If U.S. democracy falls this century, it will likely be at the hands of a stubby-fingered sack of extra-piquant donkey farts who likely never bothered to read the Constitution he swore to uphold—and certainly didn’t understand it if he did bother. In other words, we’re at the stage in the Siegfried & Roy show where the tiger starts picturing Roy as a semi-ambulant canned ham.
Donald Trump is a buffoon, but he’s an evil buffoon, and it doesn’t actually take a smart man to demagogue against democracy. You simply need zero shame, a preternatural instinct for bullying, and a party full of Q-besotted quislings to go along with your rotten plans.
On Friday’s episode of The Beat With Ari Melber, Yale history professor Timothy Snyder didn’t mince words when it came to the ominous, anti-democratic forces that are currently gathering to storm the gates of our venerable republic.
After Melber noted that several Big Lie proponents are running—with the backing of the ocher abomination—for secretary of state positions in several U.S. states—which would give them a great deal of control over the 2024 election in some key swing states—he had an unsettling talk with Snyder, an expert on authoritarianism and author of the book On Tyranny.
ARI MELBER: “When you see this effort to put this much pressure on installing partisan officials who’ve embraced lies and tried to overturn elections in these official positions for next election, how concerned should we be? What, if any, foreign analogs do you see?”
TIMOTHY SNYDER: “Well, as someone who follows contemporary Russia, there is a Russian phrase that comes to mind, which is ‘the administrative resource.’ What the administrative resource means in Russian is that, sure, you have an election, but the people who are running the election are going to determine how the election turns out. What the Republicans are going for is precisely that thing—the administrative resource.
Historically speaking, what we know about a big lie is that, because of its very scale, it’s not about truth or not-truth, it’s about living in a kind of alternative reality. And what we’re looking at is people who believe in or pretend to believe in this Big Lie actually carrying out our elections. And the problem with this, or one of them, is that, since these people have already claimed that the other side cheated, that basically legitimates their cheating. In other words, if you talk about the Big Lie now, you’re basically promising to cheat the next time around, and that’s very concerning.”
Snyder has special insight into authoritarian regimes and movements, but anyone who watches sports also recognizes this tactic. It’s called “working the refs.” By complaining about every call, this theory goes, you’re more likely to get favorable treatment in the future. Now imagine if every Super Bowl was decided by referees who were handpicked by one side because they thought their team had been ripped off the previous year.
MELBER: “How worried are you that the United States could face a situation where coordinated efforts by these kind of officials could actually swing an election?”
SNYDER: “Oh, we don’t need the ‘could’ … I mean, I would say we should be thinking of this as what is happening, and then ask ourselves what we can do to prevent it. I mean, it’s very clear that some combination of people who talk about the Big Lie being in important administrative posts, along with nonlegal or extralegal reviews of the election, perhaps along with states claiming for themselves the right to allocate electoral votes against the wishes of their own people. Some combination of that is clearly in the works, alongside voter suppression, which has a long and dark history in our country.
The scenario for 2024, for most influential people around Donald Trump, which unfortunately means one of the political parties, is precisely to be installed without winning the election. That’s very consistent with everything Mr. Trump has ever said—in 2016, 2020, and now. So I don’t think it’s something that could happen; I think it’s something that’s underway, and the question is, can we accept this reality in time to take the measures we need to take to prevent it?”
It can be easy to forget that Donald Trump has been undermining confidence in our elections for at least six years. He claimed fraud in the election he won. He also tried to claim Ted Cruz stole the Iowa Caucus from him. This is what he does. Part of it is just garden-variety childishness. His ego can’t sustain the kind of wound that comes with losing a presidential election. But he also appears to be plotting to rig the game ahead of time. The guy pulled out all the stops in the last election, and only the actions of a few brave election officials and secretaries of state saved us from a full-blown constitutional crisis. What if those people are sidelined next time around?
And the potential problems aren’t simply at the secretary of state level. On Thursday, Talking Points Memo explored Michigan Republicans’ recent efforts to place Big Lie adherents on local boards of canvassers.
For example, Robert Boyd, a new member of the Wayne County Board of Canvassers, which certifies vote totals for the Detroit area, is still convinced the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump.
[Boyd is] one of several new members of such boards around the state, chosen by local Republican leaders, who are replacing incumbents who voted to certify the last election under immense, nationwide pressure from their party. The Detroit News first reported on the wave of replacements last week, including incumbents who wanted to be renominated but weren’t.
Unlike the canvasser he’s replacing, Boyd says he would not have certified the 2020 vote. Even now, after numerous local audits and a Republican-led state Senate investigation found no basis for Donald Trump’s lies about a stolen 2020 election, he remains unconvinced.
“That’s one side,” Boyd said of the investigation. “The other side, as I say, is thinking that there was some hanky panky going on.”
Donald Trump doesn’t tell the truth for the simple reason that he doesn’t care about it. It’s irrelevant to his fantasy, in which he’s the greatest president, human, and sentient being in the history of the universe. He wants a rigged game, and he’s been greasing the skids for fascism by constantly accusing the other side of exactly what he’s doing.
As Snyder warns, we need to wake up now, because democracy is on a razor’s edge, and the bleeding has already started.
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