We saw President Biden withdraw troops from Afghanistan without consultation with Congress and in opposition to the military, abandoning thousand of U.S. citizens in the process.
- We have seen the individual liberty-defying mask and vaccine mandates in Democratic states and cities.
- We have witnesses attempts at the state and national level to discriminate against one racial group in such benefits as Small Business assistance and pandemic remedies.
- We have watched the Senate Majority leader directly threaten the Supreme Court if it fails to support Democratic Party policies and positions.
- We have seen the escalating air-brushing of history, to eliminate references to individuals and ideas that the party in power opposes.
- We have seen Democrats and their allied professions and institution attempt to discriminate against religious groups, using the pandemic to ban their activities while favoring gatherings of similar size when they supported leftist activism.
- We have seen concerted efforts to disarm law-abiding citizens, including removing the right to bear arms from those judged mentally or emotionally ill, both historical tactics of totalitarian governments.
- We have seen the effort to corrupt the criminal justice system and the Rule of Law by demonizing and presuming the guilt of police officers, conservative protesters and others (like Kyle Rittenhouse) based on skin color and political preferences.
- We have seen an endorsement of mob rule, with “defund the police” being advocated across the country, radical progressive prosecutors refusing to prosecute crimes “of need,” and police being turned into targets by more than six years of demonizing by the Left.
- We have seen an unprecedented attack on the Constitution and various amendments, with the goal of undoing protections wisely placed in the documents by the Founders. Among the targets: the First Amendment, the Second Amendment, the Due Process Clause, the Equal Protection Clause, the amendment process (so the dead-letter Equal Rights. Amendment can pass after the deadline for adoption has passed), the Electoral College, the composition of the Senate, and more.
- We witnessed the Democratic party embracing a Marxist, anti-American, anti-White, violent and corrupt organization, Black Lives Matter.
- We are watching that same party continue to support a program of anti-American, pro-Left indoctrination in the public schools.
- We are seeing the deliberate promotion of class divisions and hostility, while the Democratic Party pursues radical ideological goals such as the devaluing of citizenship, the elimination of meritocracy and the pursuit of excellence, and
- Perhaps most glaring of all, we witnessed, for the first time in our history, not just one but two contrived impeachments based not on the kinds of “high crimes” prescribed by the Constitution, but on the simple fact that one party had a House majority that it abused to attempt to remove an elected President it despised, plus
- …so, so much more that represents a gross weakening of democracy and its values by the conduct and rhetoric of Democrats. The four year effort to cripple Donald Trump’s Presidency by withholding the basic, crucial, core aura of respect and deference to the office that every other President was bequeathed by his predecessors is, in my view, the worst of these, which is why Ethics Alarms has laboriously tracked it with the tag “2016 Ethics Post-Election Train Wreck.”
This has all occurred in plain sight, so for Democrats and progressives to pick this moment in history to declare Republicans as an existential threat to democracy is Jumbo-level audacity. Is this gaslighting the result of desperation, idiocy, delusion, or “It’s so crazy, it just might work”?
I don’t know, but it is constant and ubiquitous, coming from the news media, academics, and politicians. On January 12, three days after I posted the introduction to this essay, Ross Douhat issued an op-ed that pointed out the fantasy embedded in the”autocracy” threat from the Right trope, writing in part,
“How Civil Wars Start,” a new book by the political scientist Barbara F. Walter, was cited all over the place in the days around the anniversary of last winter’s riot at the Capitol. The New Yorker’s David Remnick, Vox’s Zack Beauchamp and my colleague Michelle Goldberg all invoked Walter’s work in essays discussing the possibility that the United States stands on the edge of an abyss, with years of civil strife ahead…the literature suffers from a serious liberal-bias problem, a consistent naïveté about the left and center’s roles in deepening polarization. For instance, in the Bush and Obama eras there were a lot of takes on the dangers of “asymmetric polarization” — the supposed ideological radicalization of the Republicans relative to the Democrats. Across most of the 2010s, though, it was clearly liberals who moved leftward much more rapidly, while Republicans basically stayed put — and yet somehow the perils of that kind of asymmetry get much less expert attention.
…the drama of protest politics in 2020 is often analyzed in a way that minimizes the revolutionary symbolism of the left’s protests — the iconoclasm and the toppled statues, the mayhem around federal buildings and the White House, the zeal to rename and rewrite — and focuses intensely on the right’s response, treating conservative backlash as though it emerges from the reactionary ether rather than as a cyclical response….
Likewise, despite fears that Jan. 6 was going to birth a “Hezbollah wing” of the Republican Party, there has been no major far-right follow-up to the event, no dramatic surge in Proud Boys or Oath Keepers visibility, no campaign of anti-Biden terrorism. Instead, Republicans who believe in the stolen-election thesis seem mostly excited by the prospect of thumping Democrats in the midterms, and the truest believers are doing the extremely characteristic American thing of running for local office.
This has prompted a different liberal fear — that these new officeholders could help precipitate a constitutional crisis by refusing to do their duty in a close election in 2024. But that fear is an example of the other problem of exaggeration in the imminent-civil-war literature, the way the goal posts seem to shift when you question the evocations of Fort Sumter or 1930s Europe.
Thus we are told that some kind of major democratic breakdown is likely “absent some radical development” (as Beauchamp puts it), that we are already “suspended between democracy and autocracy” (as Remnick writes) and that “the United States is coming to an end” and the only question “is how” (to quote the beginning of Stephen Marche’s new book, “The Next Civil War”). But then it turns out that the most obvious danger is an extremely contingent one, involving a cascade of events in 2024 — a very specific sort of election outcome, followed by a series of very high-risk, unusual radical choices by state legislators and Republican senators and the Supreme Court — that are worth worrying about but not at all the likeliest scenario, let alone one that’s somehow structurally inevitable.
Douthat accurately pegs the current hysterical and dishonest narrative to the January 6 fiasco. Though the Democrats and their allies (including Bush-and-Cheney families avenger Liz Cheney) repeat the 100% false label “insurrection” with classic Big Lie frequency (if you repeat it enough, people will believe it), it was and is undeniable on the facts that the ugly event was no more an insurrection than many emotion-driven protests than turned violent, a lot of them far more violent and long-lasting than what occurred at the Capitol. That means it was not an insurrection at all.
Having seen the President they elected treated disrespectfully by the media for four years, unjustly impeached and falsely accused of conspiring with Russia, a large number of juvenile but passionate Trump supporters found the strange unfolding of the 2020 election results suspicious (as it was), particularly in light of the use of mail-in ballots. So they threw a tantrum, just as the George Floyd protesters threw a tantrum, just as the Rodney King verdict rioters threw a tantrum, just as the 1968 D.C. rioters threw a tantrum over the assassination of Dr. King, and especially relevant, just as the antifa rioters on the day of Trump’s inauguration in 2017 threw a tantrum. None of these tried or expected to overthrow the government. The Jan. 6 rioters were morons, but they weren’t so moronic as to think that the U.S. government would fall to a mob of middle-aged fools wearing silly hats carrying sticks and bear spray. Sure, the fighting looked frightening (though it would would have been far less violent if the National Guard had been deployed as Trump requested), but the other riots had equally ugly moments. Nonetheless, the Democrats and the news media have been constantly using the term “insurrection” to advance the “threat to democracy” theme.
It has been conveniently forgotten now, but the “Donald Trump threatens democracy” argument was prominently raised in the New York Times in grand style before he even took office. Steven Levitsky and , the two partisan and unethical historians who gave the anti-Trump lobby the “defying democratic institutions” claim that was used throughout his administration, issued this attack in—you guessed it—the New York Times. The technique is called “priming,” the psychological technique of planting an idea that warps an individual’s the perception of future events. Here’s a quote that could sustain a post all by itself:
Although executive power has expanded in recent decades, it has ultimately been reined in by the prudence and self-restraint of our presidents.
Unlike his predecessors, Mr. Trump is a serial norm-breaker. There are signs that Mr. Trump seeks to diminish the news media’s traditional role by using Twitter, video messages and public rallies to circumvent the White House press corps and communicate directly with voters — taking a page out of the playbook of populist leaders like Silvio Berlusconi in Italy, Hugo Chávez in Venezuela and Recep Tayyip Erdogan in Turkey.
An even more basic norm under threat today is the idea of legitimate opposition. In a democracy, partisan rivals must fully accept one another’s right to exist, to compete and to govern. Democrats and Republicans may disagree intensely, but they must view one another as loyal Americans and accept that the other side will occasionally win elections and lead the country. Without such mutual acceptance, democracy is imperiled. Governments throughout history have used the claim that their opponents are disloyal or criminal or a threat to the nation’s way of life to justify acts of authoritarianism.
This should provoke laughter today. Democrats claimed Trump was illegitimate from the moment he was elected, and never stopped. Using Twitter to “circumvent” a completely hostile press beyond what any predecessor had faced is a threat to democracy because…”norms.” (Damn that free speech!) Democrats regard their adversaries as loyal Americans…except Donald Trump, whom they accused of “colluding” with Russia, and used allies in the Justice Department and FBI to try to frame him.
Nice priming though. So the public was pre-conditioned to regard such outrages as enforcing our immigration laws, rejecting an treaty with Iran never approved by Congress, and withdrawing from a climate change accord unilaterally endorsed by President Obama (acting autocratically) as threatening democracy. The double-standard in play is staggering.
And, as the dying villain Massala croaks out to Ben-Hur, “It goes on! It goes on! The race is not over!” Thus Vox published “American democracy is under threat. But what is that threat, exactly?”
Leading Democrats, many academics, liberal commentators, and left-leaning activists agree: American democracy is in grave peril. It’s besieged on all sides, the threats culminating so far in Donald Trump’s attempt to steal the 2020 presidential election from Joe Biden.
Heh. No bias there! Trump did not “try to steal” the election; that’s part of the “insurrection” narrative. The “many academics” Vox cites in its appeal to authority are the university leftists who signed a pure partisan letter calling for the elimination of the filibuster in order to pass the one-party rule-designed “Freedom to Vote” act. When a law includes deception in it’s title—no adult citizen has been denied the freedom to vote except convicted felons, and since most of those are Democrats (go figure!) their party favors eliminating that restriction—it is a tell. For “Democrats,” Vox links to this spin-happy article in the Times, that includes such disinformation as
Because Republicans control the legislatures of many states where the 2020 census will force redistricting, the party is already in a strong position to erase the Democrats’ razor-thin majority in the House. Even moderate voting-law changes could bolster Republicans’ chances for the net gain of one vote they need to take back the Senate.
Pssst! Republicans are in a strong position to erase the Democratic majorities in Congress because the Democrats have screwed up everything they have touched since 2020, have acted like dictators for a full year, and Americans have noticed, because you can’t fool all the people all the time.
But I digress: what are the “threats to democracy”? Mainly that the Democrats might lose in 2022 and 2024, and we can’t have that, but the narrative reframes them as
- The threat of a stolen election, which Douthat neatly debunked
- “The threat of minority rule.” This is part of the Left’s war on the Constitution, which deliberately and wisely rejected a direct democracy, established a republic, and opted for federalism. The threat is not minority rule, but rather elected officials who do not respect the duty of representatives of the public, which is to seek to do what is in the public’s best interests whether they understand it,like it, or support it, in opposition to party dictates if necessary. Ironically, the Founders devised a system that thrives on the diversity of state cultures and perspectives. Democrats just hate that kind of diversity.
- The threat of voter suppression. This is a self-evident deceit. Requiring secure identification for voters is not “suppression.” Banning voting methods that allow an unreliable chain of custody is not “suppression.” Requiring some level of engagement and commitment from citizens who want to take part in the self-governing process is not “suppression.”
- The threat of the irresponsible party. At least this one is honest. Democrats are taking the position that having anyone in power but them is “a threat to democracy.” That’s a totalitarian position, arguing for one party rule–in other words, a threat to democracy.
I was going to finish with long, long list of recent essays, articles and quotes from recent weeks that carry on the trope, but this has been too long already, and the point, I hope, has been made. Will the “It Isn’t What it is” propaganda assault by the American Left succeed?
Only if Americans are more apathetic, gullible and ignorant than I think they are.