Tuesday, November 8, 2022

As Election Day Arrives, Warnings, Predictions, Alarm Bells

Alarm bell mechanism, from "Electric Burglar Alarm," The Popular Science Monthly 18,1 (November 1880), p. 59 

As Joyce Vance says, it has become conventional to say that democracy is on the ballot at when elections are held in the US at this point in history, but this conventional wisdom may be true a fortiori this election cycle: 

It’s not the price of a gallon of gas or other kitchen-table issues, as important as they are, that should be driving the national conversation. Whether we want it to be or not, democracy is on the ballot. 

For Dan Rather and Elliot Kirschner, the question is what kind of nation the US hopes to be:

Are we the United States that elected Barack Obama, twice and by large margins?

Or are we the United States that elected Donald Trump (albeit without a majority in the popular vote)? 

For this election, I'll take option number two for $500, Alex. I'd love to be surprised, but I personally think we're poised to enter a dark, angry, vengeful period of American history in which rights will be stripped right and left from minorities as those engaged in the stripping profess in the loudest possible terms that they represent the purest, best Christianity the world has ever seen. 

Those who live in the elite culture bubbles producing mainstream news coverage with its namby-pamby, dishonest both-sidesism, who don't live in the parts of the country already building such a "democracy," have no idea how bad things can get nationally, and in the twinkling of an eye. And they've been conspicously unwilling to listen to the testimony of those of us living in the hellhole portions of the nation, who have tried to ring warning bells about the way the nation is trending. Gotta get those tax cuts for the rich owners of the media, after all: we in the media have our priorities

There has been a crazy amount of money invested in this year’s contests, much of it by a very few people. Ronald Lauder, for example, the 78-year-old heir to the cosmetics fortune, has dumped at least $11 million into getting a Trump Republican, Representative Lee Zeldin, elected governor of New York. Billionaire Peter Thiel put $30 million into super PACs backing Republican senate candidates J.D. Vance in Ohio and Blake Masters in Arizona. 

Today, Yevgeny Prigozhin, a Russian oligarch and the leader of the private military company the Wagner Group, who is close to Russian president Vladimir Putin, boasted that Russians had interfered in U.S. elections and continue to do so. “We have interfered, we are interfering and we will continue to interfere. Carefully, accurately, surgically and in our own way, as we know how to do.” He added: “During our pinpoint operations, we will remove both kidneys and the liver at once.” 

Prigozhin is apparently behind the Russia-based “troll farms” that try to affect U.S. elections. Steven Lee Myers of the New York Times writes that Russians have indeed targeted the 2022 elections to make right-wing voters angry and undermine trust in U.S. elections. Their hope is to erode support for Ukraine’s struggle to repel Russian invasion by electing Republicans who side with Putin.

Here's Paul Krugman's warning about what may be facing us if, as many pollsters think, Republicans sweep the elections:

If America descends into one-party rule, it will be much worse, much uglier, than what we see in today’s Hungary. ...

it’s now almost conventional wisdom that Republicans are trying to turn us into Hungary. Indeed, Hungary provides a case study in how democracies can die in the 21st century.

But what strikes me, reading about Orban’s rule, is that while his regime is deeply repressive, the repression is relatively subtle. It is, as one perceptive article put it, “soft fascism,” which makes dissidents powerless via its control of the economy and the news media without beating them up or putting them in jail.

Do you think a MAGA regime, with or without Donald Trump, would be equally subtle? Listen to the speeches at any Trump rally. They’re full of vindictiveness, of promises to imprison and punish anyone — including technocrats like Anthony Fauci — the movement dislikes.

And much of the American right is sympathetic to, or at least unwilling to condemn, violence against its opponents. The Republican reaction to the attack on Paul Pelosi by a MAGA-spouting intruder was telling: Many in the party didn’t even pretend to be horrified. Instead, they peddled ugly conspiracy theories. And the rest of the party didn’t ostracize or penalize the purveyors of vile falsehoods.

In short, if MAGA wins, we’ll probably find ourselves wishing its rule was as tolerant, relatively benign and relatively nonviolent as Orban’s.

Citing PRRI data, Robert P. Jones reminds us of who (notably white evangelicals, but also their white Christian fellow travelers) is driving the Republican agenda now, and what they want for the whole nation: 

Republican election deniers are not just obsessed with spurious theories about voter fraud. Rather, belief in the Big Lie is strongly correlated with a range of attitudes that constitute a worldview that is not only a threat to democracy but also to broader principles of inclusions, pluralism, and equality—particularly related to immigration status, race, gender and gender identity, and religious affiliation.

It is a worldview of fixed hierarchies, with white people of European descent over all others, Christianity above other religions, and a rigid gender binary that valorizes traditional male traits and places men over women. Those who disagree with this worldview are increasingly seen not just as political opponents but as existential enemies complicit in evil (emphasis is in original).

Robert Reich thinks that, driving the white Christian nationalist agenda that is now the Republican party's unacknowledged national platform is fear — fear of the minority status of Republican voters: 

Ask yourself: Why are the election deniers, the monied interests, and the bigots and the haters fighting so hard to defeat us? Why are they telling such blatant lies? Why are they so desperate to suppress our votes? Why are they so willing to violate the Constitution, the rule of law, and common decency in order to claw their way to victory?

For one simple reason: They are afraid of us.

They know deep in their hearts that we are the future of America.

We who call ourselves progressives. We who are people of color. We who are young. We who are women. We who are new immigrants to these shores. We who are LGBTQ people. We who are Muslim and Jewish and people of every faith, or no faith. We who are poor. We who are average working people who need and deserve better jobs and higher wages. We who believe in democracy and cherish the Constitution and the rule of law.

They are afraid of us because we are gaining in numbers, gaining in strength. Our voices are growing louder.

Regardless of what happens today — even if they regain control of the House or the Senate or both, even if they take over some governorships, even if they create veto-proof majorities in one state or another — they know that over the long term we are winning.

And this fear, and the determination to seize minority control of the majority, necessarily engender voter-suppression crusades: as Amy Gardner and Emma Brown report, with today's election approaching, Republicans are engaged in an aggressive effort to invalidate ballots of legal voters in the key battleground states of Wisconsin, Michigan, Pennsylvania.

Judd Legum and Rebecca Crosby focus on this vote-trashing effort by Republicans in two heavily African-American cities, Philadelphia and Detroit. 

For a reminder about where the nation as a whole may end up if Republicans seize total control of government, look at Bianca Fortis's report about the disenfranchising Black voters in Tennessee, where one in five Black voters have been barred from voting due to prior felony convictions.  The percentage of such racial disenfranchisement in Tennessee — 21% of Black voters— is higher than in any other state.

See also Josh Marshall on the "shenanigans" going on right now in Philadelphia and Detroit as Republicans seek to disenfranchise voters in those two heavily African-American cities.

All this and Elon Musk, too: Greg Olear brings us up to speed on his story as Twitter's new owner:

In the days leading up to the election, a chaos agent has used money from hostile foreign powers to appropriate Twitter, wreaking havoc on our most important social media network, and, in case there was any doubt whose side he was on, instructing the handful of idiots over whom he still has influence to vote Republican. Elon Musk pinned this tweet, meaning it’s the first thing you see on his profile page….

And then Greg Olear reproduces a tweet Musk made yesterday instructing "independent-minded voters" to vote Republican.

We'll see what happens after today. 

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