Another Eve of Destruction

It was a sixties thing. In 1965 it was Barry McGuire’s Eve of Destruction – perhaps the most pretentious protest song from those odd days. It was not-very-convincing imitation Bob Dylan. McGuire offered it to The Byrds. They said no, pretentious posturing just isn’t cool, so McGuire recorded it for Dunhill himself and somehow made a big hit out of it – the world is coming to an end because our leaders are fools, and everyone is blind, and we’re all going to die, and there’s not a damned thing anyone can do about it.

Yeah, yeah, there’s no hope – the lyrics were apocalyptic – but there was a lot of money to be made there. People were in a bad mood and liked the message. Everyone was lying. Only the singer (and anyone who bought the record) could see how oblivious everyone else was, even if everything McGuire listed was actually rather obvious and serious people had been working on those putative “issues” all along. But it was a hit.

A few months later, in response, that Green Beret medic, Sergeant Barry Sadler, released his hyper-patriotic Ballad of the Green Berets – and more followed. That was the answer. America, love it or leave it. Curiously, years later, after Barry McGuire suddenly got all evangelical and born again, he refused to perform his one big hit song from long ago. He had changed his mind. Jesus will fix everything. There’s no need to worry. There never was. Sorry about that.

The sixties had ended. Only aging baby boomers remember those songs, and those times, but those times are back. Anyone could have seen that back in March 2016:

Donald Trump will tell his supporters not to riot if he’s denied the Republican presidential nomination, but he suggested it could happen anyway.

ABC News host George Stephanopoulos had to ask three times to get Trump to say he’d tell his supporters not to riot if he’s denied the nomination at the Republican National Convention this summer.

“I would certainly tell them that, but, you know, look, these people are – are fervent,” Trump said.

“I don’t want to see riots. I don’t want to see problems,” Trump continued. “But, you know, you have – you have millions of people who we’re talking about, George, millions of additional people have gone. You know, I’ve gotten more than 2 million votes more than anybody else, 2 million votes, more than anybody else.”

Trump first said there could be riots if someone else gets the nomination last week. “I think you’d have riots,” he said. “I think you’d have riots. I’m representing a tremendous, many, many millions of people.”

That finally happened on January 6, 2021 – he lost reelection and told his people to go stop Congress from formally certifying the vote, and they tried. Things got out of hand, or went just as planned. Donald Trump got his riot, which some called an insurrection. The vote had to be wrong. He had to have won. He did win, damn it! He’d been robbed!

So, really, everything had been rigged. Elections just don’t work anymore. Overthrow them – an insurrection. Is that too radical? Okay, then either change how elections are done or establish a way for “the right people” to reverse what seems to be a stupid result. Now, in Georgia, and soon in many other states, the new law is that the state legislature can toss out results that just don’t make sense to them – which makes the popular vote advisory – just a suggestion. So, if Trump runs again in 2024, and loses badly, in key states, with Republican state legislatures, they can look at their state’s results and say that what they see just doesn’t make sense. The vote had to be wrong. Trump had to have won. Then they say that he did win, because now they can do that. And that’s the end of our democracy. This is the actual eve of destruction.

Tom Friedman thinks so. It’s House Republicans ousting Liz Cheney from their leadership for calling out Donald Trump:

This is a big moment in American history.

One of America’s two major parties is about to make embracing a huge lie about the integrity of our elections – the core engine of our democracy – a litmus test for leadership in that party, if not future candidacy at the local, state and national levels.

This could be the end:

In effect, the Trump GOP has declared that winning the next elections for the House, Senate and presidency is so crucial – and Trump’s ability to energize its base so irreplaceable – that it justifies both accepting his Big Lie about the 2020 election and leveraging that lie to impose new voter-suppression laws and changes in the rules of who can certify elections in order to lock in minority rule for Republicans if need be.

It is hard to accept that this is happening in today’s America, but it is.

If House Republicans follow through on their plan to replace Cheney, it will not constitute the end of American democracy as we’ve known it, but there is a real possibility we’ll look back on May 12, 2021, as the beginning of the end…

That’s when those people will have shut down and shut out Liz Cheney, as they change all the rules at state-level:

As Stanford University democracy expert Larry Diamond summed it all up to me, while we’re focusing on Liz Cheney and the 2020 elections, Trump’s minions at the state level “are focused on giving themselves the power to legally get away with in 2024 what the courts would not let them get away with in 2020.”

And then it’s really over:

You tell me how American democracy will ever be the same again and how these people can be trusted to cede power the next time they win the White House.

And while you’re at it, tell me how America can ever again be a credible observer and upholder of democratic elections around the world – so vital to our national security and the hopes and dreams of democrats in all these countries who look to America as a beacon of democracy and the rule of law. The next time we want to question election results in Russia or Iran or Poland or Hungary, what do you suppose their elected autocrats will say?

They’ll say: “Listen to you? Your Republican Party turned a blind eye to a guy who told the biggest election lie in the history of the Milky Way Galaxy. And it wasn’t even in the service of some urgent, compelling policy. It was just so he could stay in power, salve his ego and deny he lost.”

And that leaves this:

If Trump and friends are not stopped, one day they will get where they are going: They will lock in minority rule in America. And when that happens, both Democrats and principled Republicans will take to the streets, and you can call it whatever you like, but it is going to feel like a new civil war.

I don’t use that term lightly or accidentally. We are all the product of our life experiences, and my first reporting experience was living inside the Lebanese civil war in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

I saw close up what happens when democratically elected politicians think that they can endlessly abuse their institutions, cross redlines, weaken their judiciary and buy reporters and television stations – so that there is no truth, only versions, of every story. And they think that they can do it endlessly – cheat just one more time, break one more rule, buy one more vote – and the system will hold until they can take it over and own it for their own purposes.

Then one day – and you never see it coming – the whole system breaks down. Whatever frayed bonds of truth and trust that were holding it together completely unravel.

And then it’s gone. And there is no getting it back.

Expect a new civil war. Friedman sounds like the young Barry McGuire of long ago. This is the eve of destruction, and on the actual eve of the vote to shut down and shut out Liz Cheney, she herself sounded the alarm:

Representative Liz Cheney of Wyoming delivered a defiant last stand hours before facing a vote to purge her from House Republican leadership for her outspoken repudiation of former President Donald J. Trump’s election lies, declaring Tuesday night on the House floor that she would not sit back quietly as her party aided Mr. Trump’s attempts to undermine democracy.

Ms. Cheney, who is facing a vote Wednesday morning that is almost certain to succeed in ousting her from House Republicans’ No. 3 post, declared on Tuesday that the nation was facing a “never seen before” threat in a former president who provoked the Jan. 6 Capitol attack and who “has resumed his aggressive effort to convince Americans that the election was stolen from him.”

“Remaining silent and ignoring the lie emboldens the liar,” Ms. Cheney said. “I will not participate in that. I will not sit back and watch in silence, while others lead our party down a path that abandons the rule of law and joins the former president’s crusade to undermine our democracy.”

She’s fine with giving up her career for that, which at this point isn’t giving up much at all:

She has cast her almost certain expulsion from the leadership ranks as a “turning point” for her party and told allies that the leadership post is simply not worth having if it requires her to lie.

Rather than fighting to hold onto her post, Ms. Cheney has embraced her downfall, offering herself as a cautionary tale in what she is portraying as a battle for the soul of the Republican Party. Emphasizing that framing Tuesday night, Ms. Cheney wore a replica pin of George Washington’s battle flag as she spoke on the House floor.

That’s rubbing it in, but it seems she’s serious:

Ms. Cheney invoked the parallels between what unfolded at the Capitol on Jan. 6 and her work in authoritarian countries to explain why she was so determined to publicly condemn the attempted insurrection.

“Those who refuse to accept the rulings of our courts are at war with the Constitution,” Ms. Cheney said. “Our duty is clear. Every one of us, who has sworn the oath must act to prevent the unraveling of our democracy. This is not about policy. This is not about partisanship. This is about our duty as Americans.”

Colby Hall notes the other side of this argument:

While the Republican party grapples with an existential battle between the truth and following a leader prone to clear exaggerations and lies, former President Donald Trump reiterated false claims that he won the 2020 election, but with a level of weirdness that makes it hard to ignore.

Since his deplatforming from nearly all of social media, Trump has relied on sending statements from his Save America PAC or his Office of the 45th President desk. Much of these statements lack anything new or newsy and are often ignored. But in this instance, the analogy was so weird and at a new level of desperation that it seemed fitting.

Trump opens by baselessly calling out a “major” fraud case in the Michigan Election (which has long been certified) before comparing the 2020 Election results to a jewelry heist. Really.

“If a thief robs a jewelry store of all of its diamonds (the 2020 Presidential Election), the diamonds must be returned,” Trump states, which seems a fairly clear suggestion that he believes that he should return to the White House.

What? Yes, stolen diamonds:

That’s where the GOP finds itself. With a leader who lost an election but is falsely claiming the White House should be returned to him like stolen diamonds, and a conservative Congresswoman who has become a pariah for calling out the flat weirdness and lies of the party leader.

But he’s not the only weird one:

Senator Lindsey Graham (R- SC) has made it clear over the past week he wants the GOP to embrace Donald Trump as its leader and thinks the party can’t move forward without him.

Fox News’ Martha MacCallum spoke with Graham Tuesday and asked him about Senator Joni Ernst (R- IA) deeming the House GOP vote to oust Liz Cheney as “cancel culture.”

Graham took issue with that and said, “You’re not entitled to be a leader. You have to earn that right. And if people don’t think you’re leading them well, they can fire you.”

He said Cheney lost the confidence of House Republicans because “she’s trying to make the argument that the Republican party is better off without Donald Trump, that he’s disqualified from being a member of the Republican party, that he should never be allowed to pursue office again.”

And most Republicans, he added, disagree with that.

Trump is the future for them all? Trump is the future for America? That’s an odd notion but that’s the one big idea here:

Graham insisted that “Trump plus” is the future for the GOP, and getting rid of him would only hurt the party:

“If you try to drive him out of the Republican party, half the people will leave. It doesn’t mean you can’t criticize the president. It means the Republican Party cannot go forward without President Trump being part of it.”

If so, the party is in real trouble, and Kevin Drum identifies that trouble:

Why has the Republican Party’s leadership caved in to Donald Trump and his insistence that the 2020 election was stolen from him? Is it because they’re afraid of Trump’s base? Because they’ve gone stone cold nuts? Or what?

It turns out, apparently, that the answer is none of the above. If the latest scuttlebutt and blind quotes are to be believed, they’ve caved in to Trump thanks to ordinary old-school extortion. In particular, they believe that if they oppose Trump, he will destroy the Republican Party in a spasm of sheer bloody-minded vengeance.

But he’s clever about it:

Has Trump actually told them this? Or have they simply accepted over time that this is the lay of the land? There’s no telling, but it makes sense in any case. Trump, after all, plainly has no special loyalty to the Republican Party. And retribution against his enemies is his single strongest drive in his life. If the GOP rejected him, he would reject them in return ten times over, probably by forming his own political party and taking with him half of all Republicans in existence.

That may be what worries Lindsey Graham. Trump isn’t really the future of the Republican Party, but he certainly could end it right now. That’s sort of the same thing. He’s got them trapped, or maybe not:

More than 100 Republicans, including some former elected officials, are preparing to release a letter this week threatening to form a third party if the Republican Party does not make certain changes, according to an organizer of the effort.

The statement is expected to take aim at former President Donald J. Trump’s stranglehold on Republicans, which signatories to the document have deemed unconscionable.

“When in our democratic republic, forces of conspiracy, division, and despotism arise, it is the patriotic duty of citizens to act collectively in defense of liberty and justice,” reads the preamble to the full statement, which is expected to be released on Thursday.

This is one step beyond Liz Cheney’s protest:

“This is a first step,” said Miles Taylor, an organizer of the effort and a former Trump-era Department of Homeland Security official who anonymously wrote a book condemning the Trump administration. In October, Mr. Taylor acknowledged he was the author of both the book and a 2018 New York Times Op-Ed article.

“This is us saying that a group of more than 100 prominent Republicans think that the situation has gotten so dire with the Republican Party that it is now time to seriously consider whether an alternative might be the only option,” he said.

The list of people signing the statement includes former officials at both the state and national level who once were governors, members of Congress, ambassadors, cabinet secretaries, state legislators and Republican Party chairmen, Mr. Taylor said.

And what do they want, to stay and keep the party together? They’re not sure. But they want their old party back:

Mr. Taylor declined on Tuesday to reveal the specific changes that the coalition was planning to demand of the Republican Party in its statement.

“I’m still a Republican, but I’m hanging on by the skin of my teeth because how quickly the party has divorced itself from truth and reason,” Mr. Taylor said. “I’m one of those in the group that feels very strongly that if we can’t get the GOP back to a rational party that supports free minds, free markets, and free people, I’m out and a lot of people are coming with me.”

He wants a rational party? He’s four years too late. Paul Waldman sets him straight:

Let’s not beat around the bush: The Republican Party has pretty much lost its mind. In the time since the 2020 election, rather than trying to make a new start after the disaster of the Trump years, it has become more radical and more extreme. Most important of all, it has emphatically and comprehensively rejected democracy itself.

Now here’s the scariest part: There’s almost no reason to believe that this will hurt the ability of Republicans to win elections and take back the power they’ve lost.

The world has changed:

If you’re like many Americans, you probably think there’s almost nothing your own party could do that would make you vote for the other party. But your conception of “what my party would do” is limited by what it has done, or even contemplated doing, in the past. When you imagine your party going “too far,” you probably think of it nominating a presidential candidate you don’t like or pursuing a misguided policy objective.

But that’s not what’s happening right now with the GOP. They are not just abandoning any commitment to democracy. They’re preparing an outright war on the American political system. And so far there’s little evidence that they’ll pay a price for it.

By preparing to oust Rep. Liz Cheney (R-Wyo.) from her leadership position specifically because she refuses to parrot the lie that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, House Republicans have put that lie at the center of their party’s identity.

Meanwhile in Arizona, a bonkers “audit” of the state’s presidential ballots ordered by the state Senate in a desperate attempt to prove that the election was stolen from Trump has proved to be an absolute carnival of craziness. They’re literally searching for bamboo fibers in the ballots to see if they may have come from China and are thus part of a global conspiracy.

Meanwhile, two of the party’s most toxic figures, Reps. Matt Gaetz (Fla.) and Marjorie Taylor Greene (Ga.) are on a triumphant tour, whipping up the party faithful with lies about 2020 and war cries for the next election.

And now only the cynics survive:

I’m quite sure that outside of a few truly deranged members, almost all elected Republicans in Congress know that Trump lost. But they’re making a calculation that because of polarization, it doesn’t matter how extreme they get, what kind of lies they encourage people to believe, or what kind of damage they do to our system. If they can keep their base angry, it will give them the path back to power.

And of course they’re right:

Show me the Republicans in Washington who will lose their seats for being too supportive of Trump and the “big lie” of the stolen election. Who are they? The combination of gerrymandering, geographical sorting and polarization means there are almost none. The party can get steadily more unhinged and more implacably opposed to democracy, with consequences for its electoral fortunes that are temporary at most.

All it would take to return them to complete power in Washington is an ordinary midterm election followed by an economic downturn in 2024, whereupon whichever cynical extremist they nominate for president could sneak into the White House.

We keep waiting for the moment when the country says, “Now you’ve gone too far, Republicans,” and sends them into oblivion. But the truth is, they see no reason to change the path they’re on.

Liz is gone. She never stood a chance. “And you tell me over and over and over and over again, my friend. you don’t believe we’re on the eve of destruction…”

Well, this time, we are.

About Alan

The editor is a former systems manager for a large California-based HMO, and a former senior systems manager for Northrop, Hughes-Raytheon, Computer Sciences Corporation, Perot Systems and other such organizations. One position was managing the financial and payroll systems for a large hospital chain. And somewhere in there was a two-year stint in Canada running the systems shop at a General Motors locomotive factory - in London, Ontario. That explains Canadian matters scattered through these pages. Otherwise, think large-scale HR, payroll, financial and manufacturing systems. A résumé is available if you wish. The editor has a graduate degree in Eighteenth-Century British Literature from Duke University where he was a National Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and taught English and music in upstate New York in the seventies, and then in the early eighties moved to California and left teaching. The editor currently resides in Hollywood California, a block north of the Sunset Strip.
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