Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Unconcern Troll

Tattoo design by Nolan-Huff/DeviantArt.

Monsignor Douthat's new number is pretty original—surfacing as, I don't know, maybe you could call it an unconcern troll, with some friendly Joker-style advice for Democrats: "Why so serious?" ("Are We Destined for a Trump Coup in 2024?")

I wrote my weekend column about three ways that Donald Trump might be prevented from plunging the country into crisis in 2024, should he reproduce both his 2020 defeat and his quest to overturn the outcome: first, through the dramatic electoral overhauls favored by progressives; second, through a Bidenist politics of normalcy that prevents the G.O.P. from capturing the House or Senate; or third, through the actions of Republican officials who keep their heads down and don’t break with Trump but, as in 2020, refuse to go along if he turns another loss into an attempted putsch.

Because the big electoral overhauls aren’t happening, I noted, the progressive attitude risks becoming a counsel of despair. But that note didn’t adequately convey just how despairing a lot of progressives have become, treating the hypothetical where Trump (or, for that matter, some other Republican nominee) actually succeeds in overturning an election defeat not just as a possibility but as a likely outcome in 2024, the destination to which we’re probably headed absent some unexpected change.

I hafta say, I am not entirely unsympathetic with this argument. As your official designated optimist, I won't even acknowledge that the big electoral overhaul is dead (I know Manchin has announced he won't vote for the For The People package of ways to get more people to the voting booth, and the John Lewis Act to refresh the SCOTUS-damaged provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which Manchin claims he does support, doesn't look capable of overcoming the Perpetual Filibuster either, but I don't think that ends the story—Manchin had a specific kind of compromise in mind for the first bill, where it would include some gesture to the Republican beef over "election security", and nobody's really started working on that yet), but I also can't believe the lack of it is a sentence of doom.

Doomsayers are missing, for one thing, what's possible for 2022 in the situation as it is already, when Michigan and Wisconsin will be working with independently run redistricting (Pennsylvania and Arizona, too, and perhaps other places I don't know about, with strictly bipartisan commissions), but on top of that the end of Covid and, if it works out, the extraordinary job market and visible physical progress of the Biden double infrastructure program, which voters are going to be really aware of early on as it affects life in every community in the country, at least if Democrats manage to get the news out. This ought to be a midterm like 1934 (Democratic gains of 9 Senate and 9 House seats)! I'm really not kidding. 

The places where they'll have passed the grotesque anti-voting legislation are going to be places that would inevitably have gone Republican anyway. And we should have an infinitely better record to bring into the midterm than Obama's in 2010 (an economic recovery that didn't clearly benefit homeowners or renters and a healthcare plan that was four years away from being implemented). 

And if it's done, the electoral overhaul going into 2024 will be much, much easier. That's how it ought to happen, not automatically but with a certain amount of work. Which Stacey Abrams should be running, of course. But if Democrats aren't playing a very different hand by then, in the ways I think Biden and Pelosi and Schumer have in mind, then we're really fucking up bigly. That shouldn't be the case.

The other objection I have to the doomsayers is aptly summed up in the references you see on Twitter to the Beer Hall Putsch of 1923, where they tell you darkly, sure the coup was a failure, but what happened 10 years later? But the two situations are utterly incomparable. The Nazi Party in 1923 was only four years old, with no national platform (they staged the Putsch in Munich because it was the only big town where they had any followers); the Republican party that staged a failed coup attempt in 2021 is a dinosaur that has been dying since 1876. They are moving in a different direction! Their 40% national approval isn't getting any bigger, and hasn't over the past four years. Democrats are growing, and ought to be growing more. Even with the defects of the Electoral College and the nasty manipulations of the vote in Southern and Plains states, the Republicans shouldn't be in a position to win. That's not going to make it happen! It's going to take work! 

But it's really annoying to assume that they're going to stage another coup, this time successfully (Hitler never did try that again—he got a legitimate invitation from the conservatives to be the legitimate prime minister, and took it, and then took advantage of existing emergency laws to install himself as dictator—he never broke another law). That legislatures in two or three states are going to announce that they don't like the presidential results and assign the victory to Trump (or Bongino or Taylor Greene or whatever hapless surrogate they have by then) and that will be the end. In the first place it won't be enough votes!

The conservative movement in the US is dying. The fact that they chose Trump as their representative in 2016—dumber than Reagan, less involved than Bush—was a sign of how far they've fallen. I understand that doesn't make them harmless, zombies are dead but they're still a problem. They can do a lot of damage on their way out, but they can't win. They don't have ideas and they don't have people. Democrats don't need to tear their hair out over the question whether the Republic is finished—they need to figure out how to  assume power and limit the damage of the transition. It's OK to take it seriously, but don't take it as the world coming to an end.

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