Please reference this Morning Shot to Sarah Longwell. This is precisely why the Democrats in one of her focus groups were so unenthusiastic. I believe that, like me, they’ve pretty much given up. How can anyone fight this insanity?

Expand full comment

Since my days as a high school teacher of American Politics in the late-1970s/early 80s, I have been astonished by the indifference of American citizens toward voting and jury duty. I gave extra credit for a student who showed me a voter registration card.

I asked that if they learned anything in the class it was the importance of those actions.

Sadly, in post World War Two America, the highest percentage of those eligible who voted was 62.8% (1964), the lowest was 51.7% (1996), with an average over 70+ years at about 60%.

Years when less than 2/3rds voted is pathetic; when only a bit more than half of those eligible voted is heartbreaking.

I bring this info up to put in reality that if 1/3 of eligible adults don't even bother to vote, why in the world do we think that they would care that our democracy could be...(to paraphrase the GOP dingbat Grover Norquist). "The goal of the MAGA-Trumpist Cult is to shrivel democracy, to get it down to the size where they can drown it in the bathtub."

Add the 20% of ReTrumplican'ts to those indifferent citizens means that almost half of America wants or doesn't care if our democracy dies.

I am terrified at perhaps having to handle a weapon for the first time in 50 years after leaving Viet Nam. I see it only as a last resort, but at 70 years old, I may actually have a righteous cause to fight for this time.

Expand full comment

America proves that good government requires careful husbandry. You can’t vaccinate against stoopid

Expand full comment

I'm sure like most subscribers, I'm a huge news consumer. Given the firehose nature of news and opinions these days, though, I've spent the past two years practicing self-care to ensure I don't become like my mother, spending her last few years raging at talking heads on TV.

First, I don't watch TV news. Haven't for at least 2 decades. Not broadcast, not cable, not even local. I patch together my news consumption through a combination of national newspapers, nonprofit news sources, magazines, newsletters and radio. So that part is easy.

Second, I avoid Twitter and no longer engage in political discussions of any stripe on Facebook. Twitter, in particular, seems to be the source of so many of the battles I read about in Bulwark posts and elsewhere. I reserve Twitter for times of breaking news. Still pretty easy -- no bad habits to break.

Last, I'm limiting my exposure to opinion pieces. (This is harder, since opinion keeps intruding more and more into what I think are straight news stories.) I imagine that if I made a list of predictions over the course of the year from various writers I read regularly, it would be clear how often their prognostications are wrong. Some writers do that for us -- Russ Douthat regularly runs a January column that calls out things he got wrong the prior year.

Opinions are just that - opinions, and we all have them. They're influenced by our biases, by the news we choose to consume, and by process fouls (a wonderful column published on 1/2 from David French -- https://frenchpress.thedispatch.com/p/the-places-where-truth-goes-to-die): "A process foul is any perceived breach of trust or decorum in the delivery of the message that distracts from the substance of the message...wrong messenger, wrong motives, wrong manner, wrong target." Very worth taking the time to read his entire piece.

The truly hard work is how to be an effective citizen and fight to preserve a democratic union. I wish I could say I've figured that out. Trump's election caused me to get deeply involved in making my own community a better place, and that has led to a deeper involvement in my city's politics. While trying to influence national directions and policies can be highly frustrating, I've learned that an involved person can make a big difference at the local level. And that's a start.

Expand full comment

Fascism is what Conservatism is under the aegis of post-Revolutionary Modernity. Joseph de Maistre was a Fascist. The Revolution was fought to destroy Conservatism; Conservatism is nothing but the authoritarian throne-and-altar Ancien Regime of Agrarian civilization. Fascism, again, is just what this throne-and-altar authoritarianism comes to, after the Revolution.

It is NO coincidence that the hardest core of Trump's supporters are religious conservatives. These people are Fascists.

What we need to do is distinguish between Conservatives, and the RIGHT. The Right are *Liberals,* they are on the right side of the Left-Right political spectrum (this is the LIBERAL political spectrum, born with the fight against the Ancien Regime).

What happened to the GOP, is that with Trump, the party formally broke into its Right-liberal side, and its Conservative/Fascist side. Conservatives ARE Fascists, they are enemies of our Experiment. Liberals, Right and Left, can have varied and deep disagreements. But Liberals need to unite to defend liberal democracy. It makes me very hopeful that the real Liberals of the Right see the danger and are fighting it.

Expand full comment

I like to define "hope" in this context as "grim determination".

In the Before Times, when you and I were in opposing tribes, I saw Barack Obama as embodying "grim determination". His re-election campaign against Mitt Romney was not the most happy yay-times "whee!" thing to endure. It was exhausting, occasionally demoralizing, and kinda dark.

Yet it was uplifting to see Obama, tired and less "hope"-like than he'd been in 2008, doggedly grind it out. I hope we all have that same grim determination, taking reward from the process of waking up every morning and working to preserve democracy.

Expand full comment

But this is where we have to make a choice.

The success of anti-democratic authoritarianism depends on our exhaustion.

As I’ve mentioned several times before, optimism and hope are not at all the same things. As the late Rabbi Sacks reminded us: “Optimism is the belief that things are going to get better. Hope is the belief that we can make things better. Optimism is a passive virtue, hope is an active one. It takes no courage to be an optimist, but it does need courage to hope.”

I am delighted to see this in print. Charlie is once again on point. And the side which will prevail will be the one which is able to marshal the energy to keep on struggling - energy born of faith and hope.

The crackpots and grifters are relying on bizarre conspiracy theories (e.g. the Q-Anon series, the Big Lie) to generate energy and hope. I would think that the complete vacuousness of these sources will make them unstable foundations. On the other hand, hope born of conviction and a willingness to sacrifice are very powerful tools, as they have proven over and over throughout history.

I think that we are rapidly approaching a breaking point. There is a pregnancy in the air - I have sensed it myself and heard this in the past 1-2 weeks from friends as diverse as a professor of history who has anarchist sympathies to a devout Evangelical who served in the Army, ANG & Army Reserve for years and made multiple deployments to Iraq & Afghanistan to two nurses that are on the frontlines of the health crisis caused by the pandemic.

We are on the cusp of something new, and now is the time to dig deep and come through. We can do it - we have been through a lot in the past two and a half centuries, and coming together to follow our better angels at the last minute is one of our signature moves. It just take the faith, courage, and integrity of a Washington, a Lincoln, or a Martin Luther King, Jr.

Expand full comment

While listening to today's Bulwark podcast with Evan Osnos, I had a revelation while they were playing the clip from Dan Bongino's show: J Boone is Dan Bongino.

Expand full comment

Many cultural groups, human-rights advocates, social activists, etc. do not have a choice to succumb to exhaustion. The struggle to survive and guarantee a viable existence must continue. Those of us who imagine that we can opt-out and attend to our own needs are dreaming. Injustice and oppression are boomerangs that will eventually strike everyone down. It may be enticing to embrace the desire to give up; that is the greater downfall. Abraham Lincoln aptly expressed the concern of those who need us to persevere: "My greatest concern is not whether you have failed, but whether you are content with your failure."

Expand full comment

It is somehow reassuring to know that you are just as exhausted and disheartened as I am. I take some sustenance from this and a bit of will to fight on.

Expand full comment

It is exhausting, but what is truly dispiriting and defeating is the realization that the map to authoritarianism goes straight through the US Constitution, and short of scrapping the document or amending it, the blueprint is known, we can see it coming, and there doesn't seem to be a damned thing we can do about it. Pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Act; getting everyone to the polls is not going to matter when state legislatures decide they're going to pick the winners instead. And the US Constitution not only doesn't prevent this, it positively states this is OK. People erroneously think the US Constitution is a democratic document; it is far from it, and scholars have argued it was created in part because of an excess of democracy floating around in the states that wealthy elites found distasteful.

There have been many indicators of the GOP's disdain for democracy, but I'll remind us all of this tactic they have used. In both Wisconsin and in North Carolina, state houses have been wildly Republican despite the rather moderate complexion of the overall electorate. When WI elected Scott Walker and when NC elected Pat McCrory, in both cases the state houses greatly enhanced the powers of the governor. When each lost reelection, and a Democrat was due to assume office, during the lame duck session before they lost their supermajorities they stripped the powers of the governor down to even less than they were before.

Methinks we're doomed. If it doesn't happen in 2024, it will still be a live possibility in 2028, and every four years after that; it's really not if, but when. We're only a democracy by norms, not by laws, and Republicans' guiding principle is not, "Should we?", it's "Why can't we?" The Constitution is flawed, the SCOTUS is 6-3, and there is no chance of amending the Constitution.

Expand full comment

Say it ain’t so, Charlie. The world, the political sphere, heck, the country cannot abide a tired Charlie Sykes and The Bulwark. Take Geritol, Vitamin E or even Vita-Veeta-Vegamin- anything to get your mojo back and keep bringing us SANITY, RATIONALITY and REALITY.

Expand full comment

I think a lot of people do understand what is going on and are not fatigued, but have no avenue to oppose. There is simply no democratic leader leading the charge. Comment sections won’t do anything. It’s just passive noise. Bodily opposition in the form of physical protest in the streets is where it has come to and better now then later. Half the voters taking to the streets would be a force. Unfortunately, there is zero leadership for this. The Democratic congress is silent. No messaging, no rallying, nothing. It’s almost like they are ok with it. Do Democratic politicians even know how to use social media. Go look at the Democratic FB page or Biden’s. Absolutely nothing about the threat to democracy and business as usual. This passivity lets these domestic terrorists and traitors to democracy believe it is ok. There are a handful of Republicans on the way out the door. Why aren’t they leading the charge. They are going to need to compromise with Dems to change the course. I could get behind one of them if they would step up. The media is complicit in pretending there are two democratic parties. It will be awkward AF if trump runs and US politics and media all pretend he and his followers are anything but anti-democratic and authoritarian. Are we truly going to even entertain a debate from these people. It makes me sick. This country disgusts me right now in its lack of integrity and leadership. Greed over country.

Expand full comment

Amazing how you wrote exactly what I was feeling today Charlie.

Expand full comment

I grew up on Long Island during the 1960s when economic riots and burnings/lootings were rampant from Harlem & Newark, to Detroit and on to Watts (Los Angeles), not counting the 1968 Dem convention riots in Chicago.

While Americans were horrified, they mostly went about their life as if those situations were a movie. Except for the damage to the inner cities, most people didn't care.

If (when) the potential political riots come to suburbia, then people will wake up...too late.

Expand full comment

"It’s also just so stupid, cynical, and dishonest."

"if I agree with his conclusion that the Republican Party is increasingly authoritarian?"

The lack of self-awareness in contradiction is so breathtaking that one can only suspect either a conspiracy to deliver mass propaganda, or some epidemic of mental health dysfunction.

I will ask this question again even though it never gets any qualified response. We consistently hear this Democrat and media meme of Republican/conservative authoritarianism (ironically from the left demonstrating overwhelming acts of authoritarianism in the name of a virus), and so what are the examples that prove the accuracy of this meme?

I will wait.

Likely crickets will occur.

Expand full comment