This is What Support for Authoritarianism Looks Like

Rich Lowry puts preferred outcomes over constitutional process.

I try not to be an alarmist about the dramatic politics of the day. I am, however, increasingly concerned at the degree to which many politicians, and their supporters, are valuing short-term policy gain over protecting the foundations of our constitutional system.*

The easiest example of this is the way the Mitch McConnell forestalled action on Obama’s final SCOTUS nominee, Merrick Garland. In that case it was an action that was arguably within the confines of the rules, but that clearly violated long-standing norms (and, I would argue, violated the spirit of separated powers with checks and balances: divided government should have produced a compromise, not one side winning outright).

The notion that rules and norms should be scuttled if my side can get what it wants is the road to authoritarianism. It is the logic of middle and upper class actors across Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s when they championed military regimes because those regimes promised stability and order for the market to function (see, e.g., Brazil in the 1960s and Chile in the 1970s). It is the logic that gave power to people like Hugo Chávez and other in the region who subverted existing constitutional orders for short-term gain.

And it is the logic that Rich Lowry displays below from an interview with Vox:

A couple of things. We ran our “Against Trump” issue in December 2015 prior to the Iowa caucuses. We desperately wanted to defeat him. We thought there were 16 better alternatives. But fast-forward to today, he’s now the president, and we’ve seen how he’s governed and I’ve been surprised in two ways.

I’ve been surprised how on some really important matters of substance to conservatives of long-standing, he’s been a rock, like on pro-life stuff, on conscience rights, on judges. That was one of the deep concerns we had about him but he’s basically delivered.

My other surprise is I thought he would attempt to tone it down in terms of his personal conduct once he took office, but he absolutely hasn’t. The office has made no impression on him whatsoever. The huge downside is that he doesn’t respect the separation of powers in our government, he doesn’t think constitutionally, and says and does things no president should do or say. And I and my colleagues call him out on that.

But at the end of the day, we’re asked to either favor Trump or root for Elizabeth Warren or Bernie Sanders or Joe Biden or Mayor Pete, who oppose us on basically everything. So it’s a pretty simple calculation.

Emphasis mine–and what a sentence to emphasize! In these paragraphs Lowry is stating that since Trump is achieving some of Lowry’s policy goals then the fact that Trump “doesn’t respect separation of powers,” “doesn’t think constitutionally,” and “says and does things no president should do or say” is more or less ok (or, at least, he gets a pass in the main). And, since Lowry and his colleagues “call him out” it is all fine. I won’t even get into how pathetic and ineffectual said “call[ing] out” is.

It is distressing to have someone who has a place of prominence in the conservative intellectual/news elite space actively stating that ignoring basic constitutional structure is okay, since it gets judges who will accomplish things that Lowry, and other conservatives, like.

I would note, too, that what Lowry extols here is the least representative aspects of our government, i.e., judges. Lowry is happy that a president who could not win the popular vote is making appointments to bench, who in turn are confirmed by the Senate (which is not representative of the population as a whole) to the least accountable branch of the government (which, by the way, serves for life).

This is especially concerning when such a situation can set up a judiciary that will kowtow to the executive.

Over-concentration of power in the executive is the key pathology of presidentialism. In Latin America this has often meant the president being able to ignore a weak judiciary. In the US is could be furthered by a subservient judiciary siding with the president against the legislature (or simply endorsing increased executive power). This is especially concerning given the basic inability of the Congress to legislate.

I know, by the way, that many will roll their eyes at the notion that Lowry is an intellectual. But, regardless of one’s assessment of his skill set, the reality is: he is the editor of National Review and has influence over some conservatives, especially the more elite/educated types. People like Lowry give upper and middle class conservatives intellectual cover to tell themselves that Trump’s sins are outweighed by what he produces. That kind of thinking is how we get further erosion of democracy and a few steps further down the path to authoritarian governance.

I know that process is not everything. But when constitutional processes are denigrated for the expediency of short term gain, especially when it is an egregious as it has been in the Trump administration, the system itself could start to breakdown.

*As readers know, I have critiques of our constitutional system, and want significant reform. But wanting reform, or even pursuing it, is within the confines of the system. Actively subverting (or supporting its subversion) it is something else entirely.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. 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. Senyordave says:

    I’m violating Godwin’s Law here, but Godwin himself has made exceptions under Trump (specifically regarding the caging of children). I suspect that a lot of Germans in the 1930’s sounded like Rich Lowry.
    Is Lowry suffering from the after effects of the Sarah Palin starbursts?

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  2. Kurtz says:

    Troll incoming? The first comment got a thumbs down from someone

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  3. Michael Reynolds says:

    It’s all part of the Republican effort to prove that every single bad thing Democrats ever said about them is true.

    Racist? Yep.
    Misogynist? Yep.
    Nativist? Yep.
    Anti-intellectual? Yep.
    Hypocritical? Yep.
    Greedy? Yep.
    Corrupt? Yep.
    Fascist? Yep.

    We are beyond politics now. The Republican Party is not the opposition, the Republican Party is anti-American. They have defected to the Russians in spirit, in action, in rhetoric and in corruption.

    The Republican Party must be destroyed. Just as we had de-Nazification in Germany after WW2, we need to expunge this party root and branch.

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  4. gVOR08 says:

    Long ago it was a commonplace that Jack Kemp was the leading intellectual in the Republican Party. I always took that as a slam on Republicans. Rich Lowry is a leading conservative intellectual.

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  5. mistermix says:

    The guys at Pod Save America have a name for Lowry and others like him: intellectual Zambonis. After some not-very-bright Republican says something that’s clearly against the fundamental values we all used to share, Lowry et. al. come around and provide intellectual cover in the form of some kind of at least superficially plausible argument.

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  6. Scott F. says:

    This is especially concerning when such a situation can set up a judiciary that will kowtow to the executive.

    Steven, this is the GOP Project for the last 20 years or so is it not?

    Republican policies, since it became clear the Contract with America wasn’t what it was billed to be, have been majority unpopular. Rather than adapt those policies in order to appeal to a broader swath of the electorate, the Republican Party has instead embraced anti-democratic tactics like gerrymandering, voter fraud snipe hunts, the unitary executive, Congressional nihilism, etc. A sympathetic judiciary aligned with an authoritarian executive makes the representative Legislature all but irrelevant. Checks and balances be damned.

    I’d argue that the right wing messaging framing politics as a cultural war against an evil left is part and parcel with the GOP’s shift toward authoritarianism. When the alternative is the “destruction of the country as we know it,” people will give away their power to the strong man that promises to keep that from happening.

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  7. Kit says:

    Excellent article, Steven.

    We’ve been turning up the heat for some time now, although people might disagree about just when it started. Still, how can so few Republican frogs have decided to jump out of the ever warming pot these past few decades? I see no signs for hope in the near term.

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  8. Kathy says:

    When it comes down to a conflict between norms and laws, norms are far more important.

    Why? Because obeying end enforcing the law is a norm. Something people do voluntarily, even if with reluctance at times, because they believe that’s best for them and society in the long term. The mere existence of a law is meaningless if it’s not observed.

    The norm to obey and enforce the law is so pervasive, that usually it’s broken by means of enacting contradictory laws. Say the Soviet Constitution promulgated under Stalin guarantees freedom of speech (it does!), but then laws are passed limiting speech so much as to render the constitutional guarantee meaningless.

    Or one can resort to other practices. The 1917 Mexican Constitution (still current) also guarantees free speech. But the government controlled broadcasting licences tightly, and had a monopoly on the manufacture and importation of newsprint. You can guess how this stifled criticism of the government until things eased up in the 90s.

  9. Scott F. says:

    @Kit:
    Though there is a lot to be disheartened by, I find a good deal of hope in the fact that it was only seven years ago that the US re-elected Obama to his second term. Those who oppose where the Republicans would take us still have the numbers no matter what political machinations the GOP might use. A blue wave in 2020 would be a powerful restorative.

  10. gVOR08 says:

    Lowry gives us an example of Frum’s warning,

    If conservatives become convinced that they cannot win democratically, they will not abandon conservatism. They will reject democracy.

    I would ask what Ds did to generate this incredible hostility, but that would be an example of Murc’s law. We didn’t make them like this. This is the way they are.

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  11. Senyordave says:

    @Michael Reynolds: The Republican Party is not the opposition, the Republican Party is anti-American.
    I don’t know what the mechanism is, but somehow the Democrats have to incorporate the above into their messaging for 2020. Just pointing out the obvious that Trump’s actions align almost perfectly with Putin’s interests does not seem to be enough.

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  12. An Interested Party says:

    Lowry is the perfect example of how Cult 45’s toxic infection works…before the 2016 election Lowry was indeed against Trump but now he’s become no better than other lickspittles like Lindsey Graham…it really is a pathetic degeneration…

  13. Scott O says:

    @Scott F.: I wish I could be optimistic. We had a big blue wave in 2006 and another in 2008. At the time I thought that was the death knell for Gingrich style Republicans. Instead it’s just gotten worse.
    In 2015 I thought the Republicans would never nominate Trump. In 2016 I thought the country would never elect him. When Scalia died if someone told me Republicans wouldn’t let Obama fill the seat I would have doubted that they would go that far. Sometimes I think that I’m too cynical but history shows that I’m probably not cynical enough.
    A blue wave that gave the Democrats 2/3 of the house and the senate might be enough to start a restoration. That will not happen.
    The way things are going we could have President Sean Hannity sometime in the next decade.
    If you have a rosier prediction I’d love to hear it. I could use some encouragement.

  14. Raoul says:

    So it is all abortion with these people.

  15. @Raoul: For many, yes, it is (including some people I know personally).

  16. PJ says:

    @Senyordave:

    I’m violating Godwin’s Law here, but Godwin himself has made exceptions under Trump (specifically regarding the caging of children).

    Long before that.

    13 Aug 2017:

    By all means, compare these shitheads to Nazis. Again and again. I’m with you.

  17. Gustopher says:

    If the Lowry’s of the world did more than Meekly call out Trump’s worst behavior*, and actually supported putting guardrails in place to constrain the president to constitutional behavior, I could see why they would favor Trump to someone who they disagree with on issues.

    “Our ineffective bumbling fool vs your effective administration” is a plausible case. I would take Bernie Sanders over Mitt Romney, despite thinking that Sanders would be a terrible President.

    But Trump is destroying institutions. He’s not just bad at his job, he’s destroying the job itself.


    *: I see little evidence they even do that

  18. mattbernius says:

    I would note, too, that what Lowry extols here is the least representative aspects of our government, i.e., judges. Lowry is happy that a president who could not win the popular vote is making appointments to bench, which in turn are confirmed by the Senate (which is not representative of the population as a whole) to the least accountable branch of the government (which, by the way, serves for life).

    This serves as a great reminder that most partisans only dislike “activist judges” when they rule against this causes.

    I completely agree that the judiciary is arguably the most broken of the three branches – due in large part to the lifetime appointment aspect for Article 3 judges.

    It’s also worth noting that in terms of the judiciary, the combination of Trump and McConnell have been ruthlessly successful and have resulted in flipping, if memory serves, two circuits. In this respect Trump has been one of the most successful conservative President’s of the last century.

  19. JohnSF says:

    There are interesting parallels to what has been taking place in the UK.

    And due to our lack of a single written constitutional document, and the potential of an effectively unitary central governmental system, it is even more dangerous here.
    To be tolerable, the UK system requires respect for unwritten norms, self restraint, acceptance of “informal” limits and institutional independencies.

    It is particularly dangerous for Prime Minister’s to, in effect, attempt to relegate the House of Commons to being merely an electoral college for a monarchical premiership that attempts to engross the powers of both Crown and Parliament, to reduce Cabinet to a mere instrument of the Prime Minister (or bypass it entirely) and to view it’s essential constituency as the activist base of the Party that elects the leader and vets the MP’s.

    At least the United States has harder legal constraints against the abuse of power; but of course in a democratic system that still requires a consensus that such laws are to be upheld not evaded.
    Never mind the peril of a partisan judiciary.

  20. An Interested Party says:

    So it is all abortion with these people.

    What’s in the womb is more important than anything else…well, except for tax cuts…

    Lowry is happy that a president who could not win the popular vote is making appointments to bench, which in turn are confirmed by the Senate (which is not representative of the population as a whole) to the least accountable branch of the government (which, by the way, serves for life).

    And yet expanding the size of the Supreme Court or those courts underneath it is supposedly so very “radical”…

  21. DrDaveT says:

    At the risk of stating the obvious (and revealing my past naiveté), the part that I have trouble grappling with cognitively is the obscene, overwhelming hypocrisy of every Republican I’ve ever known.

    How many of them argued that it’s important to round up and deport all of the illegal aliens not because we don’t like them, but because they’ve broken the law and enforcing the law is important?

    How many of them argued that Bill Clinton had to be impeached because he had lied to Congress and was destroying the credibility of the office of President?

    How many of them argued that protectionist trade policies are economically disastrous, and only Republicans could be relied on to defend Free Trade properly?

    How many of them argued against Democratic domestic policies on the grounds that they might increase the deficit and blow up the debt?

    The litany goes on and on… and in every case it turns out that they were never arguing in good faith about any of it.

    (Yeah, I know, “Duh.”)

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  22. Nickel Front says:

    @Kurtz:
    I hate to break it to you, but “Republicans are Nazis” is a troll comment.

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  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT:
    They are, to deploy @Teve’s line, stupid people with shitty values. You expect white supremacists to stop at mere hypocrisy? Besides, it’s not really hypocrisy, they’ve always known their protestations of tolerance were bullshit. So, not so much hypocrites as liars, IMO.

    This is the road show version of the banality of evil.

  24. Jax says:

    @Nickel Front: I hate to break it to you, but you’re a troll.

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  25. rachel says:

    @Nickel Front: If it walks like a duck, flies like a duck, swims and dives like a duck, has feathers like a duck, lays eggs like duck eggs, and quacks like a duck, it is not a goddam rabbit.

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  26. de stijl says:

    @rachel:

    Let me guess:

    Platypus?

    Am I close?

  27. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Shorter Rich Lowry:

    “Nice Republic you had here. If only you had let us have our way on everything we wouldn’t have been forced to put an arsonist in the White House and give him 5,000 gallons of kerosene and a box of matches.”

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  28. DrDaveT says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Besides, it’s not really hypocrisy, they’ve always known their protestations of tolerance were bullshit.

    See, I don’t think this is true — at least not for many of them. My impression is that they are genuinely surprised every time they discover that the thing they really care about isn’t what they thought it was. It’s a “revealed preference” experiment, played out over time. Many of them still haven’t grasped what is going on; they think they’re still basing their opinions on values that don’t sound deplorable, even as they defend putting kids in cages and gutting health care and transferring even more wealth from the poor to the rich and trashing all of our international alliances and starting a trade war with China and…

  29. @DrDaveT: I think this is correct. And I think that influences how to try and demonstrate what the problems with Trump really are.

    However, people like Lowry (or Lindsay Graham) know what they are supporting, even if they have allowed power to blind them.

  30. @Nickel Front:

    I hate to break it to you, but “Republicans are Nazis” is a troll comment.

    Here’s the problem: what Lowry is endorsing, power over rules, has clear fascist overtones. Add to that the administration’s imigration policy is being driven by a white nationalist (Stephen Miller) and your protestations lose a lot of force.

    While I am not calling the administration and many of their supporters Nazis or fascist, I will say that that some of them are at least fascist adjacent, and maybe supporters such as yourself, who finds this to be a problem, might want to demand that your party take a step back and reassess where they are headed.

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  31. My last two comments need to be understood together.

    On the one hand, I find some of the comments over time to be too harsh to Republicans writ large, and even counter-productive because I think most Reps still think they are dealing with a normal administration, but with a president who just employs odd rhetoric. They like lower taxes, putting America first, anti-abortion judges, law and order, etc. They don’t understand how truly abnormal this administration is, and they are in denial about a lot of things. Some of them are persuadable–and, indeed, some day many of them will see more clearly what was going on (as was the case with Nixon).

    On the other hand, there are some clearly horrible actors and actions (such as Stephen Miller) and there is a truly dangerous seduction of power over rules and norms (e.g., Lowry).

    Trying to find a balance to talk constructively about both is difficult.

  32. Mister Bluster says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:..and maybe supporters such as yourself, who finds this to be a problem, might want to demand that your party take a step back and reassess where they are headed.

    Dream on…

  33. Michael Reynolds says:

    @DrDaveT: @Steven L. Taylor:

    People are idiots, they often don’t know what they think, but they do tend to know what they feel. They know if they feel that black people get all the breaks, and gay people should stop flaunting it, and foreigners should stay in their own countries. They know their own bigotry. They may try to rename it, but they know who they hate, who they despise, who they resent.

    Almost all of human reason is ex post facto rationalization of visceral emotion. First the fear, then the explanation. First the contempt, then the explanation.

    I’ll be visiting some right-wing relatives with my trans daughter in tow. No one will be openly rude, but they’ll try and push it as far as they can without me punching one of them. Once we’re away they’ll deride and ridicule and rage. Is that them being tolerant and open-minded? Or is it them knowing full well the hate bubbling up inside and acting only to conceal it?

    Republican rhetoric clearly points to people who have been forced (by people like me) not to be complete raging bigots, desperate to be liberated to be complete raging assholes. They are bad people who have been forced by ‘PC’ to behave in public like decent people. But they were never decent people.

    Republicans tell deliberate, calculated lies and put on acts to pass as decent human beings. That alone proves consciousness of guilt. They know they are lying. They know they are concealing their nastiness from us. They know the truth of what they feel.

  34. andros says:

    One may reasonably view the Constitution as a carefully negotiated compromise between “haves” and “have-nots.” When a simple majority proclaims, like the Red Queen, “To hell with ‘original intent.’ The words of this document mean what we say they mean, no more, no less,” the Constitution loses all moral force.

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  35. @andros: I would note three things.

    1) Your comment in a recent thread belongs in the Lowry category of endorsing authoritarianism, so I find your protestations over constitutionalism to be quite hollow.

    2) This makes no sense:

    One may reasonably view the Constitution as a carefully negotiated compromise between “haves” and “have-nots.”

    No, one could reasonably view the US Constitution as a negotiation among various flavors of haves. There were no have-nots at the table.

    3) This is nonsense on a variety of levels:

    When a simple majority proclaims, like the Red Queen, “To hell with ‘original intent.’ The words of this document mean what we say they mean, no more, no less,” the Constitution loses all moral force.

    a) There is no magical “original intent.”

    b) There is no mechanism, not even close, of a simple majority declaring anything. You are defending rule by the minority, which is another way of endorsing authoritarianism.

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  36. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    On the other hand, there are some clearly horrible actors and actions (such as Stephen Miller) and there is a truly dangerous seduction of power over rules and norms (e.g., Lowry).

    You’re looking for the ‘Good Germans,’ Steven. I don’t think you want to face the truth, that people who are your friends, maybe family, colleagues, actively serve an evil cause, and know what they are doing. My grandparents would have rolled their eyes and said, goyisher kopf.

    There has never been a shortage of humans willing to fall in line behind a fuhrer or an emperor or an ayatollah and behave like beasts. Nanking, Dachau, the Killing Fields. You and I could spend the better part of a day just listing the proofs of human evil. But as a civilized man in a civilized, enlightened country, you believe humans are better than that, most of them. But you’re wrong. You have the ‘privilege’ if I may lift that over-used word, to be optimistic – you’re not a member of a group likely to be the victims of all those good people.

    You think I’m exaggerating or engaging in bomb-throwing rhetoric. But I’ve had these people dead to rights from Day 1. I told @guarneri that in the end he would accept treason. And he’s an educated, civilized man in theory. Do you really have any doubt that he’d take a job crunching the numbers for a holocaust? Do you think @JKB would hesitate to drag children out of their homes and put them in concentration camps? Do you doubt that @Paul would stand in the road screaming, ‘good-bye Blacks, Jews, Hispanics?’

    You want to differentiate between these trolls and the good Germans you know, but for all you know @guarneri is a fellow professor at your college.

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  37. @Michael Reynolds: This starts to become either conversation that would work better in person or a very lengthy response I am not sure I want to dedicate the time to deliver at this point.

    Let me say that even “good Germans” has a rhetorical problem for me, as I think it muddies the waters.

    Beyond that, the problem is this: if we are to say that all who voted for Trump or who continue to support him now fall into the camp you describe, then there is no room for discussion, no possibility of persuasion, and democracy is already dead.

    And understand, I understand there is no mass persuasion that will take place, but there are persuadable people out there. There are plenty who really do not understand what is going with this administration.

    Indeed, I think there is a tension between your point about feeling over thinking and the rigidity with which you place people. The feelings can change, too.

    Having said all of that, I fully acknowledge there are some pretty entrenched (and ugly) feelings out there that are not going to change.

    And, yes, I do have some level of optimism–it is an occupational hazard.

    But I have a lot of realism, too. I know that I know people, ostensibly good and educated people, who would trade democracy for authoritarianism if it got them the outcomes they wanted.

    But I write for at least three audiences/reasons. I write to try and persuade those who might, over the long haul, be persuaded (I long ago learned that minds usually change slowly, rather than immediately), I write to explain and inform (regardless of whether the reader agrees), and I write for myself (as it forces me to think through what I think I think).

    There is also some general catharsis.

    I do think, on occasion, what the reaction is when people who might be persuaded see some of the comments–I suspect it hardens those aforementioned feelings.

  38. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I do think, on occasion, what the reaction is when people who might be persuaded see some of the comments–I suspect it hardens those aforementioned feelings.

    So people indifferent to the suffering of children torn from their mother’s arms are what, just about to start acting like decent human beings until they read a mean comment? They have a mountain, an Everest of proof that Trump is a corrupt, treasonous pig – and they’re fine with that. They hear the racist rhetoric from Trump’s Nuremberg rallies – and they’re fine with that. But they’d see the light if only liberals would stop calling them names?

    No, we are in this shitstorm because we’ve let these Good Germans get away with their playacting. Obvious example: for well over a century we generally said nothing about white men waving Confederate flags. They flaunted their hate and society at large played along, parroting their cultural history b.s.

    Civilization is a veneer, easily cracked. Our constitution has failed. Our norms have collapsed. Our leaders have surrendered. Our institutions are weak and corrupted. And the people thus liberated would happily drag millions of their fellow Americans to death camps.

    If you think that’s exaggeration, think back to before 2016, imagine what you’d have thought if I’d said Lindsey Graham would openly, enthusiastically supported Trump at his worst. Imagine if I’d predicted that Republicans would be okay with the destruction of NATO, the undercutting of our intel community and utter indifference to laws or norms.

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  39. @Michael Reynolds:

    But they’d see the light if only liberals would stop calling them names?

    To be clear, that is not what I am saying.

  40. @Michael Reynolds: @Steven L. Taylor: To further clarify. My concern is not that Trump supporters would be free from criticism (nor from the truth of what they are supporting), but that there are times I am concerned that commentary is such that it makes the comment sections wholly inhospitable to those who might otherwise engage (and therefore lessens even the slight chance of persuasion).

    Look, a lot of the “good Germans” who supported, passively or actively, the Nazis in the 1930s and 1940s ended up being the voters for the SPD and CDU in the 1950s and 1960s. People are not locked in to one position or place in time, even if they don’t fully understand the way in which context and conditions shape their behaviors.

  41. One last thought: I think what I ultimately object to isn’t the basics of your critique. Rather, it is the uniform application of those critiques on a mass level. I think that there is are differing levels of culpability (and of understanding) when it comes to “supporters” of this administration.

  42. Mikey says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    They hear the racist rhetoric from Trump’s Nuremberg rallies – and they’re fine with that.

    I was in Nuremberg this summer (my wife is from there). It is a lovely city, although most of the buildings are post-1945, modern architecture on narrow medieval roads. This time, we decided to visit the Dokumentationszentrum Reichsparteitagsgelände (Documentation Center Nazi Party Rally Grounds).

    I bring this up because some people might view your characterization of Trump’s rallies as “Nuremberg rallies” as overblown. I can assure you it is not. In fact, the similarities between the propaganda techniques of the Nazi party and Republican party were really and truly frightening. The similarities between the anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant speeches and documents of the Nazis and the GOP were striking.

    So no, MR is not being excessively hyperbolic. If you go to where this stuff happened in the late 1930s and watch the film and hear the speeches and read the papers, you will understand.

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  43. @Mikey: I am not going to disagree about those rallies and, as per my previous comment, would put the enthusiastic participants at those rallies in a level of culpability that comports with what MR is saying.

    I just don’t think that every person who voted for Trump, or who continues to rationalize their support thereof, is the same as an enthusiastic rally attendee.

  44. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kurtz: Even though the commentariat here may skew left, so don’t cotton much to aspersions that conservatives are evil or like Nazis. You can mock Lowry if you want. Just don’t call him (or other *good* conservatives) a bad person.

    ETA: Lowry is actually a good person. It’s all the fault of that bas###d Trump. Once he’s gone, everything will be fine again–unless Warren is elected.

  45. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @DrDaveT:

    Many of them still haven’t grasped what is going on; they think they’re still basing their opinions on values that don’t sound deplorable, even as they defend putting kids in cages and gutting health care and transferring even more wealth from the poor to the rich and trashing all of our international alliances and starting a trade war with China and…

    What I see, living in Red State America (94% registered and voting in the last election, 69% Trump support, Republicans hold virtually all state, county, and local positions) is that they don’t connect the dots. The old geezers I talk to who support Trump down at the diner, etc. see the problems of low wage jobs, transfer of wealth, gutting of health care (old geezers are particularly attuned to that one, just aks Tyrell 🙂 ), and some even are lucid enough to get the dangers of trade wars and the problems in our immigration policy. They just don’t connect any of those issues to which box they fill in on the ballot, or take Lowry’s “any one is better than a Democrat” position.

    As to preferring authoritarianism, who doesn’t prefer authoritarianism as long as their people get to be the authoritarians? (Present company excepted, of course; we’re all far too noble to want to control other people.)

  46. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    But I have a lot of realism, too. I know that I know people, ostensibly good and educated people, who would trade democracy for authoritarianism if it got them the outcomes they wanted.

    I would accept authoritarianism if it meant we handled global warming, which I think is an existential threat to the human race, and which I don’t think we will do anything about otherwise. It would be less worse.

    I don’t understand what would motivate someone to accept creeping fascism for a lower marginal tax rate for the wealthy and being able to say n-clang.

    But my way of life and my privilege isn’t being threatened. I like Mexican food, and I have no real fears of brown people or female people getting equality. As a software engineer living in Seattle… I’ll still be economically way ahead of the vast majority in any case.

    ——
    Fun fact: there really aren’t global warming deniers outside the US, but we only account for 15% of the carbon. That other 85% is generated by countries that care about global warming. Maybe they are just waiting for US leadership.

  47. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    No, one could reasonably view the US Constitution as a negotiation among various flavors of haves. There were no have-nots at the table.

    Do you have any idea of how many people would be unwilling to make that statement? The unwillingness to say what you did (or more specifically the inability to see it at all) is part of what I was thinking about above when I was talking about not connecting all the dots. Well done!

  48. wr says:

    @Michael Reynolds: “Do you doubt that @Paul would stand in the road screaming, ‘good-bye Blacks, Jews, Hispanics?’”

    I do doubt that. But I don’t think the site would let me post the words he’d really use.

  49. Monala says:

    @Gustopher: before I read your comment, I was thinking about China, making serious strides to pursue renewable energy and mitigate the effects of climate change because they want to be ready for the future. I asked myself if I’d be willing to have a Chinese-style government to get that top-down direction and action. Then I thought about what they’re doing to protesters in Hong Kong and their horrific treatment of ethnic minorities, and concluded, “Absolutely not.”

    ======

    Btw, the US has only 4% of the world’s population. Creating “just” 15% of the world’s carbon emissions is nothing to brag about.

  50. Mikey says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    I just don’t think that every person who voted for Trump, or who continues to rationalize their support thereof, is the same as an enthusiastic rally attendee.

    Many Germans weren’t enthusiastic rally attendees, either. Didn’t make a whole lot of difference.

    On the other hand, while on my Sunday run I was thinking about this:

    I think most Reps still think they are dealing with a normal administration, but with a president who just employs odd rhetoric.

    Which is probably right to an extent. They think political persecution is something that happens somewhere else. They don’t see that a President who sends his personal attorney over to a foreign country to coordinate a quid pro quo scheme to manufacture dirt on his political opponent is engaging in behavior worthy of a banana republic. I mean look at our friend Andros, who has repeatedly asserted Trump was serving the national interest by doing that. It’s ludicrous unless you believe we live in normal times.

    Which, I certainly believe you’d agree, we aren’t.

  51. de stijl says:

    I did a tour of one of Polish concentration camps.

    I had to leave the group and find a building to hide behind. It was overwhelming. I squatted and bawled. Tears, snot, wracking sobbing. I sat and leaned back on a wall.

    A wall of a hut where people were briefly housed before carefully considered, logistically sound extermination and dealing with the bodily remains by burning.

    It was profoundly horrible.

    Life changing experience. Seeing it. So non-descript. So normal. The cliche banality of it. Feeling it.

  52. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:
    I would never deny anyone the possibility of redemption – that’d be pretty hypocritical. But I think it’s important to remember that agreement isn’t required, just acquiescence. You know, the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil etc… If, sitting at home, you watch a Trump rally and do not immediately reject him, you’re morally culpable.

    Let’s put it in a different context. Some men like to rape children. If you see a man raping children and your response is, “I don’t approve of raping children, but. . . ” you’re guilty of supporting child rape. Full stop.

    If you support a racist president, a misogynist president, a pathological liar, you cannot pretend to be innocent of everything that follows. If you tut-tutted over Kristallnacht but still liked that Hitler feller, you are a Nazi, and you are culpable in everything Hitler did, because you saw evil and shrugged.

    I cut people the same slack I cut myself: very little. I could produce compelling excuses for my erstwhile criminality, I could have a grand old weep-fest, but I reject them all, because in the end I committed crimes. Me, not someone else. No one had a gun to my head. I hew to what used to be the Navy standard back before we had a president defending war criminals: the captain is responsible, period, end of story. We are each the captains of our little boats, we each bear responsibility for our thoughts and our actions.

    7
    1
  53. Teve says:

    Sarah McCammon
    @sarahmccammon
    ·
    16h
    A man I interviewed today criticized my employer for, he said, not presenting all points of view. I noted that I’d just sought out his point of view by interviewing him. I then asked which of my reports he felt were unfair. He then informed me that he doesn’t listen to
    @NPR

    That’s your modern American conservative.

    10
  54. de stijl says:

    @Teve:

    Unless your media outlet is the current day version of Der Sturmer, I will refuse to give you views or likes.

    Sit on it, NPR! Also, please interview me as I have unique take on America.

  55. Gustopher says:

    @Monala: I would counter that free speech and self determination don’t mean a lot of everyone is dead. The consensus view of the effects of global warming are an understatement (97% agreement on A and B, 80% on C, D and E gets reported as “scientists predict A and B”), and evening that consensus leaves large areas basically uninhabitable.

    And, being halfway-to-sociopath as I am (software engineer), I ponder how many rights I would be ok having violated and how many deaths I would be ok with to avoid more deaths.

    BTW, The Syrian civil war and refugee crisis was caused or made worse by a crop failure because of drought. That wave of refugees in Europe resulted in far right nationalist parties doing very well after promising to protect the purity of their nations’ bodily fluids. Similarly, a lot of the refugees from Central America are coming from places where the crops have repeatedly failed, and the US elected Donald J. Trump.

    So, we might not have to choose between authoritarianism and the worst effects of global warming — we can have both!

    But, my point was that I could see myself accepting authoritarianism to protect our way of life (big picture “our”, and a way of life that includes much of the earth being habitable).

    I don’t understand a view of “our way of life” that is so narrow as what a lot of Republicans seem to be willing to give up rights for. They mostly want to give up other people’s rights, but still. They’re just not getting a good deal.

    ——
    The more I learn about global warming, the more I think were just screwed and should try to hang onto our values — and maybe eat lots of bacon and saturated fats.

  56. de stijl says:

    The pic at the top of this post gets used fairly regularly.

    1. The scroll looks like a baseball bat, which contextually is freaky and scary

    2. It makes the old 70’s Schoolhouse Rock PSA version of

    We the people /
    In order to form a more perfect union

    song to start running amok in my head.

  57. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Gustopher: Don’t forget smoking and drinking. They’re as important as bacon and sedentary lifestyle. And cake–lots of cake, and ice cream. 🙂

  58. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Not the Schoolhouse Rock version, but this is the one that came to my mind. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_ghZPJrkTs