In Reaction to the Reactionary-in-Chief’s Latest Offense

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has only had seven Directors (as opposed to acting Directors) in its 82-year history. From what I can gather, none of the seven have been Democrats or liberals. Even Democratic Presidents have selected conservative Republicans for the job. There have only been three Democratic Presidents who had the chance to select an FBI Director and Jimmy Carter, Bill Clinton and Barack Obama were all known for their “bipartisan” tendencies. No doubt the three of them also wanted to appear “tough on crime”.

So it’s unlikely that our Republican President will nominate a Democrat to lead the law enforcement agency that’s looking into his Russian connection. But he could pick a respected Democrat. It would make the President look less like the criminal that he is.

I can’t think of anything else to say about this crisis that’s not already being said. For instance:

John Cassidy, The New Yorker:

Ever since [DT] took office, many people have worried about his commitment to democratic norms, the Constitution, and the rule of law. From the hasty promulgation of his anti-Muslim travel ban onward, he has done little to salve these concerns. Now he has acted like one of the authoritarian leaders he so admires—a Putin, an Erdoğan, or an El-Sisi.

Congress must restrain him and reassert the principles of American democracy by appointing an independent special prosecutor to take over the Russia investigation. If the legislature won’t act unprompted—and the initial signs are that most of the G.O.P. intends to yield to the President’s abuse of his power—it will be incumbent on the American people to register their protests forcefully, and to put pressure on their elected officials. [DT] is a menace. He must be stopped.

David Cole, The New York Review of Books:

Current investigations in both the House and the Senate are controlled by Republicans, and as House Intelligence chair Devin Nunes has shown, party loyalty can all too easily compromise a meaningful inquiry. In early April, Nunes was forced to step down from his committee’s investigation… That’s why Comey was such a threat to [DT]. He was the only official independent of the administration and its party reviewing the campaign’s ties to Russia….

The vitality of the rule of law in the United States will depend on whether the American people are willing to hold the Trump administration accountable. As Archibald Cox said, shortly after Richard Nixon fired him as Watergate special prosecutor: “Whether ours shall continue to be a government of laws and not of men is now for Congress and ultimately the American people.” We remain a democracy, at least for the time being, and if we the people insist on an independent investigation, we will get one. But only if we insist—including by demanding that our elected representatives take full responsibility for addressing this crisis with every power at their disposal. As Ben Franklin reportedly warned some 240 years ago, the Framers gave us “a republic, if you can keep it.” [DT]’s latest action puts that question once again to the test.

So far, Congressional Republicans are either supporting the President’s obstruction of justice or expressing “concerns”. (If he were to murder a nun in the middle of Pennsylvania Avenue, the most thoughtful Republicans might be moved to express “deep concerns”.)

It’s not clear, therefore, that putting pressure on Republicans will make much of a difference. If you want to see what members of Congress are saying, however, The New York Times is keeping track.

As of 3:40 p.m. today

138 Democrats (or independents) have called for a special prosecutor 

84 Democrats (etc.) and 5 Republicans have called for an independent investigation.

41 Republicans and 9 Democrats have questions or concerns (the Democrats have deep concerns)

96 Republicans are neutral or support the President’s action

146 Republicans and 12 comatose Democrats haven’t said a thing 

Zero members of Congress have called for the President’s immediate impeachment (I added this category myself. It doesn’t hurt to mention it.)

Against Autocracy and Apathy

David Frum, who wrote speeches for George W. Bush, is one of the few right-wingers who haven’t swallowed Drump’s Kool-Aid. He now writes for The Atlantic, where he published an excellent article in January called “How To Build An Autocracy”. Its subtitle was “The preconditions are present in the U.S. today. Here’s the playbook Donald [Drump] could use to set the country down a path toward illiberalism”.

It’s a full-length magazine article that takes a while to load because of all the advertisements (unless your ad blocker is working), but it was very well-received and is still worth reading. Frum begins by imagining Drump being sworn in for his second term. America hasn’t gone completely over the edge but it’s not healthy either. The article concludes:

Those citizens who fantasize about defying tyranny from within fortified compounds have never understood how liberty is actually threatened in a modern bureaucratic state: not by diktat and violence, but by the slow, demoralizing process of corruption and deceit. And the way that liberty must be defended is not with amateur firearms, but with an unwearying insistence upon the honesty, integrity, and professionalism of American institutions and those who lead them. We are living through the most dangerous challenge to the free government of the United States that anyone alive has encountered. What happens next is up to you and me. Don’t be afraid. This moment of danger can also be your finest hour as a citizen and an American.

I was reminded of the article because Mr. Frum generated what’s called a “tweetstorm” on Twitter today. Up until a few months ago, I thought Twitter was basically a joke. I didn’t realize how interesting it is as a source of political news and commentary. So I created an account and now follow a small number of journalists, politicians and people with common interests (and a few comedians). Some of the journalists, including David Frum, offer what’s almost a running commentary on the day’s events. Here’s what he wrote today in 21 segments:

  1. [The Attorney General] Sessions story today is a sinister confirmation of central thesis of my autocracy article:
  2. Donald Trump is a uniquely dangerous president because he harbors so many guilty secrets (or maybe 1 big guilty secret).
  3. In order to protect himself, Trump must attack American norms and institutions – otherwise he faces fathomless legal risk
  4. In turn, in order to protect their legally vulnerable leader, Republicans in Congress must join the attack on norms & institutions
  5. Otherwise, they put at risk party hopes for a once-in-a-lifetime chance to remake US government in ways not very popular with voters
  6. American institutions are built to withstand an attack from the president alone. But …
  7. … they are not so well-built as to withstand an attack from a conscienceless president enabled by a hyper-partisan Congress
  8. The peculiar grim irony in this case is that somewhere near the center of Trump’s story is the murky secret of Trump’s Russia connection
  9. Meaning that Trump is rendering his party also complicit in what could well prove …
  10. … the biggest espionage scandal since the Rosenberg group stole the secret of the atomic bomb.
  11. And possibly even bigger. We won’t know if we don’t look
  12. Despite patriotic statements from individual GOPers, as of now it seems that Speaker Ryan & Leader McConnell agree: no looking.
  13. So many in DC serenely promise that “checks and balances” will save us. But right now: there is no check and no balance.
  14. Only brave individuals in national security roles sharing truth with news organizations.
  15. But those individuals can be found & silenced. What then? We take it too much for granted that the president must lose this struggle
  16. The “oh he’s normal now” relief of so many to Trump’s Feb 28 speech revealed how ready DC is to succumb to deal making as usual.
  17. As DC goes numb, citizen apathy accumulates …
  18. GOP members of Congress decide they have more to fear from enforcing law against the president than from ignoring law with the president
  19. And those of us who care disappear down rabbit holes debating whether Sessions’ false testimony amounts to perjury or not
  20. Meanwhile job market strong, stock market is up, immigration enforcement is popular.
  21. I’m not counseling despair here. I don’t feel despair. Only: nobody else will save the country if you don’t act yourself.

Of course, it will be the height of irony if Drump, after claiming that he inherited a disaster from Obama, ends up getting credit for the economy improving and ISIS being defeated, but that’s the way American politics works. At the present moment, however, what especially struck me about Frum’s comments was the idea that citizen apathy, including my own, might be growing. 

I was able to attend a town hall by our Congressman, Rep. Leonard Lance (NJ-7), two weeks ago. He the typical relatively sensible Republican who went to Washington and now almost always follows the party line. At the town hall, he avoided straight answers, repeated some ridiculous Republican talking points and made promises he won’t keep, but at least he got an extended earful from hundreds of angry constituents.

But now that the excitement of the town hall has faded, and no big demonstrations like the Women’s March on Washington in the news, I’m beginning to feel a little numb myself. That’s natural, I suppose. Intensity will come and go, even as the outrages continue. In the meantime, however, if you’d like to do something positive, there’s a special election being held in a suburban district outside Atlanta to replace the lying creep who’s now running the Dept. of Health and Human Services.

Jon Ossoff is a Democratic candidate who could pull off an upset in Georgia’s Sixth Congressional District if he gets enough support and there’s enough of an anti-Drump backlash. Even if he doesn’t win, a close election will show Republicans like our Leonard Lance that their re-election isn’t assured. I made a donation today. You can too if you visit Mr. Ossoff’s campaign site.

Even if you’re not at peak emotional intensity right now, you can always spend a few dollars for an important cause. 

Do Your Damn Job!

Ezra Klein of Vox published an important article this week. It’s called “How To Stop An Autocracy” and includes one of those very long subtitles: 

The danger isn’t that T___ will build an autocracy. It’s that congressional Republicans will let him.

Klein begins with a surprising statement:

There is nothing about the T___ administration that should threaten America’s system of government.

Why? Because the men who wrote the U.S. Constitution didn’t want anyone to have too much power:  

The Founding Fathers were realistic about the presence and popularity of demagogues. The tendency of political systems to slip into autocracy weighed heavily on their minds. That power corrupts, and that power can be leveraged to amass more power, was a familiar idea. The political system the founders built is designed to withstand these pressures… The founders feared charismatic populists, they worried over would-be monarchs, and so they designed a system of government meant to frustrate them.

That’s the system we all learn about in school called “checks and balances”.

So why, then, are we surrounded by articles worrying over America’s descent into fascism or autocracy?

One reason, of course, is the President and the goons who carry out his orders or know how to push his buttons. At this point, that goes without saying.

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The more important reason, according to Klein, is that there is no evidence so far that Congress will do its job:

The president can do little without Congress’s express permission. He cannot raise money. He cannot declare war. He cannot even staff his government. If Congress, tomorrow, wanted to compel T___ to release his tax returns, they could. If Congress, tomorrow, wanted to impeach T___ unless he agreed to turn his assets over to a blind trust, they could. If Congress, tomorrow, wanted to take T___’s power to choose who can and cannot enter the country, they could. As [David Frum] writes, “Congress can protect the American system from an overbearing president.” He just thinks they won’t.

It’s unlikely Congress will protect us from the T___ administration because of an historical development the Founders didn’t foresee: the overriding importance of political parties. Klein quotes an editorial from The Salt Lake City Tribune:

All that stuff about the constitutional separation of powers, each of the three branches of government keeping a wary eye on the other two, doesn’t mean very much if it is taken seriously only when Congress and the White House are held by different parties… 

The Constitution assumes that human nature will push officials of each branch of government to jealously guard their own powers, creating a balance that prevents anyone getting up to too much mischief. But when elected officials are less interested in protecting their institution than in toeing the party line, it all falls apart.

That’s why we need to keep the pressure on our Senators and Representatives as the months go by. Klein concludes: 

… it is in Congress members’ districts — at their town halls, in their offices, at their coffee shops — where this fight will be won or lost….The real test will be in 2018 — Democratic turnout tends to plummet in midterm elections, and overall turnout was historically low in 2014. The result, as political scientist Seth Masket writes, is that Republicans are more afraid of their primary voters than general election voters. Their behavior will change if and when that changes.

And that should change. It should change in 2018, and it should change thereafter. Congress is more powerful than the president. It comes first in the Constitution for a reason. The public should demand more of it, and care more who runs it….

In the end, it is as simple as this: The way to stop an autocracy is to have Congress do its damn job.

Speaking of which, our Congressman, Leonard Lance, is one of the 24 Republicans in the country who represent a district that Hillary Clinton won. That means he’s more vulnerable than most of his colleagues. He’s also a perfect example of what’s wrong with Congress. From Wikipedia:

In the 2016 presidential election, Lance … was a strong supporter of [T___], for which he was criticized by the editorial board of The Newark Star-Ledger for becoming part of T___’s “cancer” in the GOP. The editors lamented that Lance was one of the GOP’s “saddest cases”, undergoing a transformation from principled environmentalist and man of integrity to being a toe-the-line party regular.[8] Lance’s 7th district was gerrymandered in 2011 to benefit the GOP… 

Yet he looks like such a nice guy. He could be one of your favorite teachers from high school.

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Today, Rep. Lance announced his first town hall of 2016. Only residents of New Jersey’s 7th congressional district will be admitted. I hope he’s ready for some quality feedback.

PS – As I was about to publish this, I saw that the Republican who heads the House Oversight Committee, Rep. Jason Chaffetz, who spent millions of tax dollars “investigating” the Benghazi incident, and who is one of the subjects of Klein’s excellent article (worth reading in full), is holding a town hall in his Utah district tonight. I hope he was ready for some quality feedback too: 

13-Second “Do Your Job!” Video Direct from Utah

Idle Thoughts, Small Actions

As we get further away from that horrific night in November, most of us are probably thinking less about why the Electoral College went the way it did (go to hell, Comey!). We’re also thinking less about the way things might have been. Instead, we’re freaking out about what’s happening now and what’s coming our way.

I haven’t been to any marches or demonstrations yet, but like many of us, I’ve contacted my members of Congress more than ever before. Today I called one of our Senators, although he’s a Democrat, to thank him for delaying a committee hearing on one of T__’s dangerous cabinet selections and to encourage him to do whatever he can to stop the appointment of a racist ideologue as Attorney General (that’s the jerk even Republicans thought was unqualified to be a Federal judge).

People are saying that Congress is being inundated with complaints about the monster(s) in the White House, so it was reassuring that getting through to one of my Senator’s offices wasn’t easy. The line was busy at his office near me, so I called his office in Washington. I was about to leave a message when a recording said his voicemail was full and couldn’t take any more messages. So then I called his remaining office, which is in a less populated part of our state. A nice young woman immediately answered the phone. She assured me that she’d transmit my message to Washington.

Some activities are less immediately practical than contacting Congress. Fantasizing, for example. I’ve entertained the usual fantasies, of course, such as T___ suffering a debilitating stroke or a fatal fall down some White House stairs; a benign military coup leads to a do-over election; and my favorite, that very smart, very kind beings from outer space take control and put us on a more reasonable path, one that includes single-payer health insurance and a fix for global warming. I’ve had a few other fantasies too.

One is that Rupert Murdoch, the evil billionaire who will be 86 next month, finally kicks the bucket and a more reasonable mogul or two purchase The News Corporation and 21st Century Fox. That would inevitably lead to entities like Fox News, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Post becoming reputable organizations again, cutting off the stream of Murdoch-owned right-wing propaganda that has poisoned our democracy in recent years.

Another is that the CEO of Twitter,  Jack Dorsey, known to Twitter-ites as “@Jack” and who has contributed to Democratic politicians, admits that allowing T___ to have an official Twitter account presents a clear and present danger to the rest of us. It would be fine to let Donnie tweet as much as any other deranged right-winger, but he shouldn’t have a verified account that identifies him as “@realDonaldT___” or “@POTUS” (the President). That way, whenever Donnie transmitted his latest lie or insult, it wouldn’t have any effect on anyone but a small circle of nitwits. Nobody could possibly believe it came from the actual President of the United States.

Yet another of my fantasies involves the U.S. Senate. There are now 52 Republicans and 48 Democrats or Independents in what used to be a relatively reputable legislative body. If three of those Republicans were to declare themselves Independents and vote with the Democrats, the Republicans would be the minority again. They’d only have the House of Representatives to play with. Of course, controlling the Senate wouldn’t allow the Democrats to get much done (that’s in the official rules), but they could make sure T___ and his allies did less damage.

Finally, now speaking of other people’s fantasies, I recently took a tiny step toward correcting the fantastic beliefs of the sorry individuals who inhabit the Fox News and Breitbart websites (Breitbart is the far-right, white nationalist outfit that tells T___ what to do). It’s extremely unpleasant to visit those two sites, so I don’t recommend this to everyone. But I now leave the occasional comment, just to let some of them know there’s a real world out here. It’s rather like descending into Plato’s cave and removing the chains from poor souls who have never seen the sun or the sky. It’s a very dirty job, but we’re living in times that require direct action.

Calling These Senators Could Make a Difference

Someone who knows somebody shared this message somewhere. And now it’s here, slightly edited:

For those worried about ACA (“Obamacare”) coverage for themselves and their families:

After hearing about the midnight repeal of the pre-existing conditions clause, I called Senator Elizabeth Warren’s office. The woman I spoke to said they are being flooded with calls, as are the offices of Speaker Paul Ryan and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Senator Warren’s staff member told me what would help the most would be to call the five Republican senators who have broken away from their leadership to demand a slowdown of the repeal. Tell them how much you appreciate their efforts to stop the train wreck and maybe share your story.

Senator Bill Cassidy (Louisiana) – (202) 224-5824

Senator Susan Collins (Maine) – (202) 224-2523

Senator Bob Corker (Tennessee) – (202) 224-3344

Senator Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) – (202) 224-6665

Senator Rob Portman (Ohio) – (202) 224-3353

There is additional contact information for U.S. senators available here. People say ringing telephones and overloaded phone systems are the best way to impress politicians (they’re even more impressive than offering cash bribes or sexual favors).

Who Says Republicans Don’t Have a Sense of Humor?

Example 1:

“House Republicans have found a subject for their opening review of conflicts of interest under Donald Trump: the federal official in charge of investigating conflicts of interest.”

Yes, the Republican chairman of the House Oversight Committee, Jason Chaffetz of Utah, is mad at the head of the Office of Government Ethics for pointing out (as both Democratic and Republican ethics lawyers agree) that the President-elect’s “plan” to avoid his many, many conflicts of interest is “meaningless”. There are hysterical details here. 

Last night, I found the ethics official’s explanation of his negativity at the Office of Government Ethics site. It was a four-page PDF file, but the lawyer who wrote it isn’t nearly as funny as Rep. Chaffetz. Unfortunately, the link isn’t working at the moment (because of heavy traffic or those madcap Russians). But maybe it will work for you.

In a related, even more priceless development, Rep. Chaffetz announced a few days ago that he plans to keep investigating Hillary Clinton’s emails! This lovable scamp Chaffetz is relentless!

Yet:

When asked about T__p’s potential business conflicts, [chairman Chaffetz] noted that the law‎ exempts the president of the United States, calling the push from Democrats to launch a committee investigation on T__p’s business ties “premature at best.” [CNN]

I suppose “premature at best” implies “totally ridiculous at worst”!

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All right, now that I’ve recovered my composure…

Example 2:

It might seem like yesterday, but it was almost seven years ago that America’s first step toward universal healthcare became law. It was officially called the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, but rapidly became known as Obamacare. The law included many (in fact, mostly) conservative ideas, but in the end not one Republican Senator voted for it. In fact, Republicans immediately began calling for the law’s repeal.

Now that the Republicans control Congress and are about to occupy the White House, they’re beginning the effort to repeal the ACA, but questions are being raised, even by Republicans. Should the law be repealed in toto, which would mean taking health insurance away from millions of people, including lots of Republican voters? Or should it be left in place until the law’s terrific right-wing replacement is all ready to go? 

Since they’ve had seven years to think about it, they must have something wonderful (“My God, it’s full of stars!”) waiting in the wings. So here’s what happened last night at Speaker of the House Paul Ryan’s nationally-televised “town hall”.

From the GQ site:

The event began with a question from a polite, middle-aged gentleman named Jeff Jeans, a small-business owner:

“I was a Republican, and I worked for the Reagan and Bush campaigns. Just like you, I was opposed to the Affordable Care Act. When it was passed, I told my wife we would close our business before I complied with this law. Then, at 49, I was given six weeks to live with a very curable type of cancer. We offered three times the cost of my treatment, which was rejected. They required an insurance card. Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, I’m standing here today, alive. Being both a small businessperson [and] someone with preexisting conditions, I rely on the Affordable Care Act to be able to purchase my own insurance. Why would you repeal the Affordable Care Act without a replacement?”

Chuckling nervously like a local-news anchor who suddenly lost his teleprompter feed, Ryan began explaining to Jeans that his party in fact does have a proposal—it’s just a secret one that he still hasn’t shared with his colleagues. Jeans, however, still needed to twist the knife.

RYAN: We wouldn’t do that. We want to replace it with something better. First of all, I’m glad you’re standing here! I mean, really, seriously, I—

JEANS: Can I say one thing? I hate to interrupt you.

RYAN: Yeah, yeah, yeah.

JEANS: I want to thank President Obama from the bottom of my heart, because I would be dead if it weren’t for him.

Seeking further information, I was led to a site called “A Better Health Care Plan”. It’s run by a bunch of Republicans who call themselves the “American Action Network”. The first thing you see is a link to a YouTube video: “A New Path Forward”. Here’s the video’s entire script: 

Imagine a new path forward. Health insurance that provides more choices and better care at lower costs. A system that puts patients and doctors in charge, provides peace of mind to people with pre-existing conditions, and paves the way for new cures by eliminating senseless regulations. House Republicans have a plan to get there without disrupting existing coverage, giving your family the health care they deserve.

You’re then invited to visit the very site you’re on, “A Better Health Care Plan”, for further information. And here it is: 

House Republicans have a plan to get there

Our Congress is fighting for us: lowering costs, providing more control and more choices to pick a plan that meets our needs, not a plan that Washington mandates.

That’s all the further information provided. In toto.

Now who doesn’t think Republicans have a terrific sense of humor? 

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It’s Been With Us For Years, But Gotten Worse

The historian Richard Hofstadter (1916-1970) is known outside academic circles for having written a particular book and a particular essay. The book was Anti-intellectualism in American Life from 1963. The essay was “The Paranoid Style in American Politics” from 1964. I read the essay a few days ago in a collection of Hofstadter’s work. Anyone who wants to understand how we got to this point in American history will benefit from reading Richard Hofstadter.

He explains, for example, the basis for “economic individualism”, the idea that it’s not only more efficient but more ethical that everyone should sink or swim on their own. Thus, poor or working-class conservatives are often against anyone receiving help from the government, even though they could use that help themselves:

On many occasions they approach economic issues as matters of faith and morals rather than matters of fact. For example, people often oppose certain economic policies not because they have been or would be economically hurt by such policies, or even because they have carefully calculated views about their economical efficacy, but because they disapprove on moral grounds of the assumptions on which they think the policies rest….Deficit spending might work to their advantage; but the moral  and psychological effect, which is what they can really understand and feel, is quite otherwise: when society adopts a policy of deficit spending, thrifty [conservatives] feel that their way of life has been officially and insultingly repudiated [“Pseudo-Conservatism Revisited – 1965”].

Hofstadter borrowed the term “pseudo-conservative” from the German thinker Theodore Adorno. He explained why in an earlier essay written in response to McCarthyism:

There is a dynamic of dissent in America today…The new dissent is based upon a relentless demand for conformity… Its exponents, although they believe themselves to be conservatives and usually employ the rhetoric of conservatism, show signs of a serious and restless dissatisfaction with American life, traditions and institutions. They have little in common with the temperate and compromising spirit of true conservatism in the classical sense of the word…Their political reactions express rather a profound … hatred of our society and its ways – a hatred which one would hesitate to impute to them if one did not have suggestive evidence from clinical techniques and from their own modes of expression [From “The Pseudo-Conservative Revolt”, 1954].

Remind you of anyone you know? I mean, who in public life expresses more contempt for America in the 21st century than the next President and his fans, the vocal minority that wants to make this country “great” (i.e. “white”) again? Maybe the Democrats should have revived those popular bumper stickers from the 1960s, the ones aimed at Volkswagen-driving hippies and protesters.  

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Finally, here’s what Hofstadter said about the Republicans’ first pseudo-conservative Presidential nominee, Senator Barry Goldwater:

Unquestionably, Goldwater’s ideas do retain some shreds and scraps of genuine conservatism, but the main course of his career puts him closer to the right-wing ideologues who were essential to his success, who shaped his tactics, who responded to his line of argument… How are we to explain the character of a “conservative” whose whole political life has been spent urging a sharp break with the past, whose great moment as a party leader was marked by a repudiation of our traditional political ways, whose followers were so notable for their destructive and divisive energies, and whose public reputation was marked not with standpattism or excessive caution but with wayward impulse and recklessness? [“Goldwater and Pseudo-Conservative Politics”, 1964].

Again, remind you of anyone you know?

Fortunately, Lyndon Johnson beat Goldwater by 26 million votes (rather than 3 million) and by 61% to 27% (rather than 48% to 46%). Goldwater only won six states in the 1964 election: the five former slave states of the Deep South and his home state of Arizona. That gave him 52 electoral votes compared to Johnson’s 486. 

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In addition to being a pseudo-conservative, Goldwater had no particular qualifications to be President. Before being elected to the Senate, he managed the family department store. In the Senate, he played no significant role. In Hofstadter’s words, “his main business there was simply to vote No”. He was still an “outsider” even after 12 years in Washington.

Goldwater’s extreme positions and lackluster qualifications contributed to his historic defeat. Fifty-two years later, due to a variety of circumstances, another pseudo-conservative, this time with no government experience at all, won narrow victories in enough states to win the White House. Given their appeal to the same sorts of voters, and given the fact that our next President is obviously suffering from a personality disorder (whereas Goldwater was relatively normal in that regard), it’s fair to say our democracy is showing signs of wear and tear that are beyond serious.

Addendum:

The journalist James Fallows recently reported the following conversation with a U.S. Senator:

Q:  How many of your colleagues know that there is something wrong with T***p?
A:  All of them, obviously.
Q:  Which Republican will be the first to say so?
A:  Ummmm….