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We Need To Talk About This

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I don’t have a lot of time today, but I want to get this out there.

Robert Kagan, of whom I am not a fan, has a must-read op-ed in the Washington Post. He lays out his view of where things may be going, and it is not pretty. Basically, he is worried about a dictatorial takeover by the Trumpists. It’s long, but read all of it.

There’s a lot I don’t agree with – he leaves out the possibility that the House’s January 6 Commission will discredit, and perhaps imprison, the coupists. His outlook is dour – only a few Republican Senators with integrity (yes, nonexistent beasts) can save us.

But I think his analysis of the motives of Trump and his party is spot-on.

Trump and his Republican allies are actively preparing to ensure his victory by whatever means necessary. Trump’s charges of fraud in the 2020 election are now primarily aimed at establishing the predicate to challenge future election results that do not go his way. Some Republican candidates have already begun preparing to declare fraud in 2022, just as Larry Elder tried meekly to do in the California recall contest.

As it was, Trump came close to bringing off a coup earlier this year. All that prevented it was a handful of state officials with notable courage and integrity, and the reluctance of two attorneys general and a vice president to obey orders they deemed inappropriate.

What makes the Trump movement historically unique is not its passions and paranoias. It is the fact that for millions of Americans, Trump himself is the response to their fears and resentments. This is a stronger bond between leader and followers than anything seen before in U.S. political movements. Although the Founders feared the rise of a king or a Caesar, for two centuries Americans proved relatively immune to unwavering hero-worship of politicians. Their men on horseback — Theodore Roosevelt, Grant, even Washington — were not regarded as infallible. This was true of great populist leaders as well. William Jennings Bryan a century ago was venerated because he advanced certain ideas and policies, but he did not enjoy unquestioning loyalty from his followers. Even Reagan was criticized by conservatives for selling out conservative principles, for deficit spending, for his equivocal stance on abortion, for being “soft” on the Soviet Union.

Anyhoo, as they say, read the whole thing. I hope to see a wide range of national leaders respond to this, but I am afraid that they will shy away. It’s hard to wrap your head around the idea that some large fraction of the country, including a whole political party, wants to convert to dictatorial rule under a fool and madman, but there’s a lot of supporting evidence.

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