Understanding Politics in America After the 2020 Election

The above 5-minute video clearly explains the essence of what’s happening in American politics today. Biden won, but almost certainly won’t be able to govern with a McConnell opposition Senate. In addition, a large majority of Americans support the Democrats’ policies and Democrats get a majority of the vote, but because of the makeup of the political system Republicans stay in power. As a result, Republicans have turned against democracy itself. They are willing to impose their minority rule even if that entails a coup.

Will they be successful? Not this time.

But think about what it means to say that Republicans support a coup, which is exactly what Trump is proposing. What does that mean for the future? Ezra Klein, the cofounder of Vox and one of the very smartest and most informed persons about politics today, explains the danger we face in “Trump is attempting a coup in plain sight.” Consider the implication of Trump and his sycophants saying he was cheated out of an election he lost.

This is, “an autocratic attempt.” That’s the stage in the transition toward autocracy in which the would-be autocrat is trying to sever his power from electoral check. If he’s successful, autocratic breakthrough follows, and then autocratic consolidation occurs. In this case, the would-be autocrat stands little chance of being successful. But he will not entirely fail, either. What Trump is trying to form is something akin to an autocracy-in-exile, an alternative America in which he is the rightful leader, and he — and the public he claims to represent — has been robbed of power by corrupt elites.

 But democracy works only when losers accept defeat and a peaceful transition of power follows. Without that norm, violence awaits.

Moreover, as Klein points out “the corruption of the GOP will outlive Trump’s presidency.” Consider that

Members of the Trump family are explicitly, repeatedly, trying to make the acceptance of their conspiracies a litmus test for ambitious Republicans  … To read elected Republicans today — with a few notable exceptions … is to read a careful, cowardly double-speak. Politician after politician is signaling, as Vice President Mike Pence did, solidarity with the president, while not quite endorsing his conspiracies. Of course every legal vote should be counted. Of course allegations of fraud should be addressed. But that is not what the president is demanding — he is demanding the votes against him be ruled illegal — and they know it.

Furthermore, even if Trump is rejected “the Republican Party that protected and enabled him” remains, as does “their geographic advantage in the Senate insulates them from anything but massive, consecutive landslide defeats, and their dominance over the decennial redistricting process has given them a handicap in the House, too.”

All of these built-in advantages helped Trump. Though the popular vote won’t end up even close “the margins in the key Electoral College states were narrow, and the would-be autocrat was almost returned to office. How much more damage could he have done to American institutions and elections with another four years? It could have happened here, and it truly almost did.”

Thankfully, Trump is extraordinarily incompetent unlike political siblings such as Narendra Modi in India, Jair Bolsonaro in Brazil, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, Vladimir Putin in Russia, Jarosław Kaczyński in Poland, and Recep Tayyip Erdoğan in Turkey.

Even more frightening,

The conditions that made Trump and this Republican Party possible are set to worsen. Republicans retained control of enough statehouses to drive the next redistricting effort, too, and their 6-3 majority on the Supreme Court will unleash their map-drawers more fully. The elections analyst G. Elliott Morris estimates that the gap between the popular vote margin and the tipping point state in the Electoral College will be 4 to 5 percentage points, and that the GOP’s control of the redistricting process could push it to 6 to 7 points next time.

So while our institutions did not wholly fail they didn’t succeed either. In particular,

the Republican Party … has made [it] clear that would-be autocrats have a path to power in the United States, and if they can walk far enough down that path, an entire political party will support them, and protect them. And it has been insulated from public fury by a political system …that lets partisan actors set election rules and draw district lines — and despite losing the presidency, the GOP still holds the power to tilt that system further in its direction in the coming years.

What happens when the next would-be autocrat tries this strategy — and what if they are smoother, more strategic, more capable than this one?

This is the story of what is happening right here, right now.

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For other excellent pieces about what’s happening see:

The election can’t be ‘stolen.’ But something worse is happening

What Is Trump Playing At?

America’s Next Authoritarian Will Be Much More Competent

By humoring Trump, the GOP is enabling authoritarianism

The Real Threat of Trump’s Ridiculous Coup Attempt

Trump’s Post-Election Tactics Put Him in Unsavory Company

(It’s too bad that low information voters don’t understand or don’t care about what’s happening. Authoritarianism is not far away.

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4 thoughts on “Understanding Politics in America After the 2020 Election

  1. We certainly dodged a bullet with Trump’s defeat, but I’m shaking my head over the republicans holding the Senate and actually increasing their numbers in the House. Were these voters not paying attention to what the rest of us folks were witnessing over the past four years–total abdication of their duty to the Constitution to ensure checks and balances were followed against a rogue president? Many of them should have been taken to the woodshed for a good old fashioned whipping, IMHO.

  2. They live in a “flat earth theory” type of epistemic bubble. No truth about round earth theory can penetrate. JGM

  3. To wear an amateur history professor hat:
    it goes back to Nov 2014, when the GOP won many midterm elections. No wonder at the situation after not four but, rather, six years of Republican hyper-manipulation.
    But it does demonstrate that America is as yet too violent for what progressives want to do. And merely to squeeze Trump followers out of power will take years—a long row to hoe.
    I don’t feel anger now; only sadness; millions of otherwise reasonable Republicans were fooled by Trump’s mixture of sincere patriotism, warped nationalism, modern conservatism, tactlessness masquerading as candor, and much else besides. Too much to think about. Too sad to think about.
    What to do?: until the GOP threat is gone, vote Democratic without even looking at the ballots.

  4. …Wish to add something crucial, re the last comment of the video clip: not being comfortable with long term prospects in democracy.
    We’d have to at least think about altering the Constitution— a 1789 Constitution cannot be progressive. Perhaps a couple of decades from now changes to the Constitution can be hammered out.

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