The end of hope

If you want to mark the end of hope for US democracy, last weekend was as good a date as any. Both Trump and the Republican National Committee made unequivocal commitments to supporting the insurrection.

The response, on the Republican side, was much the same as in every previous step along the road to dictatorship. The usual handful of serving politicians, like Romney and Hogan (MD governor) objected, as did sometimes-Trumper Mitch McConnell, but none (not even Cheney and Kinzinger, the targets of the censure) even hinted at changing parties. A rather larger group of retired Repubs signed a statement, again failing to urge rejection of their party. Most current Repubs dodged the issue, claiming not to have read the news for a while. And, a couple of days later, it’s just about forgotten.

The result is that the overthrow of democracy has become, as far as the political culture is concerned, a routine issue of disagreement between the parties. In these circumstances, the par outcome is that the opposition party will do well in the midterm elections, and all the evidence suggests that 2022 won’t be an exception. So, unless effective legislation to prevent election subversion is passed this year, it never will be. It seems highly unlikely that reforms to the Electoral Count Act, if they pass, will be enough.

To look a little on the bright side, assuming Trump returns as president in 2024 (with or without a legitimate majority in the Electoral College) what’s the best chance of a more or less free election in 2028? Looking at the end of similar regimes, I’d say it’s a succession crisis.

Trump will be term limited in 2028. I expect, as is usual in such cases, he will either try to get around the limit or nominate a family member (probably Don Jr or Ivanka) to take his place. For ambitious Republicans, this will be the last chance to grab the presidency for themselves. The resulting struggle might lead some to see a return to democracy as their best chance.

Alternatively, Trump might die or become incapacitated. He’ll be 82 in 2028. A lot would depend on the circumstances, but if he died in office, his vice-president would become president and would then have to fight it out with the junior Trumps and other contenders. Again, anything might happen.

11 thoughts on “The end of hope

  1. Grim stuff, Prof. Greg Sargent from the WaPo is similarly grim, and yet –

  2. He also may very well be in prison, long before 2024.

    I personally favor a fight from within the GOP (Republican party), but some do speak of a 3rd party. See Bret Stephens in the NYT today. (My feeling is, why waste all that perfectly good stationary? Kick the fakers out. They are not real cons. I am not annnnny kind of con, so, I have no say.)

    That is good news about Manchin – I hadn’t heard that.

  3. The best hope for America may lie in Trump’s advanced age and the sheer incompetence of his family and its advisers. It’s hard to see a mob which depends on staff like Giuliani, Flynn, Powell, Miller and whoever else is still hanging around Mar-a-Lago being able to devise and execute an effective succession plan. Even if the vice president is a fanatical Trump cultist, he* won’t have the connection with the cult that Trump enjoys.

    For my money, the United States is rapidly becoming such a large, diverse nation that it’s more or less ungovernable by any central administration. No matter what happens in the Republican Party, I expect the country to increasingly resemble a federation of quasi-autonomous states, with Washington managing little more than macro-economic factors, defence and foreign policy. There won’t be a civil war, but I expect the west coast states would soon seek in some way to distance themselves formally
    from Washington if the latter was under permanent one-party government.

    *It’s impossible to imagine Trump appointing a woman as his successor.

  4. “He also may very well be in prison, long before 2024”

    As bad has things are there, I’d be quite surprised if he wasn’t in prison by then.

  5. Mitch McConnel’s pushback against the RNC re the the January 6th insurrection, probably has as much to do with not wanting that issue to be prominent in the coming mid-term elections. He is probably worrying needlessly. The coup has well and truly begun, with the Supreme Court weighing in on the side of Alabama with its gerrymandered boundaries that may deliver the Democrats only one congressional district out of seven in a state whose population is is quarter African American. Sure the Democrats are no slouches at gerrymandering either, but they don’t have the added advantage of voter suppression laws. The only thing possibly standing in the way of Republicans gaining control of both houses of Congress come the mid-terms, sad to say, is the engagement and intelligence of American voters.

  6. Beyond hope we will find the enforcers. And a little light allows a dim view of militaristic hate. I had way too much ‘christian’ soldiers at school to know they are in the shadows and brewing.

    “Roughly one in five applicants to the white supremacist group Patriot Front claimed to hold current or former military status, according to leaked documents reviewed by Hatewatch.”

    Yet in Victoria today, a light is going to shine on…
    “”Vic far-right groups put under examination
    By AAP Newswire

    Feb 09 2022
    1 min read

    “The threat of far-right extremism in Victoria will be examined by a parliamentary inquiry.

    “The Greens motion was introduced at the end of last year and on Wednesday the Legal and Social Issues Committee formally approved the inquiry to go ahead.

    “The inquiry will report by May 31 and its terms of reference include exploring the rise of far-right extremist movements in Victoria, their methods of recruitment and communication, how the pandemic has affected the growth of far-right extremism and the risks posed to Victorians.

    Hope is still here imo.

  7. The Republican party fell down the rabbit hole quite some time ago. There are always people who’ll hang on and hope for the best, in denial at what actually happened on their watch, just as there are those who have sullied their names and are now beholden to the Trump Movement; and there are the ones who wish to gain political advantage, and have made the simple calculation that following Trump is the easiest pathway for their career at this moment. No doubt there are people who, having given their heart and soul to the Republican Party over many years, feel they will lose their sense of identity if they were to leave the party, would become unmoored and friendless (at least, that’s their fear).

    If Trump runs again, this time he has the experience he gained from the previous time in office, meaning he knows how to manipulate the system, and to neuter pesky investigations. He plays for time, and meanwhile he is nibbling at the edges of what is legal, using the existing system against itself. The thing I find astonishing is that the DoJ apparently doesn’t have a special prosecutor assigned to investigating just what went on, in the lead-up to Jan 6 2021, and the aftermath. I am also quite surprised that the arrests and court cases for the attempted coup have concentrated on the lowest level perpetrators for whom the sentences would be minimal, rather than starting with those who organised rally attendance of their gangs/associations/militia or whatever. It would seem that going for the ones that were most likely to have had direct contact with Trump’s inner circle operatives would have been the place to start, for there are far fewer of them than there are people who turned up, wandered along, and entered the Capitol *after* others had broken through barricades and smashed in doors and windows. The trespassers and the property damage people will still be there to chase up, after the big boys have been prosecuted.

    I appreciate that sometimes a lower level person can corroborate or contradict what a higher level person says under interview; however, the sheer scale of the perpetrator pyramid means if you want to expeditiously get a chance of a successful prosecution of the big boys, you need to start with investigations in parallel of the ones closest to the inner circle, and the inner circle itself. Otherwise, the risk of the clock running out and a re-elected Trump’s new DoJ shutting down all investigations just goes sky high. Yeah, there’ll be a few investigations that are not directly in Trump’s *current* line of power and influence, but what conservative judge would wish to indict a sitting president, especially with the current make-up of the Supreme Court?

    When other dictatorial or pre-totalitarian leaders have managed to quasi-legitimately seize power, they have then used the existing framework to either replace the Constitution, or to neuter it in the areas of concern to them, and they have been innovative in how they’ve done this. More generally, once total power is cemented, they pay little more than lip service to the Constitution, for they no longer have an opposing political force that could challenge them. They put the legal system and police onto dealing with their political enemies. I seriously doubt Trump hasn’t thought about this, and put a legal team onto figuring out the angles, should he stand and get re-elected.

    Hannah Arendt’s fascinating book, “The Origins of Totalitarianism,” pretty much maps out the set of behaviours and actions the pre-totalitarian leader takes. Perhaps Trump is *merely* an authoritarian would-be dictator, one with no ideological underpinnings to speak of; however, since he ticks so many of the boxes in Arendt’s list, at this moment in time it is quite a gamble that Trump isn’t harbouring some ideology that he hasn’t publicly asserted yet. The totalitarians as defined by Arendt were people who would use hints and verbal attacks on opponents they wanted some underling to organise the (usually violent) removal of, and seldom had need of a direct command to a subordinate. They used chaos to disguise intent and to help create new opportunities, iterating away, to get what they wanted. Anyway, upshot is that Trump and Democracy don’t belong in the same sentence together (apart from this one).

  8. Bribe our way to democracy? Might be cheaper.

    “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public’s money.”
    — Alexis de Tocqueville

    …oops. How would we know?
    “You won’t read about it in the mainstream Australian media. The story is missing from The Age and Sydney Morning Herald and a Google search reveals no coverage in any mainstream Australian media”

    And who is watching AUKUS? Peter “your dead to me” Dutton? Self briibes are all that is needed here – prestige and power.

    “Fat Leonard scandal”

    “The Fat Leonard scandal is a corruption scandal and ongoing investigation within theUnited States Navy involving ship support contractor Glenn Defense Marine Asia (GDMA), a Thai subsidiary of the Glenn Marine Group.[1][2] The Washington Post called the scandal “perhaps the worst national-security breach of its kind to hit the Navy since the end of the Cold War.”[2]

    “Similar details of a ship husbandry corruption case similar to “Fat Leonard” but centered in Korea were aired in July 2019. TheDepartment of Justice has charged Sung-Yol “David” Kim, head of DK Marine Service, with counts of conspiracy and bribery, according to pleadings filed with the Eastern District of Michigan. The case also alleged cover-ups and coordination to obscure the overcharges.[36]

  9. What surprises me is how few republicans put up any opposition, for purely selfish reasons. Republicans must be aware this will have lot more ramifications than just assured elections wins. The exact ramifications will be unknown to them as much as anyone else. There will be winners and losers, and you would think a lot would prefer to keep the status quo. (I guess they could be those who have been pushed aside but that still leaves a lot of questions.)
    I think even the US right wing media faces a real risk of seeing it’s influence on politics being diminished since that comes via influencing voters.
    I certainly can’t guess what forces are in play now let alone how they will play out. I woudl imagine there’s a heap of argy-bargy going on behind the scenes right now.
    A big question is what is likely to happen to state level elections. That could have a big, if unhelpful, effect on federal democracy. (Could they actually be safe/safer? I have no idea what powers control those.)

  10. Yeah, there’ll be a few investigations that are not directly in Trump’s *current* line of power and influence, but what conservative judge would wish to indict a sitting president, especially with the current make-up of the Supreme Court?

    It’s not clear exactly what’s being referred to here; indicting people is not a function of judges. Possibly the meaning is that no conservative prosecutor would seek to indict a sitting President, but maybe that’s not it. Anyway, in my opinion there are almost certainly plenty of conservative prosecutors who would have no qualms about seeking an indictment of a sitting President, so long as that sitting President was a Democrat.

    A big question is what is likely to happen to state level elections. That could have a big, if unhelpful, effect on federal democracy. (Could they actually be safe/safer? I have no idea what powers control those.)

    In the US, elections to State-level positions are controlled by exactly the same State-level authorities who control elections to Federal positions.

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