From Here To Autocracy

Increasing numbers of Americans are worried about the erosion of democracy. Most of us–this writer included–feel powerless to do much about it; we follow the news, and bemoan what seems like the inexorable drip-drip-drip of melting democratic norms.

One of the most recent drips was the spectacle of GOP incivility and bullying during the Supreme Court confirmation hearings. As I heard the posturing and antics of Cruz, “Miss Lindsey” and others, I couldn’t help recalling Dick Lugar’s explanation of his vote for a Clinton nominee (I no longer recall whether it was Breyer or Ginsberg); although he had  some philosophical differences with the nominee, Lugar said something along the lines of, ” Absent serious and well-founded concerns, a President is entitled to his choice.”

Now, opposition isn’t even grounded in philosophical differences; it is purely partisan–and  manifests itself in ugly and (patently false) “discourse” unworthy of the Senate.

This performative exercise was a taste of what we can expect if the GOP wins control of the Senate. It was just one more “drip” on the road to autocracy.

Some months back, an essay from the Washington Post outlined the “markers” along that road.

Democracy is most likely to break down through a series of incremental actions that cumulatively undermine the electoral process, resulting in a presidential election that produces an outcome clearly at odds with the voters’ will. It is this comparatively quiet but steady subversion, rather than a violent coup or insurrection against a sitting president, that Americans today have to fear most

Five sets of actions fuel this corrosion: limiting participation in elections; controlling election administration; legitimizing and mobilizing social support for methods to obstruct or overturn an election; using political violence to further that end; and politicizing the regular military or National Guard to delegitimize election outcomes.

The essay identified 18 steps to democratic breakdown and indicated how worrisome a threat the authors considered each.

They identified the willingness of the current Supreme Court to validate efforts to restrict voting–and the inability of Congress to pass voting rights protections–is ominous omens, and found state-level efforts to control the administration of elections equally ominous. They described efforts to put officials in place who would be willing to make decisions that subvert election outcomes as one of the most concerning of all actions that contribute to democratic breakdown.

Citizens should also be on the alert for

Governors, state election boards or commissions appoint, or voters elect, chief election officials who are sympathetic to false claims of voter fraud and willing to use their position to undermine confidence in election results, create new voting regulations or interpret election rules to partisan advantage.

We need to keep an eye on the battleground states of Arizona, Nevada, Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Florida, “where Republican candidates who publicly supported partisan audits or other actions to delegitimize the 2020 presidential election are now running for secretary of state or other statewide offices.”

The essay also warned against the “Independent State Legislature doctrine”–a doctrine that would move the country back toward the Articles of Confederation. (It was recently endorsed by creepy Indiana Senator Mike Braun.) That doctrine

interprets the Constitution as enabling legislatures to make final determinations about the outcomes of federal elections. A blueprint for such an effort appears in a memo drafted by attorney John Eastman after the 2020 election to try to convince Vice President Mike Pence that there were legal grounds to overthrow the election results. This would provide social backing for courts ceding power to the states to control elections.

Since the article was focused upon elections, it didn’t explore the multiple other dangers posed by this particular doctrine–including the fact that its adoption would  facilitate elimination of most civil liberty and civil rights protections in states where Republicans control the legislatures.

The essay also wanted readers to be aware of well-funded and organized efforts to draft model laws and file legal briefs that support the engineering of election outcomes; of incidents of overt coordination between law enforcement officers and militia groups; and   politicians voicing support for the use of violence and political intimidation in service of political ends.

Political elites undermine accountability for prior acts of political violence in ways that decrease perception about the costs of future violence. Making statements minimizing the Jan. 6 attack, obstructing efforts to investigate it and failing to punish politicians who supported it would fall into this category, as would punishing those politicians who support investigations.

There’s more. If you want to elevate your blood pressure, click through and read the whole thing.

And do everything in your power to get out the vote–and to protect the mechanisms for counting the votes that are cast.


  1. I think the R’s learned a lot when they installed W after they stopped counting the votes in FL
    We lost a lot of trust when they got away with W. And we got a crazy war and lots of lies. The current mess seems like they are willing to go much further now as there has never been a price to pay for their misdeeds. But this is not new behavior for them.

  2. patmcc; I lived in Florida in 2000 and watched that “recount” day after day in the news. That “recount” allowed, approved and overseen by W’s brother, Governor Jeb Bush. That is when I ended my years of being an Independent voter and became a Democrat.

    Even uglier than the most recent McConnell led Supreme Court confirmation hearings was the threatening destruction of Professor Ford who came forth to protect all of us from Kavanaugh’s drunken, sex abusive, crying and announcement that he loved beer appointment to SCOTUS. Trump ruled the actual two-week investigation with only four “witnesses” to be questioned about Kavanaugh. Those hearings and the outcome make the actual confirmation hearings of Kavanaugh a joke. We are learning that there appears to be no way to protect our democracy from our own government destroying it…state by state and at the federal level.

    patmcc’s comment; “The current mess seems like they are willing to go much further now as there has never been a price to pay for their misdeeds. But this is not new behavior for them.” is on target.

    “There are thousands of people who feel that it is useless and futile for us to continue talking peace and non-violence against a government whose only reply is savage attacks on an unarmed and defenceless people. And I think the time has come for us to consider, in light of our experiences at this day at home, whether the methods which we have applied so far are adequate.” Nelson Mandela

    I admit I don’t have the answer to our Trump-let dilemma but Nelson Mandela’s words convey the question we should all be asking ourselves during this mid-term election which will decide the 2024 presidential election before it happens.

  3. I’ve recently heard some pundits opine that those candidates favored by 45 would be so bad that they would not be able to win. If you believe that, let me give you the prime example of bad candidates: Donald J. Trump. I encourage everyone who thinks it can’t happen to remember 2016.

  4. I enjoyed your use of “Miss Lindsey”. There is a hint of kinkiness in his persona with Donald Trump as his domitrix

  5. We never were a democracy, so we’re not losing it. We were intentionally set up as a representative democracy or oligarchy.

    From an article I’ve enjoyed reading this morning:

    “In the years between elections, these “representatives,” few in number, exercise the executive power to rule over everyone else. This form of government is called an oligarchy, and it is the antithesis of a democracy.”

    Our country, and most of the Western “powers”, aren’t close to democracies, yet they are the nuclear states for those who are democracies – fancy that.

    Nevertheless, democracy is the answer to our oligarchy which has concentrated more power and wealth at the top. What do you suppose those people will do with all that power and wealth?

    Here is another clip:

    “Citizens who live in a democracy cannot devolve their responsibility for decision-making to someone else. Each citizen is equally responsible for every decision made and for the conduct of society as a whole. Democracy is truly governance of the people, by the people, and for the people. It redefines what we mean by the word “government.”

    A democratic government would never allow what has manifested in Washington, NY, and Virginia.

  6. I never thought I’d live to see the day when the state Secretaries of State mattered so much and, although Indiana is a reliably red state in the electoral count, there are STILL many reasons to be concerned with how the duties of that office are executed in accordance with federal and state election laws (both weak, flawed and intent with bias as they are).

    1. Dems winning just a few seats in the Indiana General Assembly is all it would take to wake up a few R’s to the possible consequences of their radicalized right-wing agenda and encourage them to back off the pedal.

    2. Indiana’s congressional delegation has only 2 Dems and one of them, the 1st in the NW Region, will be competitive in November.

    3. Countless, county, city, town, township and school boards will elect new officers to administer them and guide their futures.

    I don’t know much about our current SOS, Holli Sullivan, except for this: She was appointed to the job by the leaders of the Indiana Republican Party. In other words, without doing a thing, she has already demonstrated to her masters that she is a good foot-soldier and buys into the Big Lie that Dems stole the last Presidential election.

    Since being appointed she has declared that Indiana elections are safe and secure, but later added that she would be adding an auditable paper-trail to any political unit using digital voting devices in elections (this was the result of a law passed in the latest legislative session – it was not her decision). And most recently she declared that she would double the number of post-election audits to be conducted. Clear evidence that she was not placed in the office to think for herself.

    There has never been a better time in Indiana and US history to elect a Democratic Secretary of State and there has rarely been a better Democratic candidate running for that office in Indiana than Destiny Scott Wells and so I am shamelessly plugging her on this page. Please learn more about her AND consider a contribution to her campaign at:

  7. Professor A.T. Tytler stated more than 200 years ago;

    “Democracy is nothing better than a utopian theory, a splendid chimera, descriptive of a state of society that never did and never could exist; a republic not of men, but of angels,…. While man is being instigated by the love of power…… A passion visible in an Infant, and common to us with even the inferior animals, he will seek personal superiority in preference to every matter of a general concern.” “Or, at best, he will employ himself in advancing the public good, as the means of individual distinction and elevation. He will promote the interest of the state from the selfish but most useful passion of making himself considerable in the establishment which he labors to aggrandize. Such is the true picture of a man as a political agent.”

    He later stated: “the patriotic spirit and love of ingenious freedom……. Became gradually corrupted as the nation advanced in power and splendor.” “Patriotism always exists in the greatest degree in rude nations, and in an early period of society.” ” Like all other affections and passions, it operates with the greatest Force where it meets the greatest difficulties, but in a state of ease and safety, as if wanting it’s appropriate nourishment, it languishes and decays.” ….”it is a law of nature to which no experience has ever furnished an explanation, that the rising grandeur and opulence of a Nation must be balanced by the decline of its heroic virtues.”

    Tytler was a student of history and also a professor of it. He recognized the cyclical nature of History, the Greek, the Roman, the British, So called democracy in general, and you can equate that to the American form of government, which was patterned after the above!

  8. I guess you could say, “why didn’t the unrestrained frog jump out of the pot for it was boiled for dinner?” Blind apathy! No matter what his mind was telling him, he figured he had time because that warm water, which was increasing in temperature, felt good! Falling into a deep sleep, he lost the control of his destiny and became the proverbial cooked goose.”😱
    Time? Time never ends, but, we do!

    If you look at history, recorded history, you can see every so-called democratic form of government, argued the same things that are being argued today! So, instead of trying something different, humanity, being mortal, cannot learn the lessons from previous civilizations, governments, or, generations!

    Constantly attempting to aggrandizingly reinvent the wheel only to eventually return to that original design! Then the original design is heralded as something amazing and new, starting the whole cycle over again.

    Ecclesiastes 8:9 states, “man has dominated man to his injury.” (Written by the great congregator King Solomon)

    Also, read Jeremiah 10:23 which reads, “I well know, O Jehovah, that man’s way does not belong to him. It does not belong to man who is walking even to direct his step.”

    Jeremiah was an anointed prophet during the time of Josiah’s rule of Judah!

    King Solomon also stated in Ecclesiastes one 9 – 11 which reads: “what has been is what will be, and what has been done will be done again, there is nothing new Under the sun. Is there anything of which one may say, look at this it is new? It already existed from long ago, it already existed before our time. No one remembers people of former times, nor will anyone remember those who come later, nor will they be remembered by those who come still later.”

    Then, in verse 14 and 15, Solomon States; “I saw all the works that were done under the sun, and look! Everything was futile, a chasing after the wind. What is crooked cannot be made straight, and what is lacking cannot possibly be counted.”

    This was written three millennia ago, so, why does the same thing keep happening over and over and over again? And, undoubtedly, intellectual proclivity has inculcated digression and regression all the way until present day! And beyond? Humanity recognizes his walk or his drunken staggering gait, his footprints left through the sand of History, prove that he cannot direct his own step or pathway.

  9. When we think of voting, we forget the importance of primaries. The most partisan/ideological in both parties have now weaponized these for their advantage. They know turnout will be pathetically low and mostly their followers.

    A strategy to help neutralize this, where available, is for those more concerned with democracy to switch registration for the primary (or where there are open primaries, just ask for the other party’s ballot) and vote for a less partisan/ideological candidate.

    As an example, we, CommonGoodGoverning, are helping a more traditional GOP candidate in a Utah US House district which will elect a Republican no matter what, to encourage DEMS, independents and non-Trumpian GOPers to vote for him in the GOP primary rather than the Trump-endorsed MAGA incumbent.

  10. If you have been following the political moves and whos who,since reagan,andtry and keep abreast to every word, you may have been drowned inthe new ageof social media while keeping ahead with life also. theres probably now mega amounts of news and journals and media wings to find something,when it comes up. feeding your own needs to evaluate and come to understand a issue,gets a awsome amount of stress at times. when im asked what about what, damn,let me rerun my human hardrive and see if i can find it. this subject has become the forefront of my folders. though ive tried to read and follow like states i live in,to see who,is instigating the abuse in voting. many people i encounter havent a clue.until its time to vote. no one here in NoDak reads the bism trib, though it has its readership,its a right slanted bigot. mainly full out of state rehash of what ya see or are told to you by poxnews. little if any will become news for the minorities here in NoDak. again we have a legislature that yes boys every detail tailered to the right. when a recent Fargo investment firm for the so-called waterfront,a mmm, in fargo?a highrise,for the well to do, someone at the commision meeting was literally hauled out of the room for questioning why the commission didnt seek housing for the masses.(the wages and cost of living in fargo is starting to look more like gentrification) nuff said. (i would guess the property investors are aligned like trump) again it runs down to whos doin what in office. the fact a maggot (i speak trucker/sailer,im both,scuse me mam) like ron johnson can even admit to owning such a partisan plan,probably shows how erroded the country has become. even the sheriff of racine(racist county) has added,, to arrest the blue side of the election commison there, for the covid they endured to secure a honest election. i hope the minorities/immigrants the knowlege and love of this democracy to endure the next election. after seeing Georgia move its masses to the polls,we can only hope we can align with them to get more voters out. the outright denial of the republican moves that they are in line with the law and false god they have produced,gives one reason to believe,a putin like authritarianism is the end game…best wishes from NoDak..

  11. Yes, John, I believe Franklin warned us about “APATHY” and so did Socrates.

    “True law is right reason, harmonious with nature, diffused among all, constant, eternal; a law which calls to duty by its commands and restrains from evil by its prohibitions…. It is a sacred obligation not to attempt to legislate in contradiction to this law; nor may it be derogated from nor abrogated. Indeed, by neither the Senate nor the people can we be released from this law; nor does it require any but oneself to be its expositor or interpreter. Nor is it one law at Rome and another at Athens; one now and another at a late time; but one eternal and unchangeable law binding all nations through all time…”

  12. It was the theft of Florida’s electoral votes by the Supreme Court’s “stopping the count” which triggered my resignation from the bar of that court. My letter of resignation to the Clerk of the Supreme Court included the following: ” I do not wish to remain a member of the bar of a court which itself acts unconstitutionally.”

    Socrates was right in his interpretation of a higher and universal order of civic virtue in Athenian democracy and such fascists as Hitler, Trump and DeSantis are clearly wrong in their pretended adherence to principle based on manufactured factual situations and conclusions drawn therefrom, all with a hidden intention of the destruction of our damaged democracy and coming in on their white horses to rescue us via some form of fascist dictatorship, which I wrongly thought we had ended in 1945. We didn’t.

    Republican culture wars have been substituted for Hitler’s rants in re the Treaty of Versailles, communists, Jews et al as grounds for a Trump or a DeSantis to come in and save us from the horrors of liberal democracy. We are in WW III today, but it is within our own borders; WW IV is reserved for Russia’s dictator and his plan to literally exterminmate Ukrainians, just as Hitler almost did with Jews, communists and anyone else he didn’t want to inhabit his world.

    To do: Vigorously not only save our democracy but (by example and in true Socratic fashion) enlarge and extend it.

  13. Todd,

    Absolutely! When anyone reads Socratic philosophy, you can actually see the melding of Christian beliefs and the Greek philosophical houses! Which there were many. These were melded together by emperor Constantine during his series of Nicene councils. The Romans actually embraced Greek philosophy and many of their deities.
    Emperor Constantine wanted to try and stabilize the empire, but ended up creating Frankenstein’s monster! An organization that was not bound by man’s laws in their own mind, so man’s government could not control them.

    Secular law throughout the millennia, giveth and secular law can taketh away, lol! And more than likely, much to the chagrin of these religious authoritarian types, it will happen more sooner than later. 🤔

  14. Multiple comments above state that each citizen is responsible for every law passed.
    1) Not gonna happen.
    2) Humans exceeded their capacity to understand politics when they increased their population past the Dunbar number, and aggregated in socially complicated cities.
    We’ve governed by happenstance ever since, and will continue that way, until the nukes get our numbers down again.
    Show me I’m wrong!

  15. Ormond,

    Einstein told us that our systems must be engineered to model the natural order of mankind and nature and stop conquesting or competing with each other.

    If we ignored the greatest mind of our time, who will we listen to?

    There are global organizations like Progressive International that understand the concept of organizing the world as a democracy or socialist democracy where we have one government rule of the people, by the people, for the people.

    We’ll have to kill off all the oligarchs and redistribute their money…just like in a boring game of Monopoly. 😉

  16. Oh Todd,

    You are such a josher…..

    I believe Einstein said “The more I study the universe, the more I believe in a higher power!”

    Now, I have no idea what he meant by that, you can apply that statement to many so-called theorems, but he did really admire Mahatma Gandhi!

    I am aware of many Scientists and Doctors who are actually closet believers in intelligent design. What type of intelligence? Who knows. I suppose we can beat it out of them? Lol!

  17. “Hear me, people: We have now to deal with another race—small and feeble when our fathers met them,but now great and overbearing. Strangely enough they have a mind to till the soil and the love of possession is a disease with them. These people have made many rules that the rich may break but the poor may not. They take their tithes from the poor and weak to support the rich and those who rule.”

    –Chief Sitting Bull @ The Powder River Conference 1877

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