The Democrats as the danger within, enabling the Republicans

See updates through July 1, 2022, at end of post.


You all remember when I described Donald Trump as the “delusional raging narcissist-in-chief,” right? Folks may not always appreciate that I do these things on evidence, for example, a description of narcissistic rage[1] and another of psychosis,[2] both of which described Trump even without ever even once mentioning his name.

It is apparent that another piece of the answer to Barack Obama’s question, “Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?”[3] is that Trump and his followers are addicted to grievance,[4] and that this grievance fuels a significant part, the authoritarian populist part,[5] of the white Christian nationalist movement that will likely reach culmination in a permanent takeover of the federal government, as Republicans win control of the House of Representatives and the Senate in this November’s elections and as Donald Trump wins back the presidency in 2024[6] against a Democratic Party that is so plainly so very much more comfortable in opposition, where it cannot be expected to accomplish anything and where it can simply whine about the Republicans.[7]

The present hearings of the January 6 committee are a spectacle,[8] just as were those in Trump’s second impeachment trial, a trial in which, by all rights, the Democrats should have prevailed,[9] but did not, as Republicans have instead pledged and continue to pledge fealty to Trump[10] and to his delusions.[11]

It remains to be seen whether Merrick Garland’s Department of Justice will prosecute Trump, who preferred the delusion of victory to the reality of defeat,[12] for acting accordingly, stoking the January 6 coup attempt. To do so will be an outcome Garland likely rightly fears as provoking further unrest,[13] possibly on a scale that dwarfs the January 6 coup attempt and in which police white supremacist gangster and military loyalties will be uncertain and divided.[14] If a wise person picks their battles, this may not, even in the extreme, prove to be a battle that can be won.

Either way, we are losing the war, a war that, even if won, would preserve constitutional oligarchy in its present form[15] and therefore fails utterly to attract enthusiastic support. Too many people are hurting. Too many have been ill-served by the status quo.[16] And too many, myself included, see the Democrats, both through their longstanding neoliberalism and their inaction, even to keep themselves in the game,[17] as enabling the Republicans, as traitors themselves.


Update, June 17, 2022:

[Pippa] Norris was pointing to the visible “structural” flaws in the country’s politics that enable the Republicans to secure outsize power for their vote share, including the composition of the Senate, which skews disproportionately to rural America. At a time when the party’s base appears to be drifting toward what some scholars of comparative politics have dubbed a form of “authoritarian far-right” politics, it’s especially concerning.[18]

The Senate and Electoral College have been this way from the beginning. I’ve understood the intention as to ensure that rural areas were not effectively disenfranchised, like Republicans are in California. The trouble is that this system relies on balance: It’s one thing to ensure rural areas have a voice. It’s another when that voice comes to drown out urban areas.[19] And that’s what’s happening:

Though its overall score per the [governance] index remains quite high, the United States’ assessed decline over the past two decades was one of the largest, on par with countries like Haiti and Hungary in that period of time. The think tank measured significant drops in U.S. “state capacity” and “democratic accountability” — the first measure could be defined roughly as the country’s ability to implement collective reforms and the latter a measure of the health of checks and balances, from electoral integrity to the efficacy of civil society and the media.

“The U.S. drop in state capacity and democratic accountability is not unique, but it is rare among advanced economies,” researchers Markus Lang and Edward Knudsen wrote me in an email.[20]

It hasn’t happened yet, but it appears Republicans have pushed us[21] past a tipping point,[22] which culminates in a white Christian nationalist authoritarian regime, as I wrote yesterday,

in part because [Democrats are] incredibly unpopular about now,[23] and in part because of conservative efforts to effectively disenfranchise likely Democratic voters.[24]

It’s not like this is a shocking new development. It has been a work in progress and no politician has an excuse for not observing it, which is why I view a persistent Democratic Party complacency on the issue as treasonous[25] and as further evidence of their preference to be in the opposition, where they can complain about the Republicans, but no one can expect them to actually accomplish a damn thing.[26] Whatever their rhetoric, the Democrats effectively refuse to oppose the establishment of a white Christian nationalist regime in the U.S., which is why I think that’s what we’re going to get, in very short order.[27]


Update, June 24, 2022: This week, the U.S. Supreme Court has handed down two egregious and catastrophic decisions, one granting greater rights to those who confuse their guns for their penises,[28] and one stripping women of the right to an abortion.[29]

People of conscience everywhere should be asking of the Democratic Party what it has actually done, not said, not performatively done, but actually done to prevent these outcomes. An honest answer will be that the Democratic Party has done absolutely nothing.


Update, July 1, 2022: Ronald Brownstein writes in the Atlantic:

[Joe] Biden’s earlier tepid reaction [to the overturning of Roe v. Wade] had drawn loud alarms across the party. Yesterday, Representative Ted Lieu of California, a co-chair of the House Democratic Policy and Communications Committee, told me he was “mystified” as to why Biden had not endorsed a filibuster exception, which is the most plausible option to reverse the Court’s decision because it would theoretically enable this Senate, with its bare 50-seat Democratic majority, to pass a law codifying Roe.

These complaints echoed the frustration of voting-rights activists last year, when Biden was slow to resist the broad red-state push to pass laws making it more difficult to vote. And they recall the impatience among legal analysts who have questioned the pace of the Justice Department’s investigation of former President Donald Trump’s attempts to overthrow the 2020 election. Eventually, Biden did back a filibuster exception for voting rights, and the House January 6 hearings may soon galvanize the Justice Department’s investigation.

Even so, many Democrats share a sense that on all these issues, abortion included, Biden and his team have been following, not leading. . . . The growing chorus among the president’s internal critics is that even if Biden was the right man for beating Trump, he has become the wrong man for combatting Trumpism.[30]

The trouble here is that too many Democratic fingers are pointing at Joe Biden, rather than at their party as a whole,[31] which has functioned effectively to enable those turning the United States into a white Christian nationalist autocracy,[32] which I’ve been calling Gilead,[33] after that country south of Canada in Margaret Atwood’s novel.[34]

Brownstein’s article implictly accepts a bipartisan paradigm,[35] where I disagree that the Democrats can ever be the answer. I see them as hopelessly compromised[36] enablers, effectively traitors,[37] albeit in a context in which it is certainly not only Joe Biden who has run out of time, not even only the Democrats who have run out of time, but the even very minimal semblance of electoral representation[38] in a constitutional oligarchy[39] that is out of time.[40]

All that said, I would urge you to read Brownstein’s article in full. He might only be analyzing one part of the problem, but within that limitation, it’s a solid analysis.

  1. [1]George Simon, “Understanding and Dealing with Narcissistic Rage,” Counselling Resource, July 24, 2017, https://counsellingresource.com/features/2017/07/24/understanding-narcissistic-rage/
  2. [2]WebMD, “Psychosis and Psychotic Episodes,” July 13, 2019, https://www.webmd.com/schizophrenia/guide/what-is-psychosis#1
  3. [3]Barack Obama, quoted in Cleve R. Wootson, Jr., “Obama rips hecklers: Why are the people who won the last election ‘so mad all the time?’” Washington Post, November 3, 2018, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2018/11/03/obama-rips-hecklers-why-are-people-who-won-last-election-so-mad-all-time/
  4. [4]James Kimmel, Jr., “What the Science of Addiction Tells Us About Trump,” Politico, December 12, 2020, https://www.politico.com/news/magazine/2020/12/12/trump-grievance-addiction-444570
  5. [5]David Benfell, “Barack Obama asks, ‘Why is it that the folks that won the last election are so mad all the time?’” Not Housebroken, November 4, 2018, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/11/04/barack-obama-asks-why-is-it-that-the-folks-that-won-the-last-election-are-so-mad-all-the-time/
  6. [6]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, June 11, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  7. [7]David Benfell, “Democrats and contradiction,” Not Housebroken, January 20, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/18/democrats-and-contradiction/
  8. [8]Jon Allsop, “The January 6 hearing and the value of spectacle,” Columbia Journalism Review, June 10, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/january_6_committee_hearing_media.php; Jeremy Barr, “Nearly 19 million watched the first Jan. 6 hearing in prime time,” Washington Post, June 10, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/media/2022/06/10/nearly-19-million-watched-first-jan-6-hearing-prime-time/; Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick, “Jan. 6 panel hears: Trump ‘detached from reality’ in defeat,” Associated Press, June 14, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/2022-midterm-elections-capitol-siege-donald-trump-campaigns-presidential-070ced9a013c58cf001d6d4137e4abc0; Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker, “1/6 panel: Told repeatedly he lost, Trump refused to go,” Associated Press, June 10, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-capitol-riot-hearing-67ec5f32b1dd050a24c3312570fa6c67; Harold Meyerson, “All Roads Lead to Trump,” American Prospect, June 10, 2022, https://prospect.org/politics/all-roads-lead-to-trump-january-6th-hearing/; Sarah D. Wire, “Stepien, Barr repeatedly told Trump that fraud claims were false,” Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-06-13/jan-6-hearings-day-2
  9. [9]Dan Balz, “All eyes on Republican senators after strong presentation by House managers,” Washington Post, February 12, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/balztake-impeachment-gop-trump/2021/02/11/7b910ee8-6cc0-11eb-9f80-3d7646ce1bc0_story.html; Andrew Desiderio, Burgess Everett, and Marianne Levine, “Trump on path to acquittal despite stunning evidence,” Politico, February 11, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/10/trump-acquittal-despite-stunning-evidence-468540; Burgess Everett and Marianne Levine, “Senate GOP gripped by conviction vote intrigue,” Politico, February 12, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/12/republicans-weighting-conviction-trump-impeachment-468862; Jamie Gangel et al., “New details about Trump-McCarthy shouting match show Trump refused to call off the rioters,” CNN, February 12, 2021, https://www.cnn.com/2021/02/12/politics/trump-mccarthy-shouting-match-details/index.html; Amy Gardner et al., “House impeachment managers emphasize the danger to Pence and other top officials in harrowing retelling of Jan. 6 attack,” Washington Post, February 10, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-impeachment-trial-trump/2021/02/10/17863674-6bbe-11eb-9f80-3d7646ce1bc0_story.html; Amy Davidson Sorkin, “What’s at Stake in Trump’s Second Impeachment Trial,” New Yorker, February 7, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2021/02/15/whats-at-stake-in-trumps-second-impeachment-trial; Amy Davidson Sorkin, “Trump’s Impeachment-Trial Lawyers Refuse to Seriously Engage with the Constitutional Issues,” New Yorker, February 10, 2021, https://www.newyorker.com/news/daily-comment/trumps-impeachment-trial-lawyers-refuse-to-seriously-engage-with-the-constitutional-issues
  10. [10]Steve Almond, “The GOP’s Final Act In A Long Public Surrender,” WBUR, February 13, 2021, https://www.wbur.org/cognoscenti/2021/02/13/donald-trump-impeachment-insurrection-gop-mcconnell-acquittal-steve-almond; Burgess Everett, Heather Caygle, and Marianne Levine, “Inside Democrats’ witness fiasco,” Politico, February 13, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/02/13/senate-democrats-impeachment-witnesses-468992; Amy Gardner and Isaac Arnsdorf, “More than 100 GOP primary winners back Trump’s false fraud claims,” Washington Post, June 14, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2022/06/14/more-than-100-gop-primary-winners-back-trumps-false-fraud-claims/
    ; Jennifer Haberkorn and Evan Halper, “7 Republicans vote guilty, but Senate acquits Trump in attack on Capitol,” Los Angeles Times, February 13, 2021, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2021-02-13/senators-to-continue-questioning-likely-to-vote-on-impeachment-today
  11. [11]Jon Allsop, “The January 6 hearing and the value of spectacle,” Columbia Journalism Review, June 10, 2022, https://www.cjr.org/the_media_today/january_6_committee_hearing_media.php
  12. [12]Lisa Mascaro and Mary Clare Jalonick, “Jan. 6 panel hears: Trump ‘detached from reality’ in defeat,” Associated Press, June 14, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/2022-midterm-elections-capitol-siege-donald-trump-campaigns-presidential-070ced9a013c58cf001d6d4137e4abc0; Lisa Mascaro and Eric Tucker, “1/6 panel: Told repeatedly he lost, Trump refused to go,” Associated Press, June 10, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/donald-trump-capitol-riot-hearing-67ec5f32b1dd050a24c3312570fa6c67; Sarah D. Wire, “Stepien, Barr repeatedly told Trump that fraud claims were false,” Los Angeles Times, June 13, 2022, https://www.latimes.com/politics/story/2022-06-13/jan-6-hearings-day-2
  13. [13]Farnoush Amiri and Michael Balsamo, “Jan. 6 panel puts Garland in ‘precarious’ spot, ups pressure,” Associated Press, April 1, 2022, https://apnews.com/article/capitol-siege-merrick-garland-donald-trump-f70143880cb9be8a0610edcad1ed18e8
  14. [14]David Benfell, “The danger that still remains,” Not Housebroken, January 22, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/24/the-danger-that-still-remains/
  15. [15]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, July 3, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/
  16. [16]David Benfell, “Democrats and contradiction,” Not Housebroken, January 20, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/18/democrats-and-contradiction/
  17. [17]Mike DeBonis, “Senate Republicans block debate on a third major voting rights bill,” Washington Post, November 3, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/senate-voting-john-lewis/2021/11/03/de00974e-3cc5-11ec-bfad-8283439871ec_story.html; Mike DeBonis, “Senate Republicans block voting rights bill, dealing blow to Democrats’ effort to overhaul election laws,” Washington Post, January 19, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/democrats-brace-for-likely-defeat-of-voting-rights-push-due-to-gop-filibuster/2022/01/19/2f9a734c-792d-11ec-bf97-6eac6f77fba2_story.html; Mike DeBonis and Seung Min Kim, “Sinema and Manchin confirm opposition to eliminating filibuster, likely dooming Democrats’ voting rights push,” Washington Post, January 13, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/biden-set-to-visit-senate-democrats-in-a-final-improbable-pitch-for-voting-rights-action/2022/01/13/fde533b6-7475-11ec-8b0a-bcfab800c430_story.html; Matt Ford, “The Democrats’ Voting Rights Bill Is Dead,” New Republic, July 13, 2021, https://newrepublic.com/article/162974/democrats-voting-rights-bill-dead; Barton Gellman, “Trump’s Next Coup Has Already Begun,” Atlantic, December 6, 2021, https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/2022/01/january-6-insurrection-trump-coup-2024-election/620843/; Siobhan Hughes, “Manchin Deflates Democrats’ Hopes of Changing Filibuster, Passing Election Bills,” Wall Street Journal, January 4, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/manchin-deflates-democrats-hopes-of-changing-filibuster-passing-election-bills-11641328293; Lawrence Lessig, “Why the US Is a Failed Democratic State,” New York Review of Books, December 10, 2021, https://www.nybooks.com/daily/2021/12/10/why-the-us-is-a-failed-democratic-state/; Sam Levine, “Voting rights advocates frustrated by ‘same-old, same-old’ meeting with White House,” Guardian, December 3, 2021, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2021/dec/03/voting-rights-advocates-frustrated-meeting-white-house; Greg Sargent, “The damage done by Joe Manchin is likely to get much worse,” Washington Post, December 10, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/12/10/manchin-filibuster-protecting-our-democracy-act/; Greg Sargent, “Joe Manchin finally makes it plain: He is in favor of minority rule,” Washington Post, January 19, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2022/01/19/joe-manchin-filibuster-voting-rights-minority-rule/
  18. [18]Ishaan Tharoor, “The troubled paradox of U.S. democracy,” Washington Post, June 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/06/17/democracy-american-global-decline-backsliding/
  19. [19]David Benfell, “Mitigating the democratic deficit in the United States,” Not Housebroken, December 20, 2020, https://disunitedstates.org/2018/07/15/mitigating-the-democratic-deficit-in-the-united-states/
  20. [20]Ishaan Tharoor, “The troubled paradox of U.S. democracy,” Washington Post, June 17, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com//world/2022/06/17/democracy-american-global-decline-backsliding/
  21. [21]David Smith, “Republican party building an ‘army’ to overturn election results – report,” Guardian, June 1, 2022, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2022/jun/01/republicans-plan-overturn-election-results-report; Ishaan Tharoor, “The Orbanization of America: How to capture a democracy,” Washington Post, May 18, 2022, https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/2022/05/18/orban-democracy-trump-united-states-elections-hungary/
  22. [22]Nathaniel Rakich, “The New National Congressional Map Is Biased Toward Republicans,” FiveThirtyEight, June 15, 2022, https://fivethirtyeight.com/features/the-new-national-congressional-map-is-biased-toward-republicans/
  23. [23]Benjamin Hart, “The Democratic Party Is Extremely Unpopular Right Now,” New York, May 16, 2022, https://nymag.com/intelligencer/2022/05/the-democratic-party-is-extremely-unpopular-right-now.html
  24. [24]Philip Bump, “Despite GOP rhetoric, there have been fewer than two dozen charged cases of voter fraud since the election,” Washington Post, May 4, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/05/04/despite-gop-rhetoric-there-have-been-fewer-than-two-dozen-charged-cases-voter-fraud-since-election/; Marjorie Cohn, “Supreme Court Drives a Stake Through the Heart of the Voting Rights Act,” Truthout, July 2, 2021, https://truthout.org/articles/supreme-court-drives-a-stake-through-the-heart-of-the-voting-rights-act/; David Gans, “Selective originalism and selective textualism: How the Roberts court decimated the Voting Rights Act,” SCOTUSblog, July 7, 2021, https://www.scotusblog.com/2021/07/selective-originalism-and-selective-textualism-how-the-roberts-court-decimated-the-voting-rights-act/; James Hohmann, “Gov. Scott Walker defends voter ID law in first debate,” Politico, October 11, 2014, http://www.politico.com/story/2014/10/scott-walker-wisconsin-voter-id-law-111804.html; Maya King, David Siders, and Daniel Lippman, “‘We’re f—ed’: Dems fear turnout catastrophe from GOP voting laws,” Politico, July 26, 2021, https://www.politico.com/news/2021/07/26/democrats-gop-voting-laws-crisis-500726; Scott Lemieux, “How the Supreme Court’s Arizona voting rights decision will affect challenges to Georgia’s law,” NBC News, July 1, 2021, https://www.nbcnews.com/think/opinion/how-supreme-court-s-arizona-voting-rights-decision-will-impact-ncna1272928; Eva Ruth Moravec, “Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signs law creating new voting restrictions as opponents sue,” Washington Post, September 7, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/politics/2021/09/07/abbott-texas-voting-restrictions-signs-bill/; Nicholas Stephanopoulos, “The Supreme Court showcased its ‘textualist’ double standard on voting rights,” Washington Post, July 1, 2021, https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/2021/07/01/supreme-court-alito-voting-rights-act/; Daniel Strauss, “Scott Walker On Voter ID: ‘Doesn’t Matter If There’s One, 100, or 1,000’,” Talking Points Memo, October 11, 2014, http://talkingpointsmemo.com/livewire/scott-walker-voter-id-law-debate
  25. [25]David Benfell, “The Democrats as the danger within, enabling the Republicans,” Not Housebroken, June 14, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/14/the-democrats-as-the-danger-within-enabling-the-republicans/
  26. [26]David Benfell, “Democrats and contradiction,” Not Housebroken, January 20, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2021/11/18/democrats-and-contradiction/
  27. [27]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, June 11, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  28. [28]Jess Bravin, “Supreme Court Strikes Down New York Law on Concealed Weapons,” Wall Street Journal, June 23, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-strikes-down-new-york-law-on-concealed-weapons-11655995248
  29. [29]Brent Kendall and Jess Bravin, “Supreme Court Overturns Roe v. Wade, Eliminates Constitutional Right to Abortion,” Wall Street Journal, June 24, 2022, https://www.wsj.com/articles/supreme-court-overturns-roe-v-wade-eliminates-constitutional-right-to-abortion-11656080124
  30. [30]Ronald Brownstein, “Is Biden a Man Out of Time?” Atlantic, June 30, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/06/biden-roe-response-democrats-2024-election/661449/
  31. [31]David Benfell, “Democrats and contradiction,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/06/biden-roe-response-democrats-2024-election/661449/
  32. [32]David Benfell, “The Democrats as the danger within, enabling the Republicans,” June 24, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/14/the-democrats-as-the-danger-within-enabling-the-republicans/; David Benfell, “All hail palliative ‘solutions,’” Not Housebroken, June 26, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/26/all-hail-palliative-solutions/
  33. [33]David Benfell, “Start changing the border signs: ‘Welcome to Gilead,’” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/18/start-changing-the-border-signs-welcome-to-gilead/
  34. [34]Margaret Atwood, Handmaid’s Tale (New York: Anchor, 1998).
  35. [35]Ronald Brownstein, “Is Biden a Man Out of Time?” Atlantic, June 30, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/06/biden-roe-response-democrats-2024-election/661449/
  36. [36]David Benfell, “Democrats and contradiction,” Not Housebroken, June 24, 2022, https://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2022/06/biden-roe-response-democrats-2024-election/661449/
  37. [37]David Benfell, “The Democrats as the danger within, enabling the Republicans,” June 24, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/14/the-democrats-as-the-danger-within-enabling-the-republicans/
  38. [38]David Benfell, “My 2024 forecast,” Not Housebroken, June 21, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/03/10/my-2024-forecast/
  39. [39]David Benfell, “A constitutional oligarchy: Deconstructing Federalist No. 10,” Not Housebroken, July 3, 2021, https://disunitedstates.org/2020/04/22/a-constitutional-oligarchy-deconstructing-federalist-no-10/
  40. [40]David Benfell, “Swimming against a stronger tide,” Not Housebroken, June 27, 2022, https://disunitedstates.org/2022/06/27/swimming-against-a-stronger-tide/