Threat or Loser?

  • How Trump is destroying democracy and democratic culture;
  • Or do Trump’s weaknesses assure he won’t win?;
  • Short items about the Satanic Temple, and a new GOP slogan.

Here’s a piece that takes a wide perspective on the presence of democracy in human history.

Vox, Zack Beauchamp, 15 Dec 2023: What Trump has already taken from us, subtitled “Democracy is a culture — and Trump is destroying it.”

In the long arc of human history, the modern democratic era is a mere blip.

Humans first began residing in city-like agricultural settlements about 10,000 years ago. The American and French revolutions, widely seen as the dawn of the democratic age, took place less than 250 years ago. For most of subsequent history, so-called “democracies” didn’t meet minimal modern standards — most notably by restricting the franchise to white, property-owning men.

Democracy as we know it — a system formally premised on equal citizenship for everyone — is really a 20th-century invention. The degree to which it has become the consensus gold standard for human governance, both in the United States and around the world, is nothing short of miraculous.

He makes this Harari-like point:

Democracy has grown and matured by turning into a self-fulfilling prophecy: It persists because everyone in a society believes it should and will exist. If democratic culture dims, democracy’s prospects dim with it.

And then segues up to the current challenges to American democracy.

This withering took off during Donald Trump’s rise to power and has continued apace in his post-presidency. The more he attacks the foundations of the democratic system, the less everyone — both his supporters and his opponents — believe American democracy is both healthy and likely to endure.
Moreover, he has birthed an anti-democratic movement inside the Republican Party dedicated to advancing his vision (or something like it). These Republicans vocally and loudly argue American democracy is a sham — and that dire measures are justified in response. This faction is already influential, and will likely become more so given its especial prominence among the ranks of young conservatives.

As worrying as the prospect of a second Trump term is, the damage he and his allied movement have already done to American democratic culture is not hypothetical: It’s already here, it’s getting worse, and it will likely persist — even if Trump loses in 2024.

Put differently, Trump has already robbed us of our sense of security and faith in our democracy. The consequences of that theft are not abstract, but rather ones we’ll all have to deal with for years to come.

The piece goes on discussing democratic culture, and then moves to “the great unsettling of American democracy” with recent examples beginning with the 2016 election, but especially since the 2020 election, in which “large majorities” of Republicans believe the election was stolen. And now with Mike Johnson, and a list of others compiled by a third party, and even Bronze Age Pervert, whom I’ve read about once elsewhere recently. And Robert Kagan in WaPo. Beauchamp goes on:

This is what it looks like when a democracy de-consolidates. The shared expectation that the American system deserves its citizens’ respect has collapsed; so too has the shared sense that there’s no alternative to democratic rules and elections for the foreseeable future.

This is not just a Trump phenomenon: The loss of faith in American democracy runs deep.

The social forces unleashed by the MAGA movement are bigger and more primal than one man. The political rise of figures like Johnson, Vance, and Ramaswamy — all younger vehicles for Trump-style anti-democratic politics — points toward a post-Trump right that continues to attack democracy’s foundations. So too does the anti-democratic right’s ascent to political power in advanced democracies around the world.

I continue to find it odd that conservatives, who claim to venerate the Constitution, seem so willing to set its principles aside to get their way. Or do they not realize what they are doing? It’s about the same, it seems to me, as how conservatives venerate the Bible and Jesus yet frequently behave in un-Jesus-like ways, and cheerfully follow leaders who do the same.


On the other hand we have this. Is this plausible?

The Atlantic, Hussein Ibish, 15 Dec 2023: Why Trump Won’t Win, subtitled “His threats to democracy make him dangerous. They also make him a weak candidate.”

Over the past few weeks, warnings about the threat posed by Donald Trump’s potential reelection have grown louder, including in a series of articles in The Atlantic. This alarm-raising is justified and appropriate, given the looming danger of authoritarianism in American politics. But amid all of the worrying, we might be losing sight of the most important fact: Trump’s chances of winning are slim.

Some look at Trump’s long list of flaws and understandably see reasons to worry about him winning. I see reasons to think he almost certainly won’t.

Do tell.

Trump’s flaws look far worse today than they did eight years ago. To take one example that should concern conservative voters: his behavior toward and views of service members. In the 2016 campaign, Trump’s attacks on Senator John McCain and on the Gold Star Khan family were bad enough. Now we have a litany of testimonies that he expressed contempt and disgust for wounded veterans—demanding that he not be seen in public with them—and that he debased fallen soldiers, describing them as “suckers” and marveling, “What was in it for them?” According to an Atlantic report, when he was scheduled to visit a World War I–era American cemetery in France in 2018, Trump complained, “Why should I go to that cemetery? It’s filled with losers.” Trump has always posed as a patriot, but he has proved himself unpatriotic, anti-military, and ignorant of the meaning of sacrifice.

The writer goes on with other examples. His sexual misconduct, recently elevated to losing a civil case involving E. Jean Carroll. Other indictments and pending trials. And, frankly, his and his party’s record of electoral losses — 2016 was the exception. And despite the recent polls,

Presidential elections are usually decided by a relatively small group of swing voters in six or seven swing states. The most important are independent voters and suburban voters, two groups that appear to have turned away from Trump since 2016. He hasn’t done anything to win them back since 2020, instead running in recent months on a platform that’s more radical, extreme, and openly authoritarian than ever (except on the issue of abortion, where he is less extreme than his Republican-primary competitors). With Trump promising vengeance, retribution, and dictatorship, at least on “day one,” as he recently told Sean Hannity, will these swing voters be wooed back into his camp? Are Americans so fed up that they will want to elect someone who has advocated for the “termination” of the Constitution in order to keep himself in power?

And so on. Concluding,

The case against Trump’s reelection is obvious and damning. As long as his opponents prosecute that case—and they will—Trump isn’t going to win.




Hemant Mehta, Friendly Atheist, 13 Dec 2023: Conservatives can’t handle The Satanic Temple’s harmless display in Iowa’s Capitol, subtitled “Even Republican lawmakers can’t convince their base that freedom of religion applies to non-Christians, too”

(Aside from the hypocrisy of selective religious freedom, don’t they realize the Satanic Temple is a *parody*? It’s a joke! (Or actually, it’s an anti-theist group.They don’t actually believe in Satan, as the panicked conservatives seem to think.))


Washington Post, Alexandra Petri, 15 Dec 2023: Opinion | GOP baffled that ‘We Don’t Care if You Die’ is not a winning slogan



I’ve used up all the political items I’ve noted, through today. Perhaps tomorrow I’ll cover some more substantial topics.

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