Two Possibilities….

A few days ago, a clearly exasperated reader of this blog asked “the” question–the question I ask myself daily and am unable to answer. He agreed with my “diagnoses” of the myriad  problems we face, but wanted to know what we can do about them. We know what the problems are–what can individuals do to solve them?

If only I had an answer! We’d both feel better.

Not only do I not have a solution to “the question,” I vacillate between two competing analyses of the problems we face. As I have previously noted, I’ve been reading a lot more history lately, in an effort to determine whether we’ve been here before, or whether the severity of America’s divisions is something unprecedented. (That’s another question to which I have no answer…).

As I used to tell my students, it depends–and it’s complicated.

Like many of the people who read this blog, I take the daily letter from historian Heather Cox Richardson, who provides helpful historic context to the issues of the day. Recently, she addressed the question of Trump’s stolen documents, and Senator Lindsey Graham’s threat that holding Trump accountable would be met with violence in the streets.

Richardson pointed out that arguments about the theft of those documents  are arguments about the rule of law–not about contending political opinions. Graham’s threats about gangs taking to the streets is an authoritarian’s argument for the use of violence to overturn the rule of law. Richardson then provided valuable context, noting that resort to violence is not new to this country, citing to  the Reconstruction South–a period during which “white gangs terrorized their Black neighbors and the white men who voted as they did, suppressed labor organization at the turn of the last century, and fed rising fascism in the 1930s”.

Right-wing activists have been an ever-growing threat since the 1990s. Under Trump, rightwing gangs became his troops. But as Richardson reminded us,  even the incidents of domestic terrorism aren’t new.

Such gangs have always operated in the U.S., and they gain power and momentum when they engage in violence and are unchecked. After several years in which they have seemed invulnerable, we are now in a period when, as we learned on Saturday, an armed man in a truck chased Independent Utah senatorial candidate Evan McMullin with a gun after an event in April and forced the vehicle carrying McMullin and his wife into oncoming traffic. That incident echoes one from October 2020, when a bus carrying Biden staffers and volunteers through Texas was harassed by Trump supporters, some of whom appeared to be trying to force it off the road. When the terrified Biden workers called the police, officers allegedly refused to help.

What I take from Richardson and other historians–as well as the upheavals most of us personally experienced in the 1960s and 70s– is the lesson that the times we are living through are not unique. We can take some comfort in the fact that we got through those ugly episodes, and reassure ourselves that we can make it through these times as well.

Or–as a part of my brain whispers–maybe this time really is different.

Previous periods of unrest didn’t occur in the face of the existential threats posed by climate change, and new technologies that facilitate mass murder and Orwellian surveillance. Obsolescent rules weren’t bringing federal governance to a grinding halt…

Ultimately, it doesn’t matter which of these analyses is accurate. Whether we’ve been here before or we really haven’t–we need to find a way out. But the solutions available to us will ultimately depend upon understanding what is happening now, and how unprecedented (or not) our challenges are.

Choose your preferred diagnosis–but neither sparks an epiphany pointing to a cure.

The single thing that each of us can do is to vote, and work to ensure that other rational Americans do likewise. Gerrymandering and vote suppression tactics may win the day– but a truly overwhelming Blue turnout would keep the GOP from furthering its march to fascism, and would begin the long and difficult job of mending American government.

Voting Blue in November won’t be an endorsement of whatever Democrats stand for. The party certainly isn’t above criticism. It is, however, largely sane and pro-democracy.

Conservative Republican Adam Kitzinger recently made the same point.

A Blue vote is a vote for women’s reproductive autonomy, for the civil rights of LGBTQ citizens,   for sensible restrictions on firearms, and for prioritizing the interests of working and middle class Americans. We can–and will– argue about the details of those basic commitments, but only if we defeat the unAmerican cult that stands firmly against them all.

This November, we must vote Blue for America.


  1. Yep – Vote BLUE no matter who. Keep it up for the next few election cycles. And maybe DONATE to the key races while there is still time.
    Ohio, WI, Penn, Texas, FL

  2. I believe these times are way too different from our past brushes with incivility and fascism. The internet allows lunatics to have a platform no matter how seditious or traitorous they are. Rumors appear instantly and can travel the world in seconds.

    The horror of Donald Trump is new. An actual former President recruiting domestic terrorists is new. Is it too great a leap to think that Michael Flynn and Steve Bannon aren’t in on the theft of secret documents? I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised. Which begs another question: How on earth did a wretch like Michael Flynn become a three-star general in our beloved Army?

    Yes. We all must vote – OVERWHELMINGLY BLUE – to squash the creeping fascism, hate and bigotry form the scum-eating 25% who wish to bring the good people down into the pit of wretchedness with them.

  3. Critical races in Indiana need financial support also.
    Frank Mrvan in Northern Indiana, District 1, is up against a very credible woman Republican candidate.
    Tom McDermott is in a very right race against Todd Young for Senate.
    Please FIRST support candidates from Indiana.

  4. I’ve already “voted” with my feet as I have departed the US. Keep in mind I am a disabled Vietnam Combat Vet and take my oath to “defend the Constitution of the US against all enemies foreign & domestic” very seriously. I’m also not some uneducated crank, abet an educated one with an earned doctorate from Oklahoma State University in Adult and Technical Education (workforce development). I’m also a democratic socialist (like Bernie) by most definitions.

    IMHO the US is on the way to implosion and will break up into 4+ nations, one or two still democratic and the others fascist. It should be noted most empires (yes the US is an empire) break up after 250 +/- years.

    I’m not alone in this belief as a number of Canadian political science professionals and historians also believe this is the likely scenario. They are expecting a large influx of US refugees flooding Canada as in the Handmaiden Tales.

  5. Yes, vote and vote blue.

    But the other thing we must do is pressure our law enforcement to enforce the laws of this country equally. Damnit. Trump must be arrested and charges with obstruction and espionage just like Snowden and Assange. Reality Winner (a female) spent four years in prison for exposing the Russian interference into 2016 and that was her sentence for only ONE document. Trump has sold out to whoever and several of our spies are dead because of him exposing them. He also needs to be charged with crimes against humanity for his denial during a pandemic! Until that con man is arrested and committed for his crimes, we are not a country of laws. The fascists have won.

  6. If you are still deluding that the USA is a functioning democracy, then I suppose you’ll vote for your favorite political party.

    Will it make a difference?

    Of course not.

    As for the question, have we been here before?

    Not even close from a geopolitical perspective. The US oligarchy/MIC is picking fights with nuclear-armed countries. Neither will use nuclear arms to complete their missions in Ukraine/Eastern Europe and Taiwan/South Pacific.

    The agreement made at Bretton Woods post WW2 is collapsing, and so is the dollar as the world’s reserve currency. The Davos crowd – the Atlantic oligarchs have mismanaged things with their greed in this country and beyond. They will have to acknowledge this or, I suppose, fight their way out of it.

    No matter who wins elections, the oligarchy will tell the American people they must sacrifice more for their country. So make do with even less, and when people resist, you’ll discover just how free you aren’t.

  7. thank you, Professor K. I know there are no easy solutions to the current dilemma of life in America.
    I also hope, once again, for a Blue Wave, but that is a Charlie Brown and Lucy with the Football game. For too many election cycles I have been disappointed by the number of Democrat voters who stay home during the election, and I will not be surprised if the same thing happens this time around. Still, hope endures…

  8. If you need another reason, vote Blue because the other people deny the existence of climate change and are currently obstructing measures both at local and national levels to develop a post-carbon energy economy.

  9. During the summer of 1940 the citizens of Great Britain gave us all a lesson in perseverance and hope. They were attacked and bombed night after night by the Nazis. Hundreds of war planes dropped millions of tons of explosives on their cities and towns. When dawn came they dusted themselves off, got busy with repairing their defenses, cleared up the damage, and then went on with their lives. They never gave up. They understood that they had no choice to do otherwise. And we need to come to that understanding too.

  10. You left out a vey important reason to vote blue and that is the right to vote. If Dems get a bigger majority in the Senate, they will pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act. We need that more than ever.

  11. To all the doomsayers on this blog: Why do you even bother commenting? I, for one, don’t care a whit about how wonderful your education is or your views of history. This is a crisis moment where the true heroes will stand up. Yes, Todd. Voting DOES matter. Of all people who should know that… I’m sick of hearing about oligarchs and hand-wringing flip-offs to those of us who are actually working to preserve the republic. If you don’t think we have a future as a nation, put yourself and your education to work wherever you live and let us husband as much positive energy as we can to do right by the 330 million people whose Constitution you brag about defending.

    I took that oath too, and I’m still here trying to emulate the British citizens from 1940. What are you doing for your country besides running away from it?

  12. While Vote Blue No Matter Who may be a good idea most of the time, sometimes even blue candidates may not be a good choice.

    Locally, there are two blue candidates that those of us who are active in the party wouldn’t vote for. We have a bipolar candidate running for state office that has shown us repeatedly how dangerous she can be. I don’t know if she goes off her meds sometimes or if her meds just don’t work all the time, but she is not trustworthy.

    The other candidate is running for Congress. He has run for the office of state senator before and lost. He is not active in the party other than to constantly ask for money when he is running for office. He runs for office because he wants the paycheck. He hasn’t held down a job in years. He and his wife have lived off being foster parents and all but maybe one of those kids have aged out of the system. He has never been interested in actually working. He also used to be a republican, but the republicans in two different counties ended up kicking him out of their party. He is even less trustworthy than the first candidate I mentioned.

    For decades it has been impossible to get good local democrat candidates to run for office because our district is one of the most heavily gerrymandered rural areas in the state. The state Dem party wants us to find candidates to run for office, but they refuse to offer any type of assistance. The state party leadership has made it clear they will only help candidates in predominately blue territories that are a safe bet to win.

  13. Supporting and/or participating in a local or national Braver Angels group is somewhat helpful.
    I attend by Zoom a local meeting on a weekly basis and finding common ground at the end of the meeting is the goal and getting to know members from each side is helpful. I may despise what the Red members stand for but getting to know each is a key piece of the process. And I genuinely like every one of them.

  14. Rebecca mentioned Tom McDermott. He is an excellent candidate for the US Senate! Intelligent, energetic and has greatly improved the city of Hammond. Please look up his record of achievements. If you get the chance to meet and listen to him at one of his campaign stops you will learn about his history of bringing about positive changes for the hard working people of Hammond and how he wants to do the same for the rest of us.

  15. All things Trump boil down to one issue. Does the American Rule of law, apply equally to all, or are some due to wealth and stature place them above the law.
    Without the rule of law applied equally there is no America, but Just another Authoritarian run land, ruled by the Devine right of Kings.

  16. There is one vital PROBABILITY; no matter what you think of any Democratic candidate, every vote for a Republican candidate will help put Trump back in office whether they support the man or not.


  17. I’ll send as much money to support Manchin and Sinema as I can. We shall overcome!

    A Democratic Party majority will make all the difference and save humanity from disaster!

    Remember! Vote Blue No matter Who!

  18. Vernon, if you think Trump is dangerous and you believe Biden’s speech, why isn’t Trump and all his cronies in federal prison?

    They’ve done more harm to this nation than Julian Assange, who is being held in a maximum security prison because he told the truth about our war criminals.

    Are you senile or just delusional?

  19. Culture is an adaptation to changing times according to anthropologists. It reduces relearning of critical lessons by each new generation but is flexible enough to give way to adjustment as a response to critical environmental changes.

    As hunter gatherers we typically adjusted to critical shortages by adjustments to place, but modern overpopulated humans have eliminated that option.

    Law and order puts “teeth” in culture for acts by individuals that threaten to impose what’s best for them on others at the expense of society.

    We either enforce law and order or we elect living without it. .

  20. Massive Dem voter turnout is needed in Nov.! On one hand it could deepen the Dem presence in the Senate,while expanding
    it in the House; on the other hand it would send a message to the wider audience that fascism and DT are not welcome here
    Speaking of he who will not go away quietly, whose quiet moments are spent in subterfuge, I have seen increasing numbers
    of people speaking out on the positive value of prosecuting DT, despite the groveling Lindsay’s of the world. WE need this

  21. Get real, folks. Most of the commentators here will vote Blue. What might save our democracy will be everyone’s efforts to get these specific groups to vote Blue:

    – DEMS who think the country’s gone and their vote makes no difference
    – Independents who are that way as they trust no “Parties”
    – Minorities (especially Latinos) who have given up on the DEMs
    – Young people (and others) who think no politicians are worth a vote

  22. We should also consider a new and improved Fairness Doctrine for the media. It’ll need context and perspective beyond Either/Or and it’ll need fact checkers. It’ll also need a public education mission.

  23. Heather Cox Richardson has also said repeatedly that the way we can combat the dark forces is to speak out. Stand up in meetings, write letters to the editor, use social media, and do whatever works for our own circumstances to inform and inspire. Not to waste our time on lost Trumpers or to raise the volume in our echo chambers, but to rouse the youth and fence-sitters. It isn’t enough just to tell people to vote.

  24. Unfortunately, both sides of this conflict are just as passionately convinced that; “We” are on the right, intelligent, righteous, and reasonable side, and “They” are on the wrong, ignorant, evil, and uncompromising side.
    How does anyone counteract uncompromising righteous conviction?

  25. Peter – you must make it clear that the idea/ideals of “America” that most people believe in and love are at stake and they must step up to ensure these survive going forward.

  26. United We Stand

    For united we stand. Divided we fall.
    And if our backs should ever be against the wall
    We’ll be together, you and I.

    By The Brotherhood of Man, 1970

    If you cannot see that our backs are against the wall at this time; you haven’t been paying attention. VOTE BLUE NO MATTER WHO!

  27. “what can individuals do to solve them?” Of course, there are solutions. But they are not favorable to the continuation of a two-party system.

    Speak up with credible information that counters lies, misinformation, and disinformation.

    Vote against radicals in both parties, because these are the people who are creating division.

    That pretty much includes voting for people who will preserve the democracy.

    But once you save the democracy from outright death, then you need to save the election system from the two-party political system.

  28. As for historical precedent, remember, history doesn’t repeat itself, but it does rhyme.

    The problem, convincing people that the sky really is falling without sounding like Chicken Little.
    The entire Republican establishment, even those who are “crazy”, have been enablers, and have been known to run as extremists in the primaries, “moderates” in the general, and then govern like Trumpsters. Susan Collins enabled the overturn of Roe, as did the other “moderates”, and they went along with the McConnell rules of “only Republicans are allowed to rule”.

    Lester pointed to the main issue – those are the people that we have to convince to show up and vote Blue. After a couple of bad defeats, maybe a new generation of Republicans, including those who have left the party, can return and rebuild.

    Meanwhile, in case people haven’t seen it, Republicans in Michigan, who are supposed to verify signatures for ballot initiatives have decided to block the constitutional amendment to protect reproductive rights. Their excuse is typos in the text. Not their job. Fortunately, the Michigan Supremes will allow the initiative to proceed.

    A hopeful note – every politico I know in Indiana and Michigan (areas where I have contacts) are scared. They don’t care what hopeful signs the polls are sending, they won’t believe it until election day. That is a hopeful sign.

  29. I have been voting “blue” no matter who for a long time. At age 75, I have only missed one election that I can think of since I was 18. Lived through Viet Nam and Race riots, Women’s Lib and economic downturns. This current state is the result of long years of mismanagement and corruption all through our government, courts and military, not to mentions control of our lives by the wealthy corporations. My hope is that a majority will indeed vote “blue” and that the Dems will THEN pass some laws that will start a new era of justice for all. It won’t change our lives quickly and it will backslide at times, but if we don’t repair this house, which is divided already, it will surely fall around us and escape will be our only choice – – but too late for many.

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