Civic Lethargy

Max Boot had a recent column in the Washington Post bemoaning poll numbers that seem to show most Americans brushing off the growing danger signals to our democracy. Boot was formerly a Republican; he now considers himself an Independent, and he is appalled by the extent to which the GOP has been co-opted by authoritarians of various varieties.

He is especially baffled by the widespread dismissal of the reality that is before our eyes.

A year after the Jan. 6, 2021, storming of the Capitol, a CNN poll asked whether it’s likely “that, in the next few years, some elected officials will successfully overturn the results of an election.” Fifty-one percent of Republicans and 44 percent of Democrats said it’s not at all likely. Only 46 percent of Democrats and independents said that U.S. democracy is under attack, which helps to explain why Democratic candidates aren’t campaigning on defending democracy.

Boot finds this optimism difficult to understand, especially given the constant stream of damning details that emerge daily about Trump’s bizarre behaviors as President, and especially about his efforts to overturn the 2020 election.  The former president “remains the dominant figure within the GOP, which means that most Republicans have tacitly accepted that inciting an insurrection is no big deal.”

Look at what just happened in Ohio’s U.S. Senate primary: J.D. Vance, who had been languishing in third place, won the nomination after Trump endorsed him. A fervent, born-again Trumpkin, Vance told a Vanity Fair reporter that Trump supporters “should seize the institutions of the left” and launch a “de-woke-ification program” modeled on de-Baathification in Iraq. (That worked so well, right?) He says that if Trump wins again in 2024, he should “fire … every civil servant” and “replace them with our people.” If the courts try to stand in the way, ignore them. As Vanity Fair noted, “This is a description, essentially, of a coup.”

Given Trump’s continued popularity within the GOP–some 70% of self-declared Republicans believe the “Big Lie”–and given Biden’s sagging popularity, Boots thinks Trump would easily win the nomination in 2024. He then sketches out a horrific–and all-too-plausible scenario:

His “trump card,” so to speak, is the House, which is likely to be under GOP control after the midterms. CNBC founder Tom Rogers and former Democratic senator Timothy E. Wirth point out in Newsweek that controlling the House would allow Trump to steal the presidency if the election is close.

Republican state legislatures in swing states that Biden (or another Democrat) narrowly wins can claim the results are fraudulent and send in competing slates of electors pledged to Trump. The House and Senate would then vote on which electors to accept. Even if the Senate remains Democratic, a GOP-controlled House could prevent Biden from getting the 270 electoral votes needed to win. It would then fall to the House to decide the presidency.

If that scenario sounds hyperbolic, Boots reminds us that a Russian invasion sounded hyperbolic to most Ukrainians before Feb. 24. He concludes that the only way to avert disaster is to vote Democratic in the fall. It no longer matters if you have policy differences with the Democratic Party, as he has–he says that a vote for the GOP is a vote to dismantle American democracy (or what remains of it).

The question Boots asks, but doesn’t answer, is why so many Americans who haven’t “drunk the Kool-Aid” are nevertheless sanguine about the ability of the nation’s institutions to withstand the fascism growing within. That question reminded me of the mindset of many Germans during Hitler’s rise. With a little Googling, I found a fascinating–albeit very disturbing– interview conducted shortly after the war with a German scholar who lived through that time. The interviewee explained how daily events distracted the population from recognizing the larger trajectory of political authority, and how the accumulating deviations from decency were normalized.

To live in this process is absolutely not to be able to notice it—please try to believe me—unless one has a much greater degree of political awareness, acuity, than most of us had ever had occasion to develop. Each step was so small, so inconsequential, so well explained or, on occasion, ‘regretted,’ that, unless one were detached from the whole process from the beginning, unless one understood what the whole thing was in principle, what all these ‘little measures’ that no ‘patriotic German’ could resent must some day lead to, one no more saw it developing from day to day than a farmer in his field sees the corn growing. One day it is over his head….

You really need to click through and read the entire interview. it’s chilling–and it could happen here far more easily than most of us ever imagined.

Boots concerns are not hyperbolic.


  1. There is no need to read Boot’s interview because most people commenting on this blog have predicted it for various reasons. Biden did nothing for the people, and Trump will do nothing for the people. That’s by design.

    Nothing happened to Trump or his funders over their 1/6 coup attempt by design. He’s a useful idiot for the oligarchs. So why would they take him out?

    Biden intentionally did nothing to make him loathed. He played his part well while the MIC did exactly what it wanted. They’ll be squaring off against Russia and China by 2024. The strong man persona will be played by the media once again. If I remember right, Trump tried to keep us out of the wars, so maybe he will bring us peace after the MIC makes a fortune in Ukraine.

    If you look closer at the EU, the leaders may be aligned with the cause, but the people are not. So we might see more exits from the EU due to their emotional reaction to WW3. Europeans are intelligent people, and they haven’t fallen for the Ukrainian propaganda. It may cause a shift in politics within those countries.

    Biden’s “Disinformation Board” reveals dark control secrets if you listen and observe. 😉

  2. I get called out by friends, family and ppl on social media for “creating division” for calling many in the GOP fascists and their movement Magafascism. The accommodators, the enablers and the clueless are the problem. As a result a Magafascist woman of color will likely flip the IN 1st House District and help secure the House for Trump who will then decide who our next President is, also likely Trump. And Todd is right. Biden has done nothing to wake Dems and Independents up to get them to come out in big numbers. He’s done some good things but he’s a pure institutionalist – warts and all (more like basal cell carcinoma).

    I’m glad I’m old but I ache for my kids and grandkids.

  3. Purrfect topic for today. Just completed “Amusing Ourselves to Death”, 1984 by Neil Postman. His last sentence slightly edited: “We are in a race between education and disaster…the necessity of our understanding the politics and epistemology of media. What is afflicting (us) is not that we are laughing instead of thinking, but that they did not know what they were laughing about and why they had stopped thinking.”

  4. It is quite clear democracy in the US is on a downward slope that is only getting steeper. As a combat vet most cannot understand my dismay. I’m in the process of leaving the US and will watch it’s destruction from a distance. Eventually political science and history professionals will teach about the country’s destruction and it’s breakup, but not in the US as it will be claimed the US is still a democracy just as China makes the same false claim.

  5. Perhaps one reason why too few people seem to be concerned about the danger to our democratic republic is that surveys never list it as something to be concerned about. I always have to write it in. Most people will only select from available options.

  6. I am reading the German narrative, with chills, and will be back. Niemeyer’s poem says it all.

  7. Some of us, if we were interviewed, would say that we are Republicans, while others would say that we are Democrats. Others choose not to take sides. What does that really mean?

    If we live in a democracy, a plurality of voters has the power to grant power to representatives to govern us. If we choose to join a party that means that we can join like others to choose who represents our party through primary elections. Of course on top of that there is voter registration which all states require in order to vote for the ultimate choice, who actually gets the power to govern us, but joining a party is a seperate choice. So choice of party is not a very significant thing in our lives at all. It’s a detail. Voting is the important thing and it assumes that the combined thinking of the majority of voters in primary or general elections would be a reliable judge of character of candidates.

    What if forces led a significant portion of the electorate to not use character, fitness to carry power without the slide into corruption that power universally leads humans to in the absence of restraints, but to choose by some other trait? That would not be democracy at all but mob rule of those who did not choose to abandon democracy.

    I personally can’t image forces capable of making such a draconian change in the majority of voters in a country other than propaganda. Can you? What would be the nature of that propaganda?

    Well, if the country was a democracy then good advertising practice would say to portray the change as democracy still but bring into question the character of opponents as so bad it must be worse than your party’s candidates regardless of who they are. Make the voting choice not about your candidate at all but all about the disqualifying nature of the opponents. That way everything the opponent claims could be portrayed as playing the same game as you are and truth becomes completely obscured to the voters, in fact irrelevant, by competing claims of incompetence or corruption.

    Does that sound at all familiar here?

    If so our real job in serving and protecting our freedom through democracy is to discern the real truth by digging through the propaganda until we find it.

  8. being from north east U.S. in the NYC/NJ metro area, the diversity was everywhere,and less than 20 years since WW2. people still went to the park to play checkers,cards,dominos. my grandfolk were part of the home defense. there was a library half block away, and change was coming. that was near 1963,civil rights were across the street,and the conversation between the war and civil rights was brewing. it was a front row seat to both the experiences that led to hitlers rise,and how whites were going to enforce the satus quo. not the same people,diffrent. a front row seat was my own neighborhood. listening to people who escaped europe for America,GIs who were anywhere at that time,i listend to the stories,the very real scenerio that i could happen here. the people who talked to me about civilization and democracy,and how hitler slaughtered people for his own needs. the library wasnt far, those words were backed up at times in graphic detail. Kennedy died, the world around me changed. i watched how a minority was pummeled by the local and state police. Newark was the test,and we watched it under marshall law. at 10 years,i was watching those words change civilization as i knew it. my own eyes seen how one race could and would,demand its own accord. it was white,it was violent. but now came the other half,tired of being kicked and squandered like less than human.
    today i see little change in attitudes,and dismissed neededs of those who survive on whats left. trump is from a near bottom of life as human. if the pro white field sees him as some sort of god,or path,its written a million times over,whats left of America,we grew up to believe in. we could have gone over the top and changed things before reagan.before the money side of life decided to buy out our democracy for a hand full of trinkets. any and all who,stand in congress who cant muster the will to,speak out,does not,speak for me.. they too, are a path to trumps world of authritarianism. even Joe…
    though we would like to see some one with some balls get on the media and become a left wing loud mouth and tell it like it is, sorry you missed the boat. it now a long swin to the past.
    but as i see our left side leaning,its full of words and few dos. it combined with education and what few of us want to hear. as we stand and mull the possibilities, the few who demand restraint and manners,moral codes of speaking,are sinking our only ship. as i watch link and free speach t.v and mull thru a few social media you tube shows, i see and less hear a valid voice who stands a screams back. its all low tone voices shivering in the dark. no one wants to read about it today,they, like the trumpers want to hear a leader who takes a lead and marches against the crap we are taking. theres plenty to say,and planty to do,as i watch our congress fizzle into oblivion and sinks with the ship..we had a buffalo yesterday,whos next?
    best wishes…

  9. Trump’s invitation to Kyle Rittenhouse to come visit him at Mar-a-Lago after this teenager was wrongly found not guilty of murdering two unarmed men at a protest and the lack of outcry over such invitation are indicative of much of the country’s mood just now. It is as though the frog in boiling water insists that the water’s temperature is tepid, and why? Because we have allowed one insult after another to our democracy without extracting a penalty while (perhaps as a result) such insults become more frequent and ever more divisive.

    So what to do about it? Call those to account who were involved in that terrorist act who insist that the 1/6 adventure was a walk in the park and in itself an exercise in democracy. Jail them. Show some spine. How? We can start with an overwhelming win for both small and large d this fall, while seeing to it that all ballots are counted, after which we need to instill democratic principles once thought sacrosanct and unnecessary to legalize into law so that this brush with dictatorship is permanently in our wake. When to begin such counter offensive? Yesterday.

  10. Mea culpa. I omitted a penultimate paragraph I had written to my offering today. I wrote:

    Till then, the DOJ (aided by self-generated and Select Committee evidence) should indict those in high places who in any way, shape or form helped plan, organize, or conspire to bring about the downfall of our democracy via their attempted overthrow of our government on 1/6. No exceptions.

  11. Todd. Next you’re going to tell us one of your favorite Senators is Rand Paul.

  12. Big Jack!

    Comments are looking good my brother, LOL, they can’t complain about that anymore! And, as always some very good points!


    I hope that link I posted a couple of days ago helped with your hobby!


    Can’t really argue with your assertions at all today, there are a lot of Why’s out there, but virtually no answers! The reason there are no answers are because all of this stuff has happened before, and there is a whole bunch of denial and camouflage going on! What did Boris Badinoff say? “Sabotage and camouflage!” 🤔🤣

    Much of Civil society recognizes what’s actually happening, but because the magnitude of the misdirection, lies, and obscurantism, people feel that they can’t change anything.

    Look at the Hundreds of Billions of dollars being sent to the Ukraine, and the trillions of dollars that were sent to Afghanistan, imagine if that money was used to make better lives for everyone in this country?

    This country likes to envision itself as having a huge set of “Bull Balls!” Except when some sniveling backward looking good old days craving dictator waves his nuclear saber, those Bull Balls turn into tiny raisins! If they would have just blasted the mess out of those columns rolling into Ukraine, Ukrainian military could have polished the Russians off, but, now, there’s even a larger stage, a destroyed country, tens of thousands of dead civilians and ill will that is brewing amongst that Ukrainian population because nobody seems to have any stones. It’s a fire that’s not going to be put out easily. And, it’s going to cost, and is costing, trillions instead of billions.

    Misplaced or non-existent loyalty to to the American citizens, has proven the government cannot govern anymore! And, this is just more cyclical history, history that has been happening since time immemorial!

    King Solomon, the son of King David and Bath Sheba, stated;
    “That which “has” come to be, that is what “will” come to be; that which “has” been done, that is what “will” be done; and so there is nothing new Under the Sun.”

    That was recognized millennia ago, but even King Solomon could not stop his transgression, and he followed the same path most of his predecessors had! With all of his knowledge and wealth, he died disgraced.

    We always seem cocksure about everything, but then, every civilization was cocksure about their path they thought was less traveled but in reality was a busy highway! Not unlike any time in history and definitely not unlike today!

  13. I see nothing, other than collapse, in the future to prevent the demise of the democracy that our past created and 90% of the world admired. I ignore moving my belt a notch, and then another notch, forward until I can no longer mow the yard without a rest. I ignore the lesion on my arm thinking it is just an age spot, until it it obviously more. I refuse to think about down-sizing in retirement because it is too much effort, until my gasoline and electric bill make it one of several choices I have to make. Why should my human nature about democracy be any different….after all, I vote. I fear we must hit bottom before we try to crawl back up….and while we are at the bottom, other nations may work economically to keep us there. Selfishly, I am glad I will not be here to see my grandchildren struggle.

  14. This post made my stomach hurt. I agree that we are on the steep decent into total minority rule by fascist oligarchs and theocrats who are enabled by their legislative henchmen.
    Just the thought of having to listen to Trump’s voice again and see his mug all over the TV makes my skin crawl.
    My 13 year old grandson and I were watching the news on January 6, 2021 and even he understood that event was horrific. I am very sorry that so many people will be scratching their heads when THEIR favorite personal right is stripped away. 🙁

  15. So, Stan … you have mentioned times before an announcement you are “jumping ship” to leave your home country for another more fitting to your needs. Curious. What are the attributes of quality of life for you and others in your choice of a different country? The politics of this new country for you meets your needs? You speak fluently the primary language? All your family and loved ones moving with you? You are a combat veteran? Where will be your nearest V.A. care benefit for end of life?

  16. “ As a wise man once told me, we’re equally free, or no one really is. Poison gas is a great weapon until the wind shifts.”

    The world is seeing a wind shift now in the Ukraine. Will that wake it up (woke?) in time?

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