A Story About Civility

We’re hearing a lot these days about the need to “take the high road” in the political battle against Donald Trump. This has been tried in the past. It failed then, and it will fail again.

Politics is about power. Those who care the most win, regardless how dumb, uncivil or evil they might be. Here’s a little story about nice guys who preserved their dignity and civility on the way to political oblivion.

It was exciting to be a Republican in the early 90’s in Texas. A hopeful new world was being built around global capitalism, and it felt like Houston was in a position to lead. Houston’s Harris County Republican Party was perhaps the flagship Republican organization in the South. Southern states had never experienced two-party politics, so few local Republican organizations had any serious funding or institutional depth. Thanks to an influx of Yankee Republicans and a relentlessly business-friendly atmosphere, Houston possessed a relatively stable, sane local GOP infrastructure, ready to become a leader in the state and beyond.

Betsy Lake, a fairly conventional pro-choice Republican, was elected chairman of the Harris County GOP in 1992. When the very active local chapter of the Log Cabin Republicans, a gay political group, reached out to collaborate, it seemed like a no-brainer. What reason could there be to exclude a business-friendly organization for homosexuals from a business-friendly political party looking to extend its emerging heft?

While Betsy Lake was guiding the local party in a sane, civil direction, Steven Hotze had a plan in motion. Hotze is a doctor, of sorts, and a well-known Houston religious weirdo. Building on more than a decade of work by an earlier wave of racist Southern ministers, Hotze had honed a message that might move politically isolated Southern segregationists into a party switch. Having learned to replace “segregation forever” with the language of a “culture war,” Hotze was ready to solve a problem that had puzzled Republican strategists since the 60’s.

Texas Republicans, like Republicans elsewhere in the South, had a problem. At the state and local level they lived under a one-party political system that had been hard-wired from birth toward Democratic dominance. When national Democrats finally broke in favor of the Civil Rights movement in the early 60’s, Southern Democrats rebelled, but only at the top of the ballot. With the exception of a few urban Republican enclaves in big Southern cities, there were virtually no Republicans at the precinct level in the South.

In the secrecy of the voting booth, angry Southerners had long felt free to cast their ballot for a distant Republican Presidential candidate. Thirty years after the Civil Rights Acts, politically active Southerners at the local level were Democrats in the streets and Republicans behind the voting booth sheets. Like a herd of wildebeest, gingerly sniffing the water at the river’s edge, they needed an emotional lure and an organizational bridge to trigger the herd to move.

A focus on prosperity, entrepreneurship, and an emerging global capitalism was not quite enough to foster a party switch from those who’d invested a lifetime in local Democratic participation. Lee Atwater had outlined the problem in a moment of drunken candor in 1981. How do you pivot from activating voters with “N..ger, n..ger,” to more subtle means of stoking their racial fears? Up to the early nineties, Republicans had mostly failed.

A few well-funded Republicans could run statewide campaigns, and Republican Presidential candidates could run well in the South. However, deciding to run for County Judge as a Republican meant breaking with your neighbors and almost certain defeat. Republican dogwhistle appeals were enough to win some voters, but without any local infrastructure, Republicans outside a few Southern cities had no capacity or message to support a candidate for District Judge or County Assessor.

Absent this local infrastructure, Republican campaigns for higher office in the South were unreasonably expensive, leaving them heavily dependent on party-switching from sitting office-holders to establish a beachhead of local support.

When Lake tried to open the local GOP to involvement by gay Republicans, Hotze was ready to strike. Republicans, even in the relatively friendly confines of Houston, had a serious organizational problem. At the precinct level their numbers were thin. Republicans had money and momentum, but few people active in their ranks. In a county with 2 million people, a political organization that could muster just a few hundred activists could overwhelm the local GOP. That’s what Hotze did.

Hotze had worked for years with sympathetic local ministers, training supporters to seize empty precinct chairs. He even recorded a video of step-by-step instructions, which was distributed in churches. Up to that point the bigots had experienced little success, but they had just enough presence in the local party to stage a fight over the Log Cabin Republicans.

The Civil Rights Acts of ‘64-65 had changed the law, not the people. Activists like Hotze found that they could rail against homosexuals in terms no longer acceptable against blacks, and by that method, tap into the same white nationalist fears that had animated generations of Democratic political activism in the South. In 1992, leveraging his new crop of nutty precinct chairs who had appeared seemingly out of nowhere, he staged a takeover. In a chaotic, angry showdown, their effort to replace Lake with Hotze as party chairman failed in ‘92, but launched a six-year battle for control of the local party.

Showing up to normally staid party meetings, his activists shouted down speakers and threatened people in the parking lot. Lake and the county’s long-time Republican activists preserved their faith in the system with the understanding that incoherent freaks like Hotze would burn themselves out. As Hotze engaged in a sustained campaign of lies, dirty parliamentary maneuvers, and bare-knuckled threats against the “establishment Republicans,” those Republicans counted on their superior virtues to prevail. They lost every single battle while their enemies grew stronger.

By 1998, it was clear that the fight was over. Lake and her allies had been swept out of power and relegated to the margins. At this point you might imagine that they’d organize some dogged resistance or even switch parties. They didn’t. They were placed in their own polite little reservation, called “United Republicans,” from which they could continue to play at politics as long as they stayed within ideological boundaries set by the whacko-birds.

Their positions and priorities disappeared from Republican politics entirely, as religious fanatics leveraged a new language of bigotry to reanimate the white segregationist monster in the South. What happened in Houston was a microcosm of a movement spreading across Dixie, and then beyond. An optimistic party of business, American power, and inclusion – the Party of Lincoln – quickly degenerated into the party of white racist terror and Donald Trump. Failure has consequences.

After the 2016 Republican Convention, I resigned from my local GOP precinct position in suburban Chicago. A couple of days later I got the inevitable, “let’s have a chat” message from my supervising committeeman. I was braced for an angry confrontation. What I received instead was support. Almost no one in our precinct organization had supported Trump. They were stunned by what was unfolding around them and unsure what to do. She described her own frightening experiences with the radicals inside party and asked, “what do you think we should do?” My answer to her is my answer to everyone else confronting this menace, “Stop being nice.”

Political norms, respect for law, and even simple decency, survive only because people are willing to fight to protect them. Politics is about power, not virtue. Those who can muster the best organization, animated by enthusiasm and commitment, and direct it toward critical leverage points in a fight, will win. They will win whether they are good or bad, right or wrong, violent or peaceful.

Good does not always prevail. Nice guys often finish last. There is no magic in following the rules. If you care about the values being destroyed by Donald Trump and his Republican accomplices, you will either defeat them, be destroyed by them, or get used to living under their boot.

The arc of universe may bend toward justice, but you can starve to death on the floor of a prison cell waiting for it. Passivity in the face of evil is not virtue, it isn’t even civility. Sometimes it’s nothing more than laziness. In a democracy, you will always have the government you deserve.

33 Comments

  1. After watching the latest utterances by the puppet tyrant at the NATO breakfast, I am deadly serious about this question. Why have the NATO members not had him killed? I don’t get it. This guy is far more of a threat to democracy and international commerce than Hussein, Bin Laden, and Gaddafi combined. That is not hyperbole. That is a fact, that can be backed up any way anyone wants to cut it.

    So why is he still breathing? Is it truly that difficult to get to him?

    1. We were having this discussion the other night in my house.. Is our CIA completely useless now? Can’t the MI5 get it done? Putin seems to be able to get people whacked on command and hack into our computers while our guys sit back and allow it.

      At this point, the US is completely impotent globally and Vlad is cackling gleefully as his puppet dismantles what’s left of our democracy.

      1. EJ

        I feel that, in a world where American security forces are putting babies in concentration camps, we should reserve our sympathy for those children and not for members of the security forces.

      1. Why? What, precisely, did I say that was incorrect?

        The U.S. and its allies have a long, long history of killing people that were either monstrously bad for mankind in general and/or really bad for U.S./ world commerce. So how is this man any different?

        Forget about the trillions in commerce that is threatened, affecting the lives of billions. Forget about how he is emboldening and actually assisting ultra-right wing authoritarian groups all over the planet to take power and wipe out democracy.

        Let’s focus on another little scenario, shall we? The puppet tyrant sees his puppet master in a few days. Let’s say the puppet comes out of that meeting and states “You know, not only did Russia have a legit claim about sovereignty over Crimea, but it also has legit claims regarding Estonia, Lativa and Lithuania. I don’t really think that the U.S. should get involved in internal affairs between Russian and those territories.”

        Now, Ukraine was not a member of NATO, so Article 5 of NATO was a completely moot point. However, the 3 Baltic states ARE NATO members. So maybe in September, or perhaps, next spring, Russia starts up the same tactics as they did in Crimea, say in Latvia. This time however, there are small, but functional NATO battlegroups in each of the Baltic states. Those battlegroups are there right now.

        So now Latvia invokes Article 5 of the Charter. Suddenly NATO troops are shooting at Russian troops, and vice versa, except the U.S. has decided not to participate, effectively abrogating its responsibilities as part of NATO. Russia, seeing the obvious advantage, starts moving armor into Latvia, gambling that the rest of NATO will back down. (I am not going to dive into the details here, but NATO is hopelessly outmatched in conventional weapons against Russia. You can look up the differences in armor, troops and planes in any number of sources. )

        But Russia gambled badly, NATO decides to make a stand, and then escalates, as part of the doctrine, with tactical battlefield nukes, which are the only real way to stop Russian armor. Said nukes ARE part of the standing NATO battleplans.

        Wanna guess where that escalation leads?

        If you think that scenario is utterly impossible, you are hopelessly naive. It is just as impossible as 30 months ago that the U.S. would pull out of the Paris Accord, or mull leaving the WTO, or would cage kids, or initiate a trade war with pretty much the entire planet, including its closest allies.

        And all this can be solved with a single lucky shot. Don’t tell me about the slippery slope that would become a cliff into anarchy. Don’t tell me about this is not how civil societies and democracies work. Don’t tell me about the threat of martyrdom, and that the rest of the fascist apparatus in the U.S. would just step up and fill the void, with something worse.

        The potential risks of all those things are far outweighed by the rewards.

        As an addendum, about 14 hours ago a Greenpeace protester flew directly overhead of Turnberry while the puppet tyrant was in the building. Apparently Greenpeace actually notified Scotland security forces not to shoot the protestor, which Scotland happily obliged. So it certainly appears to me that other countries recognize the threat to the planet. If that protestor had tried that in the U.S., he would have been dead before he got within 2 miles of that building.

      2. Dins, I hear what you’re saying (seriously, I get it), but unless the man’s about to drown all of humanity into a sea of nuclear fire, he’s still the sitting POTUS and to contemplate what you’re talking about – no matter how clear and apparent the justification – is to throw the entire world into a whirlwind of chaos, distrust, and disorder the likes of which none of us have ever seen.

        And on a personal note, I’m not particularly eager to throw *this man*, of all people, into a category of history that has thus far only been reserved for Abraham Linciln and John Kennedy.

        So please, take a deep breath and come back from the edge. We’ve a lot of fight left in us before we even need to consider talk like that.

      3. EJ

        Dinsdale:
        This is Chris’s blog. Chris is legally considered to be the publisher of what’s written here, including the comments. In the United States, a call for the assassination of a sitting president can be ruled to be an act of terrorist instigation, regardless of what a ballbag that president is.

        Please consider whether you want to continue writing things that may run the risk of Chris getting arrested.

  2. I totally concur regarding FDR and LBJ. Both were willing to get down and dirty. Your link to the Second New Deal Address is totally appropriate. That theme was carried all the way through his 2nd Administration. Even though his SCOTUS packing scheme failed, it combined with his overwhelming victory in 1936 convinced SCOTUS that they needed to change their tune. So in a manner of speaking he accomplished his goals.

    The D’s need to do that. Maybe Sanders will; but hopefully someone will. The women might do it, but they will do it differently. So let us not despair, if it is not done with the typical macho male approach. At the moment, I cannot not think of any other potential male candidates who might fulfill that need,

  3. I have pissed off many family and friends. I refuse to let those I love to be comfortable in sin and stupidity. Quite a few have blocked me on FaceBook. I have seen this movie before. When it hits the fan and things get nasty for them personally I will be the first one they call. Kind of like Winston Churchill I am distantly related to. They push him to the side because people did not want to hear what he was telling them. But when they were desperate during WWII they turn back to him because he was a competent leader. When Trump effs it up, and he will, then people who have tuned us out will listen to us. Even a racist will get practical when survival is at stake.

      1. They never will – they are “true believers”. The Trumpistas are more of a cult than anything else, particularly informed citizenry. If categorizing them was possible, 80 – 95% would almost certainly be classified as authoritarians. If Trump was to tell them to drink the magic Kool Aid, they would crush and suffocate themselves in the rush to get some of it. Fortunately for the rest of us, we would be rid of them.

  4. EJ

    Chris, in 2016 you said that if the Democrats had chosen Sanders as a nominee, you would have voted for Trump. I’m not going to rub your nose in this – 2016 was a different time and lot of people said a lot of things then which they regret – but do you believe that it is still a widely-held position today?

    If the Democrat candidate in 2020 is someone who fights dirty and rallies their base but is an overt socialist, will you vote for them and do you think that others like you will do likewise?

    1. Yea, I’ve thought about that a lot. I have my reasons for thinking that Sanders would be a pretty lousy President, but he wouldn’t be our Hitler (or Stalin, for that matter).

      I think I would have voted for Sanders, but not without reservations. And that’s the analysis that leans me toward thinking that the Democratic Party should push further left. They won every NeverTrump vote they’re ever going to get in 2016 and still lost.

      1. But that one-dimensional view of it is disingenuous.
        I’ve said this before, and I get the impression that you think me a Neo-Confederate for it, but the left needs an attitude adjustment. Sanders’s support from the HuffPost crowd was a bit ironic, given that he rejected identity politics and needless assholery, and reached a demographic – rural whites – whom the Democrats do not exactly have street credentials with.
        Another dimensional that I think probable, though I disagree with it, is that there was an anti-establishment mood which also affected branding.

      2. Jon, there’s two kinds of politicians – those who openly play to identity politics and those who do it much more subtly. Sanders was and *is* the latter, and one can observe this in his behavior over a long period of time.

      3. *No idea why it suddenly posted when I wasn’t finished, but I’ll just go ahead and continue from here.

        Ask yourself why he sticks to so-called ‘bread and butter’ economic issues and never dares to venture into the tough questions surrounding race in America. Ask yourself why he’s remained comparatively quiet about immigrant children being torn away from their parents when Democratic senators are visiting detention centers and doing much more to force the issue. Ask yourself why black voters voted en masse against him and for Hillary Clinton in ’16.

        Because of identity politics.

        Some will find it incredibly insulting to hear, but the truth’s that Sanders and Trump are alike in that they’re both populists who play to the same key demographic: so-called ‘working-class whites.’ That’s Sanders’ base, except his sway with them is so much weaker than Trump’s because Trump has no qualms whatsoever about playing to the racial anxiety and fear that grip them like an neverending fever.

        And no, none of that’s to say that Sanders isn’t a far better man than Trump or that he would’ve made an infinitely better president by comparison. Of course all that’s true, but none of that should be a distraction from the reality that makes up his politics. Bernie Sanders doesn’t venture outside of the comfort zone of his identity politics both because he doesn’t understand the issues that doing so would entail and, perhaps even more importantly, he likely recognizes on some level that even if he tried, they’d conflict with many of his deeply held beliefs.

      4. The party that is practicing identity politics is the Republican Party, not the Democratic Party. The R’s are the racist and exclusionary party; the D’s are attempting to include all groups. They are practicing the politics of inclusivity.
        This whole conversation about identity politics is a smokescreen to hide the racism, nativism and xenophobia of the R’s. The bottom line is that even those traits are nothing more than tools being used to further the policies of oligarchy.

      5. EJ

        tmerritt15:
        Remember that to neo-Fascists, “identity politics” means “listening to the concerns of people of colour and other disadvantaged groups.” To them, naked appeals to White and male identity are simply politics as it should be (unless they’re trying to pretend to be something other than neo-Fascists, which they do a fair amount of the time.)

        Don’t assume good faith where there is none. That’s part of what got us into the problem the world is in today.

      6. Jon-
        There is definitely a brewing split in the left between economic and cultural leftists. While I don’t think their goals are automatically conflicting, the fight will be to decide which agenda is primary. I agree that Bernie was clearly on the economic left, and really only paid lip service to the cultural left. What was surprising and threatening to the mainstream Dem party was how much support this approach got. Mainstream Dems since Bill Clinton have gone all in on the cultural left, while paying lip service to the economic left.

        The coming fight will be to see which one will be the primary driver of the party. FWIW, like I said, there doesn’t necessarily have to be a conflict. Nothing in socialist economics prevents accommodating cultural issues. So I actually think the culture warriors will have an easy time of it regardless of who wins.

        The real conflict will be on the economic side, between the socialists and the New Dems. The New Dems (like Hillary) have cultivated the social warriors for decades, getting leftist support for their economic agenda by supporting the leftist social agenda (very much like Republicans using evangelicals to support tax cuts). But I see no reason why an economic leftist can’t cultivate the same links with the social leftists. There isn’t really a policy conflict.

        Ryan-
        I disagree that Bernie was playing identity politics to appeal to the same people as Trump. Bernie’s message was economic front and center. That appealed to lots of rural whites *despite* their racist beliefs. That doesn’t mean Bernie played identity politics to get their vote. Similarly, IMHO, Bernie’s economic message should have and probably did resonate with a lot of poor minorities. However, his lack of interest (or perhaps inexperience) in the social left’s concerns meant many minorities voted against him. Again, this doesn’t mean he deliberately tried to exclude them. It means he didn’t attach enough importance to their social concerns, which is not the same as saying he actively disagreed with those concerns.

        Take BLM for example. Do you think that Bernie actively disagreed with BLM and took rural racist whites’ side in telling black people it’s their damn fault they keep getting shot by good, upstanding police officers? Of course not. He fully supported BLM and never said anything to contradict that notion. However, he didn’t talk about it much, and it was clear that issues like police violence were further down his policy agenda, and many black democrats disagreed with that priority list and voted for someone else.

        Bernie’s great contribution was proving to other potential democratic candidates that a socialist economic vision could be a powerful vote getter. But his weakness as an actual candidate was that he never spent decades cultivating the social left, like the Clintons have. That was his ultimate undoing. But by proving the power of a socialist economic message, he’s paved the way for more powerful democrats, who *have* been cultivating the social left’s support, to add leftist economic proposals to their policy agenda. IOW, in 2020, we may finally see a socialist SJW (aka Chris’s worst nightmare :-). And she’ll probably win!

      7. To me, social justice and economic justice for all are essentially the same. Having social justice is not possible unless there is economic justice and vice versa.

        In a capitalist system all must have access to good education, adequate health care, adequate housing, etc. for there to be social justice. That does not mean socialism, but it does mean that the government must provide a regulatory framework to allow minorities and other disadvantaged groups to compete fairly. Sadly that has generally not been the case in many cases. African-Americans, Hispanics, LGBTQ people, non-mainstream sectarian groups (Muslims, Sikhs, and others), disabled people, etc. need to be included and their concerns addressed. That also means that these groups must have adequate economic means to ensure that they have access to education, health care and housing.

        That leads to the economic side of the coin. In a laissez-faire economic system, such as in America, the only factor that is considered is economic. Accordingly, the top economic groups are only concerned with maximizing their economic well-being. That will lead to abuse of minorities, because they can be easily manipulated abused and in some cases enslaved. Inevitably such a system leads to extreme concentration of wealth and power Basically, the R party in the US is dedicated to furthering the interests of the wealthy and corporations. The racism, white supremacy, nativism, xenophobia and misogyny are all being used to maintain power so wealth can be further transferred to the wealthy.

        Slavery in the US was a perfect means to do this. It stole the product of their labor from the slaves and completely marginalized the non-slaveholding whites. The Deep South had probably the most extreme form of oligopoly that the US has ever seen. The wealthy entrepreneurs and merchants profited tremendously from slavery, so they not only tolerated it, but encouraged its expansion at least passively. Much of the same held true throughout Britain and Europe.

      8. I know full well the Republicans practice identity politics too; there’s a cyclical interplay at work there.
        I’ll even grant you that the party of Trump is worse about it. But “they’re worse” is always a poor argument.
        I am not “pretending to be something other than a Neo-Fascist”. But when you are faced with two bads, it doesn’t matter which is marginally more evil; what’s more important is which holds social power. Looking at media, entertainment, trends in corporate culture, and academia tells me it’s the Left.
        I’m also disappointed to see how former allies have developed, and I think there’s more hope for many of them than for committed Republicans.
        The fight against political correctness isn’t about whether or not the concerns of minorities are addressed (we all agree they should be). It’s about honest debate and ideological heterodoxy as opposed to just creaming away any and all dissent. And maybe just pointing to what someone else has said is lazy, but I defy all of you to call Barack Obama a Neo-Fascist. http://thehill.com/homenews/administration/310964-obama-on-political-correctness-dont-go-around-just-looking-for

  5. I’m really liking your latest series of posts, probably because this is the single biggest frustration I have with the Democratic party and Democrats in general. FWIW, my political heroes have always been FDR and LBJ, because they had lofty, idealistic goals, but were also the biggest, meanest SOBs that ever manhandled Congress who would get down and dirty to horse trade with the best of them. As was mentioned in the comments in a previous post, FDR went so far as to threaten to turn the Supreme Court into a kangaroo court by expanding the bench and nominating a bunch of new justices to make sure his massively expanded Federal role would pass constitutional muster. He also upended >100 years of the Monroe Doctrine to involve us in a messy European War, even before Pearl Harbor. He happened to be right in his convictions, but that wouldn’t have meant squat if he didn’t have the guts to get it down by hook or crook.

    Democrats today apologize for using the term Deplorables, or being “uncivil” to propaganda mouthpieces like Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Would anyone have the guts to give a speech like this:

    http://docs.fdrlibrary.marist.edu/od2ndst.html

    Where FDR called Big Business (his political enemies in creating the New Deal) fraudulent, deceitful, enemies of peace, and more dangerous than a govt organized by a mob? And then says “They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred”?

    Hillary should have said the same thing about Trump supporters: “They are unanimous in their hate for me–and I welcome their hatred.” Instead, we get hand-wringing about the need to be polite, nice, understanding of their pain.

    I think part of the reason for this is that people like us who are political junkies and follow news every day overemphasize the importance of process. Most people who are barely involved in politics don’t even understand the process, nevermind really care about the day-to-day aspects of it. They only see and care about results. They don’t wring their hands about every time some norm or tradition is overturned. FDR nearly turned the Supreme Court into a Kangaroo court, overturned a century of bipartisan foreign policy doctrine, and even violated the unstated rule from Washington’s time to only run for 2 terms. He’s probably the closest our country ever got to having a dictator. If he hadn’t died in office, Lord knows how long he would have ruled. Yet he remains a revered political figure. Why? Because he was correct in his goals, and so forged the coalition that still underpins the Democratic party today, and set down the bipartisan policy consensus that lasted for 50 years (until Reagan, who was originally an FDR Democrat). People only care about results.

      1. You’re absolutely right, and there’s the rub. But I admire FDR and LBJ because they might have gone to the limits, but they never crossed the line into actual authoritarianism. FDR did not end up packing the supreme court. As much as he wanted to get into WWII, he didn’t (aside from material support to the Allies) until Pearl Harbor got Congress to authorize the war. The New Deal was strongarmed through Congress, but it was still passed through Congress, not by executive orders. The only part where he, IMHO, did cross the line was he ran for more than 2 terms, an unstated norm that Washington laid down specifically to avoid the risk of someone becoming a President-for-life. Fortunately, that led to the passage of the 22nd Amendment so that break in norms was quickly patched up.

        FWIW, I really do believe in democratic institutions, even when they fail my own political goals. I accepted GWB’s illegal coronation by a packed Supreme Court (even without being a lawyer, I could plainly see that the reasons Scalia and his allies thought up for stopping the Florida recount were complete BS and plainly a political ploy to install their ally), because I thought rebelling against the SCOTUS was dangerous territory. Their legitimacy is surprisingly fragile, as Andrew Jackson famously demonstrated with his words ““John Marshall has made his decision; now let him enforce it.”

        But right now, the people destroying democratic institutions are the Republican Party (from at least Gingrich on down). At this stage, with Trump, there is no scope for compromise. It is a war for control. And just like our military is run under explicitly authoritarian lines, perhaps now is the time for the Democrat Party to wage war under the same structure. Our only hope is that just like the military, despite having all the guns, explicitly accepts civilian control, is that once this war is over, the Democrats (and the Republicans) rebuild the democratic institutions that no longer function.

      2. I spoke too soon then; my apologies.
        The Bush decision is worrisome in its implications for the institutional system; there’s no good recourse to the other side cheating. Also the fact that FDR could even threaten to pack the Court just goes to show how stupidly ill thought-out that body was. (And on that subject, were the framers all future Federalists? The notion that the President and Senate could pick umpires who rule for life is immediately thrown under suspicion when we consider that political parties might arise.)
        The danger I see in ideas like “we’ll proverbially put down our guns when it’s over” is that it will never be over. The threshold of what constitutes a threat or enemy will just get lowered so that the powers-which-be can keep control.
        I see that this is a time for some sort of hardliner or warlike approach. But such a term could entail many things and I don’t think Chris has been very restrictive in how he applies the idea. (I mention him because yours was the first comment and I had the article very much in mind when I wrote mine.) Like Aaron said on the last post, I wouldn’t mind seeing the Democrats grow some teeth, but I have no interest in seeing a mirror image of the GOP.

      3. Jon-
        You’re right, the risk with giving someone absolute power is that they’ll never relinquish it. But sometimes when the Republic is on the line, one must take that risk.

        Rome is a fascinating example to study. In times of extreme stress, e.g. war, the Roman Senate could appoint a dictator, who had absolute authority over the government. When the stress was over, the dictator’s powers were supposed to be relinquished. George Washington’s hero was Cincinnatus. He was a former Consul who was twice appointed dictator to put down a plebian uprising. Each time, he used the absolute power to restore order, and then relinquished his power back to the Senate as soon as it was no longer needed, and went back to farming. The flip side of that story, of course, is what happened to the Republic after the last dictator it appointed, Julius Caesar…

        So are we, in America, there yet? Is our Republic so under siege that the risks of authoritarianism are worth taking? I don’t know. I think Chris would say yes. I’m getting to yes, but not there yet, not because I think Trump is “not that bad”, but more because of the concerns you raise. To be fair to Chris, the story he relates in this article is about the overthrow of a political party by ruthless means, not the overthrow of an actual government office. In essence, he’s arguing the Dems should become more ruthless in its political tactics. He scrupulously avoids recommending they should become more ruthless in actually governing (although previous articles talk about that too).

        As much as I was shocked by Trump’s election, I was actually even more shocked when Chuck Schumer went on MSNBC with that shit-eating grin of his and warned Trump that Intel officials ‘have six ways from Sunday at getting back at you’. To me, that’s a far bigger threat to our democracy than the election of an idiot like Trump.

        I would wholeheartedly agree that the Dems should be more ruthless in tactics. I’ve believed that ever since Walter Mondale thought he could win an election by telling Americans the truth about their taxes. Should that ruthlessness be extended to governing (like Chris’s suggestion to impeach any and all judges appointed by Trump)? That’s the line I can’t cross yet…

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.