Technically, no — but people who are openly threatening to take democracy from you are. Which is pretty much the same thing.
In this shorter-than-usual newsletter, free for all to read, I examine the debate over whether democracy is on the ballot. The MAGA and anti-anti-Trump types love to shake their heads and chuckle at the hysteria of those who suggest that the future of democracy could depend in part on certain votes in this election. They are the adults in the room, or so they see themselves. In the post, I quote from an editorial from a German Jewish newspaper in 1933. They, too, were the adults in the room, calmly reassuring everyone that the Jews were going to be Just Fine. It makes for sobering reading.
BUT TRUMPS IS NOT THE HITLER!!!1!! True enough. Plus he is not on the ballot today anyway. So why worry?
The central thesis of the post is: it’s not hysteria to worry about politicians tearing down institutions when they have told you that’s what they’re going to do. That, to me, is what makes this election Different. There are folks on the ballot today who explicitly tell you they would not have certified the 2020 election. This election is the first time the issue of the validity of the 2020 election has come up. When people running for office say they would not have certified Biden’s win in 2020, that means they are saying they will not certify an election in 2024 if they disagree with the result. I cite historian Timothy Snyder a lot in the post, and he figures into this excerpt:
In a separate lecture of his, on the genocide in Ukraine, Snyder makes a very good point: when someone lies about a past atrocity, they are signaling that they would like to see it happen again. Why does Holocaust denialism bother us so much? Because those who deny the Holocaust are really saying they would like to see another one. As Snyder says, the victims of atrocities understand this only too well.
In the video I linked above, Snyder extrapolates that principle to election trutherism. When Kari Lake and her ilk say they would not have certified the election in 2020, they are saying that they will not certify an election for a Democrat in 2024. It looks like she will win today. Lake may not have the authority to reject the voters’ will on her own as governor—but as I understand it, the governor in Arizona has the power to call the legislature into special session. For example, after the election, she could ask the legislature to send a new slate of electors to Congress if she doesn’t like the slate the public chose (i.e. if voters chose a Democrat). I personally don’t think that would be a constitutional act, but it’s potentially enough to create a constitutional crisis. What happens then? Are you ready to find out?
Links in the newsletter.The quote from the German Jewish newspaper, which I got from Snyder’s book On Tyranny, caused Snyder to make this observation about the error of the “don’t worry be happy” crowd:
The mistake is to assume that rulers who came to power through institutions cannot change or destroy those very institutions, even when that is exactly what they have announced that they will do.
THE LAST TIME
I’ll close with an observation that did not make it into the newsletter. The Stoic popularizer Willam Irvine urges his audience to contemplate that every action they take could be the last time they perform that act. And you don’t always know it’s the last time even when it is. Mrs. P. and I have seen more than one favorite restaurant close due to the pandemic, and have thought about the last time we ate there. Did we realize it would be the last time? I doubt we ever did.
In On Tyranny, Snyder adopts this rubric to voting. He notes that democracies that go fascist or into dictatorship have a last time when citizens have a free and fair election. For Russia, it was in the early 1990s. Did they realize that vote would be the last election in which their vote would actually count? Probably not.
There is a not-outlandish scenario in which today is your last free and fair election. All that has to happen is for enough GOP members in 2024 to go along with a grab for power that a vocal minority, which is on the ballot today, has already signaled that they are willing to undertake. Again: it’s not hysteria when they tell you they’re going to do it, and as I argue in the piece, when they say they would have done it last time, that’s their way of saying they will do it next time.
Take responsibility. Vote as if it’s the last chance you’ll ever get to vote.