Saving Democracy

13 mins read

If you didn’t listen to yesterday’s 14 hour Judicial Committee Impeachment Debate, I’ll sum it up for you: Exhausting and discouraging. It was a closeup view of the GOP attack on democracy.

I’ll pause for a definition: democracy is the opposite of unlimited freedom for a certain portion of the population.

Imagine if, in 1861, the Confederacy controlled both the Senate and White House. They wouldn’t have had to fire on Fort Sumter. They could have destroyed from within.

If you ever feel tempted to criticize how the Democrats are dealing with the Trump-Fox-GOP, please listen to 2 hours of today’s hearing. (Any 2 will do.)

It doesn’t matter what Trump does. The GOP will defend him.

It doesn’t matter how the Dems proceed. The GOP will attack and claim Trump is the victim of a sham.

Here’s a sampling of what went down.

Doug Collins (R) opened with a tirade about how fast impeachment is moving. Specifically, the Republicans want to call more witnesses (even as they cheer the fact that Trump is preventing first-hand witnesses from appearing). Sensenbrenner (R) got into the act by complaining that the “trial” is unfair. (The impeachment proceedings are not a trial. Impeachment is like a grand jury proceeding resulting in an indictment. The trial happens in the Senate. Sensenbrenner knows that.)

Meanwhile, McConnell was literally trying to persuade Trump not to call witnesses at the real trial so he could truncate the whole thing.

Logic, out the window.

Along with facts.

Doug Collins let loose with a firehose of lies in rapid succession, one after another. Then, calmly and methodically Nadler marched through each lie, explaining why it was a lie and telling the truth. When Nadler finished, Collins said that the length of time Nadler spoke shows that he “struck a nerve.”

Face meet palm.

That exact scenario happened twice: A second time, Nadler methodically debunked each lie with facts, law, and rules. At the end Collins triumphantly, pointed out how long Nadler spoke and said “I must have struck a nerve!”

Rep. Steve Chabot (R) invented law out of thin air when he said that there is a higher standard of proof for “abuse of power.”

Rep. Gaetz (R) said there was no crime in the Impeachment Report. Democrats pointed out the actual crimes in the impeachment report. Immediately afterward, Republicans were back to saying “There is no crime in the impeachment report.”

Without a touch of irony, Rep. Louis Gohmert (R) defended Trump by saying, “victims are called bullies” and went on to talk about how Trump has been a victim of Democratic attacks for 3 years.

Rep. Jim Jordon (R) said that first the corrupt FBI attacked Trump and set him up for the Mueller investigation, and now the Democrats are launching a sham attack. He used the word “insurance policy.” He said the FBI was the Democrats “insurance policy” in 2016, and impeachment is their “insurance policy now.”

At about noon (California time) Rep. Lesko (R) argued that what Trump did was fine because there was evidence that Biden was corrupt. This, by the way, gets to the heart of the matter. The Congressional GOP genuinely think that what Trump did was fine.

But they can’t say that, so they kick up dust and yell and shake their fists at the sky and have tirades about how the unfair and mean Democrats are out to get the poor victim Trump.

I’ll stop. You get the idea.

What we’re seeing is the Republican war on government playing out in real time, on an actual stage.

Why do they want to destroy the government?

Because the GOP has morphed into a reactionary party. The “again” in MAGA signifies reactionist politics. They want to go back to the good old days when white men had almost unlimited personal freedom—which is at odds with democracy.

Going back to the [mythic] Good Old Days requires dismantling most of the federal government. You can either dismantle it slowly, or you can bring in a human wrecking ball. Trump is a human wrecking ball.

The part that still shocks people is that to get back to the time when [white men] had almost unlimited freedom, the GOP is willing to partner with Vladimir Putin. The GOP is fine with what Trump did because they prefer Russia to liberal democracy.

Riley asked:

And Lynn Jackier asked:

These are the questions of the hour.

We are being drenched in a Tsunami of Lies. The better people understand the goal behind those drenching us, and how to respond, the better chance democracy has of surviving.

Assume about 40% of the people believe the lies, or pretend to believe the lies. (I get my numbers from the 538 polling aggregate, which shows trends and prevents us from focusing on outlying polls.)

The danger isn’t that the number will grow past 50%. The danger is that a large enough portion of the 60% who recognize that we’re being bombarded with lies will get discouraged and give up.

The perpetrators of the lies want you to give up. That’s it in a nutshell. They’re trying to wear you out.

Here Clint Watts explains that one goal of active measures is to “undermine democracy, to make Americans lose confidence in democratic institutions.…”

The “Firehose of Falsehood” propaganda method is specifically designed to wear you out: A liar can reel off dozens of lies in a matter of minutes. Refuting each one takes time. It’s exhausting and discouraging.

From the Rand study: While we must refute the falsehoods, “retractions and refutations are seldom effective” and we can’t “ expect to counter the Firehose of Falsehood with a squirt gun of truth.”(p.9)

There are also large, dangerous lies that threaten to undermine democracy. For example, Barr’s recent speech. Scary stuff, I know.

All the lies, big and small, are intended to undermine and destroy democracy. Much of that 40% willingly embrace the lies, knowing they’re lies because they know the lies are destructive, and they want to destroy. (For more on that, see my Slate article.)

The solution offered by the Rand study is to inoculate the population by putting raincoats on them so they can shrug and say, “There they go again. Lying.”

We know they’re lying. We expect them to continue lying. We know the lies will get bigger and scarier.

The fact is that our institutions are holding out against the onslaught. (Institutions include courts and agencies.) That’s why Operation Ukraine Shakedown failed.

If you get discouraged and feel worn out, remember that Operation Ukraine Skakedown failed because enough people pushed back. It’s easy to lose sight of that because the Lie Machine keeps generating lies, so we forget that a scheme in the works for a year failed.

A new and outrageous lie (like Barr’s speech) fills us with fright and alarm and makes us feel discouraged. The lies are so outrageous they make you forget that the liars are on a losing streak. They lost in 2018 and launched Operation Ukraine Shakedown.

Operation Ukraine Shakedown failed so they focused on the 2019 elections, and lost those. But everyone goes into a panic when Barr aims the firehose of lies at us.

I’ve noticed people tend to wear out when they think that something other than our own hard work will save democracy.

Even removing Trump from office tomorrow won’t save democracy. The larger problem is that the GOP is shielding him and seems to long for an authoritarian figure. There’s always the danger that someone will come along who can do the Trump act better.

This is a long term problem and requires a long term solution. Bottom line: Democracy will survive if enough people want it to, and are willing to put in the work.

Numbers are on our side. There are more of us: if we’re willing to do the work.

If you feel overwhelmed, step away from the screen. Get off Twitter and get busy. If everyone turns their anxiety and anger into constructive work, we’ll get through this.

For whatever it’s worth, I walk the walk. Last year I spent two weeks in a detention center in Texas offering legal assistance through @raicestexas to asylum seekers. So far this year, I’ve put in dozens of volunteer hours doing voter protection legal work.

Protect yourself from fatigue. Don’t argue with bots. Don’t try to change the minds of Fox viewers. If you feel discouraged, read my post on Susan B. Anthony and consider what she was up against. Carry on her fight.

Alice asked:

They’ve always been with us. You can’t reprogram them because they’re hardwired. A lot of people feel more comfortable in a hierarchy. Democracy feels chaotic and messy.

That 40% wanted slavery in the Constitution. They were in favor of Jim Crow. They didn’t want women to vote.

They’ll always be with us.

There are political psychologists who have ideas for how to better deal with them, but right now we have to get through this crisis, which we do by simply outnumbering them.

Democracy is hard work. It requires give and take and compromise. These things do not come naturally. We have to overcome the belief that there is a quick and easy solution.

Originally posted on Musing About Law, Books, and Politics.
Re-posted with permission.

DemCast is an advocacy-based 501(c)4 nonprofit. We have made the decision to build a media site free of outside influence. There are no ads. We do not get paid for clicks. If you appreciate our content, please consider a small monthly donation.

Teri has written novels, short stories, nonfiction for both young readers and adults, and lots of legal briefs. She is currently working on a book on disinformation to be published by Macmillan Publishers. Her political commentary has appeared on the NBC Think Blog and Her articles and essays have appeared in publications as diverse as Education Week, Slate Magazine, and Scope Magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in the American Literary View, The Iowa Review, and others. For twelve years she maintained a private appellate law practice limited to representing indigents on appeal from adverse rulings. She believes with the ACLU that when the rights of society's most vulnerable members are denied, everybody's rights are imperiled. She also believe with John Updike that the purpose of literature is to expand our sympathies. Teri lives with her family on the beautiful central coast in California.

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