Tuesday, September 12, 2023


Michelle Goldberg tells us that the authors of How Democracies Die were surprised by the January 6 assault on democracy:
One of the most influential books of the Trump years was “How Democracies Die” by the Harvard government professors Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt. Published in 2018, it served as a guide to our unfolding ordeal....

Because that volume was prescient about how Donald Trump would try to rule, I was surprised to learn, in Levitsky and Ziblatt’s new book, “Tyranny of the Minority,” that they were shocked by Jan. 6. Though they’ve studied violent insurrections all over the world, they write in this new book, “we never imagined we’d see them here. Nor did we ever imagine that one of America’s two major parties would turn away from democracy in the 21st century.”
And Isaac Chotiner reminds us that while Ross Douthat may loathe Donald Trump, he predicted there'd be no insurrection:
Several weeks before the 2020 election ... Douthat wrote a column titled “There Will Be No Trump Coup.” According to Douthat, Trump was “a feckless tribune for the discontented rather than an autocratic menace.” A year later, Douthat wrote that he stood by his assessment of Trump but admitted that he had underestimated the mob: “I didn’t quite grasp until after the election how fully Trump’s voter-fraud paranoia had intertwined with deeper conservative anxieties about liberal power.”
But Republicans "turn[ed] away from democracy" long before Donald Trump entered politics. How did Levitsky and Ziblatt not know that? How did they not realize that Republicans have been obsessed with (non-existent) Democratic voter fraud since the George W. Bush years, whewn U.S. attorneys were fired because they wouldn't prosecute Democrats for electoral cheating? How have these scholars and Ross Douthat missed the waves of laws in Republican-controlled states that have been intended to make it more difficult for Democrats to vote, an effort that began well before Trump became a presidential candidate? Republicans have been casting suspicions on our elections for a couple of decades now -- as I regularly point out, Hugh Hewitt's book If It's Not Close, They Can't Cheat: Crushing the Democrats in Every Election and Why Your Life Depends on It was published in 2004.

Also, Republican politicians and operatives have inflicted tremendous damage on democracy in purple states for many years, with unwavering support from their voters, as Judd Legum and Tesnim Zekeria remind us:
Gerrymandering is not unique to Wisconsin. But, for more than a decade, Wisconsin Republicans have gerrymandered the state's legislative maps so aggressively that it is effectively impossible for Democrats to gain control of the state legislature.

In 2018, for example, Democrats swept statewide contests for Governor, Attorney General, U.S. Senate, State Treasurer and Secretary of State. That year, 54% of Wisconsin voters selected a Democrat to represent them in the state assembly, with Democratic candidates collecting 200,000 more votes than Republican candidates. And yet, Republicans won 63 of 99 seats in the state assembly — nearly a two-thirds majority.
The current wave of gerrymandering in Wisconsin began in 2011, under then-governor Scott Walker. The 2011 gerrymander was made possible by a Republican program called REDMAP:
REDMAP targeted 107 local state legislative races in 16 states, including swing states like Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida.... With the intention of flipping Democratic-majority state legislatures and Democrat-held state governorships for the express purpose of controlling redistricting, REDMAP funded negative ads in lower-profile state legislative races.... This helped to give Republicans control of 10 of the 15 states that would be redrawing their districts in 2010.... They then used sophisticated software ... to devise districts favorable to the Republican party, for example by clustering Democratic voters into a handful of districts and ensuring the rest were drawn to include Republican majorities.
Rank-and-file Republicans have been told for decades that Democrats only win elections when they cheat. They've been told that we routinely allow undocumented immigrants to vote. The advocacy group True the Vote is now best known for providing the "research" behind 2000 Mules, Dinesh D'Souza's fact-challenged documentary about the 2020 election, but I've been blogging about True the Vote since 2012, when The New York Times expressed skepticism about the group's claims:
It might as well be Harry Potter's invisible Knight Bus, because no one can prove it exists.

The bus has been repeatedly cited by True the Vote, a national group focused on voter fraud. Catherine Engelbrecht, the group's leader, told a gathering in July about buses carrying dozens of voters showing up at polling places during the recent Wisconsin recall election.

"Magically, all of them needed to register and vote at the same time," Ms. Engelbrecht said. "Do you think maybe they registered falsely under false pretenses? Probably so."

Weeks later, another True the Vote representative told a meeting of conservative women about a bus seen at a San Diego polling place in 2010 offloading people "who did not appear to be from this country."

Officials in both San Diego and Wisconsin said they had no evidence that the buses were real. "It's so stealthy that no one is ever able to get a picture and no one is able to get a license plate," said Reid Magney, a spokesman for the Wisconsin agency that oversees elections. In some versions the bus is from an Indian reservation; in others it is full of voters from Chicago or Detroit. "Pick your minority group," he said.
Republicans have engaged in legalized electoral cheating for quite a while, even as they've accused Democrats of being the real cheaters. No one should have been surprised on January 6 when a demagogue inspired a Republican mob to act on those long-held beliefs.

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