Appealing to tribe, appealing to fear, pitting one group against another, telling people that order and security will be restored if it weren’t for those who don’t look like us or don’t sound like us or don’t pray like we do, that’s an old playbook. It’s as old as time. And in a healthy democracy it doesn’t work. Our antibodies kick in, and people of goodwill from across the political spectrum callout the bigots and the fearmongers, and work to compromise and get things done and promote the better angels of our nature. But when there’s a vacuum in our democracy, when we don’t vote, when we take our basic rights and freedoms for granted, when we turn away and stop paying attention and stop engaging and stop believing and look for the newest diversion, the electronic versions of bread and circuses, then other voices fill the void. A politics of fear and resentment and retrenchment takes hold. And demagogues promise simple fixes to complex problems. They promise to fight for the little guy even as they cater to the wealthiest and the most powerful. They promise to clean up corruption and then plunder away. They start undermining norms that ensure accountability, try to change the rules to entrench their power further. And they appeal to racial nationalism that’s barely veiled, if veiled at all….
They’re undermining our alliances, cozying up to Russia. What happened to the Republican Party? Its central organizing principle in foreign policy was the fight against Communism, and now they’re cozying up to the former head of the KGB, actively blocking legislation that would defend our elections from Russian attack. What happened? Their sabotage of the Affordable Care Act has already cost more than three million Americans their health insurance. And if they’re still in power next fall, you’d better believe they’re coming at it again. They’ve said so. In a healthy democracy, there’s some checks and balances on this kind of behavior, this kind of inconsistency, but right now there’s none. Republicans who know better in Congress — and they’re there, they’re quoted saying, Yeah, we know this is kind of crazy –are still bending over backwards to shield this behavior from scrutiny or accountability or consequence. Seem utterly unwilling to find the backbone to safeguard the institutions that make our democracy work. And, by the way, the claim that everything will turn out okay because there are people inside the White House who secretly aren’t following the President’s orders, that is not a check — I’m being serious here — that’s not how our democracy is supposed to work….
I complained plenty about Fox News but you never heard me threaten to shut them down, or call them enemies of the people. It shouldn’t be Democratic or Republican to say we don’t target certain groups of people based on what they look like or how they pray. We are Americans. We’re supposed to standup to bullies. Not follow them. We’re supposed to stand up to discrimination. And we’re sure as heck supposed to stand up, clearly and unequivocally, to Nazi sympathizers. How hard can that be? Saying that Nazis are bad. I’ll be honest, sometimes I get into arguments with progressive friends about what the current political movement requires. There are well-meaning folks passionate about social justice, who think things have gotten so bad, the lines have been so starkly drawn, that we have to fight fire with fire, we have to do the same things to the Republicans that they do to us, adopt their tactics, say whatever works, make up stuff about the other side. I don’t agree with that. It’s not because I’m soft. It’s not because I’m interested in promoting an empty bipartisanship. I don’t agree with it because eroding our civic institutions and our civic trust and making people angrier and yelling at each other and making people cynical about government, that always works better for those who don’t believe in the power of collective action….