The Capitol Invasion is Both an End and a Beginning

Naive Trumpism is dead, but the right-wing insurrection is just getting started.

A history of violence. Of course the Trump administration would end in violence.

Trump’s brand of populism has had a violent undercurrent from the beginning, and Trump himself has done little to reject that tendency or even tone it down. Only a couple months after he descended the escalator in 2015, he made excuses for two of his fans beating a homeless Hispanic man with a metal pole, describing his supporters as “very passionate … They love this country and want it to be great again.” When neo-Nazis chanted racist and anti-Semitic slogans in Charlottesville, and one of them murdered a counter-protester, he talked about the “very fine people on both sides“. He gave a presidential shout-out to Kyle Rittenhouse’s self-defense claim, ignoring the fact that people were chasing Rittenhouse because he had already killed someone.

I won’t attempt a more complete accounting of Trumpist violence — the guy who mailed all the pipe bombs, the guy who took Trump’s “invasion” rhetoric so literally that he murdered Hispanics in an El Paso mall, the plot to kidnap Michigan’s governor — because Vox already did that.

Of course, politicians never have complete control over their followers. But there are responsible and irresponsible ways to react when your people cross the line. Bernie Sanders, for example, said this in 2017:

I have just been informed that the alleged shooter at the Republican baseball practice is someone who apparently volunteered on my presidential campaign. I am sickened by this despicable act. Let me be as clear as I can be: Violence of any kind is unacceptable in our society and I condemn this action in the strongest possible terms. Real change can only come about through nonviolent action, and anything else runs against our most deeply held American values.

You will search in vain for a similarly unequivocal rejection by Trump of pro-Trump violence. After a plot to kidnap Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer was foiled, Trump muddied his denunciation of the plot with criticism of Whitmer and an endorsement of the plotters’ political goals.

I do not tolerate ANY extreme violence. Defending ALL Americans, even those who oppose and attack me, is what I will always do as your President! Governor Whitmer — open up your state, open up your schools, and open up your churches!

Occasionally, handlers have pressured the President into putting some kind of distance between himself and the most thuggish elements of the MAGAverse. But his heart has never been in it — such statements became known as Trump’s “hostage videos” — and he would quickly walk them back with much more fervor, lest any of his brownshirts feel unappreciated.

And then he lost the election.

It wasn’t close. Biden’s 7-million vote victory wasn’t quite as big as Obama’s 2008 landslide, but before that you have to go back to Bill Clinton in 1996 to find a similar margin. The Electoral College rigs presidential elections in Republicans’ favor, but even that outcome was convincing: 306-232. The media’s delay in calling the election was due to the Covid pandemic and the number of mail-in votes, not any narrowness in the results.

Trump has long threatened violence if he didn’t get what he wanted. In March of 2016 he warned that “you’d have riots” if the Republican Party found a way to deny him the nomination. That fall, he would only commit to accepting the election results “if I win“. Asked in September of 2020 if he would commit to a peaceful transfer of power in case he lost, Trump replied “We’ll have to see what happens.” When challenged to break with the violent white-supremacist Proud Boys, Trump told them to “stand back and stand by“.

Stand by for what? Wednesday we found out.

The Big Lie. Even more pronounced than his affinity with violence has been Trump’s habit of saying things because he wants them to be true, a self-serving exaggeration of the power-of-positive-thinking religion he was raised in.

Some of his self-flattering fictions have been petty and inconsequential, like his insistence that his inaugural crowd was larger than Barack Obama’s. Others have been more significant, like his claim that 3-5 million non-citizens voted illegally in 2016, a total that conveniently accounted for Hillary Clinton’s margin in the popular vote. He wanted the Mueller report to “totally exonerate” him, but it did not. And we will never know exactly how many additional Americans died because of Trump’s lies about the coronavirus — that it was just the flu, that doctors inflated the death statistics, that it was under control, that masks don’t work, that business closures aren’t necessary, that hydroxychloroquine is a miracle cure — but it’s probably in the tens or hundreds of thousands.

Among his tens of thousands of lies since taking office, his claim that he won “by a landslide” in the election that he actually lost by a wide margin, but that his victory was “stolen” from him by Democratic fraud, was Trump’s Big Lie, the kind of lie Hitler described in Mein Kampf.

in the big lie there is always a certain force of credibility; because the broad masses of a nation are always more easily corrupted in the deeper strata of their emotional nature than consciously or voluntarily; and thus in the primitive simplicity of their minds they more readily fall victims to the big lie than the small lie, since they themselves often tell small lies in little matters but would be ashamed to resort to large-scale falsehoods. It would never come into their heads to fabricate colossal untruths, and they would not believe that others could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously. Even though the facts which prove this to be so may be brought clearly to their minds, they will still doubt and waver and will continue to think that there may be some other explanation. For the grossly impudent lie always leaves traces behind it, even after it has been nailed down, a fact which is known to all expert liars in this world and to all who conspire together in the art of lying.

Historian Timothy Snyder made the connection to the current situation:

The force of a big lie resides in its demand that many other things must be believed or disbelieved. To make sense of a world in which the 2020 presidential election was stolen requires distrust not only of reporters and of experts but also of local, state and federal government institutions, from poll workers to elected officials, Homeland Security and all the way to the Supreme Court. It brings with it, of necessity, a conspiracy theory: Imagine all the people who must have been in on such a plot and all the people who would have had to work on the cover-up.

Trump’s electoral fiction floats free of verifiable reality. It is defended not so much by facts as by claims that someone else has made some claims. The sensibility is that something must be wrong because I feel it to be wrong, and I know others feel the same way. When political leaders such as Ted Cruz or Jim Jordan spoke like this, what they meant was: You believe my lies, which compels me to repeat them.

Trump was already setting up this lie before the election even happened, telling his supporters that he could only lose by fraud, and that voting by mail was inherently rife with fraud. On election night, he falsely claimed victory, and subsequently, as recounts, hand recounts, signature audits, and every other kind of verification knocked down his baseless allegations, his claims just got wilder. In the January 6 speech that sent the mob heading towards the Capitol, he told lies already long refuted: that in Pennsylvania “You had 205,000 more ballots than you had voters.” In Detroit, “174,000 ballots were counted without being tied to an actual registered voter.”

The conspiracy to deny him a second term grew and grew: It now had to include not just Biden’s people, not just Democrats, but his own appointees like Christopher Krebs and Bill Barr, Republican election commissioners, Republican secretaries of state and governors, and ultimately even Mike Pence.

The attack on the Capitol. Even the most talented liar sometimes faces a confrontation with reality that can’t be explained away. A key part of Trump’s Big Lie wasn’t just that he should have won, or that the Democrats had stolen the election, but that they would not get away with it. The fraud would be exposed, the election results reversed, and a Trump second term inaugurated on January 20.

Something had to give eventually, because on January 20 Trump either would or wouldn’t start a second term. For two months, the date of MAGA salvation kept getting pushed back and the mechanism changing. At first, the story was that Trump’s election-night lead in key states would hold. When that didn’t happen, he claimed that the states would refuse to certify Biden’s win. When they did — even the ones like Georgia and Arizona with Republican officials — he said the courts would intervene, culminating in a showdown before a Supreme Court with three Trump appointees and a 6-3 Republican majority. When the Supreme Court wanted no part of his scheme, he told his followers that Republican state legislatures would throw out the elections and appoint Trump electors. But on December 14, Biden’s 306 certified electors voted, and there was only one remaining possibility to overturn the People’s will: when Congress counted the electoral votes on January 6.

At that point, new elements of the fantasy emerged: Congress had the power to throw out a state’s certified electoral votes, in spite of the 12th Amendment, which empowers it only to “open” and “count” the votes sent by the states. As the official presiding over this opening and counting, Vice President Pence had the power to recognize alternative slates of Trump-supporting electors — a power that, if it existed, would guarantee that no party in power ever lost the White House. In 2001, Al Gore could have recognized the Democratic electors from Florida and declared himself president. Joe Biden could have tossed Trump’s slates in 2017 and appointed Hillary Clinton.

Imagine that you believed all this nonsense, and think about how your anger might have risen as you heard that Mike Pence was refusing to exercise his power to count the votes however he wanted, and Mitch McConnell would not rally Republican senators to “stop the steal” of Trump’s landslide. Cowardly Republicans refused to seize this moment, and instead would let Joe Biden’s radical socialism destroy America.

Unless the People rose up.

From the beginning, Trump’s January 6 “Save America” rally had violence written all over it. When Trump promoted it in a December 19 tweet, he said “Be there, will be wild!” After Trump stooge Louie Gohmert lost his insane lawsuit to disenfranchise millions of Americans, he said the court’s message was “You have to go to the streets and be as violent as antifa, BLM.” Violent pro-Trump groups plotted openly on social media platforms.

More than 80% of the top posts on TheDonald on Wednesday about the Electoral College certification featured calls for violence in the top five responses, according to research from Advance Democracy, an independent, nonpartisan organization. And it wasn’t just fringe websites. On Twitter, Advance Democracy found more than 1,480 posts from QAnon-related accounts about Jan. 6 that contained terms of violence since Jan. 1. On TikTok, videos promoting violence garnered hundreds of thousands of views.

Trump certainly could or should have known all this when he spoke to the crowd he had assembled and instructed it to march on the Capitol. Quite likely he did know. But he spoke to rile the crowd up, not to keep it under control. After the violence began, he resisted for hours requests that he call the mob off. When he did ask them to go home, he did not denounce what they had done, but repeated the Big Lie that motivated them.

We now know that the incident could have been far worse than it actually was. A scaffold was set up, and some of the invaders chanted “Hang Mike Pence.” They killed a Capitol policeman. What might they have done if they’d gotten hold of people Trump frequently has demonized, like Speaker Pelosi or Rep. Adam Schiff?

They went into the Capitol, as Congress was counting electoral votes, equipped to take hostages—to physically seize officials, and presumably to take lives. … If the rioters had been a little quicker through the doors; if senators and representatives hadn’t just moved from their joint session into separate chambers to debate the Arizona challenge and had instead still been packed into one harder-to-evacuate room; if any number of things had happened differently, the three people next in the line of succession for the presidency might have been face to face with those zip-tie guys. And then: Who knows.

The Republican divide. The overt violence at the Capitol, putting the lives of even Republican members of Congress at risk, means that it is no longer possible to ignore what Trumpism is. “Naive Trumpism”, the idea that Trump throws a lot of red meat to his base, but that traditional Reagan/Bush Republicans can work with him within the constitutional order to cut taxes and appoint judges, is dead now. If you’re still a Trumpist today, you support ending democracy and overthrowing the constitutional order.

Historian Timothy Snyder divides the GOP into “gamers” (like Mitch McConnell) and “breakers” (like Trump).

Right now, the Republican Party is a coalition of two types of people: those who would game the system (most of the politicians, some of the voters) and those who dream of breaking it (a few of the politicians, many of the voters). In January 2021, this was visible as the difference between those Republicans who defended the present system on the grounds that it favored them and those who tried to upend it.

Until Wednesday, opportunists like Ted Cruz and Josh Hawley could blur that distinction and appear to be on both sides. Going forward, such a position will no longer be tenable. The people who invaded the Capitol are either freedom fighters or traitors. There is no middle ground.

Democracies have to defend themselves. This is one of the lessons I glean from my reading about Hitler’s rise to power. The Weimar Republic fell, at least in part, because it lacked the will to defend itself, or to defend the government’s monopoly on the use of force. Hitler himself first drew national attention by leading the Beer Hall Putsch in Munich in 1923. It was his first attempt to take power, and it earned him a five-year sentence for treason. He was released after nine months, having learned that treason against the democratic government was just not that big a deal.

In subsequent years, brownshirt violence was often winked at by German law enforcement, which tended to be conservative and to dislike the same people the Nazis were beating up. Similarly Wednesday, while most police at the Capitol risked their lives to defend Congress, at least a few policemen seemed to be on friendly terms with the invaders.

The Capitol Insurrection may mark the end of naive Trumpism, and split the GOP into gamers and breakers. But it also marks the beginning of a darker campaign of right-wing violence that the Biden administration will have to confront. We don’t know what further violence may erupt on Inauguration Day, or between then and now. But the end of Trump will not be the end of the movement. The Whitmer kidnapping plot may be a model for future actions, and I’m sure others have noticed that a 50-50 Senate can be flipped back to Republican control with a single bullet.

Paul Krugman’s first column after Wednesday’s riot didn’t invoke Hitler or the Nazis by name, but warned:

if history teaches us one lesson about dealing with fascists, it is the futility of appeasement. Giving in to fascists doesn’t pacify them, it just encourages them to go further.

I hope Joe Biden has learned that lesson.

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  • Roger  On January 11, 2021 at 1:12 pm

    I am glad you mentioned the racial angle. I thought it was quite evident:
    I’ve written another piece, for next Monday, and you’ve already written about them here, esp The Big Lie, which I’ll use anyway.

    • Roger  On January 11, 2021 at 1:14 pm

      Oops, wrong post, but the thought is the same…

  • Lydia  On January 11, 2021 at 1:30 pm

    Your penultimate comment is NOT exactly comforting, Doug — I can’t help but feel nervous at the possibility of putting suggestions like this into the wrong heads — “can be flipped back to Republican control with a single bullet?” Gosh, thanks so much for pointing that out….
    Another important point is that white supremacy is based, has been for centuries solely based, on a vast stinking mountain of lies within lies piled on lies wrapped in lies. In a way, inability to tell fact from fiction may just be a mark of the breed, since the entire philosophy exists because of lies. It’s not a belief; it’s a corneal implant, making the lies all they can see.

    • weeklysift  On January 16, 2021 at 9:33 am

      I debated that issue with myself, and decided that the bad actors will think of this themselves, while the people who should be defending against them might need a reminder.

      I’d like to see the National Governors Association make an agreement that assassination will not change the partisan make-up of the Senate. If a senator dies of a heart attack, appoint anybody you want. But if a senator is murdered, appoint someone of the same party.

      I can’t imagine anyone having a legitimate objection to that proposal, and it serves both parties: If someone flipped the Senate by killing a Democrat with a Republican governor, someone else might decide to flip it back by killing a Republican with a Democratic governor. Nobody should want to get that started.

      • Lydia  On January 16, 2021 at 12:58 pm

        Yeah, I also thought of that — and it’s usually true, but I think my paranoia got the better of me….The governor’s agreement is a good idea — Dottie points out to me that it exists in some form at least in custom, but isn’t sure if it’s formalized anywhere, and maybe it’s only observed by some governors. Know any governors?

  • Dale Moses  On January 11, 2021 at 1:32 pm

    We should remember this when Republican “gamers” attempt to keep that fiction intact. And should ensure that the public discourse does not allow them to do so. They have already started to downplay the events and their involvement. Already started to say we need to “move on”.

    We cannot.

  • reverendsax  On January 11, 2021 at 2:34 pm

    I assume that those of us who are not “gamers” or “breakers” are merely “players.”

  • joeirvin  On January 11, 2021 at 2:56 pm

    William Cohen, the former Defense secretary, on television about noon Monday, made the point that race is at the core of white violence. Since the end of slavery, whites have feared economic and social competition from people of color. Thus the demand, enforced by law and violence, for submission to white power. Yes, we are still fighting a civil war.

  • Guest  On January 14, 2021 at 12:04 pm

    The presentation of gamers/breakers and the ending call to not appease fascism have stuck with me all week, Doug, thank you.

    I wonder if we can connect some dots on the appeasement point in terms of how we got here and what to do now. Appeasing fascists encourages them, but how did we get to the stage where we have a meaningful amount of fascists in high places to begin with? Has the Dem party’s “triangulation” toward the right and the accommodation of corporate power for decades made for fertile ground? Appeasing fascists is a bad idea, we can agree. Prior to that phase, does moving to the right (specifically, away from the social democracy of FDR) encourage the rightwing into fascist territory proper? In any case, it appears to at best not stop, and at worst accelerate, the squeezing of the working class and the suffering of the most vulnerable among us. An appeal to progressive, American FDR social democracy solutions feel as important as ever. The urge to make America great again by trying to relive the Obama years, in other words, the Biden call to re-walk the path that led us to Trump, seems bankrupt.

    In calling out the gamers and breakers in the Republican party, I don’t think Snyder stresses enough that the system gamers are trying to game is itself already tilted toward the concentration of power among “red states” specifically and big money elites generally. Republican gamers are gaming the system for enriching and empowering themselves, while the breakers want to break the system towards even greater concentrations of power. Another note that Snyder glides by is that we have gamers and breakers in the Dem party as well, except the Dem breakers (Sanders and others in the movement behind him) want to break the system towards greater democracy and the dignity of all people.

    After the Capitol siege, that there are the cracks in the system is clear enough. Will we have the system break to the right, towards fascism like Germany in the 1930s, or break to the left, towards social democracy like FDR’s America? Holding the status quo, if even possible, would appear to keep us on the downward spiral to the right that we have been on since labor bosses and party elites tripped over themselves to twist a knife in McGovern’s back some 50 years ago.

    • Dale Moses  On January 14, 2021 at 1:54 pm

      Its not “triangulation” or anything policy related in that matter its

      1) Not prosecuting criminals in the Republican party when they do criminal acts.
      2) Parties willing to accept support of radical members.

      Point 2 is worded neutrally, but really its only the Republicans who have done this. There is a saying that i have liked that goes roughly like so “If you have a Nazi in your bar and don’t throw them out pretty soon you have a Nazi bar”. Generally this is referenced in regards to online community moderation. In that failing to purge members who do not adhere to standards of behavior will drive away those people who want to have said standards.

      Nazi’s, in particular, are not interested in having any discourse. They’re only interested in discussion insomuch as they can use the fact that their opponents are beholden to the standards of good faith behavior against them. Republicans accepted their support in their party and pretty soon they had a Nazi party.

      The first point is also a Republican thing mainly. But democrats do deserve some blame for this. The desire to “move on” rather than enact justice is strong. But fundamentally the lesson that Republicans learned from Nixon’s resignation and Pardon was not “don’t do crimes” it was “don’t resign when you do crimes” and “ensure that you have a friendly media environment so that you don’t have to admit to doing crimes”. Fox News was created after this for that exact purpose. Iran Contra solidified this (its not a mistake that Oliver North got a job at Fox News). There will be no real consequences for Republicans who do crimes unless you break with the party, because Republicans will pardon their party members. Bill Bar got Bush the first to pardon the rest of the crew involved in Iran Contra as an example.

      The most recent example of this is on Dem’s hands. Bush committed a number of crimes in office, not the least of which was the outing of an active CIA officer for political purposes. Libby took the rap but had his sentence commuted by Bush… then Trump pardoned him and he is back to working full time as a Lawyer(I think, he was reinstated by the Bar and i can’t find a lot of information about his post conviction employment history). And we didn’t push any harder about this. We did not ensure that people who commit crimes against the United States are punished.

      It has nothing to do with capitalism. Its always been about Republicans’ not facing consequences for their actions because of a belief that not enforcing the law reduces the damage that the violations of the law had produced. And so Republicans rightly decided that the law no longer applied to them. And now they act like it

    • Guest  On January 15, 2021 at 10:54 am

      Good stuff, thank you, Dale. “Triangulation” was meant to be a more neutral in tone alternative to “neoliberalism” which some people use or misread as an empty slur rather than a description of a Democratic party that has more or less abandoned the suffering of the working class and vulnerable populations for the well-paying comforts of militarism, materialism, and powerful institutions that are racist in practice. The “gamers” dream.

      I’m on board with keeping authority figures accountable, that’s bedrock democracy stuff. I recall wanting to see Bush II and Cheney charged with war crimes, and was disappointed when Obama let them slide, not knowing at the time that he would go on to double down on drone strikes, secret kill lists, whistleblower crackdowns, surveillance state, etc. That said, I’m not convinced that sending Bush and co. to the Hague would have stemmed the tide completely. Think back to 2016. When most every Republican was content to pretend that the W. years never happened, Trump alone was willing to call them out. He didn’t lionize Bush, he condemned him “they didn’t keep us safe.” Had they been held accountable, it easy to imagine a similar dynamic playing out.

      Had there been a tradition dating back to Watergate of presidential accountability, *maybe* that curbs Trump’s worst excesses…or, it becomes another among the dozens of traditions that Trump ignored. In any case, the point I want to raise here is not that we shouldn’t prosecute criminal politicians, but that we should extend the accountability to other side aisle for failing to defeat such politicians. Bush and Trump governed as moral monsters, yet the neoliberal alternatives couldn’t beat them (Gore, Kerry, HRC). It wasn’t until hundreds of thousands of Americans died and an economic crisis hit in an election year that one of their ilk was able to squeeze a victory in. That’s not a sustainable path to success. We have to present better alternatives.

      In terms of R’s accepting support of radical members, you again make a great point, and I like the bar analogy. But there might be a chicken or the egg dynamic to it. Are there more radicals because Republicans accept their support, or are Republicans accepting more radical support because there are more radicals from which to choose? As seemed to be the case under the Great Depression, deteriorating material conditions of those who are not economically comfortable to begin with seems to accelerate radicalism. Locking up Trump won’t help on that front. To the extent that we fail to seriously address those deteriorating material conditions with social democratic solutions that once worked in FDR’s America and currently work in developed nations globally, we leave the door open to the solutions of the fascist, radical right. Holding to the status quo in such a situation merely keeps the pot on boil.

      • Dale Moses  On January 15, 2021 at 3:35 pm

        There are more radicals because Republicans are more willing to accept their support. The John Birch Society isn’t new. Oklahoma City wasn’t an isolated incident. Over time these elements were accepted further into the party. Then the Tea Party happened and they were almost all quickly accepted.

        And no, “neoliberalism” didn’t push them there either and “triangulation” wasn’t “neoliberal”*. Triangulation was a result of core democratic voters abandoning democratic positions in favor of Republican positions. And working to get back to a majority because the people who voted for democrats had stopped doing so in favor of voting for republicans. It was a mistake, but only minorly, and not because it was wrong in idea. After all, you want to get the most liberal thing you can get and if that means moving to the right then you have to move to the right. It was a mistake because the reason that people moved away from the democratic party was was not because they had a legitimate like of Republican ideas but because they chose race over economic identity. And the only reason it was a mistake wasn’t because there was a clear better course of action, going full on social programs and racial equality would likely have resulted in significant losses(because the demographic tide which has allowed Democrats to become more focused on racial and gender issues had not yet occurred, and we have examples of this from the 1980 and 84 and 88 elections and the fact that we only won in 92 and 96 because Republican third parties split the conservative vote) and so a large push towards conservative rule.

        The idea that the democratic party abandoned the working class people is bunk. Its a lie spread by republicans in order to increase their power and let them get people like you to believe that “both sides are the same”.

        None of this lies at the feet of the Democrats. Democrats are not the only political party with agency.

        *and “neoliberalism” isn’t even neoliberal because the neoliberals that we talk about in the democratic party were those that were open to market reforms for social programs (I.E. they were social democrats. Like north european type social democrats) which was a change in method but not a change in goals. Whereas “neoliberalism” actually refers to an entirely separate philosophy based off the works of like Hayek, who was liberal in the classical sense… which had nothing to do with liberals of the Democratic sense. Because liberalism in america has always been about racial and economic justice, and not laissez-faire type freedom.

        A good example of this is cap and trade. So cap and trade was originally a scheme to reduce sulfur dioxide emissions that were producing acid rain. The idea was that rather than regulating how much emissions each plant would be able to emit you would place an overall cap on emissions and then people would purchase the rights to emit from the government. Have you seen any acid rain recently? Well its because cap and trade was eminently successful and to boot it made the US money. It was more successful than prior regulation techniques, which had failed to control acid rain. The “new liberals” of the democratic party were open to trying more ideas like that, not to abandon the core concepts of liberalism.

    • weeklysift  On January 16, 2021 at 9:36 am

      I would not call Sanders or the other Democratic progressives “breakers” in the Snyder terminology. None of them are calling for an end to the Constitution or a violent revolution. None would make it impossible for Republicans to win future elections.

    • Guest  On January 18, 2021 at 11:02 am

      Dale: Good, I think I can pinpoint our disagreements here. First, the fact that right-wing radicals have been here all along (to your sample of John Birch, OK City, Tea Party, I would add American Nazi’s who in the run up to WWII sold out Madison Square Garden for a rally, the assassinations of the 60s, etc) suggests to me that there are other factors at play influencing the group than a linear progression upwards traced to the Republicans increased acceptance of them.

      The history of the Dem party moving to the right you present is interesting, and probably echoes the inside-the-Beltway conventional wisdom on the matter. For me, the two devastating objections to this view are it’s cherry picked historical context, and relatedly, that it begs the question. You state that Dem voters by the 80s started voting R. I’m not arguing that didn’t happen, I want to ask why? It wasn’t always the case. If we allow a broader historical context, we find FDR stringing together dominating wins on a decidedly left administration. By ’72, Dem party leadership had moved away from the populist left platform of FDR before moving even further to the right under Regan. Devastating electoral loses follow along with this shift. This crucial historical context demystifies why Dem voters were jumping ship to begin with.

      From there, we come to “begging the question.” As you state (and obviously not just you, this is beltway conventional wisdom) the Dem party *had to* move to the right, they had no choice. Why? Because they wouldn’t win otherwise. A perfect circle. And one that runs counter to the broader historical context above, which shows Dems losing voters in tandem with moving to the right, ie, away from the FDR populist left. This makes the suggestion of centrists all the more frustrating; they are proposing as a solution what got us into this mess to begin with.

      Next, the idea that the Dem party abandoned (and maybe that is too strong a word, but nonetheless) the working class is NOT bunk or rightwing lies, at least according to the historians and political commentators I admire most, including MLK, Chomsky, Cornel West, Thomas Frank, among others. The “both sides are the same” trope is believed neither by me nor any of them.

      “None of this lies at the feet of the Democrats. Democrats are not the only political party with agency.” You actually seem to be arguing that Democrats are the only political party without agency. In any case, I’m skeptical of any view that assumes the problems of the present situation are entirely not our fault but solely the fault of our political adversaries. To be honest, I find the idea self-serving. If only Republicans have agency over the present situation, then our problems are much bigger than many suspect.

      On semantics and definition of “neoliberal”, I confess I’m 15 years removed from reading Hayek. I was using the term in the Cornel West sense. I’m happy to have my use of the term above to be swapped out for simply the Dem party post-moving away from FDR left populism and toward the right, if that’s clearer.

      Doug: Oh, that’s fine. The mainstream framing of Sanders is that he represents radical change, so we can use the terms of record instead of mirroring Snyder’s terms. Instead of the gamers and breakers that the Republicans have, we can say the Dems have gamers and radical changers.


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