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A dire warning on the destruction of American democracy
"Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory [in 2024] by whatever means necessary."
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Robert Kagan is a neoconservative scholar at the Brookings Institution who advised Republican officials on foreign policy and worked in the conservative movement for many years. That is, until he broke with it after Donald Trump won the 2016 Republican nomination for the presidency. Kagan left the GOP and endorsed Hillary Clinton.
I have little tolerance for most never-Trump former Republicans, largely because they refuse to acknowledge that they and the GOP laid the groundwork for Trump. They often say things like, “I didn’t leave the Republican party; it left me.”
But Kagan doesn’t do that. He lays the rise of Trump squarely with the GOP, and in a frightening, alarm-sounding new essay in the Washington Post he states emphatically:
The party gave birth to and nurtured this movement; it bears full responsibility for establishing the conditions in which Trump could capture the loyalty of 90 percent of Republican voters.
The lengthy essay, headlined “Our Constitutional Crisis is Already Here,” is packed with historical analysis and detail, including comparisons to the Nazi Party in Germany. And it’s gripping. It’s not that all of what Kagan says is new; much of what he lays out has been discussed by others, and certainly by many on the left.
But it feels like a new tack, coming from a neocon intellectual in The Washington Post who is speaking directly to GOP senators like Mitt Romney of Utah, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska, Ben Sasse of Nebraska and others who’ve spoken out against Trump — and voted to convict him when he was impeached earlier this year — calling them out for doing nothing more than symbolic gestures, rather than taking concrete steps to stop this dangerous movement, such as ending the Senate filibuster so voting rights legislation can pass.
It’s worth a read, but I’ve pulled some highlights here (bold added for emphasis):
The United States is heading into its greatest political and constitutional crisis since the Civil War, with a reasonable chance over the next three to four years of incidents of mass violence, a breakdown of federal authority, and the division of the country into warring red and blue enclaves….
…First, Donald Trump will be the Republican candidate for president in 2024. The hope and expectation that he would fade in visibility and influence have been delusional. He enjoys mammoth leads in the polls; he is building a massive campaign war chest; and at this moment the Democratic ticket looks vulnerable….
..Second, Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way…
…Most Americans — and all but a handful of politicians — have refused to take this possibility seriously enough to try to prevent it. As has so often been the case in other countries where fascist leaders arise, their would-be opponents are paralyzed in confusion and amazement at this charismatic authoritarian. They have followed the standard model of appeasement, which always begins with underestimation…
…What makes the Trump movement historically unique is not its passions and paranoias. It is the fact that for millions of Americans, Trump himself is the response to their fears and resentment. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements…
…While it might be shocking to learn that normal, decent Americans can support a violent assault on the Capitol, it shows that Americans as a people are not as exceptional as their founding principles and institutions. Europeans who joined fascist movements in the 1920s and 1930s were also from the middle classes. No doubt many of them were good parents and neighbors, too. People do things as part of a mass movement that they would not do as individuals, especially if they are convinced that others are out to destroy their way of life….
Even Trump opponents play along. Republicans such as Sens. Mitt Romney and Ben Sasse have condemned the events of Jan. 6, criticized Trump and even voted for his impeachment, but in other respects they continue to act as good Republicans and conservatives. On issues such as the filibuster, Romney and others insist on preserving “regular order” and conducting political and legislative business as usual…
…The result is that even these anti-Trump Republicans are enabling the insurrection. Revolutionary movements usually operate outside a society’s power structures. But the Trump movement also enjoys unprecedented influence within those structures…
…Those who criticize Biden and the Democrats for not doing enough to prevent this disaster are not being fair. There is not much they can do without Republican cooperation, especially if they lose control of either chamber in 2022. It has become fashionable to write off any possibility that a handful of Republicans might rise up to save the day. This preemptive capitulation has certainly served well those Republicans who might otherwise be held to account for their cowardice….
…We are already in a constitutional crisis. The destruction of democracy might not come until November 2024, but critical steps in that direction are happening now. In a little more than a year, it may become impossible to pass legislation to protect the electoral process in 2024…
There’s much more, and again, it’s worth a read. In particular Kagan details what Romney and Co. can do to form a unity coalition in the Senate, breaking with the rest of the GOP on national security issues. I’m not holding my breath, but again, am glad the focus and pressure is on those people. This piece is another in a series pieces from writers across the political spectrum that have underscored the dire situation we are in.
And it comes on the same day that an article by Cameron Joseph in Vice underscored how Trump is on the stump with increased intensity, endorsing candidates down ballot in the states — candidates he views as helpful in fixing the election in his favor in 2024.
A lot of people have said they’re sick of hearing about Trump. He lost the election and his platform, they argue, and we shouldn’t focus on him. But I think that would be a grave mistake. Trump is setting everything up to use his movement to destroy democracy and ensconce autocracy in America.
He now knows where the holes were in his plan to steal the election in 2020, and he knows where the holes were in his attempts to consolidate power as president. I’d argue he is more dangerous than ever before.