When Nice People Embrace Evil Politics

Ursula’s father was a caring, diligent man who worked hard to support his family. His small business gave them a comfortable life and a respected position in their small, close-knit country town. When the financial crisis devastated the country and destroyed his business, his relationships with leading community figures helped him find work to keep his family afloat. Those same community connections would rescue the family when Ursula’s father died suddenly from a kidney disease. She would find a place and a purpose in the political party that played such a key role in her family’s protection. In her late teens, that party would become her passion.

That political party was the Nazis. Ursula Mahlendorf’s father joined the SS in the early 1930’s, enjoying the protection and patronage of a rising local political force. When he died, she joined the Hitler Youth, becoming a dedicated young servant of the Nazi regime.

Her older brother had managed to avoid politics and military service until ’45 based on his valuable agricultural skills. When he was finally drafted in the late months of the war, he chose to join the SS in order to be part of the country’s most elite remaining army units.

Ursula and most of her family narrowly escaped the ruthless, wholly justified vengeance doled out by the Red Army, eventually finding their way to the West. There, over a long period of time, she came to see her experience and her collaboration in a very different light. She would write a memoir that opens a rare glimpse into the mindset of Hitler’s most committed followers, painting a haunting picture of the “ordinary” people whose simple political choices unleashed hell on Earth.

Was Ursula Mahlendorf a bad person? What about her father, who made the decision as an adult to join the SS? What about her brother? What did they do to deserve to have their homes bombed, their lives ruined, their community torn apart and eventually handed over to others? The answer is complicated, simultaneously both “nothing” and “everything.”

Many of us are puzzled, disappointed, even enraged by the willingness of people we once loved and respected to embrace Trump. Unlike any political choice we’ve faced in living memory, voting for Republicans now repudiates every standard of civility and decency in public life. Yet we know otherwise decent people who are supporting this disaster, cheering it on, and contributing their political capital toward patently evil ends. This inspires some troubling questions.

What does it mean to be good or bad in a political context, where every choice is a compromise? What will it take to once again share a political order with the people who unleashed his horror? What attitude toward public and personal morality will help us defeat this Fascist threat and build a more stable, just political order?

Americans today aren’t used to thinking about the problem of morality in politics. Across generations of relative calm enforced by Cold War pressures, we came to think of politics as a largely administrative matter. Those who took politics too seriously were marginalized. Under the external threat of global Communism, order was more important than justice or progress. Where order is a central imperative, civility is the guiding moral value. No one lost friends over mere politics.

That stable and stifling order has collapsed. There is no going back. We will build a new political order, whether we like it or not.

Out of chaos comes opportunity. Failure of a political system opens once-in-a-lifetime opportunities for progress or degradation. An opportunity to achieve our best is also an opportunity to express our worst. As we build a new political order over the ruins of the old, it would be wise to develop a more adult perspective on political morality.

It is easy to identify the moral horrors of the Trump Administration and its followers. Even for a corrupt politician, Trump is an unusually malicious figure, a malignant troll in every aspect of life. There are serial killers sitting on death row who display more redeeming personal qualities.

He has built a patently mythical persona and lied in the most blatant manner to protect that story. He’s a friend and party-buddy of Jeffrey Epstein whose been accused of rape and sexual harassment by dozens of women. He cheated at business, marriage, every possible personal relationship, and finally at politics, covering his tracks by concealing records, even paying blackmail to protect those lies.

His administration has embraced policies of deliberate cruelty, even when that cruelty is otherwise counterproductive. Child separation imposed on asylum applicants serves no purpose beyond imposing terror. Blocking refugee resettlement and curbing immigration are detrimental to every national interest, harming the struggling communities who would otherwise benefit from an influx of new migrants. From rolling back spousal abuse protections to thwarting efforts to fight global warming, it’s hard to find an issue of human moral interest where this Administration hasn’t pursued maximum malice.

The Republican Party today is the American expression of Fascism in the same manner that the Nazis embodied Fascism for Germans. Donald Trump is what Hitler looks like in a contemporary American context. Where the German Hitler was a wounded, decorated war veteran who dedicated his life to a noxious political ideal, the American Hitler is a cruel, debauched mobster, greedy, unloved by anyone who knows him, who has cheated his way past any obligation to the greater good, lacking any visible expression or empathy or self-knowledge. Trump is what Americans are at their worst, and it’s not a pretty picture.

We will careen from crisis to crisis, degrading the progress built up over decades and centuries, until the Republican Party is destroyed and its hold on power broken. What does that mean for the people promoting and supporting Fascism? How do we preserve our humanity while winning a battle against an inhumane system?

Present-day Republicans can comfortably fit into three categories: bigots, religious cultists and grifters. A few very special figures, like Franklin Graham and Jerry Falwell, Jr., manage to check off all three boxes. What the bigots and cultists have in common is an attachment to an older, white supremacist order, and a sense of paralyzing fear. The bigots are afraid of non-whites while the cultists are terrified of women.

Hovering over them are the grifters, exploiting the cowardice of terrified white people to reap profit. Preacher/entertainers like Paula White and Jay Sekulow are rolling in the lucre. But ordinary wealthy white people, doctors, hedge fund managers, and the guy who owns the restaurant down at the corner are right next to them at the trough, seizing their chance to benefit from public services without paying their share.

The overwhelming majority of Trumpists are morally unremarkable people possessing just enough of one of those three traits to numb their conscience. Many of these “ordinary Nazis” are people we once loved and respected, people who care for their friends and family with empathy and compassion that anyone would admire. Are they monsters? What Ursula Mahlendorf’s father a monster? Her brother? What are the moral implications for otherwise decent people of embracing public evil?

By any objective standard, the GOP now is a remarkably repugnant political movement. But keep this strange fact in mind. Based on someone’s zip code, gender, education level, race and income, you can predict whether they’re a Trump supporter with a very high degree of accuracy. Is there some moral quality in a zip code, or in a racial background?

The rise of American Fascism, supported by the same kinds of “nice people” who backed the Nazis, should open our eyes to some stark realities. The system we live in predicts our political choices far more reliably than any individual factors. We tend to reason collectively, socially, based on the choices that keep us aligned with our community, regardless of objective facts. We cannot count on personal morality to carry much weight in a political context. Very few people, Democrat or Republican, would hide Anne Frank in their attic.

There are some nice, decent, loving people spreading Fascism in our country. If we want to replace the menace they’ve unleashed with something that will, in fact, be more humane, we cannot take the shortcut of pretending they are monsters. We will have to fight them relentlessly, and perhaps even violently, while seeing their humanity.  

Even when our political opponents have embraced the darkest of public horrors, there are dangers in abandoning empathy. That does not for a moment suggest we shrink from a fight. It means that to produce a more just and successful political order we must maintain this confrontation, even to the most extreme outcomes, while bearing the burden of human empathy. This isn’t easy.

Humility plays a part in sustaining humane values. I live in the state of Illinois, where my state’s Democratic leadership have universally taken a “courageous” stand against the Fascist mob boss in control of the White House. But how much courage does this stance really demonstrate? How much personal moral fortitude does it take to oppose the leader of your opposing party?  

While Trump undermines democracy from Washington, our state government is controlled down to the smallest detail by Mike Madigan, a straight-up gangster who operates above the law, enabled by a complex mafia-style political machine. Like Trump, Madigan’s friends, family and lieutenants live one step ahead of the FBI. Those who fall behind in that race against justice form a small, rotating, but fairly stable percentage of the state’s inmate population.

No one here in Illinois has the temerity to deny this reality. Mention the Madigan problem to a Democratic politician and they’ll likely acknowledge it. Then they’ll explain why they can’t do anything about it. “Pragmatism” requires them to make compromises with this criminal machine in order to serve the larger good. More or less the mirror image of what leading Republicans say privately about Trump. All the supposed courage Democrats display in confronting Trump melts into a “reasonable compromise” when it comes time to do something hard, something that would place their personal ambitions at risk.

To become a successful Democratic politician in Illinois means making peace with a rapacious, corrupt regime that diverts a substantial percentage of any worthy endeavor toward naked personal plunder. Under Madigan’s leadership, the state has been hemorrhaging population, while lagging behind its potential on every metric. A state that should be bluer and more progressive than California sits mired in ineptitude and graft. Not one of these “courageous” Democratic leaders has called for Madigan to be subject to the same scrutiny they’ve directed toward Donald Trump.

To be fair, Madigan isn’t remotely as foul as Trump. He’s a pretty affable guy with a nice family. He isn’t ripping babies from their mothers or forcing refugees back into war zones to be killed. He is, however, a blocking vote against any reform which fails to carve out a benefit for him or his machine. He runs a criminal organization that stands as a tollbooth between the public interest and any effective public policy. If he needed to lock immigrant children in cages to keep his machine rolling, he wouldn’t pause long enough for a qualm to form. And not one of these courageous Democratic leadership figures have the courage to oppose him.

A bad system will produce harmful outcomes from the best efforts of good people. In Illinois, Mike Madigan has constructed a malignant political system. Democrats who congratulate themselves for opposing Trump serve that corrupt system with smiles on their faces. Talk all you want about the moral rot of Trump’s supporters, but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. We all ration our political boldness.

We should be careful making sweeping moral judgements on political matters. At the same time, we have to make moral judgments on political matters in order for our system to survive. We can only navigate this maze with an adult appreciation for complexity and a powerful sense of humility.

After moving from Texas to the Chicago suburbs, my first pastor in our new church home was a refugee from Alabama. Literally. The United Methodist Church moved him out of northern Alabama in the early 60’s because the Klan was threatening to kill him for offering communion to black people.

Anger he felt at the injustices around him were tempered by lessons in empathy he learned from the moral and spiritual pioneers of the civil rights movement. Joining his black brethren in public marches, he saw something in the faces of those white people as they screamed and threatened him. He saw their poverty. He saw their pain. He saw their fear.

Inspired by an ancient and largely forgotten Christian ethic sharing more in common with our Buddhist and Jewish brethren than with modern Evangelicalism, Pastor Cross didn’t see a mob. He saw individuals, faces filled with the hopelessness of broken and damaged people.

Here’s the vital turn. He still fought them. He still challenged them relentlessly. Had peaceful protest failed, he would have fought them by any means necessary with all the passion and fury he brought to his everyday work, to ensure a just outcome. All of this he would have done without losing a sense of love, humility and humanity. There is power in seeing people for what they are, vulnerable, flawed and broken, and waging a fight without reducing an enemy to a hated other.

When we understand the power of a system to make good people embrace bad politics, we can begin to see the power of a healthy system to wring just outcomes from nasty, obnoxious people. We will need this understanding for the fight ahead.

General George Patton played a vital role in defeating the Nazis, but on a personal level he would have been completely comfortable in the Wehrmacht, perhaps even the SS. His remarkable effectiveness owed in part to his admiration of the Germans. He studied and adopted their tactics and embraced their values to a degree that made him dangerous at times to the war effort, and later the peace. Patton was more deeply anti-Semitic than many German generals, describing Jews as “lower than animals.” After the war his Nazi sympathies began to emerge more clearly, as he took a public position in opposition to de-Nazification.

By contrast, German General Erwin Rommel was a pretty decent guy, well-admired by all who knew him, a loving husband and father. He held no known antipathy toward the Jews and hated Hitler far more than Patton did. Rommel was arrested and forced to commit suicide after his scheme to assassinate the Fuhrer was exposed.

Why did Patton find himself liberating Nazi death camps where Rommel had fought to keep them open? It was a good system, not good personal moral qualities, that made George Patton a force for Democracy rather than Fascism. If your political system needs masses of good people in order to survive, it will probably fail. In a life or death battle against a malignant political system, hesitate to neutralize a nice person like Erwin Rommel or Robert E. Lee and those “nice” people will wreak havoc. Good systems are better than good people.  

We can learn a lot about defeating evil by the outcomes of World War II in the east and west of Europe. Having been on the receiving end of German atrocities, the Red Army took a very personal approach to ridding the world of Nazis, taking relatively few prisoners. De-Nazification under the Soviets consisted mostly of suspects being taken out back and shot.

Allied-controlled areas adopted a different approach, based on implementing a system of due process rather than meting out ad hoc retribution. At its peak, there were more than 6 million Nazi Party members in Germany. Allied tribunals executed a few hundred of them. De-Nazification in the west was a system based on rules, carried out with a modicum of due process, emphasizing humane values.

Former Nazi Party members were first banned from government. Once their actions could be vetted, some were gradually evaluated for re-entry into public life. The program would be ended by the German government in 1951, but a pattern was set. Anyone with a Nazi past would be forced to publicly repudiate the party or work hard to keep that past hidden. A new political system was installed which would eschew vendettas but tolerate no open support for the Nazis.

De-Nazification in the west was ponderous, halting and bureaucratic, while the Soviets doled out “justice” in a manner consistent with their prior treatment by the Germans. Which approach was more successful? Today, if you want to find Nazi sympathizers in Germany the best place to look is in the former Soviet-controlled East. Meanwhile Fascist parties are solidly in control of former Warsaw Pact allies Hungary and Poland. Eradicating bad people is not as effective as replacing a bad system.

Whether we win or lose in November, the fight to defeat American Fascism will enter a more urgent, more personal, and perhaps violent phase. What are we supposed to do with the Fascist down the street, or across the table?

Attack the power of this regime and its supporters in every form. Strip them of access to platforms, media or any form of authority. Destroy their commercial and economic influence and block their access to markets. If the time comes, fight them in the streets or on a battlefield.

Prepare to maintain this fight for decades, relentlessly, to snuff out every remnant of white supremacist power in our country. But if you want something humane, something better, to emerge from our efforts and our sacrifice, don’t pretend they are monsters. Don’t fool yourself into believing that you could never have been in their shoes. If we pretend that we possess some innate superiority, based on our tribal or partisan affiliations, we’ll make the same mistakes all over again, placing too much trust on good people and investing too little energy in building a good system.

It is possible to carry out a clear-eyed campaign of resistance and reconstruction, with an unwavering commitment to justice, without abandoning humane values. Righteous zealots wreak havoc, regardless of the loftiness of their professed ideas. Do whatever it takes to regain control of this political system, by any means necessary. But if you want to see some form of justice and humanity emerge from the aftermath, don’t pretend that your opponents are some undifferentiated mass of evil. They’re just people. Given time, people conform to the system around them.

29 Comments

  1. Now this threat to use the military to harm Vindman is truly frightening.

    President Donald Trump said that the Pentagon could look at disciplinary action against U.S. Army Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key figure who testified in the Ukraine impeachment saga.

    “He is over with the military,” Trump said of Vindman from the Oval Office.

    https://www.cnbc.com/2020/02/11/trump-says-pentagon-should-consider-punishing-impeachment-witness-vindman.html

    1. Susan Collins’ nose cannot be rubbed in this at anywhere near the level she deserves, even if it were rubbed off her face. She and McSally and a few other sellouts tried to intercede, but only for Sondland. Can’t be dissing the mega donors, but Lt. Col Vindman and his brother are forgotten. If these toadies aren’t voted out this Nov., the republic truly is broken.

      Hopefully the Pentagon says that they’ll look into it, and slow walks it until tangerine toddler is distracted by something else.

      Also, Hey Mike Bloomberg, use this for ad fodder please!!

      1. Where to begin. Every time I think things can’t get more dirty with this president and his minions, it does.

        Joy Reid made this astute observation tonight: “If Democrats want to win, they better learn how to fight like Republicans. “

        It’s time.

      2. The Barr/Trump takeover of DOJ is happening in plain sight. Trump enablers who were tried and found guilty in courts of law are being protected while innocent public servants are increasingly vulnerable to being jailed.
        When you hold the keys to the jail, all power is yours. This vengeful, mean president is destroying one democratic institution after another, and the people who aid him – Barr and others – are equally dirty. This is pure political intervention at its ugliest and most dangerous.

        https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/justice-department/barr-takes-control-legal-matters-interest-trump-including-stone-sentencing-n1135231

      3. “Joy Reid made this astute observation tonight: “If Democrats want to win, they better learn how to fight like Republicans. “

        It’s time.”

        Really Mary? Now is the time?
        Gee, might be a tad late, don’t you think?
        Florida is already in the hands of the tyrant in November, thanks to the Dem voter suppression. Same for Wisconsin.

        Do the math inside the Electoral College. The “election”, as so many of you still label it, is already over. Pennsylvania could flip back, same for Michigan (incredibly unlikely it will), and the tyrant still has enough electoral votes. BTW, you watch, the actual amount of total votes cast by the electorate will be down, thanks to all the suppression.

        As for the DoJ stuff, everyone saw that coming. Just think, under the best circumstances, the tyrant has been at it for 3 years, 3 weeks. Imagine what he will do in the next 4 years, 49 weeks, given that there are now truly zero checks and balances on him.

        And that 4 years, 49 weeks, will likely be longer. The only way he leaves office is if he has a heart attack on top of some 25 year old cult member, or in the way I keep saying is the only logical option.

      4. >] “Where to begin. Every time I think things can’t get more dirty with this president and his minions, it does.

        Joy Reid made this astute observation tonight: “If Democrats want to win, they better learn how to fight like Republicans. “

        It’s time.

        We *do* have a former Republican billionaire smacking the bejeezus outta Trump on TV rn. Not saying I’m thrilled about it (he’d be about dead last on my list in any other election), but who better to fight like a Republican than a former Republican?

      1. Yet Mary, where are the mass protests that the article talks about?
        Why have there not been any, of significant size?
        Why have not 1 million people descended on Washington and surrounded Congress and the White House?

        I think the answer is something this regime has learned from their counterparts in China. Give the people enough toys and they will stay compliant. The masses have their Iphones and are not starving. People are not suffering enough to riot in the streets, because they still have too much to lose.

        Boiling the frog works apparently. Only an enlightened few recognize, or care about, what is happening.

        No, that is wrong. Not what IS happening. What HAS happened. The dictatorship is installed and entrenched. By any definition, the u.s. is now a dictatorship.

  2. Chris, I’ve enjoyed reading your articles, and agree with much of what you usually have to say. I’ve been thinking, though. You’ve done an excellent job of explaining much of America’s right-wing hysteria in recent years, but these problems aren’t only limited to the US. What’s occurred here has also happened in the UK, with Brexit; in France with le Pen; in Hungary; in Turkey; in the Philippines; in Italy; and in Brazil.

    What explains the contagion?

    1. I wish I had a better handle on details of the political situation in countries beyond the US and UK, but my experience and exposure is limited. My untested hypothesis is that the collapse of the Cold War order impacts nearly every corner of the globe. Although responses may vary, the challenge is pretty consistent. That challenge is that both capitalism and socialism emerged to solve problems we don’t have anymore. And no one is yet describing the shape of a new order, though I think Andrew Yang is closer than anyone else. That was the thesis of The Politics of Crazy, and I still stand by it.

      1. I watched some of Yang’s speeches and interviews on YouTube. Interesting stuff, and he’s not wrong about the economy leaving a lot of people behind. He also actually answers the questions put to him, which ought to be the standard for all candidates, but isn’t even close.

    2. I can’t help but think the change in the economic system really created our problem and europe. Mark Blyth a political economist at Brown has written a lot about this phenomena but this short appearance on a radio show sums up his books succinctly. In 8 minutes he goes from the post war economic order to neoliberalism and after the collapse of neoliberalism the decision to bail the system rather than reset it.

  3. Lovely words Chris.

    But unfortunately, they don’t change facts.

    1. The latest Gallup poll has the tyrant at 49% job approval. I can’t fathom that, but if his job approval rating stays anywhere close to that number (my guess is 43% is the floor), the tyrant wins in a cakewalk.
    2. The fascists are already paving the way for the “election” to be smooth sailing, as they wipe out so many people from the voter polls (Wisconsin comes to mind immediately).
    3. Barr has announced that yeah, they plan on using any and all dirt they can get their hands on. (read the articles out about Giuliani and Ukraine)
    4. The Loser Party, also known as the Dem’s, can’t even tabulate 200,000 votes over a week. This is a beautiful write-up about the Loser Party’s debacle. The fascists are going to tear them to pieces in the coming months. Nice guys DO finish last.
    https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/09/us/politics/iowa-democratic-caucuses.html

    You are a historian. You understand cycles. Dictators and totalitarian systems always rise, and take over, because the nice folk don’t want to get involved. The committed ones are the crazies. And the vast vast majority of times the totalitarian state or dictator is taken down only through violence.

  4. A nephew who is all in for Trump posted a facebook meme about how this fall be ready for violence with guns prominently featured. He was a police officer at one time. How ignorant these people are. They have no idea how nasty and miserable a Civil War actually is. I suspect when it gets real most of those people will lose their appetite for violence when they realize their skin not just them others is at risk. It is one thing to be a klansman in the early part of the 20th century protected by the corrupt state engaging in state sponsored terrorism and to actual be in a Civil War.

    Plenty of us so called liberal retards know how to use guns and live off the land. A lot of us actually have been in combat. And outnumber the extremist fantasising about inflicting violence. Just like in the sixties with Civil Rights my hope is when these people realize violence to them is a sure certainly if reform is not done they will back down.

    Most of the wealth and culture is in blue areas. And that is not just blue states. Just about any urban area is blue. In my youth George Wallace carried Orange County. Now 50 years later with much growth and diversification my home town is blue as can be. Many of us old white people who are lifelong residents also have changed with the times. If you look at community leaders and politicians today you find a very diverse lot there.

    The Old Confederacy is doomed as the newer more inclusive culture is exported out. With that usually prosperity comes behind it. We are winning the cultural war which is why the freak out happen and Trump was elected.

    He is and is not a black swan event. The cultural tensions were already there and he took advantage of them. But he fell ass backwards into the presidency with help from foreign governments (Russia), a weak democrat candidate who made major blunders, help from the FBI (Comey) who announce an investigation in Hillary just before we voted but failed to tell us about the investigation into Trump’s Russia connection. Also the Democrats were split over the dirty play during the primary which favored Hillary over Sanders. To the powers that be , Trump is a useful idiot. If his usefulness goes they will turn on him.

    I doubt the Democrats will make the same mistakes again. The campaigns are onto the monkeying that went on in the last elections by foreign powers. And I would think they are already strategizing on how to counter that. Most of the propaganda by foreign governments was to split up the Democratic coalition or discourage Democrats from voting or voting 3rd party. Let’s face it the Trump cultists are unreachable if they are still with dear leader. Those governments are not wasting time on those people. The Democratic base is frighten and this time united. They will turn out and vote a straight ticket. Even moderate Republicans and independents are frighten and will vote against Trump. We need to spend time and effort on a turn out.

    If the margin of victory is large enough I think we have a very small chance of the violence my nephew is fantasizing about. Bullies are basically cowards after all. Trump plays on their fear.I know for a fact from my past I am quite willing to die for an idea important to me.I was raised in the southern rural tradition. Guns, hunting, fishing and camping included. Many of us never drank the Orange Kool aid. Even in ruby red areas there are a significant percent like me.The solution long term is to export our culture and prosperity to Rural America. Make Joe and Jane average rural white person’s interest the same as our interest. And get rural Black voters to vote. That is how we will win in my opinion. I may not agree with everything the progressive wing of the Democrat party wants. But I think they get this and will if impowered move us in that direction.

    No I have no intention of giving up or in. I have kids and grandkids and I do not want them living in MAGA American. My gosh Fascism is trying to raise it’s ugly face in my country. Not just no but hell no.

    1. “I doubt the Democrats will make the same mistakes again. ……… The Democratic base is frighten and this time united. They will turn out and vote a straight ticket. Even moderate Republicans and independents are frighten and will vote against Trump.”

      I so badly hope that you are right here, but the Iowa disarray and the squabbling between the progressive and centrists wings aren’t making me feel good. But there is time and you can bank on Trump doing more stupid/self-serving/scary things as motivation to snap out of it. Bernie Sanders is towards the bottom of my preferred candidate list. But if he wins out, I vote for him in Nov., because getting rid of Trump and his cruel proto-facism is the top priority. I want want to hear large masses of the Bernie-bros pledge the same- to vote blue no matter who; then I’d feel much better. We can argue policy specifics later.

      With regard to the Trumpalos, I want absolutely nothing to do with any of them. However, if we do manage to zap this cancer at the ballot box, I absolutely don’t mind if these people reap some benefits from expanded health care coverage, a repaired safety net, green energy jobs, criminal justice reform, and action against climate change. That’s because deliberately seeking to harm groups of people is a morally bankrupt and incredibly stupid basis for a system of government.

      “If the margin of victory is large enough I think we have a very small chance of the violence my nephew is fantasizing about.”

      I agree that a landslide is needed, both for the reason you state, and because it’s much easier to cheat on close races. Americans (unless they are recent refugees) have no ^&*#$@+% clue about how bad war is, especially on civilians. We haven’t seen that here in over 150 years. People forget. 9/11 was but a small taste of what happens when war comes to where you live. “Beware of what you wish for, you might get it” applies here.

    2. “I was raised in the Southern rural tradition…” Right there with ya, brother.

      When the hope of establishing a new order through the electoral process has faded, for one faction or the other, the losers will be forced to abandon the conventional political process and resort to violence. It’s an absolute certainty.

      Those petty white cowards with their novelty arsenals have no idea what’s coming for them.

      1. Careful with what I post. But my family from both sides has been in this country for over 200 years. Plenty of warriors on both sides. I rather this be peacefully resolved. But I really would rather live free or die free.

  5. This NPR Interview reminds me of something that Chris has brought up a couple of times in various posts. How poor white people vote for Trump knowing that he will hurt them, but with the satisfaction that he will hurt non white people even more.

    The envy that immigrants / foreigners could potentially receive something that they don’t earn, makes her knowingly vote for Trump whom she considers stupid and who will cut the government programs that she is relying on to survive. (medicaid and disability). To phrase it another way: “I don’t care how badly I do as long as I am assured other people do worse than me.”

    https://www.npr.org/2020/02/04/802533787/why-an-iowa-woman-says-shell-never-again-vote-for-a-democrat

    1. That’s stage4 cult right there. She even admits that she doesn’t like him and his policies will hurt her, but tribalism is one helluva drug. Probably incurable. There’s no point in trying to engage with someone that far gone, and sending death threats is over the top.

  6. I read this post several times. It easily falls in Chris’ top pieces. There’s a great deal to digest and it’s deep. My only concern is the time it is taking to get past this current nightmare, and the losses we are witnessing daily to our democratic institutions and Personal freedoms. People are worn out and they are disheartened. There is so much at stake in the coming election. Now is the time to suck it up and stay in the fight – just as Chris suggests.

  7. I think the sentence:
    “Yet we know otherwise decent people who are supporting this disaster, cheering it on, and contributing their political capital patently evil ends.”

    Should read:
    “Yet we know otherwise decent people who are supporting this disaster, cheering it on, and contributing their political capital to patently evil ends.

  8. This is one of Ladd’s very best articles (and I have been reading all his essays for 5 years). He may be aware that by emphasizing systems are more responsible for bad outcomes than individuals in the system, he is rediscovering the central insight of W. Edwards Deming, the management giant who the Japanese credit with rebuilding their industry after WWII. [The Deming Medal is Japan’s most prestigious business award.] Deming like Ladd’s pastor was a devout Christian: i.e. he loved while never forgetting his fallibility and his need to bring everyone along. I call attention to the Christian roots of Ladd and Deming aware that I may be on a slippery slope with Franklin Graham and other pharisees, but it remains true that there is much in Christianity and in all religions properly understood which is valuable. Thanks Chris!! . . . you are hope in the swamp. Peter Castaldi

    1. I am NOT a christian – I’m an atheist

      But if Deming had formed a religion then I would probably have joined it!

      My own propensity is to “wing it” – the Kiwi phrase “She’ll be right” sums up my own “evil” nature

      A decent system (a la Deming) is uncomfortable – but so massively effective

      In today’s world a Parliamentarian democracy with some form of proportional representation is about the best political system around

      You know like the one you guys rebelled against

      1. One of the major reasons we rebelled is because we weren’t getting proportional representation. But I’m inclined to agree- our model never worked anywhere else, has compromises that were necessary back in the 1780s but are big problems now, and it’s got severe political atherosclerosis .

      2. Belief in the current system was stronger in me than I realized, given our history textbooks were written by boosters. I kinda resented being at the end of my life span with somebody like our current resident in the White House, making everything look shabby.

        Fly, you’re right. Truly, we need change.

        If the Ds happen to win and don’t reform the system — or simply abuse the current one — I suspect they will be overwhelmed by the blowback.

        Some years back, there was a lot of talk about the advent of ‘big data’ as an aid to doing business. Well, data has also given us new views of governmental policies and procedures.

        Elected by voters in one state, Moscow Mitch controls the nation. That is simply not right, not correct, not in any way democratic.

        When there’s no obvious solution in the works, I see why violence seems an option.

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