A Moment Of Clarity

I have previously cited and linked to Heather Cox Richardson’s daily Letters from an American, but a recent one deserves more than a passing mention. In it, Richardson does a masterful job of clarifying the stakes of November’s election.

She begins by reminding us of the events leading up to the choice we will face, reminding readers that–once it had become clear Trump had lost the 2020 election– he’d given up “all pretense of normal presidential behavior.” Not only did he try to overturn the election, ignoring the will of the voters, “his attack on the fundamental principle of democracy ended the tradition of the peaceful transfer of power established in 1797 when our first president, George Washington, deliberately walked behind his successor, John Adams, after Adams was sworn into office.”

Trump has continued to push the Big Lie, and his loyalists in the states have embraced that lie, undermining faith in our electoral system. His theft of enormous amounts of classified materials has compromised national security.

We know all this, although the recitation/reminder is important. But–as historians like Richardson are well aware–past is truly prologue.

Trump is not the same as he was in 2020, and in the past three years he has transformed the Republican Party into a vehicle for Christian nationalism.

In 2016 the Republican Party was still dominated by leaders who promoted supply-side economics. They were determined to use the government to cut taxes and regulations to concentrate money and power among a few individuals, who would, theoretically, use that money and power to invest in the economy far more efficiently than they could if the government intervened. Before 2016 that Reaganesque party had stayed in office thanks to the votes of a base interested in advancing patriarchal, racist, and religious values.

But Trump flipped the power structure in the party, giving control to the reactionary base. In the years since 2020, the Republican Party has become openly opposed to democracy, embracing the Christian nationalism of leaders like Hungary’s Viktor Orbán, who maintains that the tenets of democracy weaken a nation by giving immigrants, people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and women the same rights as heterosexual, native-born white men.

Richardson then underscores what most of us who follow politics know–that today’s GOP looks absolutely nothing like the Republican party of the past.

Rather than calling for a small federal government that stays out of the way of market forces, as Republicans have advocated since 1980, the new Trump Party calls for a strong government that enforces religious rules and bans abortion; books; diversity, equity, and inclusion programs; and so on. In 2022, thanks to the three extremists Trump put on the Supreme Court, the government ceased to recognize a constitutional right that Americans had enjoyed since the 1973 Roe v. Wade decision: the right to abortion.

The far-right Trumpers have paralyzed the House of Representatives.

Republican members who actually want to pass laws are either leaving or declining to run for reelection. The conference has become so toxic that fewer than 100 members agreed to attend their annual retreat that began today. “I’d rather sit down with Hannibal Lecter and eat my own liver,” a Republican member of Congress told Juliegrace Brufke of Axios.

Richardson ticks off some of the actions Trump has promised if he wins in November: purging the nonpartisan civil service created in 1883, in order to replace career employees with Trump loyalists; weaponizing the Department of Justice and the Department of Defense; rounding up 10 million people– “not just undocumented immigrants and asylum seekers but also those with birthright citizenship,” and putting them in camps, ignoring a “right that has been enshrined in the Constitution since 1868;” cutting Social Security and Medicare; and being a “dictator on Day One.”

She then enumerates many of the achievements of the Biden Administration, drawing a stark contrast between an incredibly consequential President who has worked within the traditions of this country and an autocratic madman.

Every American following the news can probably point to policies of the Biden administration with which they disagree. That’s par for the course in every administration. Liz Cheney probably said it best: we can survive what we consider bad policy, we cannot survive a president who torches the Constitution.

It is incredibly disheartening to realize that millions of our fellow-Americans harbor resentments and hatreds that this repulsive buffoon has exploited–grievances for which he serves as a vehicle. But I refuse to believe that those angry and limited people represent anything close to a majority. If they did, Republicans wouldn’t be so frantic to suppress the vote.

Click through, read Richardson’s entire Letter–and VOTE as if your life depended upon it, because in a very real sense, it does.


  1. Thia is a good description of how the GOP has morphed into a a non-functioning political party that can cause a geat harm to all of us. Our lives will depend on our votes, and we must encourage everyone to vit

  2. Trump or Biden are two incredulous choices for “the greatest country of all time.”

    Neither one deserves to be POTUS, but when you consider Progressives are accepting monies from AIPAC during a genocide, Washington is a swirling toilet bowl. Their projection onto Russia’s elections or the CCP is a confession of their disarray.

    Biden is sneaking weapons to both Ukraine and Israel as a “workaround” from a dysfunctional Congress. Their only bipartisan victory is over banning a teenage video app that both parties “fear.”

    Meanwhile, Washington is quietly looking toward censorship and putting an end to protesting as an act of “extremism,” just like the UK. Protesters against a war or genocide are referred to as extremists. That’s unbelievable!

    The poor choices for president reflect a country swirling in the drain with a very poor outlook for the future.

  3. If you prefer podcasts, Heather Cox Richardson now narrates her ‘Letters to an American’. They are available the day after her newsletter is published and are available on Apple and Podbean, but might also be on other podcasts too.

  4. Yes if only Nikki Haley was leading ghe way. Biden unfortunately is worse than Trump. His policies are destroying the black community and putting people on welfare. Layoffs are occurring all over.
    Im not retired yet and its painful to have friends run through their bank accounts.
    Classified document fiasco is worse as some politicians can break the law and go free while ithers have a claim as its a right to maintain files. Democrats gave two politicians that claim Presidential privilege who were not President at the time.
    What dies a 7,3 trillion budget say?? The current President is no Bill Clinton!

  5. So … Smekens … all things considered, including your erudite eloquent elightement of the state of our choice of candidates … who then is a deserving candidate for President of the United States of America?

  6. Norris Lineweaver. Refer back a few days ago to Todd’s posts and my replies. Todd is looking forward to “full scale nuclear war.” He thinks it might be good for most of us. His own words! Don’t expect anything remotely like a sensible answer to any question you ask him. In fact, you may not get an answer at all. Just more insane rants.

  7. It’s not that Biden is facilitating a genocide in our lifetime,it’s the startling fact that Democratic Party voters are not holding him accountable.

    You cannot trust those in support of genocide. I will not vote for a Republican —I will no.longer support the party since the party has chosen the racist and rabid Joe Biden as their candidate. If Cornel West halts his campaign, I will leave it blank. Let the chips fall where they may.

  8. Now, Sharon, please don’t twist my words to fit your resentment. The flippant attitude of our “Western leaders” toward two nuclear powers, China and Russia, would indicate they aren’t concerned with a nuclear war.

    As for Norris, I don’t expect anything coming from the two oligarch-controlled political parties. I mean, Trump has picked the two people running the GOP and fired 60 staffers. At the same time, Biden received over $5 million from the Israeli lobbies as he accomplices a genocide and provided diplomatic cover.

    Anybody for peace will never get far in Washington. The media will use all its power to destroy that individual. We are heading for an iceberg with our foot on the accelerator.

  9. I think Biden has done a good job in an imperfect world not of his making. And I value older and sane over old and criminally insane any day – and those are the choices. There aren’t any others.

    Look our economy is doing very well compared to everyone else. Many countries are dealing with inflation – a pandemic will do that. Ours has recovered unlike China, UK, etc. High employment numbers and opportunity help everybody – including minorities who have been under-represented in the workforce.

    Biden has done very well with Ukraine, although in retrospect a drawn out war is working in Russia’s favor. Much of that blame falls squarely on Republicans.

    Biden has directed record amounts to Historically Black Colleges, significant money to reduce environmental racism- such as lead water pipes- that impact black folks disproportionally, and large infrastructure investments into all areas (including poor and rural areas).

    Biden is not responsible for what is happening in Israel and Gaza. I think that ongoing unquestioning US support (Trump) for what became an increasingly right-wing government in Israel certainly made things far worse, but Biden inherited those problems. Israel gets a lot of support from the US – but it’s not a puppet and our influence only goes so far.

    I don’t condone the current atrocities in Gaza at all, but I also recognize that history didn’t start after Oct 7 – or even on Oct 7. If we had the ability to impose a solution on the Arab – Israeli conflict we would have done it decades ago.

    Look, the Far Left has always taken the loser position of “If I don’t get my way on every little thing I’m going to withhold my vote – or vote for a third party”. It’s a big part of the reason a rapist and criminal got into office. It’s a big part of why we lost the Supreme Court. If you aren’t in power, you are just shouting on the sidelines.

  10. and VOTE as if your life depended upon it, because in a very real sense, it does.
    At 75, it is not my life I am concerned about. It is my children’s and grandchildren’s.

  11. If the Republican Party is so divided within its ranks, how come they keep voting en bloc? Every time they have the chance to show their disagreement or rebel against their “leaders”, they fall in line anyway. They’re all cowards.

  12. Yes, Alphons, they are all cowards afraid to stand out, to take a stand. HCR references Timothy Snyder, the Levin Professor of History at Yale, whose “ON TYRANNY-TEWNTY LESSONS FROM THE TWENTIETH CENTURY” I just finished reading last night. One of those lessons is called “Stand Out,” in which he states that “someone has to. It is easy to follow along. It can feel strange to do or say something different. But without that unease, there s no freedom. Remember Rloas Parks. The moment you set an example, the spell of the stars quo is broken, and others will follow.”
    What HCR writes about today is very frightening!!!!

  13. Think that this blog should be retitled “Preaching to the Choir”….day after day. We will vote – got it. So…nothing else to say/do?

  14. Our country is literally at stake in the coming election however we came to this point, a “however” which seems to be more important to some commentators on this blog than the fact that without a country the freedom to complain how we got here is immaterial to our continuing existence. We must first have a government in order to complain about the government, its policies, and the deportment of those in charge of its three branches.

    Unlike the fascism now proposed by captors of the defunct Republican Party, democracy and its continuation are matters of choice, and to equate democracy with fascism based on the acts or failures to act of some of their actors defies both constitutional tradition as well as logic, assuming the measure is the common good. Concentration camps, no elections, and gas chambers vs. petty theft and policy failures are not equivalent, though ideally, both are to be avoided.

    I suggest that those of us who would bring the country down by grievances either real or imagined consider that our country is in an existentialist emergency and consider first saving our democracy so that they will themselves have the freedom to make their complaints known following the election.

    Colloquially, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

  15. Lester—Rather than snidely carping, why don’t YOU make concrete suggestions about what else people should be doing. I assume, given your repeated comments, that you are already doing those things.

  16. Sheila et al – sure, NP. Focus on the largest “party” – those either not declared as GOP or DEM and/or the two groups which dominate data as “sometimes voters” – minorities and young people. THEY will decide most of the elections this year.

    Give them a “reason” to vote FOR something that will make a concrete difference in their personal lives, i.e. social security not democracy…

  17. If you vote for Trump . . .
    If you stay home and don’t vote . . . .
    If you leave “Presidential Candidates” blank . . .
    If you vote for Robert Kennedy, Jr. or Cornell West, or Jill Stein . . .
    If you write in “Mickey Mouse” . . . .
    We could very well be living this nightmare . . . DICTATORSHIP!
    For a chilling description of that scenario, read this excellent description (originally imbedded in a piece by Joyce Vance): https://snyder.substack.com/p/the-strongman-fantasy?utm_source=substack&utm_campaign=post_embed&utm_medium=email

  18. And, Lester — let’s hear about some concrete actions YOU are taking/doing that will make it more likely that THEY will vote.
    No, seriously, what are you DOING??????

  19. Lester. As if any of us will have any kind of security, financial, social, physical, etc. if our democracy is overturned by fascists. IMO that is the message that needs to be driven home to everyone, not just select groups. But anything and everything you do to prevent that dire consequence is appreciated.

  20. Kathy M – other than recent immigrants who have lived under dictators, and thanks to our eroding education system, few adult Americans, especially those 40 and under can really “imagine” life in an authoritarian country – much less really believe it could happen.

  21. Previous comment was for Sharon – sorry Kathy.

    I and my activist community of 200+ people across the US (CommonGoodGoverning) have been doing exactly what I mentioned since 2017 and have helped elect both state and US House members. Our prime focus for ’24 is on governor’s race in NC as the result could affect the votes in the Electoral College.

  22. It’s a living nightmare now that trump even has the possibility of becoming Potus again. His plans are an existential threat to the good we do have in our daily lives in US. This country isn’t war torn Germany during the thirties without nuclear power. Today’s US power channeled by Maga fascists would have devastating and disastrous worldwide effects.
    I heard that during WWll Ernie Pyle a war correspondent from Indiana said that his job was to “weigh and describe” what was going on. Perspective is paramount at this time. Seems apropos to realize the seriousness of the current situation, put aside differences and aim unified efforts toward defeating trumps wanna be evil empire.

  23. Lester — so what is it that you are doing? Phone banking, letter writing, canvassing. WHAT???

  24. Kathy,

    We identify the names/emails/phone numbers of respected members of minority communities and college/university groups in the geographic area. We provide these and targeted messages based on reliable (Pew, etc.) data on the groups’ concerns and help the candidate’s campaign build “peer-to-peer” campaigning. If you get a message from someone like you, near you (perhaps, known to you), you will 10 times or more attention than from a random source.

  25. The argument between red and blue can be stated very simply as, do you support the Constitution as written but applied to these times? No = red. Yes = blue.

  26. The “both sides are bad” commentary is ridiculous. Even if you think Biden is bad (and I don’t), he’s bad like bland oatmeal and boiled water for dinner whereas Trump is more like tire rims and arsenic. “Neither side is offering an appealing meal” papers over the fact that one is disappointing while the other is lethal.

    But, frankly, which President in the last 40 years has been more productive than Biden? He passed the American Rescue Plain, the CHIPS & Science Act, Bipartisan Infrastructure, the Inflation Reduction Act, defied almost universal predictions of a looming recession, coordinated international resistance to Russian aggression against Ukraine, made appointments to the National Labor Relations Board that have helped reinvigorate the labor movement in the U.S. — among other things.

  27. A very sad letter in the Portland Maine paper today….this is the kind of person we need to turn around….has given up on democracy in its current form:

    “Precisely because I am devoted to our nation, come November, I shall forever cast the same write-in ballot for “We The People.” Never again shall I impose my will by voting for any one candidate.

    The violence of majority rule is as devastating as any war. And more so because it is insidious and institutionalized.

    I have renounced fear and stand in love with all, willing to be vulnerable and hold the pain and anguish of my fellow countrymen/women/children and all that grows, or rests, or breathes. I refuse to be a pawn in a game of fear.

    This game is the fault of no one. As FDR said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” I refuse to fear my neighbor, and instead, I shall embrace all and listen far more than I speak. The only concern that matters to me is the fear, pain and anguish my fellow citizenry endures. It is that which I wish to help alleviate. That which divides us is infinitely less than nothing compared to that which binds us together as a nation, as a people.

    We have all lost, and lost exponentially, with every election since 1796. Power imposed changes nothing; willing vulnerability changes everything. Change is afoot. My hope is that loving kindness finally rules; it shall eventually.”

  28. “We have all lost, and lost exponentially, with every election since 1796.”

    (Thanks for sharing that, btw.)

    This sentiment is so overwrought, and wrong. The idea that we are living in Fallen Times is seductive somehow. But the reality is that the present is, in most respects, so much better than the past. Especially if you go back more than 50 or 60 years. Especially if you are something other than a straight, white, heterosexual, Christian male.

    Life expectancy is longer. Food is safer. Disease is a fraction of what it once was. Democracy is more inclusive. Elections are less fraudulent. The population is better educated. Violence is less acceptable. Houses don’t catch fire so often. Humanity has, by and large, progressed even as nostalgia blinds us to much of the progress.

    You can probably make some arguments that, say, the 90s were better than today in some respects. But, if you lived through the 90s, you can probably remember that we had plenty of people claiming that those too were Fallen Times.

    The writer argues that, to cast a vote, is to impose his or her will on fellow citizens. The reality is that, by casting a vote for the lesser evil, one is shielding others from the greater evil. Refusing to do so is a moral failing.

  29. Doug, and one could say that those who don’t vote or vote for third parties will be guilty of “moral failing”…but, in this age of “anything goes” and “I decide what is true, right, moral decent, etc.” ????

  30. Today’s respondants truly epitomizes the feelings of those living in privileged enclaves.

    You should be embarrassed.

  31. Ian, please be specific. You are making an ad hominem accusation that has no substance or evidence. It has as much weight as if I said, “You are wearing pink. You should be embarrassed.”

  32. @Ian
    Caity Johnstone is an Australian who doesn’t have a dog in this fight. This isn’t a single issue situation. We are fighting to keep our democracy, and if Trump wins, the people of Gaza will fare even worse.

  33. Lester at 1:42 pm. I hope you are wrong about that. I hope that people do not have to experience life under an authoritarian regime to know they wouldn’t like it. My experience with youth suggests that you are wrong.

  34. Sherry:

    Caitlin identifies as a human, of course she has a dog in this hunt. Especially since Australia is a satrytrap of the US. Your claptrap and ignorance is duly noted. A genocide is and should be of concern to everyone. At some point the Masters of The Universe will choose to genocide another group, who will be next? Will you choose ambivalence?

  35. Ian: you are coming very close to violating the one rule of my blog: no ad hominem attacks. Continuing to attack rather than debate will result in a ban.

  36. Spare me the bs.
    You invariably allow ad hominem attacks all of the time toward skeptics of the DNC by your favored participants. Ban me. It would just be another example and proof of your hypocrisy.

  37. Although I appreciate many of the erudite comments made today and other days, I find myself wondering how many hours were spent by all of us who have commented today. I wonder how it might change things for the better if all that time was spent operationalizing these ideas to maintain and advance our democracy.

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