We Are Not Okay

I guess a lot of us were naïve back in November when we celebrated Joe Biden’s win for the office of President.  I know I definitely was.  Oh sure, I knew we’d have to listen to the former guy pout and whine for a couple of months, but then he’d be gone, I thought, riding that train of irrelevance into obscurity for the rest of his life, and the nation could begin to heal.  And yes, I realized that Republicans weren’t going to just suddenly find their consciences again on January 20th and that everything would be a bed of roses … after all, Mitch McConnell was re-elected along with a fresh batch of nasties.  But still, I thought we were finally back on track to a government for the people, of the people, and by the people.  I was wrong … dead wrong.

Three-time Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman writes about where we stand today, the good that is happening under the Biden administration, but also the dangers that we still face in the months and years ahead, and a prophetic warning, if we don’t get our act together.

Trump’s Big Lie Devoured the G.O.P. and Now Eyes Our Democracy

By Thomas L. Friedman

Opinion Columnist

President Biden’s early success in getting Americans vaccinated, pushing out stimulus checks and generally calming the surface of American life has been a blessing for the country. But it’s also lulled many into thinking that Donald Trump’s Big Lie that the election was stolen, which propelled the Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, would surely fade away and everything would return to normal. It hasn’t.

We are not OK. America’s democracy is still in real danger. In fact, we are closer to a political civil war — more than at any other time in our modern history. Today’s seeming political calm is actually resting on a false bottom that we’re at risk of crashing through at any moment.

Because, instead of Trump’s Big Lie fading away, just the opposite is happening — first slowly and now quickly.

Under Trump’s command and control from Mar-a-Largo, and with the complicity of most of his party’s leaders, that Big Lie — that the greatest election in our history, when more Republicans and Democrats voted than ever before, in the midst of a pandemic, must have been rigged because Trump lost — has metastasized. It’s being embraced by a solid majority of elected Republicans and ordinary party members — local, state and national.

“Denying the legitimacy of our last election is becoming a prerequisite for being elected as a Republican in 2022,” observed Gautam Mukunda, host of Nasdaq’s “World Reimagined” podcast and author of the book “Indispensable: When Leaders Really Mattered.”

“This is creating a filter that over time will block out anyone willing to tell the truth about the election.” It will leave us with “a Republican Party where you cannot rise without declaring that the sun sets in the East, a Republican Party where being willing to help steal an election is literally a job requirement.”

This is not an exaggeration. Here is what Representative Anthony Gonzalez, one of the few Republicans who voted to impeach Trump, told The Hill about the campaign within the party to oust Representative Liz Cheney from her House G.O.P. leadership position, because of her refusal to go along with the Big Lie:

“If a prerequisite for leading our conference is continuing to lie to our voters, then Liz is not the best fit. Liz isn’t going to lie to people. … She’s going to stand on principle.”

Think about that for a second. To be a leader in today’s G.O.P. you either have to play dumb or be dumb on the central issue facing our Republic: the integrity of our election. You have to accept everything that Trump has said about the election — without a shred of evidence — and ignore everything his own attorney general, F.B.I. director and election security director said — based on the evidence — that there was no substantive fraud.

What kind of deformed party will such a dynamic produce? A party so willing to be marinated in such a baldfaced lie will lie about anything, including who wins the next election and every one after that.

There is simply nothing more dangerous for a two-party democracy than to have one party declare that no election where it loses is legitimate, and, therefore, if it loses it will just lie about the results and change the rules.

That’s exactly what’s playing out now. And the more one G.O.P. lawmaker after another signs on to Trump’s Big Lie, the more it gives the party license at the state level to promote voter suppression laws that ensure that it cannot lose ever again.

Kimberly Wehle, a professor at the University of Baltimore School of Law and author of the book “How to Read the Constitution — and Why,” writing in The Hill on Monday, noted that “as of late March, state legislators have introduced 361 bills in 47 states this year that contain limitations around voting, a 43 percent increase from just a month earlier.

“The measures include things like enhanced power for poll ‘monitors,’ fewer voting drop-boxes, restrictions on voting by mail, penalties for election officials who fail to purge voters from the rolls, and enhanced power in politicians over election procedures.”

Although G.O.P. supporters of these bills insist that they are about election integrity and security, Wehle added, “the lack of actual evidence of fraud and mismanagement in the American electoral system totally belies those cynical claims.”

This is the equivalent of lighting a fuse to a bomb planted beneath the foundations of our democracy.

Imagine if all or many of these measures are passed — and in 2022 and 2024 Republicans manage to retake the House, Senate and White House with, say, only 42 percent of the popular vote, effectively establishing minority rule. Do you know what will happen? Let me tell you what will happen. Disenfranchised Democratic voters will not sit idly by. They may refuse to pay their taxes. Many will take to the streets. Some might become violent, and our whole political system could become paralyzed and start to unravel.

Yet, this is precisely the path that Trump’s G.O.P. is setting us on.

Personally, I have reservations about where the left of the Democratic Party is pulling Biden on some economic, immigration, foreign policy and education issues. But Biden and his party are putting forth real ideas to try to address the real challenges that an increasingly diverse 21st-century America needs to address to become a more perfect union. The best tool for keeping the Democratic Party close to the center-left on more issues is a healthy Republican Party that hews to the center-right.

We don’t have that. We have, instead, a G.O.P. trying to cling to power by leveraging a Big Lie into voter suppression laws that leverage the party back to power by appealing solely to a largely white 20th-century America. Trump’s G.O.P. is making no effort to offer conservative alternatives to the issues of the day. Its whole focus is on how to win without doing that.

Which is why it is incumbent on every American to support in every way possible the few principled Republican legislators fighting this trend from the inside — like Liz Cheney, Representative Adam Kinzinger and Senator Mitt Romney.

What I learned covering the struggle for the future of the Arab-Muslim world post-9/11 is that the war of ideas inside is everything. Sure, it is important for outsiders to condemn bad behavior, but their voices have limited impact. Real change happens only when the war of ideas is won by insiders, working from the roots upward.

On Monday, CNN quoted Cheney as telling Republican donors and scholars at a retreat for the American Enterprise Institute in Sea Island, Ga.: “We can’t embrace the notion the election is stolen. It’s a poison in the bloodstream of our democracy. … We can’t whitewash what happened on Jan. 6 or perpetuate Trump’s Big Lie. It is a threat to democracy. What he did on Jan. 6 is a line that cannot be crossed.” A “peaceful transfer of power must be defended.”

She could not be more right. And without a war of ideas inside the party, one that is won by principled Republicans, we run the real risk of a political civil war in America over the next election.

Things are not OK.

Unless more principled Republicans stand up for the truth about our last election, we’re going to see exactly how a democracy dies.

29 thoughts on “We Are Not Okay

    • Education in both empathy and civics is certainly a large part of the answer going forward. A lack of understanding how government works … or should work … is certainly part of the problem we are having today. Greed and arrogance also play a huge roll. Sigh.

      Liked by 2 people

      • Sigh first, and then roll up our sleeves and get back to supporting each others’ work in educating for empathy, which leads going forward to all of us valuing and seeking out that understanding of how government works, and can work for all of us. Yes, obviously greed and arrogance play a role, which is why I work so hard to emphasize that educating both for empathy and for critical skills in logic and information finding are crucial to our democracy, and to our collaborating with other democracies around the world. We can help each other help all of us, if we decide to, Jill.

        Liked by 1 person

  1. I’m afraid that democracy in America is in its twilight, especially if the Republicans regain control of Congress in 2022, and given all of the extreme voting restrictions Republican states are enacting, that seems to be a likely scenario.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. In total agreement!! Will reblog soon … there’s a line: ‘responsible Republicans’? Where do you find those!
    I’m quite worried and terribly concerned. I got my breath back on 11/7/2020 … it’s now ‘gone’ as it was during the last admin. I’m really scared. I fear what may be coming!! 🙏🏽

    Liked by 4 people

    • Thank you so much, dear friend! I have no idea where to find ‘responsible Republicans’, but I know there used to be some. Unfortunately, I think far too many of them fell under the spell of a madman and remain there even today. Hang in, my friend. Love ‘n hugs! ❤

      Liked by 3 people

  3. Thanks for posting this excellent article, Jill. The author raises the very real spectre of civil unrest and perhaps civil war if the GOP wins in 2022 and 2024 due to voter suppression legislation they are passing in many states presently. I find it frightening because I can honestly see it happening. It seems that a very large chunk of American voters don’t want democracy in America anymore.Joe Biden cannot “play nice” in the face of this threat. He needs to pass the necessary voter protections at the federal level and let the GOP whine and cry.

    Liked by 6 people

    • Thank YOU, John! Yes, his final paragraphs chilled me, all the more so because I have had the same thoughts myself. It IS frightening, and the federal bills in the Senate right now, S1 and S4, would override the states’ suppressive bills, but McConnell will use the filibuster to ensure they don’t pass. Our last best hope is the courts. Sadly, Biden’s hands are largely tied, for there is only so much he can do via executive order. I honestly don’t know where we are headed right now, or how we got so far off track. Sigh. How is Anne doing? I hope she’s fully recovered and feeling well. I think of you both often.

      Liked by 2 people

  4. I agree with everything this guy says.

    As with the corona virus, this ain’t over yet.

    The only thing I can see, that can stop the hemorrhaging is Biden and co. passing voter reforms at the federal level, that will force states to adopt fair policies. Oh the R’s would squeal! But it needs to be done.

    Liked by 5 people

    • Thanks, Shelldigger! As you say, it ain’t over yet, and may not be for years to come. I wish it were in Biden’s power to do so, but Congress must pass such laws. There are two bills currently sitting in the Senate, S1 and S4, that would expand voting rights and override any state restrictive measures. BUT … McConnell is almost certain to use the filibuster on these, and republicans are being threatened if they don’t vote the party line. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Hello Jill. We do need more than one party in the US, as we have seen in other countries how quickly single party countries become dictatorships. However I am not sure the Republican party qualifies anymore. The problem is more than the leaders like McCarthy, it is the right wing media such as Fox News, the media arm of the trump Republican party. With tRump off social media Fox has been the only way they can sustain the myth and misdirection, the gaslighting of the people. That is why that side of the party is trying to hard to force his return, because he inspires the cult. I noticed on tRump’s new blog he refers to himself as president and writes in a form designed so it could be tweeted. Hugs

    Liked by 3 people

  6. Pingback: Words of a caution about a deformed party construct | musingsofanoldfart

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