"The next national election will almost certainly be viciously (perhaps violently) contested. It is fair to say that the Right wing threat to the United States - and its apparent goal of laying the groundwork for a power grab in 2024, is politically existential. Yet many Americans seem to be whistling past the graveyard of American democracy...A right-wing minority — including many elected politicians — is now practicing a form of brinkmanship by threatening to unilaterally destroy American democracy, daring what it hopes is a timid and somnolent majority to resist. But that majority has the benefit of warning ahead of 2024." - Jonathan Stevenson and Steven Simon, 'We Need To Think The Unthinkable About Our Country', NY Times
"Arizona Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema gave a floor speech in the Senate Thursday that has been unequaled in cringeworthiness since Sen. Susan Collins stood there and told the nation that she was going to vote for Brett Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court because he deeply revered precedent, especially when it came to abortion rights. We all know how that turned out.
Sinema’s floor remarks were a stab in the back to President Joe Biden (and all her Democratic colleagues) moments before Biden was scheduled to meet with her)- Joan McCarter, Daily Kos
Our German friend, Kurt Braun, whom we last visited in Frankfurt-Am-Main in 1985, reminded us how rapidly German democracy fell once the Nazis implemented the Enabling Act.
This transpired on March 23, 1933 and not long after Hitler became Chancellor, and the Nazis failed (in an earlier election) to gain an absolute majority in Germany's parliament. Of course, earlier (February 27), then President Paul von Hindenburg had set the wheels in motion (probably to appease Hitler) by issuing the Reichstag Fire Decree which curtailed civil liberties.
The formal imprinted and circulated notice for the Enabling Act,
established in five paragraphs that Hitler was now placing before parliament "a Law to remedy the distress of the People and the Reich". To wit, the core sentence appearing in the five-paragraph law which embodied the destruction of democracy:
"In addition to procedures prescribed by the constitution, laws of the Reich may also be enacted by the government of the Reich."
That second clause implied no need for parliamentary approval, and hence a de facto dictatorship. Hitler, in effect, as Kurt related, could do anything he damned well pleased so the earlier hoped for Nazi majority had simply become unnecessary. The most infamous minority rule via dictatorship had occurred and without most German realizing at the time how miserable their lives would ultimately become. It then led to the notorious Reich laws - the destruction of any and all judicial parameters, and the loss of rights for German citizens, especially those (like Jews) deemed UnterMenschen.
Kurt, let us grasp, was a former Hitler Youth, pressed into service to the Fuhrer in 1944 under threat of rape to his "Mutti". For him these events were like yesterday and his showing of archival films of the runup to the Nazi era impressed upon us the need to pay attention - as history can repeat in unknown ways. It is doing so now in this country, just like in Germany in 1933 - with too many citizens sleep -walking, passive and not paying attention. Or using what attention they do summon to dismiss or minimize the threat as being "exaggerated".
Kurt informed us in many ways the Germans had beheld repeated warnings from 1929-1931 of what would unfold, especially in Hitler's numerous brash speeches. But most tuned him out as another loud mouth crank or screwball. No one believed he could wreck German democracy as he did or leave the nation in rubble after World War II. But that's what happened.
Today we stand on the cusp of another destruction of democracy - of the American type. Like the Germans in 1931, early 1932, we've seen the warning shots and alarms but most are too wrapped up in their own lives to take the threat seriously or acknowledge the need for action to do something. We've seen the GOP's intent and it is basically to mount a one time power grab: starting with the takeover of the House and Senate this year, then ushering Trump back into power using a coup in 2024. Basically, with all the hundreds of voting roadblocks they've passed in 30-odd states it will be a cakewalk. All the levers will be in place, once they have House, Senate majorities, to knock down the will of 50 percent or more of voters, then ensure victory by having legislators in place to use "legal" gimmicks to trump any unwanted (i.e. winning) vote margins for Dems.
Amidst this landscape are the usual toadies, clowns and fools bellowing nonsense, such as former VP Pence in a recent WaPo op-ed warning about a Dem "power grab" (via altering the filibuster) and "nationalizing elections."
This is codswallop given: a) U.S. elections need to be nationalized as in other advanced western nations. No where else will you see 50 different elections run 50 different ways in one country. This is nuts. And (b) we aren't even asking to destroy the filibuster, simply make one small change proposed by Norm Ornstein of the American Enterprise Inst. That is, demand at least 41 Senators actually show up to block any legislation as opposed to phoning it in from offices, or saunas. Besides, both Manchin and Sinema have blocked the filibuster when it was convenient for them. As blogger Thom Hartmann points out (see link below, under 'See Also'):
" both Sinema and Manchin voted to set aside the filibuster temporarily to raise the debt ceiling so the defense contractors who suck up about half of our annual Pentagon budget could get paid."
So it's not about the "purity" of the filibuster or demanding "bipartisanship" at all. That's a load of malarkey as Joe Biden would put it. It's about raw power, who gets it and who is denied it.
Like the Germans in 1931, the march to fascist authoritarianism could have been halted with some better decisions. For example, the capitalists and German industrialists isolating and condemning Hitler as the threat he was as opposed to backing him as a potential puppet they could bend to their will. Today the weight of the most epochal decision in our lifetimes stands with two Dem Senators: Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin - who believe they are actually doing "God's service" by blocking any alteration in filibuster rules, e.g. to enable the John Lewis Voting Rights bill to pass in an evenly divided Senate. They fail to grasp the existential nature of the threat from the GOP and they are as amiss as Paul von Hindenburg when he issued the fatal Reichstag Fire Decree. Because essentially what Manchin and Sinema have done - and I have raked each over the blogger 'coals' before, e.g.
Is to turn a blind eye to fortifying our fragile democracy in the face of threats (a "dagger at the throat of democracy") triggered in at least 19 GOP- governed states - via 34 major voting impediment laws based on Trump's Big Lie. All designed to thwart efforts of mainly minority voters to cast ballots in the affected states,
Sinema, in sticking to her role as Dem Diva, actually pre-empted Biden's efforts at a voting rights pitch by taking the Senate floor and squawking total balderdash. She declared with practiced finality she: "would not support undermining the filibuster" to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act "under any circumstances."
Then she followed up with this goofy babble.:
“These bills help treat the symptoms of the disease, but they do not fully address the disease itself. And while I continue to support these bills, I will not support separate actions that worsen the underlying disease of division infecting our country.”
Just like Paul von Hindenburg in 1933 Sinema doesn't recognize what the "symptoms of the disease" are: namely a power grab by a Reep cult devoted to Trump's Big Lie. This under-educated Bimbo yaps about the "disease of division" but fails to process the Reepsters are the source. Yet she is effectively willing to DO their bidding by doing nothing to protect existing voting laws! As Maureen Dowd responded in her Sunday NY Times column:
"One of the many fallacies of zany/creepy Sinema’s tremulous logic in her Senate speech about why the filibuster must be preserved is that she faults the Democrats for not working harder and striving more to bring Republicans on board for protecting voting rights.
Psst! Senator Sinema. That’s the whole point. Republicans don’t actually want everyone to vote, unless they’re rural or white. And they don’t want to help Biden. This is all to their advantage. McConnell is not a sucker."
Sinema, never mind her self-promotional palaver, doesn't give two craps about our democracy but is more invested in her being a center stage Diva. Why else pre-empt Biden? Like Manchin she's happy to pave the way for an American "Enabling Act" - because her misguided segregationist stance (since it blocks minority voter access) will ensure the Repukes get back into power again. She ensures this by being unwilling to alter filibuster rules. In fact this archaic, obstructionist device is nowhere in the Constitution and was not really implemented until the racist traitors of the Confederacy used it to try to preserve slavery. That was just prior to the Civil War by pro-slavery senators like John C. Calhoun, e.g.
Who aggressively employed the filibuster to protect slavery in the seceding rebel states. The original emergence of the filibuster was even more quixotic and described thusly by Michelle Goldberg in a NY Times piece back in October:
In other words, created by a happenstance fluke, a 1- in- a- million coincidence. How so? Because in the absence of the (future) cloture rule, Senate debaters could blab on indefinitely thereby bringing the passage of bills to a thudding halt. But no one knew this at the time until it was literally too late. By then a genius finally woke up and thought: "Hey! We could use this error - to cut off debate - to permanently block passage of any bills we don't want!" The rest, as they say, is history.
Why exactly is the John Lewis Voting Rights bill obstruction by Sinema and Manchin so deleterious to our nation, our democracy? For starters, as political columnist Ian Bremmer predicts (TIME, Jan. 14, p. 23) the Republicans would use a midterm takeover of the House: "as proof that the 2020 election was fraudulent", and also "begin impeachment proceedings of President Joe Biden."
Already, in Arizona Saturday night at Trump's latest rally, he bellowed support for a kook, Kari Lake, who has vowed - when she's elected governor- to jail the state's top election official (a Dem who was present for the 2020 results and Biden winning the state.) See e.g.
Do we really want the nation to go down that mind -warping rabbit hole of Trump scale lies and incompetence? Not to mention endless GOP insanity in groveling to Trump's every wish for the next 'x' years, with little or no ability to combat it? Because anyone with an I.Q. higher than room temperature digits will know in advance that is all the Reeps will be focused on.(As it is, 171 Biden nominees for key positions are still waiting to be confirmed after a year.)
As for Sinema, send her back in a time machine to Berlin, 1933 and Leni Reifenstahl would be proud to sponsor this miserable little wench in her propaganda films.
As for Manchin, he isn't any better and I already elaborated on his own betrayal of Biden as well as gutting voting rights. But that's what you get with a knob polisher for King Coal! Neither of these two losers with outsized egos realizes their insane stance on simply adjusting the filibuster is out of synch, out of step, and literally inviting suicide of our democracy.
It is already clear that this year's mid -terms will be the most pivotal referendum on democracy in our history. In fact, our nation's entire future hinges on the choices made, and that's not being melodramatic. Not one bit. Because once the GOP cult - which is what they are, a Trumpie cult - regains that power they will never ever relinquish it again. Red states have already (according to the Brennan Center for Justice) passed nearly 400 voter suppression laws to make it as difficult as possible for the typical Democratic voters to get to cast ballots. That includes everything from drastically restricting access to mail ballots, polling places - as well as times to vote and moving poll locations at the last minute. Also, more restrictive voter ID requirements, while placing Trump-aligned (i.e. Big Lie -believing) state officials in charge of election processing and certification, e.g.
The reactionary Right media also loves Sinema and Manchin and it is curious that a day before Sinema's cynical cinematic performance the WSJ's deplorable editorialists wasted no time criticizing Biden's voting rights effort (p. A16) : ‘Are You With Biden, or Jefferson Davis?’, scribbling:
"Mr. Biden’s speech in Georgia was a call to bulldoze the Senate’s filibuster to pass a re-branded version of H.R.1, a bill that would impose a federal election code on all 50 states, including forcing them to count late mail ballots that lack postmarks. If you happen to think that’s a bad idea, or that it’s unconstitutional, or that nuking the filibuster would hurt the Senate, well, then apparently you’re against Abraham Lincoln.
Mr. Biden’s demagoguery is all the worse because he continues to distort state voting laws like the one in Georgia. “Voting by mail is a safe and convenient way to get more people to vote,” he said, adding “they’re limiting the number of dropboxes and the hours you can use them.” Georgia had zero dropboxes before the pandemic election of 2020, and now they’re enshrined in permanent law. This isn’t “Jim Crow 2.0,” no matter how many times Mr. Biden uses that incendiary phrase.
People disagree about the security of standalone dropboxes, but voters can also put absentee ballots in the mailbox."
This is obviously baloney and tommyrot. For one thing, the country needs a federal election code that is uniform as opposed to 50 different elections in 50 locations. No other advanced western democracy features such a confused muddle - also subject to exploitation - only hung on to out of ignorance that states do not have "rights". Only flesh and blood citizens can have rights. States meanwhile have prerogatives, given they are artificial entities existing by legal contract. See e.g.
Thus, there is no reason, not one, that what election standards apply in Maine or Vermont should not also apply in Alabama or Mississippi. The reason it doesn't is because the once-defeated Confederacy wants desperately to retain its 1950s era Jim Crow establishment to limit minority access to the polls. This is an especially glaring outrage in the wake of the 2013 Supreme Court Shelby Country decision that scuttled voting rights using specious arguments, e.g.
Averring that basically such rights are no longer necessary. Well, they are in the South where the last vestiges of the old Confederacy still reign in accepted memes and these have been given jet fuel with Trump's lies (such as spouted at his rally Saturday night. Which elicits the question why he isn't doing time at SuperMax prison instead of holding seditious rallies?)
Lastly it has been a pathetic travesty to behold WSJ columnist Peggy Noonan again wallowing in her latest manifestation of Stockholm syndrome ('Biden's Georgia Speech Is A Break Point', p. A13, Jan. 15-16). Referring to the same stirring speech that I praised, e.g.
as, "aggressive, intemperate, unpresidential" and adding for clarity "the plainness of his language was ferocious". Peggy confirming once again she is held hostage by the WSJ editorial honchos and the rabid Trumper extremists. How else explain how she could literally condemn Biden's Georgia voting rights' speech as excessive and "offensive"? To whom?
Well it needed to be strong and emotional! Our democracy is on the bloody line! This cowardly take of hers in contrast to her bold July 29 contribution ( 'The Jan. 6 Committee Carries History's Weight') which rightly perceived the January 6th insurrection as the real "break point" and threat, especially if it translated (as it has) into voting repression designed to support a future successful coup. But recall in the wake of her courageous stand she was hammered in a series of published feedback letters, and by obvious Trumper trolls.
This withering onslaught then caused her to pull back and even change course. She has yet to regain her correct (and courageous) footing, as she remains as terrified of Trump's insane base - just like Lindsey Graham, Ted Cruz and others. Indeed, the fear even incited most of her brain cells to implode when she blabbered in her latest piece that Biden's speech "might have united the rest of the country against him." Which rest of country? Trump country? As Janice put it: "It will be the rest of us in the sane country that will unite against them!!" Well, should! I remain worried here about idiotic cartoons which can sow ageist memes that can prey on the weaker- minded in our populace, e.g.
Moron cartoonists notwithstanding, the extensive lack of courage right now with regard to voting rights - not merely with Peggy- means this tipping point for our democracy is in the hands of only a few. As Kurt Braun reminded me in 1985: "History's turn will often depend on the courage of just a few. The masses often will be too traumatized or gullible to see their choices are bad. That means we must depend on a few at the top, or with power, to see beyond their self -interest."
Right now, the two we must depend upon are Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema. Alas, thus far, they are committed to placing their own interests and future campaign largesse above the nation's survival. If the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. were still around he'd tell them to shape up, grow a pair, and stop defending a racist device as an excuse not to defend voting rights. He'd also tell them a failure to do the right thing at this moment of peril makes them both de facto segregationists in terms of voting rights! Indeed the pair may even be supporters of white supremacy. As Thom Hartmann observed ('Kyrsten Sinema Doesn't Want Black People To Vote', link under See Also):
"America has, since our founding, always had a strong white supremacist political faction. Usually it’s concentrated in a single political party, but there are often a few white supremacist members who’ve embedded themselves in parties that more generally have embraced pluralism and democracy.
Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin are those outliers doing the work of white supremacists or using the political strategy of promoting white supremacy in today’s Democratic Party.
And, like the white supremacists of my youth in the 1950s and 60s, they hide their dirty work with high-sounding phrases like “bipartisanship” and “states’ rights.”
The Rev. King once said that we ought to know a person by the content of his or her character, not the color of skin. Right now the content of the character of both Manchin and Sinema is being weighed in the balance - and so far found wanting.