Thursday, January 7, 2021

Quote of the Day (Yascha Mounk, on ‘A President Who Openly Disdains Basic Constitutional Norms’)

“For the first time in its history, the oldest and most powerful democracy in the world has elected a president who openly disdains basic constitutional norms—somebody who left his supporters ‘in suspense’ whether he would accept the outcome of the election; who called for his main political opponent to be jailed; and who has consistently favored the country's authoritarian adversaries over its democratic allies.”— Yascha Mounk, lecturer on government at Harvard and host of “The Good Fight podcast,” The People vs. Democracy: Why Our Freedom Is in Danger and How to Save It (2018)

In 1940, Franklin D. Roosevelt called for the “Arsenal of Democracy.” Yesterday, the current—and, hopefully, departing—occupant of the Oval Office became The Arsonist of Democracy.

Let there be no mistake: The storming of the Capitol was not like the storming of the Bastille, a movement against a hated symbol of oppression. 

This was an assault on a symbol of republican government, completed in the Civil War as a glorious representation of the order and freedom that the Confederacy was trying to rend asunder. 

This was an insurrection carefully planned, as noted in Jesselyn Cook's Huffington Post article, for days in far-right message boards, encrypted messaging apps and other social media channels--an activity winked at now, as it has been throughout his term, by the man from whom they took their cues. 

Whatever else might be said about him, Donald Trump has, through a long career in the public eye, proven that he could never learn, never leave well enough alone. His latest despicable act—in effect, inciting a riot, then walking away from the consequences—was so predictable. Mounk has been among many observers who discerned his problematic political pattern and warned where it might lead.

Last year, the GOP let Trump off the hook without even a slap on the wrist during the impeachment hearings. Now, the ones with any sense among them act so shocked at what has taken place. Why?

They thought that by acquitting Trump, despite massive evidence that he tilted foreign policy to undermine the leading candidate to replace him in the opposing party, they were ensuring survival in their next primary.

But they were only ensuring that their feckless party leader would turn a nation with only 4% of the world’s population into one with 20% of all COVID-19 deaths.

They were only ensuring that a businessman and media personality with a long, documented history of discrimination and insults against minorities would be in charge when racial unrest broke out in earnest over police shootings.

They were only ensuring that the political extortionist exercising his prerogative against the Ukraine a year ago would again practice extortion against Georgia state election officials within the last week.

They were only ensuring that a sociopath with bottomless rage would, as his time in office ended, turn on longtime members of the party that elected him, thereby ensuring loss of both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

How long do his longtime Capitol Hill and White House enablers expect to keep fooling themselves about their responsibility for all this? How long do they expect the rest of America to be similarly naïve?

Yes, I feel sorry for the five people who died in yesterday's assault. They died for a chimera—the patent falsehood of rampant voter fraud disproved in court after court in multiple states. They died for the Chaos President.

But I feel even sorrier for the people caught inside the Capitol, a building with strengthened restrictions against foreign terrorists 20 years ago but all too vulnerable against a domestic mob, many of whom wielded pepper spray against police.

I don’t blame those who assaulted this symbol of our democracy. Believe it or not, I don’t even blame Trump, who has never shown that he learned anything in his youth about civics, let alone balancing the books or even common courtesy.

Instead, I blame those who should have known better—the business executives who overlooked his financial and moral bankruptcy while they profited from his tax legislation; the alleged “news” network that in reality was a propaganda tool in the world’s proudest democracy; the privately troubled Republicans who kept finding excuses not to call Trump to account, as well as the shameless party opportunists who thought they could benefit from the inchoate, unreasoning resentment he unleashed.

If there is any justice, the GOP as its currently constituted Trump cult will be so utterly discredited in the eyes of the electorate that it will cease to exist, as the Federalist Party did after broaching secession at the Hartford Convention of 1814.

Back then, the Whigs coalesced (for about 30 years, anyway) out of the wreckage of the party that Alexander Hamilton brought into being. But these days, who knows what will happen?

The scary thing is that Americans can no longer say, "It can't happen here." Yesterday, it almost did, courtesy of the Arsonist of Democracy.

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