Support The Bulwark and subscribe today.
  Join Now

Major Garrett & David Becker: How a Second Civil War Could Start

October 6, 2022
Notes
Transcript

Most GOP nominees running in the midterms are election deniers. Would it be all that surprising if one political party refused to accept a state’s election results in November? Major Garrett and David Becker join Charlie Sykes to discuss the potential fracturing of democracy — and America.

Try the sheets that will make fall the coziest season of the year. Get 15% off your first set of sheets and free shipping when you use promo code BULWARK at https://bollandbranch.com.

Learn more about your ad choices. Visit podcastchoices.com/adchoices

This transcript was generated automatically and may contain errors and omissions. Ironically, the transcription service has particular problems with the word “bulwark,” so you may see it mangled as “Bullard,” “Boulart,” or even “bull word.” Enjoy!
  • Speaker 1
    0:00:08

    Welcome
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:08

    to the Bulwark podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes for catching up this morning. Apparently, fist bump diplomacy didn’t have the, you know, expected Impact MBS joined with Vladimir Putin to ship the United States on oil production. The oathkeeper trial is resuming from with testimony from new witnesses, big story in the Washington Post this morning that a majority of GOP nominees, two ninety nine in all, deny the twenty twenty election results. We have the ghastly story of the day, the gunman attacking the day care center in Thailand.
  • Speaker 2
    0:00:43

    And the Hershel Walker hits just keep on coming new story in the Daily Beast. She had an abortion with Hershel Walker. She also had a child with him. Walker says he has no idea who the woman was, who claimed she had an abortion, no idea, but apparently he knows her quite well since she’s the mother of one of his children. And
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:01

    on day two of all of this, he’s already rolling out the if I did it defense that, okay, if I did it, you know, I would have admitted it and I’d be forgiven for it and it’d be understandable, but I didn’t do it. And, of course, people like Hugh Hugh had just sort of swallow all of that. So it’s an interesting dynamic that Hershel Walker is lying. The GOP and the media enablers know that he’s lying. He knows they know that he’s lying, and everybody’s completely okay with it.
  • Speaker 1
    0:01:30

    So hey, happy Thursday, everyone. Our guests today, Major Garrett, Chief Washington correspondent for CBS News, also the host of the Takeout Podcast and the debrief podcast and David Becker, his coauthor of a new book. David, his election law contributed to CBS News Executive Director of the Center for Election Innovation and Research and a former trial attorney in election law
  • Speaker 2
    0:01:54

    at the Department of Justice, and they’re out with a new book, the big truth upholding democracy in the age of the big lie. Major Garrett David Becker, thanks for joining me. Charlie,
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:04

    I was a pleasure. Thank you.
  • Speaker 4
    0:02:05

    Great to be here,
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:06

    Joe. I’ll be I’ll be really honest with you. I’m I’m really the stage thing. You know, do we need another another fucking book about the Trump era? Do we need another book about this?
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:13

    But I will tell you that I am haunted by your book of all the books that I have read, I find myself thinking about the scenarios you lay out how a second civil war could start. I wanna talk to you about that because we had an excerpt in the bulwark. And I think there’s always that question, okay, come on, is it really all that bad? And yet, we wake up this morning rather timely. To the headline in the New York Times, after Mar a Lago’s search, talk of civil war is flaring online.
  • Speaker 1
    0:02:48

    So how real is this gentleman?
  • Speaker 3
    0:02:50

    So I think we have to answer it candidly, even though it’s uncomfortable to do so, Charlie. It is closer than we imagine. And our reluctance to imagine it doesn’t make it any less close. And there was talk a civil war before January sixth, and the ongoing trial of seditious conspiracy charges for Elmer Stewart Road and others in the housekeeper makes that clear. What’s different about what happened after the FBI search warrant executed at Mar a Lago is that it grew in number and it expanded in visibility in terms of more mainstream platforms.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:33

    January sixth, that was sort of the dark web and the cordors where the far right extremists like to communicate with one another. Some of it was encrypted. Some of it was not, but it wasn’t easy to find. After Mar a Lago and the execution of the search warrant, it was very easy to find. And those who monitor the space brought attention to it instantaneously and say, look, this is happening.
  • Speaker 3
    0:03:54

    And in the introduction to our book, we quote someone who has experience with what a civil war actually looks like in the modern era. Our Northern Ireland, Finino Tool, who wrote in the Atlantic, and we took that very seriously. He said, look, when you talk about civil war, it makes it easier for it to happen. And when you use the language of violent Civil strife to resolve whatever your political differences are. It makes that violence more likely.
  • Speaker 3
    0:04:25

    And the more likely that violence becomes the closer it gets. And when that violent starts, it is very difficult, very difficult to cap it because the level of grievance only intensifies. And grievance upon grievance as we know in every civil war only intensifies until one side is exhausted and negotiate or sue for peace or is vanquished. That’s the only resolution. And we are moving toward that period of time where violence is imaginable and I deeply fear the time when we see violence because it feels to me as if it will not turn us away from it, but become a springboard to more of it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:05:07

    Well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:05:08

    and it’s not theoretical. I mean, you mentioned the oathkeeper’s trial. It’s going on right now in real time where we are hearing about, you know, the the way in which this manifest itself in an actual attack on the capital in which people died, in which
  • Speaker 4
    0:05:23

    more people could have died. What we noticed in the book, as we document in the book, is that we’ve become attuned to viewing our fellow citizens more and more as our enemies. Our neighbors are even our family and friends in some cases just because they might hold different political views. And once you get to that point, you start being open to the idea that elections are stolen if the outcome doesn’t suit you. It’s remarkable that we live in a country that’s as closely divided as we are, and yet people seem shocked that they lose an election in a fifty fifty country.
  • Speaker 4
    0:05:56

    When you get to that point and you hold the rule of law in such contempt, and we’ve seen the the circle surrounding the former president, the losing presidential candidate, have nothing but contempt for the rule of law as they tried to make the case and failed at every level that anything was wrong with the election. And Once you hold that rule of law and contempt, the next stage is violence. And this is something that concerns us a great deal as we see some of the quarters of the former president. Increased chatter about civil war, whether it’s a violent civil war, or whether it’s more of a dissolution of the union that we enjoy right now, and we see signs of that in many ways. We talk about possible outcomes, and it’s very important to note all so that while I think there are some scenarios in the book that are intended to provoke some serious thought, they’re not predictions, and we also hope that we present a potential path out of this direction that we’re going.
  • Speaker 4
    0:06:56

    Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:06:57

    They’re a warning, Charlie. They’re a warning. The book opens with a warning. We say very clearly, and there’s been some chatter on social media that were fanboying civil war violence, which is completely ludicrous. Obviously, people who said that haven’t read the book.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:10

    Yeah. Right. The book says we don’t predict this. We don’t want this, but we feel there are dangerous psychic forces in this country. That we are not heating.
  • Speaker 3
    0:07:21

    And if we don’t heed them, we fear. We do not predict, but we fear they
  • Speaker 1
    0:07:27

    will escalate, and the escalatory direction is universally harmful. Well, let’s go to what can you times is reporting this morning, the the uptick, what the trend line is, and how quickly this this chatter explodes Post on Twitter that mentioned Civil War had soared nearly three thousand percent in just a few hours as mister Trump supporters blasted the actions of the the Mar a Lago search. As a provocation. Similar spikes followed, including on Facebook, Reddit, Telegram, Parlor, Gabb, and True Social, mister Trump’s social media platform. Mentions of the phrase more than doubled on radio programs and podcast as measured by Critical mention, a media tracking firm, Post threatening civil war jumped again a few weeks later after president Biden branded mister Trump and MAGA Republicans a threat to the very foundations of our republic Now, experts are bracing for renewed discussion of civil war as the November eighth midterm elections approach and political talk grows more urgent and heated.
  • Speaker 1
    0:08:28

    So what is your sense about the the danger of the threat of violence? I have a sense that it’s actually grown, if anything that has grown since January six, that we are in a more combustible period today, on October sixth than we were on, say, January fifth the day before the attack on the capital. What do you think? We completely agree, Charlie. It’s one of the reasons we wrote the book, and it’s one of the
  • Speaker 3
    0:08:53

    reasons the book changed as we were writing it. Because like you and I think a lot of Americans and even many Republicans I talk to on January seventh twenty twenty one and January eighth twenty twenty one, even on January ninth twenty twenty one. Said, okay, this is it. I mean, come on. This is so terrible.
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:12

    This is so unlike anything the character of this country has ever visited upon itself in the modern era. This has to be the break point. This has to be the place where we come back to our senses and lines are re respected, not redrawn, but re respected. And that didn’t happen. There was the effort almost within a month or two to recast, whitewash, misremember, put it in the forget me machine, how bad it all was, and to litigate some aspects of it in Well, who didn’t do with this?
  • Speaker 3
    0:09:47

    Who didn’t do that? Who didn’t heed this warning? And so on and so forth? And and get into all sorts of minutiae completely separate from the underlying travesty of the event. And then from that, it was a pretty quick journey to either nothing happened or it’s being politically overused.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:06

    I mean, seriously, politically overused your supporters attack the United States capital, beat up cops on live television, And your political opponent draws attention to that, and that’s dirty politics. I mean, honestly. So I I think that not only normalizes or attempts to normalize. You can’t normalize a bit. It attempts to normalize it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:10:29

    And then it attempts to put it in a place of validity So if that violence is valid, why wouldn’t the next
  • Speaker 4
    0:10:37

    expression of violence be valid? We are over seven hundred days since the November twenty twenty election has a credible one out. During that time, there has not been a shred of evidence, not one single piece of evidence given to any court or law enforcement that don’t indicate any significant problems with the twenty twenty election, anything that would overcome the outcome. And yet we have people running on a platform of election denial, not kind of having it in the background, but actually having it be a feature of their campaign that they will put their thumb on scale for their candidates if they happen to not win. And already setting the stage to have their supporters believe that the election is rigged if they don’t
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:18

    win. In
  • Speaker 4
    0:11:19

    the two years that this division and anger has been stoked, it is not hard to envision political violence not waiting for twenty twenty four, twenty twenty five, but happening in the next few months in some places based on the irresponsible rhetoric that several candidates running for office we’re using right now. Well well,
  • Speaker 1
    0:11:38

    let’s just underline this point. The Washington Post story that just broke this morning says a majority of Republican nominees on the ballot this November for the House Senate and key statewide offices two hundred and ninety nine and all have denied or questioned the outcome of the last presidential election, candidates who have challenged or refused to accept Joe Biden’s victory are running in every region of the country and in nearly every state. Republican voters in four states nominated election deniers in all in all. Federal and state wide races the post examined. Although some are running in heavily democratic areas and are expected to lose, most of the election deniers nominator are likely to win Of the nearly three hundred on the ballot, one hundred and seventy four are running for safely Republican seats another fifty one will
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:30

    appear on the ballot in tightly contested races. So
  • Speaker 1
    0:12:33

    to your point, this is not
  • Speaker 2
    0:12:35

    one off. This is not fringe. We are not talking about a couple of crackpots on the ballot, you know, running, you know, state legislature in Southern Arkansas. This is a national phenomenon, and this is not going away anytime soon. Howard Bauchner: You’re
  • Speaker 4
    0:12:49

    exactly right. If you look at this, if you look at secretary of state races around the country. We focus often on races in places like Arizona, Nevada, and Michigan, and we should be. Those are important races. And there are election deniers on the ballot and the secretary of state races.
  • Speaker 4
    0:13:05

    But in places like Indiana and South Dakota, there were very well respected public and secretaries of state who sought their nomination again at convention and were defeated at convention and being replaced by candidates who now endorse some kind of election denial. In Wyoming, we have basically an unopposed Republican candidate who has embraced election denial. Who almost certainly will be elected in November. And this is something we’re seeing all across the country. And as you know, not just the battleground states, it’s the deeply red states and even deeply blue states where Republicans even as a minority are running and and nominating candidates who who endorsed election denial and This is a this is a very volatile environment we’re finding ourselves.
  • Speaker 3
    0:13:48

    And, Charlie, there’s there’s one there’s one comedic moment in all this. And if you go back to the Michigan Republican nominating convention, that process, which yielded a statewide nominee running for secretary of state who denies the twenty twenty election had the most irregular ballot processes of any Republican nominating convention I believe in Michigan Republican Party history. They lost ballots. They couldn’t count them. Everything was a skew.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:11

    Everything was completely a mess. I’ll just use that terminology to make sure I you
  • Speaker 1
    0:14:17

    you just didn’t wanna say fucked up because you’re afraid that this is a pocket. This is a this is a podcast that gets gets an explicit rating every fucking day. So, please, I don’t
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:28

    want you to worry about that. And yet, this completely garbled convention process is great. It’s okay. We don’t know where the ballots are. We don’t know what account on.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:38

    We don’t know what happened. Oh, but we got nominees we’re gonna go on and we’re gonna prosecute the case that the twenty twenty election that Trump lost in Michigan by more than a hundred. David, what’s the number? A hundred and fifty thousand votes? Hundred
  • Speaker 4
    0:14:49

    and seventy four thousand votes. Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:51

    Exactly. That’s why I have David. He always remembers every single number. God bless him, liver. Yeah.
  • Speaker 3
    0:14:55

    A hundred fifty four. That’s that there’s something wrong with that. But our nominating convention that looked like four children playing in romper room in terms of election security and believability. That one’s good. I mean, it is almost comical how this actually plays out and yet it’s not funny.
  • Speaker 3
    0:15:14

    Well, see,
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:14

    now this is interesting because as as you point out there’s not a shred of credible evidence that there was anything wrong with the election. And then, of course, they have something like this, this completely shambolic clown car of a of a convention, and it doesn’t bother anybody. Which sort of underlines the point. This is not really about the facts. It’s not really about the truth.
  • Speaker 1
    0:15:32

    It’s really become a pretext now. The claims of election fraud are pretexts for something else that I think is more dangerous which is, you know, the refusal to ever allow the other party to win an election the refusal to just simply acknowledge the peaceful transfer of power. That would explain why you come up with a claim it is refuted and yet nothing changes. They just simply moved to something else because it’s never about the specific allegation It’s just about these guys. We hate these guys so much.
  • Speaker 1
    0:16:04

    They are so dangerous. They hate God. They hate America. And we cannot allow them to win. So let’s come up with a pretext for not acknowledging a democratic victory by them or a or a defeat by ourselves.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:15

    Denialism has become a pretext for how much you wanna own the Libs how much you hate the media, how much you are staunchly opposed to liberalism slash socialism to whatever is them that they want to ascribe to Democrats. And look, On policy, there are lots of valid disagreements. I don’t want Republicans to give up valid policy disagreements on any front or conservatives or anyone else. I want that to actually reanimate American political discussion. What I beg people to do is stop using something like the validity of an election as a litmus test for everything else.
  • Speaker 3
    0:16:48

    Because once you do that, the other part of your opponent party will adopt that same tactic, and then we will have an arms race to the bottom. Of election denial is I think that’s — Yeah. — that will that will tear apart
  • Speaker 4
    0:16:59

    the fundamentals of conferring authority and legitimacy in a constitutional republic. And, Charlie, I I I I just add here that there is basically the definition of a secure election in the mind of the election and Ira’s is an election that we want. That’s the own right finds it. And you raise We talk about it a lot in the
  • Speaker 1
    0:17:17

    book, ma’am. And
  • Speaker 4
    0:17:18

    there’s two aspects of this. There is the there there is the they they wanna keep moving the goalposts and playing whack a mole and and creating new arguments, bamboo ballots, drop boxes, whatever. And they’re just always going to change. They won’t present this to any court they’ll make money off of their documentaries that they put out online and hold rallies where they charge admission. But when the courts actually come or law enforcement it comes.
  • Speaker 4
    0:17:42

    It says show us the evidence. They don’t show anything. And so there is nothing there. And instead, one of the other things we talk about in the book and we think it’s really important. Is the positive story that no one has been able to refute about the twenty twenty election, which is that it actually was the most secure, transparent, and verified election in American history, more verifiable paper ballots, more audits of those ballots.
  • Speaker 4
    0:18:02

    They keep calling for audits. The problem with that is the audits already happened shortly after the election. They confirmed the outcome in every single case. We had more scrutiny of the rules than ever before. They can complain about the rules all they want.
  • Speaker 4
    0:18:18

    Democrats also don’t like some of the rules, but they had a chance to litigate them in the rule of law held the day. And we all knew what the rules were on election night and then famously over sixty court cases that looked at the evidence and couldn’t find a shred of evidence that there was a problem that would overturn the result. That’s the positive story, and this was all done by the professionals, the men and women who run elections and did it with the highest turnout in American history in the middle of a global pandemic this was heroic. It was something we should celebrate instead they found themselves attacked consistently over the last seven hundred days. Well, and David,
  • Speaker 1
    0:18:51

    as you have pointed out, the twenty twenty election weren’t really all that close, were they? There were six states that were focused on, and there was a three state margin in the electoral college. And again, those major states the margins were
  • Speaker 4
    0:19:04

    not razor thin. People need to be reminded of that. I I mean, we we we have to recognize that in the twenty first century elections, they’re just going to be really, really close. And this was the largest margin of any presidential race in the 21st century where Barack Obama wasn’t voted. And, you know, over seven million vote, popular vote margin a minimum of three states in the electoral college where two thousand and two thousand and four were both decided by one state.
  • Speaker 4
    0:19:30

    And the margins in the states, I mean, ten thousand, eleven thousand looks close in states like Georgia and Arizona. But in reality, I’ve worked in election law for a
  • Speaker 1
    0:19:42

    long time.
  • Speaker 4
    0:19:42

    In in the world of recounts and audits and challenging elections, that’s a landslide. That we’ve never had an a statewide election of over a thousand votes overturned by a recount, let alone ten times that amount. And then you look at Pennsylvania, which was decided by a margin twice that of twenty sixteen, eighty four eighty four thousand votes. And Michigan, the margin of victory, they’re still talking about Michigan. It was decided by a hundred fifty four thousand votes, about fifteen times the margin of twenty sixteen when then candidate Trump won Michigan.
  • Speaker 4
    0:20:11

    So, I mean, these margins are not particularly closed when you ask we look at challenging elections, and it’s time to recognize that election officials did a remarkable job with incredible scrutiny with these margins that were not close, but there were also not hundreds of thousands of votes with the highest turnout ever in the middle of a global
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:32

    pandemic. Alright. Well, let’s shift gears a little bit. Wanna get to the meat of your book. And you start when this is really what’s really haunting is you you lay out a possible future.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:42

    Again, you’re not predicting this. You’re warning about it. How a second civil war could start? And so in the preamble of your book, You’re right. America’s second civil war could start with a bang or with a whimper.
  • Speaker 1
    0:20:55

    It could begin with a skirmish or sneak up on us through a series of small compromises and acts political cowardice. Civil war could announce itself loudly and bluntly, leaving no doubt as to its awful entrance or it could creep into the back door only to be recognized in hindsight as a series of seemingly disconnected events that could have and should have been stopped we may be midstream in such a flow of events already. So gentlemen, I’m gonna turn this platform over to you. Tell me what scenario concerns you. And again, you’re not predicting this.
  • Speaker 1
    0:21:30

    You’re warning it. So give me a scenario that can lead to an actual civil war. So first
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:37

    first to take that last sentence, we may be midstream. What do we mean by that? Charlie and the audience listening, We already have states that boycott other states right now over policy disagreements. Okay? That is an estrangement on paper.
  • Speaker 3
    0:21:51

    From one state to another. Your state does one thing, our state does another thing. And we’re not gonna either recognize your investigatory rights, whether it’s abortion, or we’re gonna do other things or we’re gonna move migrants from one place to another to own you because you’re a sanctuary city and we don’t wanna recognize that. So that process, when we say midstream, Some of these component parts of the scenario I’m about to describe are here right now and have nothing to do with us speculating about where they might lead. They’re here.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:18

    They’re present, and they suggest a kind of alienation that is being entrenched and replicated through political rhetoric and political action.
  • Speaker 1
    0:22:27

    So that’s
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:28

    what we mean by midstream. So let’s play out a quick scenario. Mhmm. Texas changed its laws after the twenty twenty election, making already tough voting procedures there tougher. The primary election in March showed that even experienced primary voters had a hard time complying with some of the mail in ballot requirements now a part of Texas law.
  • Speaker 3
    0:22:47

    Texas also did another thing. It’s empowered those who are election observers on-site to go to different places and raise more objections. Texas, of course, is an open carry state. So we have a scenario in which we don’t put a location We don’t put a gender on this person. We don’t put a race on this person.
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:03

    It is a person. In a place in Texas who empowered under this new law and open caring as is this person’s right, check something out because this person fears something might be a miss. And there’s a conversation that escalates into a confrontation. Which gets even louder and more objectionable and objected to and there’s pushing and shoving and nobody knows exactly what happened or how it occurred. But a gun goes off and a voter innocently meaning not a part of this is shot and dies on the floor of a high school gym, which happens to be the voting
  • Speaker 1
    0:23:38

    precinct. And
  • Speaker 3
    0:23:39

    as almost everything in our modern society is, this is a viral video that moves much faster than any news coverage and it becomes an instantaneous national sensation, a death in a polling place over fears of something amiss. National Democrats look at this with not only horror, but an embedded sense of I told you so horror. That this was the inevitable extension of the big lie in twenty twenty and denialism and violence and threats of violence and they say we have reached our breaking point. We can no longer say anything that we have said before, we must consequentially act differently. And the pressure build, pressure build, pressure build, and the speaker of the house using never before used powers but uniquely implied in the Construction of the House represents says, you know what?
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:32

    This is Nancy Pelosi. I’m not gonna recognize the entire Texas delegation. Republican and Democrat. I will regard it as invalid. Because of this event and everything else that’s happened in Texas.
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:41

    Because, of course, on election day, quite separate from this terrible event, long lines and people of color are having a much harder time voting and complying with these new laws. So taken together, It’s just intolerable. Mhmm.
  • Speaker 1
    0:24:56

    Mhmm. And,
  • Speaker 3
    0:24:56

    Pelosi says, I’m not seeding it. Well, guess what? It’s a tight mid term election. Texas delegation, Republican, and Democrat, to what would be the majority. So now we don’t know.
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:06

    And there’s litigation
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:07

    in other states because there there are close elections, but taken as a whole, this refusal to seek the Texas delegation leaves the question of control the House of Representatives up for
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:16

    grabs. Texas
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:17

    says, you know what? I’m the newly elected governor, reelected governor, Greg Abbott, No more federal tax
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:24

    compliance. My
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:24

    business is and individuals no longer have to send money to the federal government. And if you come to get it, we’ll stop
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:29

    you. And
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:31

    like minded states say, you know what the Texas is on to something. And we
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:34

    listed like minded
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:34

    states, you can imagine. And
  • Speaker 1
    0:25:36

    they agree,
  • Speaker 3
    0:25:37

    and they join this compact of non tax compliance in solidarity with Texas. State sympathetic to Pelosi starting with California, you can imagine the rest say we will no longer recognize the rights of citizens from those renigate non compliance dates. And on paper, and via process, and with rhetorical flourishes on both sides of this conversation, with expressed rhetoric declaring all these actions are taken in defensive democracy democracy itself and the ability to understand the will of voters and have it render verdicts that confer authority a great union that we have come to know and appreciate all the benefits from. On paper, procedurally, begins to dissolve. You know,
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:24

    Isaac was reading that and listening to you. I was thinking about all the other possible scenarios where you can imagine. Especially in the current political mood, the federal government doing X, Y, or Z, and the state saying, okay, we are we’re going to just declare that, you know, nullification. We’re not we’re not going to we’re not going to go along with this. And then you start to have this you know, the back and forth between the blue states and the red states.
  • Speaker 1
    0:26:48

    And as you point out, the federal government wants, you know, patience, but these intertwined limbs of interstate commerce starts to unwind. And as you write, America starts to slowly disappear stock prices drop, Texas starts talking about its own currency, And then, of course, around the world opportunistic nations step into the void. Our allies start worrying about us devouring ourselves. I mean, this is kind of a fever dream. I mean, this this is you’re describing a story of national suicide that could come either very violently or it could come very, very gradually.
  • Speaker 1
    0:27:26

    And you and, you know, when you make the point about midstream, this embedded sense of us versus them is already there. So I guess part of my question is, is the civil war necessarily going to be between states or will it be between Americans within states? Or is is the dividing line just between the states? Or is there another scenario of just, you know, violence between racial groups of violence, but, you know, in evenly divided states, you know, urban versus rural. I mean, there there seems like there’s a lot of potential for things to go south quickly.
  • Speaker 1
    0:28:01

    You know, one of the
  • Speaker 4
    0:28:02

    things that we saw play out starkly, now that we understand what took place in the period of time, you know, between November third twenty twenty and January sixth twenty twenty one. The constitution has principles that are very very strong, but ultimately our democracy and our union depends upon an agreement among citizens that when that agreement breaks down, violence might become the only option. I mean, the supreme court is the ultimate arbiter of the law of the land in the United States but even the United States Supreme Court has needed the use of national guard troops to enforce its rulings in states in the past. This is we acknowledge this. It hasn’t happened often, but we’re getting to the point now where the delegitimization of institutions the breakdown of that agreement, of that understanding between citizens is coming into stark play.
  • Speaker 4
    0:28:56

    And it is not very hard to imagine a circumstance. And by the way, this doesn’t infect only one party. This could infect the entire political spectrum where you start believing that if The other guys get into power that is such an existential crisis, that it’s so bad, that you can start believing any justified education and your rationalization about democracy that you want and ignoring the rule of law and turning towards violence. And that could come in the and regional conflicts that could come within a state in a closely divided election. It could come between states.
  • Speaker 4
    0:29:31

    It could also be nonviolent, but reflect the dissolution of our union and everything that goes with it. You know, this is something that’s not hard to imagine. We currently live in an environment and major talked about this a little bit. We’re not only our states boycotting each other, but we have states sending migrants to other states that they view as the other for them to deal with that problem rather than for us to deal with it in a federal national way. As immigration is a national problem.
  • Speaker 4
    0:30:02

    Those kinds of things are bellwethers for what we could see coming later. And, Charlie, you asked about violence within states. So let’s just understand
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:12

    one thing. You and I don’t know each other well, but we know each other by reputation. You know I am not a wild eyed speculative writer. Okay? I’m not a novelist.
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:20

    I’m a journalist who’s lived in Washington since nineteen ninety. Okay? I am by nature cautious about these sorts of things. David is a lawyer that worked in the justice department. And trust me, it was a very big task for us to say to each other, you know what?
  • Speaker 3
    0:30:36

    We’re gonna open up this book with the portrayal of America’s next civil war. That’s a heavy thing. Mhmm. And there was actually a draft of that first chapter in which I had an orientation about the state of Texas beginning to refuse to provide federal revenue and urbanites fleeing Texas because parts of its border were yet to be secured. And David wisely cautioned me he said, look, that’s too dramatic.
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:02

    That’s
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:02

    two out there. We don’t want to terrify people. We don’t want to hyper alarm them. Let’s keep it within something that has room for their imagination and don’t lead them in directions, but I thought about that. And we discussed it intensely and we aired on the side of being cautious in the sense that we leave a lot open to a reader’s interpretation.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:27

    Right. And I think it’s proved to be more powerful than we originally imagined because people have done exactly that. And they’ve come to us and said, that chapter scared me to death We’re like, because of what we wrote. No. Because when I was imagining on top of what you wrote — Right.
  • Speaker 3
    0:31:40

    Right. — that’s the way
  • Speaker 1
    0:31:41

    I read it as well. And, you know, this is I I think one of the real strengths of the book. Because as I was reading it, I was thinking, you know, one of our problems right now, I I think. One of the deficits we have is our failure of imagination that we we just have assumed that America was immune to his stree that we were exceptional that none of this could happen. And so the events of the last few years continually shocks us because we never really imagine so what could actually go wrong, how bad could it be, including this threat of violence of Americans hating one another, turning on one another.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:18

    And so we’re seeing it in real time, but I do think it’s important for us. To to not have this failure of imagination. Obviously, as you point out, not to over hype it, not to, you know, put our that are here on fire, but also to understand what could happen. And the second thing that you emphasize in the book though is this crisis of trust. You write democracy no longer suffers from a lack of participatory energy.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:43

    It suffers from a lack of respect. Allegiance, knowledge, humanity, and most of all, trust. We just don’t trust these institutions or one another. And, you know, people are unhappy with democracy, with the result. Here’s my question.
  • Speaker 1
    0:32:58

    If that’s where we’re at here, where your books is titled The Big Truth. We’re living in the era of the Big Lie, and we don’t trust one another. How do you fix that? Have we already passed the tipping point array already no deeply midstream one on this? Because if we once you’ve lost trust, that strikes me as one of the most difficult things to recover in your personal life and in your political life as well.
  • Speaker 1
    0:33:25

    Yeah. I I
  • Speaker 4
    0:33:26

    think, Major and I probably both agree that we’re not past a tipping point. And that’s why we wrote the book that we think there is time to course correct here. But the fact that if appears that a majority of the Republican and electorate right now believes relies that the election were stolen, that that has led to one of the things we haven’t talked too much here in this conversation and we talk quite a bit about in the book is the just devastating onslaught of abuse harassment and threats that the civil servants who run elections, the professionals, men and women, Republicans and Democrats all across the country have faced for the last two years, not because they did a bad job, but because they did a great job. They really achieved the greatest triumph of the American Democratic process in history. And I think it starts really with protecting and supporting them.
  • Speaker 4
    0:34:22

    In many ways. They’ve been working overtime to try to continue to answer questions about the twenty twenty election that have been answered time and time again. They have documented the way in which the twenty twenty election was even more secure than the twenty sixteen election even though the same people did not raise any. Concerns about the twenty sixteen election whatsoever. We point out the fact that many of the election deniers running for office now that you’ve mentioned earlier were on the same exact ballots in twenty twenty that the presidential race was on.
  • Speaker 4
    0:34:54

    They possess the authority to question the election because of the same ballots that the presidential election was on.
  • Speaker 3
    0:35:03

    Yeah. More intentional, unintentional comedy. Yeah.
  • Speaker 4
    0:35:05

    I mean, it’s it’s remarkable. I mean, I I I can’t bring myself to laugh about it because I work with election officials all over the country, and there’s hardly an election conference that I go to where someone is crying because of the just constant harassment that they’re facing as civil servants. I mean, there’s be being an election official there’s no fame and fortune that goes along with that. The best case scenario for an election official is the Wednesday after an election that they’re anonymous. And they faced constant harassment.
  • Speaker 4
    0:35:34

    Constant harassment.
  • Speaker 1
    0:35:36

    How close did we come to the edge here? You know, you talked to Liz Cheney about that, and she’s said, we all looked into the abyss and and responsible public servants and responsible elected officials have a duty to pull the country back from that. And you walk through the events and the weeks after the election, which we’re getting a much clearer picture of now. I mean, it was alarming at the time, but I don’t think we had any idea how bad it was. And including the preparation of an executive order dated December sixteenth in which Trump was contemplating ordering the US military to these ballot boxes and declare a national emergency to hold on to power.
  • Speaker 1
    0:36:14

    So how close to the abest did we come? Very is probably the
  • Speaker 3
    0:36:20

    best way to describe it. And by saying we were very close to it, Charlie, We are not saying that there weren’t guardrails and they did not hold, but they were pressed and battered and bumped into in ways we have never experienced before. And not only were those guardrails damaged, they continue to be damaged by those who profit either politically or financially from the perpetuation of the big lie. And that has become something of an article of Faith or a litmus test within the Republican Party is not a problem for the facts. The facts are never gonna go away facts about the twenty twenty election are immovable.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:03

    And I do believe this is a passing spasm, deeply dangerous, but a passing spasm for a great legacy party in this country. I do believe over time, the Republican Party will come to its senses, but I can no longer say that with the kind of conviction I would have two years ago because of all the evidence that’s in our book and the political dimensions and depth of the big lie. But I do believe ultimately because it’s unsustainable long term, it will go away. But the damage that will be done in that interregnum, that intermediary period, or he’s us a great deal. And this executive order is the most malevolent legally unjustified manifestation of an idea I lost.
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:50

    No. Wait. I didn’t lose. It was stolen. How do I stop that?
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:55

    What are the tools? Invent
  • Speaker 1
    0:37:58

    me something. And in addition
  • Speaker 3
    0:37:59

    to that executive order, there was memorandum, dispatched to state legislature, say that your election was invalid, and we will step in and fix it. I mean,
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:09

    those are
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:10

    tools of the federal government never before contemplated by any chief executive in this country. By several orders of magnitude. Yeah. Mhmm. So it was close.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:20

    Closer than we imagined on January sixth when people still thought reasonably, it was spontaneous. No. We really can’t say that anymore. And I think the difficulty in coming to that conclusion is an emotional place that a lot of Republicans simply can’t get to because it’s too painful. It’s simply too painful.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:37

    So I’d only ask them Imagine if this scenario played out
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:42

    under the
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:43

    Obama justice department, and Hillary Clinton was the litigant.
  • Speaker 1
    0:38:48

    What would
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:48

    you said about that? I I don’t I think we can imagine. What would have been your sense of the rule of law under that scenario? You would have said we have to protect it. We have to protect it.
  • Speaker 3
    0:38:58

    Yes, we do. You would have been right then just as those who criticize extrudential and unconstitutional mechanisms to hold on to power in regards to former president Trump are right to vehemently criticized. Them. But to David’s point as well, yes, that there
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:14

    were the guardrails that held, but what we’re seeing in real time now is the is the ongoing effort to dismantle those guardrails, to get rid of those election officials, to
  • Speaker 2
    0:39:26

    make sure that the next time around that there are not people who are going to resist all of this. And, you know, David, you’ve been talking about, you know, these
  • Speaker 1
    0:39:32

    courageous election workers, but But right now, around the country, we’ve had multiple reports about the threats and the intimidation. The number of them who just throw up their hands and say, I don’t need this shit. And who are who are leaving. So twenty twenty four might look very different. You’re getting at the crux
  • Speaker 4
    0:39:49

    of it. I think of the concerns that that we have. I mean, we We have a very decentralized election system in this country. We rely upon hundreds of thousands of professional election officials in ten thousand jurisdictions. And volunteer poll workers from across the political spectrum.
  • Speaker 4
    0:40:05

    And it’s actually remarkable. They’ve been pressured. They’ve been exploited. People are traveling a country trying to get them to violate their oaths of office, to violate the law, to give access to voting machines, that is illegal and would yield no evidence of any problems whatsoever. And despite that, we only know of a handful of, you know, of those hundreds of thousands of people, I can literally count the number of places where there’s been some success by the election deniers on one hand.
  • Speaker 4
    0:40:34

    It’s really remarkable how they stood fast regardless of their political party. But I do know in talking to election officials all over the country that there are unprecedented numbers of people who are retiring in the two years since twenty twenty. And that would be a problem in and of itself. We’re losing a generation of professionalism in that. And we have become more professional in that in election administration than ever before.
  • Speaker 4
    0:40:58

    Just think about Florida. In two thousand, Florida was an international laughing stock for election administration. And in twenty twenty, thanks to the county supervisors of elections largely in Florida and their staffs. Democrats, Republicans throughout the state, Florida was actually a model. No lines, no problems reporting out election results early.
  • Speaker 4
    0:41:19

    And that’s a great example of the professionalism we’ve seen nationwide and yet we’re losing a generation of that. And then the other question becomes, what does it get replaced with? And I’ll tell you honestly, I’m even if election and Iers get into those positions, I think thanks to the professional standards that have been created, thanks to paper ballots, audits, and other laws that have been placed around the country. We have greater transparency and security and elections than ever before. It’s really difficult for a corrupt election official to anoint the loser of an election as the winner.
  • Speaker 4
    0:41:51

    The judiciary held up largely I think that’s going to be very difficult to do. It’s not impossible, but it’s very difficult to do. But we do see an erosion of these an attack on these guardrails of democracy that could create an environment that is ripe for political violence. And if you have an election in I or a secretary of state, who doesn’t support his or her local election officials, who raises questions about an election in which the candidate of his party lost post election without any evidence whatsoever, it could incite violence in a way that we’ve never seen before post election, could validate the view of a stolen election in a way we’ve never seen before. Again, this keeps me up at night.
  • Speaker 4
    0:42:34

    The book is the big truth upholding democracy in the age
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:38

    of the big lie by major Garrett and David Becker. Major and David, thank you so much for joining me on the podcast today. Charlie,
  • Speaker 3
    0:42:46

    thanks so much. Yeah. Thanks, Charlie.
  • Speaker 1
    0:42:47

    And thank you all for listening to today’s Bulwark podcast. I’m Charlie Sykes. We will be back tomorrow, and we’ll do this all over again. You’re worried about the economy. Inflation is high.
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:05

    Your paycheck doesn’t cover as much as it used to, and we live under the threat of a looming recession. And you’re doing okay, but you could be doing better. The afford anything podcast explains
  • Speaker 3
    0:43:14

    the economy and the market detailing how to make wise choices on the way you spend and invest
  • Speaker 1
    0:43:20

    Avoid anything talks about how to avoid common pitfalls, how to refine your mental models, and how to think about how to think. Make smarter choices and build a better life. Afford anything wherever you listen.
Want to listen without ads? Join Bulwark+ for an exclusive ad-free version of The Bulwark Podcast! Learn more here.