurisdiction a person is a citizen or resident of.

    I concur.

    But I would hasten to add that defining someone who occupied a given jurisdiction as not belonging to that jurisdiction has substantial implications as well.

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  34. Kathy says:

    @SKI:

    Americans are not innately more good or smart or humane or kind than other humans.

    Well, then, don’t tell this to any American: they’re not more or less exceptional, either.

    As to Christians, you can easily get a strong reaction, if not an actual freak out, when you say “I think a person can be good, ethical, or moral, even if they’re Christian.”

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  35. Michael Reynolds says:

    @SKI:
    That was a theoretical what could we do. In reality? Give money to the DCCC.

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  36. Scott F. says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Also too, give money to Get Out the Vote organizations in key states like Georgia and Texas.

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  37. gVOR08 says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I will be more explicit: the more we divide ourselves into “real” Americans or “genuine” Americans (as opposed to the fake and so forth), the deeper we make the partisan divide and the closer we bring the whole country into deeper division, even violence.

    While I take your point, and generally agree, a few cavils:

    Over the years a lot of disagreements over language at OTB really revolve around what OTB comment threads are. Is this is a group of friends talking over the events of the day, arguing for fun and hoping to thrash out a better understanding of the issues? Or is this some sort of political messaging operation? If the former I’m all in favor of blunt language.

    “We” didn’t do this. Republicans did this. When Roe v Wade was decided (by SCOTUS, not by Dem pols) it wasn’t a big deal. I’m old, I was there. It became a big deal because evangelical preachers and GOP pols found it profitable to make it a big deal. Dem pols mostly took an Obamaesque approach to gay rights, avoiding it as best they could. But it happened anyway. After years of GOPs using it to drive turnout. The country ran a very clean election and GOPs are making an issue of it with the Big Lie. What did “we” do to bring that on? And now they’re making a boogeyman out of “woke”, a thing that barely exists outside academia, the literati, and the Republican Party. GOPs will drive division no matter what we say or do. Biden is doing a good job of avoiding triggering negative partisanship. It got him elected, and may help us in the midterms. But GOPs will still accuse him of being a police hating, criminal loving, socialist no matter what he actually does or says. Extreme partisanship will end only if and when the GOPs find it no longer works for them.

    Conservatives are constantly going on about the need for a shared culture. Well, this country was founded as a democracy with a democratic Constitution. Democracy is central to our culture. If conservatives can’t support small d democracy, maybe they should move to Hungary.

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  38. Gustopher says:

    @Kathy:

    Three’s a major problem when people assume “American” means something like good or virtuous, rather than the political jurisdiction a person is a citizen or resident of.

    America is basically the only multi-ethnic country defined on ideas of Freedom, Equality and Ideals rather than nationalism, race or religion. This is something most people on the left and the right will agree with, and then quibble over the incredibly important details like how to get there.

    You can literally hear anyone in the mainstream as of ten years ago saying that — from Barack Hussein Obama to Rick Santorum.

    We don’t live up to those ideals. We never have. But when we try, we surpass ourselves and are — dare we say it — Exceptional.

    It’s the recent illiberalism, brought down from Alaska and welcomed onto the national stage by a very dumb John McCain, that defines America as something else — blood and soil.

    We’ve had moments in the past that were problematic, but we’ve always stepped up and been better. Maybe not actually good, but better. And that’s American Exceptionalism.

    America isn’t dirt on the ground, or a couple of white guys clutching their guns in fear. I mean, it is, and that’s a little sad and a big problem sometimes, but it’s also a lot more.

    We might not be the first major stable majority-minority democracy. We might not get there — We might tear ourselves apart like Yugoslavia or (preferably) Czechoslovakia — but that’s America, not the blood and soil.

    And I’m comfortable saying that Donald Trump and his fervent followers are Unamerican.

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  39. Nightcrawler says:

    I hold out one hope: Gen Z may step up and save us all.

    Exhibit “A”: Paxton Smith.

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  40. Nightcrawler says:

    @Kathy:

    the political jurisdiction a person is a citizen or resident of.

    That’s how I’ve always defined “American.” I’m really basic that way.

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  41. Nightcrawler says:

    @Scott F.:

    I have been giving money to those organizations. I also voted last fall, and I’ll keep voting, even if I don’t think it matters. I live in Delaware, so I doubt crazy partisan “poll watchers” will be empowered to harass people here.

    The frustration and fear I’m experiencing is due to not being able to do more.

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  42. drj says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I am not a fan of the use of “traitors” either, as the penalty for treason is death.

    Not to dismiss the validity of your point, but what should we call people who are knowingly working on introducing minority rule?

    Serious question.

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  43. Kathy says:

    @Gustopher:

    We don’t live up to those ideals. We never have.

    I prefer to measure actions rather than words. I’d say from the start, these vaunted ideals have applied only to those who are white and wealthy, and the rest have had to fight their way in. Once in, they shut out anyone who tries to follow.

    What qualifies as American? Trying to get the same rights as everyone else, or shutting out those who try?

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  44. Michael Cain says:

    @Scott F.:

    Also too, give money to Get Out the Vote organizations in key states like Georgia and Texas.

    I’m inclined to this also. The DCCC and DSCC and DNC are always begging me for money and despite the ongoing growth of the western states’ (D) congressional delegations and EC contribution, keep spending my money to continue the party in an East Coast/Extended Rustbelt mold.

    Colorado is getting an 8th House seat this cycle. If the redistricting commission draws the lines where I expect — and this time I don’t think it’s rocket science — the (D)s have a real chance to pick up two more seats. I admit that I already expect the national party to be worthless in the effort.

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  45. Teve says:

    @Nightcrawler: I listened to that speech. Paxton Smith is the bee’s knees.

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  46. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I concur, but that brings up the problem of, just maybe, being powerless to alter the lay of the land as things sit now. While I certainly hope not, we may be at the end of the run for our current system. What it will evolve into, I have no idea (but I’m persuaded that this is a good time to be my age–older would probably be even better 🙁 ).

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  47. Michael Cain says:

    @Michael Cain:

    My own opinion is that despite how much the eastern press seems to enjoy the AZ Republican proposals, in fact zero of the major changes are going to survive the legislative process and the veto referendums

    Today Arizona Gov. Ducey (R) vetoed the bill that would have eliminated Arizona’s long-standing permanent mail ballot list. The (R)s in the legislature don’t have enough votes to overturn the Governor’s veto.

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  48. Kurtz says:

    @JohnSF:

    My unhumble opinion is that the 2022 midterms could be among the most significant elections in recent American history.

    So, a brief epistle from a Brit:

    Dear Democrats:
    You do not have permission to screw this up.
    Yours sincerely,
    John

    Unfortunately, many Americans are desensitized to this is the most important election ever. Unfortunate only because this is a GOTV tactic designed for motivation with no regard for the long term effects of it.

    We are now seeing the result of decades of disingenuous, overheated campaign rhetoric on the GOP. Eventually, rather than a rhetorical device, it becomes a position. Right or Left, that’s how shit goes bad.

    @Not the IT Dept.:

    Rhetoric matters. This is probably not the appropriate target of language reclamation.

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  49. Moosebreath says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    “I am not a fan of the use of “traitors” either, as the penalty for treason is death.”

    I am not a fan of describing things inaccurately. People who are advocating violently overthrowing the lawfully elected government are traitors, regardless of what the penalty is for such actions.

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  50. gVOR08 says:

    @Moosebreath: Another example of vernacular v legal language. Legally, treason is narrowly defined. Per the Constitution it’s only possible in time of war. (IANAL, I don’t know how undeclared wars, the only kind we do anymore, play out.) In the vernacular, acting to harm the country is treason. GOPs do a lot of that.

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  51. Thomm says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: “I am not a fan of the use of “traitors” either, as the penalty for treason is death.”
    We couldn’t even execute confederate leaders in our past. If that wasn’t treason, what is? Just because we have a history of coddling conservatives who want to rend the basic fabric of our country, doesn’t make the term less true. Also, your decrying “real American” is a bit hollow after the hagiography posted here not long ago for a cigar chomping drug addict that spent over thirty years making a career of calling a significant portion of the populous the same.

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  52. JohnSF says:

    @Kurtz:
    I think it is of more importance than usual because of the current mood of the Republicans.
    If they take control of Congress, I suspect they will do everything they can to paralyze the government in order to deny the administration “wins”.
    And blocking any moves to legislation protecting voting rights etc.

    But most important of all, they will be in a position to wreck the legitimacy of a Democratic election victory in 2024, and even attempt to overturn it in Congress.

    If the Democrats can win the next two election cycles, there may be some hope that the Republicans will retreat from full-on “performative Trumpism”, if only because the big donors may lose patience with electoral failure.

    I’m reminded of a recent comment by a purged British Conservative, David Gauke:

    “Labour does not care enough about winning while the Conservatives care too much. “

    I think this applies to some extent in the US on similar lines.
    The Democrats need an unshakeable focus on what can win elections in key contestable seats.
    If they do win, the conservatives own desire for power has a reasonable chance of impelling them back to the centre.

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  53. Chris Marshall says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: if the shoe fits…

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  54. Chris Marshall says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Yes, but if one is under relentless attack, one must defend oneself, however much one does not wish to fight and eschews fighting as a matter of principle. Truth telling is legitimate and can be effective.

    At this point my judgment is that these radicals will either be defeated or they will defeat us. I prefer the former, so we better get down to the business of defeating the radicals. There is still a lot that can be done to this end short of violence on our part, but we can’t half-ass it. That won’t work. We have to be willing to point out wrongdoers and label them as such. There is no other way.

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  55. @Chris Marshall: I absolutely support truth-telling and I agree that attacks must be defended against.

    I am making a fairly narrow, but I think important, claim here about the danger of allowing our language, and therefore the way we think about the world, devolve into stark dichotomies. It is not a pleasant or productive pathway. I hope to find time to write about it at some point soon.

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  56. Christopher Marshall says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I totally hear you and part of me agrees with you.

    But having spent decades on the front lines in D.C. I am far more concerned that the Democrats won’t be confrontational enough than I am concerned that they will be too divisive in their language. I just don’t see a pleasant pathway.

    To put it plainly, I think a large and controlling faction of the Republican party is either literally crazy or simply not very much concerned with being rational. And I disagree with Biden that you can’t question a person’s motivations. I think that large and controlling faction is also decidedly ill-motivated.

    We have to marginalize these radicals and banish them back to the rocks they used to live under. And now that process will be neither pretty nor friendly. The Democrats were too weak for too long.

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  57. @Christopher Marshall: First, I agree that the Democrats in Congress are being insufficiently aggressive on reform, but that isn’t what I am talking about.

    I am talking about rhetoric and specifically about the way common citizens talk about their co-citizens.

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  58. Chris Marshall says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: I’m talking about not being aggressive enough when it comes to rhetoric (not reform).

    And by being aggressive I don’t mean maximizing ineffective and whiny insults. I mean maximizing effective moral condemnation — but in our case based on truthfully calling out liars and grifters and anti-freedom, anti-American authoritarians so there is no symmetry.

    If you don’t credibly act and talk like you are morally outraged by things that are morally outrageous, the assumption will be that nothing morally outrageous has occurred.

    Admittedly, it may already be too late.

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