This is long but important. I hope you come away with your hair on fire about this.
“If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it. The lie can be maintained only for such time as the State can shield the people from the political, economic and/or military consequences of the lie. It thus becomes vitally important for the State to use all of its powers to repress dissent, for the truth is the mortal enemy of the lie, and thus by extension, the truth is the greatest enemy of the State.”
The quote above has been endlessly attributed to Adolf Hitler’s Minister of Propaganda, Josef Goebbels, though more contemporary research has failed to find a primary source for the statement and it is now generally believed by historians to not have been said by Goebbels.
The statement on The Big Lie is a falsehood! Nevertheless, the statement is true in what it says. Most likely, whoever wrote it first attributed it to Goebbels in the belief readers would be more likely to see the essential truth if they thought it came from such an accomplished liar.
But, it is factually accurate. We have seen the truth of it in action for the past 11 months, and for longer than that - ever since Donald Trump rode his golden escalator into the greatest catastrophe in American history (to date), the election of 2016.
92% of Republicans who watch Fox News believe the election was stolen. 97% of Republicans who watch Newsmax or OAN think the election was stolen. Overall, 69% of Republicans believe The Big Lie.
Josh Marshall at TalkingPointsMemo wrote:
“Trump is better positioned today to subvert the 2024 election than he was in 2020. How can that be considering that in 2020 Trump had all the powers of the federal government at his disposal? There are really two reasons. First, the Big Lie has convinced most Republicans that the 2020 election was stolen and that extraordinary means will be both necessary and justified in 2024 to even the score. Republicans are also changing the law, the personnel administering the law and the relevant interpretations of the constitution. With those in hand, it’s quite possible that in 2024 the will of the voters will be set aside and replaced with the judgment of GOP state legislators without breaking any laws. It will all happen with the sanction of law and or the discretionary judgments of those to whom the law grants the key choices.”
Barton Gellman has written a very detailed analysis and explanation of how January 6 was practice for a coup in 2024 that - if all goes as it appears to be going now - will not break any laws as it breaks the constitutional democratic republic we will have had for 248 years by then.
Politico is reporting today that a former D.C. National Guard official is accusing two senior Army leaders - one of them the brother of Trump conspiracist and fellow traitor Michael Flynn - of lying to Congress and participating in a secret attempt to rewrite the history of the military's response to the Capitol riot.
In a 36-page memo, Col. Earl Matthews includes detailed recollections of the insurrection response as it calls two Army generals — Gen. Charles Flynn, who served as deputy chief of staff for operations on Jan. 6, and Lt. Gen. Walter Piatt, the director of Army staff — “absolute and unmitigated liars” for their characterization of the events of that day.
“Every leader in the D.C. Guard wanted to respond and knew they could respond to the riot at the seat of government” before they were given clearance to do so on Jan. 6, Matthews’ memo reads. Instead, he said, D.C. guard officials “set [sic] stunned watching in the Armory” during the first hours of the attack on Congress during its certification of the 2020 election results.
Jeffrey Goldberg, editor of The Atlantic, says of the GOP: “There is insufficient space in any one issue of this magazine to trace the Republican Party’s decomposition from Lincoln’s day to ours. It is enough to say that its most recent, and most catastrophic, turn—toward authoritarianism, nativism, and conspiracism—threatens the republic that it was founded to save. Stating plainly that one of America’s two major parties, the party putatively devoted to advancing the ideas and ideals of conservatism, has now fallen into autocratic disrepute is unnerving for a magazine committed to being, in the words of our founding manifesto, ‘of no party or clique.’ But avoiding partisan entanglement does not mean that we must turn away from the obvious. The leaders of the Republican Party—the soul-blighted Donald Trump and the satraps and lackeys who abet his nefarious behavior—are attempting to destroy the foundations of American democracy. This must be stated clearly, and repeatedly.”
Once again we’re at the point where we need to consult the indispensable Hannah Arendt, who explained the “curiously varying mixture of gullibility and cynicism” in demagogic politics.
Writing 70 years ago, Arendt explained the phenomenon this way:
“In an ever-changing, incomprehensible world the masses had reached the point where they would, at the same time, believe everything and nothing, think that everything was possible and nothing was true...”
Arendt wrote that this mixture of gullibility and world-weary cynicism dispelled “the illusion that gullibility was a weakness of unsuspecting primitive souls and cynicism the vice of superior and refined minds.”
“Mass propaganda discovered that its audience was ready at all times to believe the worst, no matter how absurd, and did not particularly object to being deceived because it held every statement to be a lie anyhow.
“The totalitarian mass leaders based their propaganda on the correct psychological assumption that, under such conditions, one could make people believe the most fantastic statements one day, and trust that if the next day they were given irrefutable proof of their falsehood, they would take refuge in cynicism; instead of deserting the leaders who had lied to them, they would protest that they had known all along that the statement was a lie and would admire the leaders for their superior tactical cleverness."
“The result of a consistent and total substitution of lie, for factual truth is not that the lie will now be accepted as truth and truth be defamed as a lie, but that the sense by which we take our bearings in the real world—and the category of truth versus falsehood is among the mental means to this end—is being destroyed.”
The alternative reality media ecosystems that exist today aren’t aimed at getting people to believe what the propagandist is saying. Rather, their goal is to induce chronic disbelief, or an indifferent shrug. Who knows what to believe? Who cares? What is truth?
Thus, it is almost hard to get people to believe that we face a coup in 2024 that will likely be buttressed by laws being written now to facilitate that future event.
Barton Gellman’s article in the Atlantic, published today on the internet, is challenging a lot of people to finally focus on this reality:
“Technically, the next attempt to overthrow a national election may not qualify as a coup. It will rely on subversion more than violence, although each will have its place. If the plot succeeds, the ballots cast by American voters will not decide the presidency in 2024. Thousands of votes will be thrown away, or millions, to produce the required effect. The winner will be declared the loser. The loser will be certified president-elect.”
Consider as you read the following that there are 18 states with a Republican governor and a Republican-controlled state legislature. Changing the laws, changing who counts the votes and how they do it, in those states is sufficient to throw the election, and that many states potentially reporting two different outcomes is enough to make the mass of the American public, who barely understand how the system works to begin with, doubt the whole thing and become willing to settle for whoever brings “stability.” That’s how Totalitarianism comes to power.
This prospect of a democratic collapse is not some remote possibility. The means to make it are being manufactured right now. They are not waiting for 2024 but are rather acting already.
“For more than a year now, with tacit and explicit support from their party’s national leaders, state Republican operatives have been building an apparatus of election theft. Elected officials in Arizona, Texas, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, and other states have studied Donald Trump’s crusade to overturn the 2020 election. They have noted the points of failure and have taken concrete steps to avoid failure next time. Some of them have rewritten statutes to seize partisan control of decisions about which ballots to count and which to discard, which results to certify and which to reject. They are driving out or stripping power from election officials who refused to go along with the plot last November, aiming to replace them with exponents of the Big Lie. They are fine-tuning a legal argument that purports to allow state legislators to override the choice of the voters.”
And the work of creating the Big Lie over the past year has created the conditions for people to not believe the truth when it is clearly presented.
“Trump and his party have convinced a dauntingly large number of Americans that the essential workings of democracy are corrupt, that made-up claims of fraud are true, that only cheating can thwart their victory at the polls, that tyranny has usurped their government, and that violence is a legitimate response.”
Depending on the legal system to indict Trump for his many crimes, or for his essential incompetence to destroy his public image with another major business failure, is not going to save us if they do happen:
“Unless biology intercedes, Donald Trump will seek and win the Republican nomination for president in 2024. The party is in his thrall. No opponent can break it and few will try. Neither will a setback outside politics—indictment, say, or a disastrous turn in business—prevent Trump from running. If anything, it will redouble his will to power.
“Even in defeat, Trump has gained strength for a second attempt to seize office, should he need to, after the polls close on November 5, 2024. It may appear otherwise—after all, he no longer commands the executive branch, which he tried and mostly failed to enlist in his first coup attempt. Yet the balance of power is shifting his way in arenas that matter more.
“Trump is successfully shaping the narrative of the insurrection in the only political ecosystem that matters to him. The immediate shock of the event, which briefly led some senior Republicans to break with him, has given way to a near-unanimous embrace. Virtually no one a year ago predicted that Trump could compel the whole party’s genuflection to the Big Lie and the recasting of insurgents as martyrs. Today the few GOP dissenters are being cast out.
Trump’s deepest strength is the bitter grievance of the Republican base that they lost the White House - and are losing their country - to alien forces with no legitimate claim to power. This is not some transient or loosely committed population. Trump has built the first American mass political movement since the Civil War ready to fight by any means necessary, including bloodshed, for its cause.
In his speech on January 6, Trump used the three classic themes of mobilization to violence: the survival of a way of life is at stake; the fate of the nation is being determined now; only genuine brave patriots can save the country:
“Our country has been under siege for a long time, far longer than this four-year period. You’re the real people. You’re the people that built this nation. And we fight. We fight like hell. And if you don’t fight like hell, you’re not going to have a country anymore.”
Over the previous decade, one in four violent extremists the FBI arrested were unemployed. But only 7 percent of the January 6 insurgents were jobless. More than half had a white-collar job or owned their own business.
“The last time America saw middle-class whites involved in violence was the expansion of the second KKK in the 1920s.” That was also part of a period that began with the turn of the century that saw mass immigration by people who were not Western European in background. They were Eastern and Southern European, and were not seen as being “the right sort” of European immigrants - those from the British Isles, Germany and northern Europe. It was the time of Sacco and Vanzetti, the Palmer Red Raids, the rise of immigrant-based organized crime in bootlegging. A time of perceived displacement of the “traditional” groups of Americans.
An analysis of arrested insurrectionists found one unifying fact among them: Other things being equal, insurgents were much more likely to come from a county where the white share of the population was in decline. For every one-point drop in a county’s percentage of non-Hispanic whites from 2015 to 2019, the likelihood of an insurgent hailing from that county increased by 25 percent. This was a strong link, and it held up in every state. According to the latest census projections, white Americans will become a minority, nationally, in 2045. The insurgents could see their majority status slipping before their eyes.
The researchers ran a national opinion survey in March, based on themes gleaned from the social-media posts of insurgents and the statements they’d made to the FBI under questioning. They found that those who said they “don’t trust the election results” and were prepared to join a protest “even if I thought the protest might turn violent” were four percent of the population - which nonetheless corresponds to 10 million American adults.
In a new poll in June, they looked for people who not only distrusted the election results but agreed with the stark assertion that “the 2020 election was stolen from Donald Trump and Joe Biden is an illegitimate president,” and with the statement “the use of force is justified to restore Donald Trump to the presidency.” The number who agreed that Biden was illegitimate and that violence was justified to restore Trump to the White House was eight percent, which corresponds to 21 million American adults, who can be called “committed insurrectionists.” A Public Religion Research Institute survey on November 1 found that 12 percent believed both that the election had been stolen from Trump and that “true American patriots may have to resort to violence in order to save our country.”
Among the “committed insurrectionists, two-thirds agreed with the statement “African American people or Hispanic people in our country will eventually have more rights than whites.” One- third of them owned guns, and 15 percent had served in the military. All had easy access to the organizing power of the internet.
Gellman writes: “It is true that Trump tried and failed to wield his authority as commander in chief and chief law-enforcement officer on behalf of the Big Lie. But Trump did not need the instruments of office to sabotage the electoral machinery. It was citizen Trump—as litigant, as candidate, as dominant party leader, as gifted demagogue, and as commander of a vast propaganda army—who launched the insurrection and brought the peaceful transfer of power to the brink of failure.
“All of these roles are still Trump’s for the taking. In nearly every battle space of the war to control the count of the next election—statehouses, state election authorities, courthouses, Congress, and the Republican Party apparatus—Trump’s position has improved since a year ago.
“To understand the threat today, you have to see with clear eyes what happened, what is still happening, after the 2020 election. The charlatans and cranks who filed lawsuits and led public spectacles on Trump’s behalf were sideshows. They distracted from the main event: a systematic effort to nullify the election results and then reverse them. As milestones passed—individual certification by states, the meeting of the Electoral College on December 14—Trump’s hand grew weaker. But he played it strategically throughout. The more we learn about January 6, the clearer the conclusion becomes that it was the last gambit in a soundly conceived campaign—one that provides a blueprint for 2024.
“Trump needed 38 electors to reverse Biden’s victory, or 37 for a tie that would throw the contest to the House of Representatives. For all his improvisation and flailing in the postelection period, Trump never lost sight of that goal. He and his team focused on obtaining the required sum from among the 79 electoral votes in Arizona (11), Georgia (16), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), Pennsylvania (20), and Wisconsin (10).
“Even as these efforts foundered, the Trump team achieved something crucial and enduring by convincing tens of millions of angry supporters, including a catastrophic 68 percent of all Republicans in a November PRRI poll, that the election had been stolen from Trump. Nothing close to this loss of faith in democracy has happened here before. Even Confederates recognized Abraham Lincoln’s election; they tried to secede because they knew they had lost. Delegitimating Biden’s victory was a strategic win for Trump—then and now—because the Big Lie became the driving passion of the voters who controlled the fate of Republican legislators, and Trump’s fate was in the legislators’ hands.”
Merrick Garland at the Department of Justice continues to act like a French field marshal confronting the German Blitzkrieg in May 1940. In other words, he keeps missing the point, as Gellman points out:
“The Justice Department has filed suit to overturn some provisions of the new Georgia law—but not to challenge the hostile takeover of election authorities. Instead, the federal lawsuit takes issue with a long list of traditional voter-suppression tactics that, according to Attorney General Merrick Garland, have the intent and effect of disadvantaging Black voters. These include prohibitions and ‘onerous fines’ that restrict the distribution of absentee ballots, limit the use of ballot drop boxes, and forbid handing out food or water to voters waiting in line. These provisions make it harder, by design, for Democrats to vote in Georgia. The provisions that Garland did not challenge make it easier for Republicans to fix the outcome. They represent danger of a whole different magnitude.”
Among the 36 states that will choose new governors in 2022, three—Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Michigan—are presidential battlegrounds where Democratic governors have - until now -thwarted attempts by Republican legislatures to cancel Biden’s victory and rewrite election rules. Republican challengers in those states have pledged allegiance to the Big Lie, and the contests look to be competitive. In at least seven states, Big Lie Republicans have been vying for Trump’s endorsement for secretary of state, the office that will oversee the 2024 election. Trump has already endorsed three of them, in the battleground states of Arizona, Georgia, and Michigan.
And the Department of Justice does nothing about any of this.
Trump’s legal team is fine-tuning a constitutional argument that is pitched to appeal to a five-justice majority if the 2024 election reaches the Supreme Court. This, too, exploits the GOP advantage in statehouse control. Republicans are promoting an “independent state legislature” doctrine, which holds that statehouses have “plenary,” or exclusive, control of the rules for choosing presidential electors. Taken to its logical conclusion, it could provide a legal basis for any state legislature to throw out an election result it dislikes and appoint its preferred electors instead.
Four justices—Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Brett Kavanaugh, and Clarence Thomas—have already signaled support for this doctrine. It is an absolutist reading of legislative control over the “manner” of appointing electors under Article II of the U.S. Constitution. Justice Amy Coney Barrett, Trump’s last appointee, has never opined on the issue.
The question could arise, and Barrett’s vote could become decisive, if Trump again asks a Republican-controlled legislature to set aside a Democratic victory at the polls. Any such legislature would be able to point to multiple actions during the election that it had not specifically authorized. To repeat, that is the norm for how elections are carried out today. Discretionary procedures are baked into the cake. A Supreme Court friendly to the doctrine of independent state legislatures would have a range of remedies available to it; the justices might, for instance, simply disqualify the portion of the votes that were cast through “unauthorized” procedures. But one of those remedies would be the nuclear option: throwing out the vote altogether and allowing the state legislature to appoint electors of its choosing.
Trump is not relying on the clown-car legal team that lost nearly every court case last time. The independent-state-legislature doctrine has a Federalist Society imprimatur and attorneys from top-tier firms like BakerHostetler. A dark-money voter-suppression group that calls itself the Honest Elections Project has already featured the argument in an amicus brief.
There is a clear and present danger that American democracy will not withstand the destructive forces that are now converging upon it. Our two-party system has only one party left that is willing to lose an election. The other is willing to win at the cost of breaking things that a democracy cannot live without.
Frank Figliuzzi, former Deputy Director of the FBI for counter-Intelligence and usually no alarmist, says that the Department of Justice is “playing by Marquis of Queensberry rules while the other side is street fighting.”
Democracies have fallen before under stresses like these, when the people who might have defended them were transfixed by disbelief. If ours is to stand, its defenders have to rouse themselves. We cannot be the French in 1940, facing the German Blitzkrieg.
As President Biden said last July 13: “We’re facing the most significant test of our democracy since the Civil War. That’s not hyperbole. I’m not saying this to alarm you. I’m saying this because you should be alarmed.”
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