It’s Right/Left But Also Fantasy/Reality

This is a somewhat edited Twitter thread from Steve Schmidt, a political strategist who used to work for Republicans. His comments were precipitated by a CNN podcast (referenced at the bottom of this post):

The debate is around how to think and talk about Fox News. What is it? [CNN journalist] Brian Stelter thinks about this directionally and ideologically: describing Fox as moving further right. He is correct, as is [journalism professor] Jay Rosen, who evaluates Fox News along a different axis. For him, it is the drift into fantasy and the unreal.

The authoritarian movement in America is real, powerful and present. All authoritarian movements are nourished by an ecosystem that includes three powerful components:

A. The Financiers. “No Bucks, no Buck Rogers” said the PR man to the disdainful test pilots who were to become America’s Mercury astronauts in one of the all time great movies “The Right Stuff”. There is no autocratic movement without money and they have a lot.

B. CYNICAL ELITES.  Rep. Elise Stefanik, Sen. Ted Cruz, Sen. Josh Hawley and Sen. Mitch McConnell are but a few examples of people who have tried to manage the toxic reverberations from [the former president’s] cult by manipulating it for power, self interest and vanity. They have aligned with the fringe and venomous ideas.

C. PROPAGANDISTS. All authoritarian movements rely on propaganda sustained by a particular type of lie. THE LIE OF AUTHORITY requires the abandonment of belief, truth, ethics, values and intellectual agency. It demands submission to the lies of the Leader/Party.

. . . Right-Left, in the tradition of American politics, has long been explicable with a two dimensional rendering, specifically, a horizontal line. It doesn’t work any more. When [Brian Stelter] talks about Fox and moving “Right”, it is important to pause and look at the [system of measurement].

Trying to explain the metastasized conservative media by marking a point on a line [that could be] used to measure ideological distance between [Republican moderate] Christie Whitman and [Republican conservative] Orrin Hatch [fails to capture reality].

The “Right” we are talking about here is a very specific variant, that no matter how easily identifiable, seems to induce a blindness in people who should see it clearly and an allergy towards confronting it by the people who have the most at stake in the fight.

We are talking, of course, about an authoritarian Right that is steeped in fantasy, delusion, hate, scapegoating, scientific racial theory, menace, violence and coercion.

This American Right is cousin to the noxious movements that have long been built on a fetid marsh of lies, grievance, scapegoating, hate, menace, fear and fantasy nostalgia for a world once pure. That fallen world, is the nucleus of a powerful and evil fantasy at the core of a terrible and dangerous mythology. The mythology is fear-based and architected around the imagined birthright of one group to feel superior to others.

It always leads to subjugation under the power and boot of the state for the purpose of preserving the power of the few and the fabulously corrupt over the common good of the great many.

Fox News is moving in a new direction and has been for some time. . . It is getting worse and more extreme every day. . . . The [metastasizing] ideological drift and the demand for submission to fantasies is at the core of understanding what all of this is. I hope enough people can see the totality of it all before we lose it all.

Unquote.

The CNN podcast is called Reliable Sources. From the description of this episode:

Jay Rosen, who teaches journalism at NYU and authors the PressThink blog, discusses the devolution of Fox News; the difficulty of describing a “shifted political universe” in the United States; and the need for news outlets to be “much more explicitly and aggressively pro-democracy.”

He says “Fox is becoming in some way more demand-driven” because “its audience is in the driver’s seat in a way that’s more extreme than when Roger Ailes ran the network.” For example, Rosen comments, “Do you want January 6 to be the fault of Antifa? You can have that. Do you want [somebody else] to have won the 2020 election? You can have that.”

Rosen explains that “these kinds of maneuvers are attempting to sever people from reality so that you can do what you want with them… to just sort of de-anchor people from anything that they have in common with their fellow citizens so that they can be manipulated further. And that’s why it’s so insidious.” 

“Purity” and “Quality”: A Crisis in the Making

More than 100 experts on democracy, from John Aldrich to Daniel Ziblatt, have issued a “statement of concern” regarding the imminent crisis in American politics:

We, the undersigned, are scholars of democracy who have watched the recent deterioration of U.S. elections and liberal democracy with growing alarm. Specifically, we have watched with deep concern as Republican-led state legislatures across the country have in recent months proposed or implemented what we consider radical changes to core electoral procedures in response to unproven and intentionally destructive allegations of a stolen election. Collectively, these initiatives are transforming several states into political systems that no longer meet the minimum conditions for free and fair elections. Hence, our entire democracy is now at risk.

When democracy breaks down, it typically takes many years, often decades, to reverse the downward spiral. In the process, violence and corruption typically flourish, and talent and wealth flee to more stable countries, undermining national prosperity. It is not just our venerated institutions and norms that are at risk—it is our future national standing, strength, and ability to compete globally.

Statutory changes in large key electoral battleground states are dangerously politicizing the process of electoral administration, with Republican-controlled legislatures giving themselves the power to override electoral outcomes on unproven allegations should Democrats win more votes. They are seeking to restrict access to the ballot, the most basic principle underlying the right of all adult American citizens to participate in our democracy. They are also putting in place criminal sentences and fines meant to intimidate and scare away poll workers and nonpartisan administrators. State legislatures have advanced initiatives that curtail voting methods now preferred by Democratic-leaning constituencies, such as early voting and mail voting. Republican lawmakers have openly talked about ensuring the “purity” and “quality” of the vote, echoing arguments widely used across the Jim Crow South as reasons for restricting the Black vote.

State legislators supporting these changes have cited the urgency of “electoral integrity” and the need to ensure that elections are secure and free of fraud. But by multiple expert judgments, the 2020 election was extremely secure and free of fraud. The reason that Republican voters have concerns is because many Republican officials, led by former President Donald Trump, have manufactured false claims of fraud, claims that have been repeatedly rejected by courts of law, and which Trump’s own lawyers have acknowledged were mere speculation when they testified about them before judges.

In future elections, these laws politicizing the administration and certification of elections could enable some state legislatures or partisan election officials to do what they failed to do in 2020: reverse the outcome of a free and fair election. Further, these laws could entrench extended minority rule, violating the basic and longstanding democratic principle that parties that get the most votes should win elections.

Democracy rests on certain elemental institutional and normative conditions. Elections must be neutrally and fairly administered. They must be free of manipulation. Every citizen who is qualified must have an equal right to vote, unhindered by obstruction. And when they lose elections, political parties and their candidates and supporters must be willing to accept defeat and acknowledge the legitimacy of the outcome. The refusal of prominent Republicans to accept the outcome of the 2020 election, and the anti-democratic laws adopted (or approaching adoption) in Arizona, Arkansas, Florida, Georgia, Iowa, Montana and Texas—and under serious consideration in other Republican-controlled states—violate these principles. More profoundly, these actions call into question whether the United States will remain a democracy. As scholars of democracy, we condemn these actions in the strongest possible terms as a betrayal of our precious democratic heritage.

The most effective remedy for these anti-democratic laws at the state level is federal action to protect equal access of all citizens to the ballot and to guarantee free and fair elections. Just as it ultimately took federal voting rights law to put an end to state-led voter suppression laws throughout the South, so federal law must once again ensure that American citizens’ voting rights do not depend on which party or faction happens to be dominant in their state legislature, and that votes are cast and counted equally, regardless of the state or jurisdiction in which a citizen happens to live. This is widely recognized as a fundamental principle of electoral integrity in democracies around the world.

A new voting rights law (such as that proposed in the John Lewis Voting Rights Act) is essential but alone is not enough. True electoral integrity demands a comprehensive set of national standards that ensure the sanctity and independence of election administration, guarantee that all voters can freely exercise their right to vote, prevent partisan gerrymandering from giving dominant parties in the states an unfair advantage in the process of drawing congressional districts, and regulate ethics and money in politics.

It is always far better for major democracy reforms to be bipartisan, to give change the broadest possible legitimacy. However, in the current hyper-polarized political context such broad bipartisan support is sadly lacking. Elected Republican leaders have had numerous opportunities to repudiate Trump and his “Stop the Steal” crusade, which led to the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6. Each time, they have sidestepped the truth and enabled the lie to spread.

We urge members of Congress to do whatever is necessary—including suspending the filibuster—in order to pass national voting and election administration standards that both guarantee the vote to all Americans equally, and prevent state legislatures from manipulating the rules in order to manufacture the result they want. Our democracy is fundamentally at stake. History will judge what we do at this moment.

Unquote.

The two Democratic senators who seem most reluctant to suspend the filibuster in order to protect democracy should read this statement.

Senator Joseph Manchin
306 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

Senator Kyrsten Sinema
317 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington D.C. 20510

The Biggest Issue Today

The biggest issue in the world is climate change, but the biggest issue in American politics is the descent of the Republican Party into authoritarianism (which, given who Republicans are, is itself part of the climate change problem). Here are parts of two opinion columns.

From Paul Waldman of The Washington Post:

When it came to the brazenness and sheer volume of his dishonesty, [the former president] was unique among politicians in American history and perhaps even in world history. So when he left office and found the vital propaganda pipelines of Twitter and Facebook closed to him, one might have hoped that his party would begin to rebuild its relationship to the truth.

But if anything, the Republican Party today is even more committed to myths, falsehoods and a shared hostility to the very idea of an objective reality . . . than they were when [their guy] was still president.

Things are not getting better. They’re getting worse. And it’s almost impossible to see a way out. A quick rundown of news just from the past couple of days:

  • Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) and Fox News host Tucker Carlson are vaguely suggesting that Anthony S. Fauci is to blame for creation of the coronavirus, based on a convoluted stew of half-truths and speculation about international virology research and the hypothesis that the virus originated in a lab in China. Carlson has been telling his viewers that covid vaccines have been killing people by the thousands. He’s the highest-rated host on cable news.
  • Republican members of Congress are trying to recast the Jan. 6 insurrection as a gentle stroll through the Capitol by people who may or may not have been [Dear Leader’s] supporters. Meanwhile, the purging of Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyoming) [from her leadership position] shows that the lie that [someone else] won the 2020 election has become the central organizing principle of the GOP.
  • The very act of fact-checking work is so offensive to Republicans that a group of GOP state legislators in Michigan have filed a bill called the “Fact Checker Registration Act.” It would require fact-checkers to register with the state and acquire a million-dollar insurance policy, and fine them if their fact-checks are displeasing to the government.

From Jonathan Chait of New York Magazine:

The fate of American democracy is the biggest issue in American politics. . .[It’s] not an issue you can simply put aside, or even weigh alongside all the other issues. It’s a foundational issue — the one decision that has to be settled before any other political question can be considered.

A majority of Republican voters believe [the] lie that the election was stolen, and this belief has been the most important driver of their post-election behavior. Republican-controlled states are implementing voting restrictions to placate this lie; Republican officials who refused to go along with [their leader’s] autogolpe are being removed from their positions [“autogolpe” = Spanish word for “a self-coup, or autocoup, . . . a form of coup d’état or putsch in which a nation’s leader, having come to power through legal means, dissolves or renders powerless the national legislature and unlawfully assumes extraordinary powers not granted under normal circumstances”].

The Bulwark’s Jonathan Last recently argued that “Republicans are already well on their way to marshaling the political will to do whatever the law even theoretically might allow in pursuit of power,” [for example,] use the full extent of their power to overturn the result and either assign electoral votes to their party using their control of state government, or throw the contest to the House . . . .

The primary argument in How Democracies Die, by Daniel Ziblatt and Steven Levitsky, is that the survival of a democratic regime against an authoritarian threat usually comes down to choices made by ideological allies of the authoritarian side. They can decide either to support an authoritarian party or leader that advances their policy agenda, or break from their natural allies and defend the system. According to their historical study of threats against democratic regimes, when the authoritarian candidate’s allies defect and join with their natural ideological opponents to save the system, democracies survive.

When they stay loyal to their normal partners, on the other hand, democracy perishes. The term Ziblatt and Levitsky borrow for this fateful latter decision is “ideological collusion” — choosing to win by subverting democracy rather than saving the system by joining with their ideological opponents.

Rep. Liz Cheney’s Republican critics are mostly willing to let her continue to disagree with [the Big Lie]. What they cannot abide is her vocalizing her belief. Rep. Ralph Norman (R-South Carolina), reportedly complained in a caucus meeting about her “defiant attitude” and failure to be a “team player.”

Eliana Johnson, editor of the Washington Free Beacon, perfectly explains the mainstream view within the party. The party’s operatives and politicians [want] Cheney to put aside her concern about the survival of democracy in America and instead focus on matters that unite the Republican party’s authoritarian and democratic wings. They’re demanding, in so many words, ideological collusion. . . . [Cheney was officially purged from the Republican leadership in the House this week.]

The Republican Party is sliding into authoritarianism at a terrifyingly rapid clip. To stand by is to let it happen. Republicans who have reservations about this trend have tried quiet hand-wringing for five years. It hasn’t worked. . . .

[A group of Republicans has announced they’ll try to change the party’s direction or else start a third party: “the Republican Party is broken. It’s time for a resistance of the ‘rationals’ against the ‘radicals'”. It’s quite late for them to join the resistance, but it’s something.]

resist 2

I Wish Everyone Realized How Serious This Is

Dan Rather, the former face of CBS News, is mad as hell (the page has an audio link if you’d rather listen to him read this):

. . . Where I find myself today: Usher out the children. Cover sensitive ears. Because this old reporter is full of a little fire. 

The topic at hand is the truth, and not some esoteric notion to be debated in a college philosophy seminar. This is a truth so urgent, so important, so obvious, that attempts to undermine it would be laughable if they weren’t so dangerous. So here it is. 

Joe Biden won the 2020 presidential election. It wasn’t particularly close. He won the total national vote overwhelmingly and won decisively in the Electoral College. There is no credible suggestion to the contrary. Election officials confirmed it. The courts confirmed it. It is apparent to everyone who doesn’t live in an alternate reality, who doesn’t harbor seditionist impulses, who isn’t a craven opportunist, or who doesn’t marinate in the cesspool of these forces, otherwise known as Fox News. For those who suggest otherwise (who say that Biden is not the legitimately elected President of the United States), many have been deceived and others are willfully deceiving them for their own cynical, and dangerous, ends. 

And yet that’s where a majority of Republicans find themselves today, if you believe the polls. And it is certainly where a majority of elected officials are if you just listen to what they say, or more importantly don’t say. The origin of this lie-laden authoritarianism is the former president, who couldn’t fall back on his usual playbook of suing, sulking, and skedaddling to get himself out of the loser spotlight. So he decided to do what he does best, the tool he used to propel himself to the presidency. He lied. Not a small half-truth. Not a wee fib. Not even a bald-faced lie. A lie so big it deserves to be written as a proper noun — the Big Lie. 

This Big Lie led to violent insurrectionists storming the United States Capitol, attempting to stop final certification of election results. It has led to Republican state representatives falling over themselves to try to cut back on voting rights. And how do they try to justify it? They say their supporters have lost faith in the voting system. But that is because their supporters have been lied to by the same politicians who are now using that as an excuse to stifle democracy. Propaganda and authoritarianism play on in a destructive feedback loop. . . . 

Now to be fair, not EVERY Republican has fallen in line. Take the high-profile case of Liz Cheney, the daughter of former vice president, Dick Cheney. She’s certainly no liberal . . . but she has had the temerity to say what her colleagues won’t, that the would-be emperor has no clothes . . . [So] her fellow House Republicans are coming for her like a political version of Murder on the Orient Express . . . 

Who thrives in such an environment? Craven opportunists like Elise Stefanik. You would think this Harvard-educated congresswoman from upstate New York would know better about the Constitution and the ridiculousness of the Big Lie, but she long ago pegged her future to prostrating at the altar of [the former president]. And now she is poised to replace Cheney in Republican leadership. Some conservative groups are grumbling that Stefanik’s voting record is far more “liberal” than they would like, but . . . whatever tenuous links the Republican Party had to a consistent ideology [are now broken]. It’s now a cult of personality, not a political party. And fealty is prized over all else. . . .

It brings me no joy in saying that one of the factors that is exacerbating this dangerous era in our national history is a Washington press corps that is struggling to make sense of a disorienting landscape. The bedrock of American democracy, for better and worse, has been a stable two party system — with some notable moments of exception. The press is used to two opposing forces waging battle over policy. At least nominally. Now the no man’s land between Republicans and Democrats is over a belief in democracy itself and not things like taxes or foreign policy.

Once again, this is not a theoretical musing. Is it too much to say that giving oxygen to the Big Lie, let alone actively espousing it, is a form of sedition? Full stop. Think about it. Is lying about the truth of last November making a mockery of any pledge of patriotism? No matter how many flag lapel pins you wear or how often you quote the “Founding Fathers,” to deny a fair and honest election and the orderly transfer of power risks placing you squarely in the camp of dictators and autocrats, and helping with the demise of democracy.

The press needs to start taking this even more seriously than it does now. Every elected Republican who has played footsie with the Big Lie should have to defend that record before they can speak on any other topic. They can’t be allowed to dodge. The questions aren’t difficult. Did Joe Biden win the election? Where is your evidence to the contrary? And because there is no such evidence, if they try to quote something, they should be pressed on the truth. Live interviews are particularly problematic because politicians can stretch out a string of lies so long that they can spin their way to a commercial break. Those with a history of such actions should not be given prominent platforms for their performance art. 

The Big Lie must be the context for everything that is taking place in Washington, and political stories across the country. It is not old news. January 6 is not old news. This denial of reality is the animating principle driving the Republican Party. We can’t talk about legislation in Washington, immigration, climate change, fiscal policy, foreign policy, civil rights, education, or any other issue politicians are “debating” without talking about the Big Lie. . . . 

Republicans desperately want the mainstream press to cover the daily news cycle through the lens of traditional party politics. At the same time, they go on their propaganda channels and stir up their base against the mechanics of fair and open elections. They spread the poison of illegitimacy to attack the Biden Administration. On Fox News you get a concerted and coordinated attack. Outside of that echo chamber you get what was once the normal news diet of a spectrum of different stories. But this is not a normal news environment. This is an attack on American values, and our ability to continue to function as a government that represents the will of the majority of Americans. The Big Lie is everything right now and the press and the American people must not provide safe harbor for it to continue to metastasize. 

I want to end with a note of some optimism. I believe the Big Lie is so ludicrous and outrageous that it can be made to collapse under the weight of its own perfidy. If it is put into the proper spotlight, if it becomes so radioactive that big business, the press, and the public at large refuse to bestow any legitimacy to those who traffic in it, then it can and will be defeated. . . .

Unquote.

Some in the press are finally referring to a Republican lie as a lie, which is progress. But it’s hard to believe anything but the passage of time (a lot of time) will weaken the Big Lie’s hold on what is now a reactionary cult.

Paul Waldman of The Washington Post, who is much less optimistic than Dan Rather, explains why:

Let’s not beat around the bush: The Republican Party has pretty much lost its mind. In the time since the 2020 election, rather than trying to make a new start after the disaster of the [previous four] years, it has become more radical and more extreme. Most important of all, it has emphatically and comprehensively rejected democracy itself.

Now here’s the scariest part: There’s almost no reason to believe that this will hurt the ability of Republicans to win elections and take back the power they’ve lost. . . . 

Outside of a few truly deranged members, almost all elected Republicans in Congress know that [their candidate] lost. But they’re making a calculation that because of polarization, it doesn’t matter how extreme they get, what kind of lies they encourage people to believe, or what kind of damage they do to our system. If they can keep their base angry, it will give them the path back to power . . . despite the fact that the Republican Party is still in thrall to the most disastrous president of any of our lifetimes, one whose incompetence helped result in hundreds of thousands of American deaths and the implosion of our economy.

Yes, [he] lost. But not by the 23-point margins of the 1964 and 1972 elections. By just 4½ percentage points.

In today’s Republican Party, polarization doesn’t just mean there’s almost nothing the party could do that would cause its support to collapse. It means there is literally nothing it could do.

. . . [The Republican] base remains sizable enough that they’re always in a position to win, even with those defections. And at the state level, they not only hold the bulk of the power, they’ve gerrymandered state legislative seats so ruthlessly that in some places it’s essentially impossible for Democrats to take control no matter how resoundingly they win the support of the electorate.

So show me the Republicans in Washington who will lose their seats for being too supportive of [their leader] and the “big lie” of the stolen election. . . . The combination of gerrymandering, geographical sorting and polarization means there are almost none. The party can get steadily more unhinged and more implacably opposed to democracy, with consequences for its electoral fortunes that are temporary at most.

All it would take to return them to complete power in Washington is an ordinary midterm election [when the president’s party usually loses seats] followed by an economic downturn in 2024, whereupon whichever cynical extremist they nominate for president could sneak into the White House.

We keep waiting for the moment when the country says, “Now you’ve gone too far, Republicans,” and sends them into oblivion. But the truth is, they see no reason to change the path they’re on. . . .

Once You Accept a Big Lie, All Bets Are Off

A scary article from David Atkins of The Washington Monthly:

. . . The entire left-leaning political world has spent the months after the 2020 election obsessed over the fairness of elections, and conservative attempts to rig the vote through gerrymandering and voter suppression. This is for good reason, of course: Republicans know they lack the support to win majority support in a fair contest, but believe they have the right to rule nonetheless for reasons that ultimately boil down to white supremacy, religious dominionism and antiquated patriarchal beliefs. So Republicans have been busy passing bills to restrict voting among young people and non-whites, while doing their best to ensure that exurban conservative whites continue to be dramatically and unfairly overrepresented in the House, Senate and Electoral College.

But there’s another even more sinister trend among conservative politicians that deserves greater attention: an unwillingness to concede any electoral victory by a Democrat as legitimate, and an eagerness to punish any Republican elected official who concedes the will of the voters. The Big Lie that [their candidate] really won the election is now canon among a majority of Republican voters. Any Republicans who refuses to toe the line is branded a heretic, and elections officials who dared to certify Biden’s win are being censured or stripped of their power. Arizona Republicans have sponsored a bogus “audit” of the election full of crackpot conspiracy theories, and Republican legislatures have been busy taking control of both running and certifying elections out of the hands of county official in Democratic-run cities and counties.

The context of the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol was the attempt by Congressional Republicans to refuse to certify the Electoral College tally, in the hopes of sending the election back to gerrymandered Republican state legislatures and handing [themselves] a win as part of a anti-democratic coup. It was a physical coup attempt designed to intimidate Congress into enforcing a legislative coup. Republicans who refused to back the latter are facing steep primary challenges.

It’s hard to overstate how dangerous this is, and what its consequences might entail in the very near future. As Greg Sargent notes, the “GOP appears to be plunging headlong into a level of full-blown hostility to democracy that has deeply unsettling future ramifications.”

Biden’s electoral college win was only certified because enough Republican secretaries of state and county election board officials did their duty to democracy and resisted pressure to thwart the will of the voters. Every lever of Republican power has since been wielded to punish them. Minor county board officials have been receiving organized harassment and death threats. Secretary of state Raffensperger in Georgia is not only facing a major primary challenge, he was also stripped of his power to certify the election in the future. Every Republican not already committed to preserving their power by any means necessary has been put on notice that if they do not cooperate they will be physically threatened and politically replaced.

So what happens in 2024 if President Biden or Vice President Harris win the Electoral College, but local Republicans on county boards with majority Democratic votes refuse to certify the election; when state legislatures who have seized control of certification refuse to certify their state tallies; when a potential Republican majority in the House of Representatives refuses to certify the Electoral College tally? What happens when they refuse to certify Democratic wins in purple state Senate races, throwing control of the Upper Chamber into limbo and chaos? What happens if Biden/Harris wins the popular vote by 8 million votes and 30 electoral college votes, only to see Republicans in states like Georgia and Wisconsin decide that their GOP legislatures will send electors for . . . Tucker Carlson or Josh Hawley instead? What happens if Democrats legitimately add to their lead in the Senate, only to see Republicans refuse to certify those tallies as well, keeping GOP Senators in place for the next session?

The short answer is that the matter would go to the courts. The clear rule of law says that state legislatures cannot overrule the will of the voters. But if the vote isn’t officially certified, there is no official will of the voters. There are laws stating that elections must be certified by certain dates, but there a dearth of precedent around what happens if they don’t. And given the [previous] administration’s stacking of the lower courts and the wildly conservative imbalance on the Supreme Court, it’s not clear that the outcome would favor the preservation of democracy. Nor is it clear that the matter would be resolved in time to prevent civil conflict–or, in fact, that Republicans in the state or federal legislative branches would honor the Court’s authority should it side against them.

A Republican Party hostile to democracy can use America’s creaky Constitutional system to create a series of unprecedented roadblocks to majority rule. Not just by suppressing the vote or drawing unfair districts, but by refusing to accept the vote itself. The result could throw the nation into political violence unseen since the days of Ku Klux Klan terrorism if not the Civil War itself.

There are ways of addressing these problems. The role of certifying elections can be taken out of the hands of either local or state partisan officials and given to independent judicial boards, electoral courts and elections commissions as in many other developed democracies. The electoral college can be bypassed by the National Popular Vote. We can strengthen laws around the requirement to certify elections per the tabulated results, and increase the transparency and security of those results by requiring paper trails and open source software on voting machines. We can end the gerrymandering that allows anti-democracy conservatives to control legislatures and House delegations in states where the majority of the population votes against them. We can stop the end-run tactics used to take elections administration out of the hands of local officials secretaries of state and put them under the thumb of partisan legislatures, and make it harder for legislatures to send separate slates of electors.

But to do almost any of those things would require at a minimum ending the filibuster. If Republican attempts at voter suppression and gerrymandering are not enough to spur Senators Sinema and Manchin to take appropriate action, then perhaps the threat of ending democracy itself might. The Senate won’t be a very collegial place if the country is melting down in violence from an anti-majoritarian coup. . . .

Unquote. 

It’s comforting to think “they’ll never go that far”, but given what we’ve seen in recent years, and since January 6th, it’s probably too optimistic.