Our Loveless Politics

March 8, 2019

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Donald Trump’s marathon address at the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) really brought it home to me: Our president is a narcissistic celebrity who craves the adulation of crowds in order to fill an emotional void. As David Brooks put it recently:

I often wonder who didn’t love Donald Trump. I often wonder who left an affection void that he has tried to fill by winning attention, which is not the same thing….

In turning himself into a brand he’s turned himself into a human shell, so brittle and gilded that there is no place for people close to him to attach. His desperate attempts to be loved have made him unable to receive love.

Imagine what your own life would be like if you had no love in it, if you were just using people and being used. Trump, personifying the worst elements in our culture, is like a providentially sent gong meant to wake us up and direct us toward a better path.

I don’t actually want to engage in too much psychoanalysis. I’m a sociologist, not a psychiatrist, and psychoanalysis from a distance is a questionable enterprise anyway.

But assuming that the numerous critiques along these lines have some validity, I want to ask a more political question. What does it say about the Republican base that they overwhelmingly support a president with such deficiencies?

Over the years, Trump has vacillated between the Democratic and Republican parties, having no deeper party affiliation than he has political or moral convictions. But I would argue that only the Republican party could nominate him and elect him president, although he did need some Democratic and independent votes to get him to his electoral college victory.

The emotional divide

Why don’t I believe that the Democrats could elect a Trump? For starters, today’s Democrats are the party that actually cares about the well-being of people and of nature. They are the party of human rights, and the dignity of labor, and aid to the poor, and universal health insurance, and protection of the environment. It became obvious to most Democrats early on that Donald Trump doesn’t give a hoot about such things. Democrats insist that their candidates share their deepest aspirations. That’s why it’s often been said that Democratic voters “fall in love,” while Republicans just “fall in line.” Democrats are the party of heart, which Republicans caricature when they attack them as “bleeding hearts,” military “doves”, advocates for the “nanny state,” or “soft on crime.”

No party is above criticism, of course, and the history of the Democratic party is replete with many forms of cruelty or corruption. One only has to think of racism in the Democratic “solid South” or machine politics in the big cities. Nevertheless, Democrats deserve a lot of credit for embracing recent idealistic movements such as civil rights, gender equality, environmentalism, consumer protection, and LGBTQ rights, as well as continuing their support for the struggling labor movement.

If in this era, Democrats have become the party of love and justice, what does that make Republicans, the party of hate and injustice? That would be unfair. At their best, Republicans have advocated a kind of “tough love,” challenging individuals to pull their own weight, earn whatever rewards they receive, and make it without expecting too much of government. If the playing field were level and the rewards forthcoming for those who worked hard, that wouldn’t be so bad.

But toward the end of the last century, the Republican party discovered that it could get votes by encouraging and supporting resistance to the new social movements. That has led Republicans to do some mean-spirited things, such as gut the Voting Rights Act and pass legislation designed to make it harder for the poor and minorities to vote. Around the same time, the mid-twentieth-century economic boom gave way to a period of slower economic growth and rising inequality. Under conditions of globalization and technological change, many businesses found that they could prosper while eliminating or exporting good jobs. A winning strategy for Republicans has been to protect economic elites from high taxes and regulation, while stoking popular fears of change. They warn that the immigrants and minorities are coming for your jobs; the government wants to raise your taxes; liberals want to take away your religious freedom (to discriminate against gay people); and so forth. Even before Trump, Republicans were encouraging a kind of zero-sum thinking that is the enemy of the American Dream. If the minorities, or liberated women, or environmentalists win, you lose.

A darker politics

Ronald Reagan was no liberal, but he at least had an optimistic vision of America. If everyone would pull their weight and rely less on government, we could all prosper together. Trump has completed the Republican transition to a darker, more pessimistic politics. He bases his appeal much more overtly on anger and hatred, carefully channeling it toward groups that are trying to overcome historical obstacles to advancement. He pretends to identify with the complaints of ordinary working people while continuing the policies that protect the wealthy, as well as advancing his own family’s economic interests at home and abroad.

Trump’s relationship with his adoring crowds is the latest incarnation of the odd relationship between the donor class and the Republican base. It is essentially a relationship between wealthy people who are indifferent to the plight of ordinary workers, and working-class whites fearful of cultural and economic change. I’m sure that the latter get some kind of emotional high when they’re chanting “Lock her up!” or “Build the wall!” But that is not the same as having leaders who really care about you and are designing policies to address your real problems. And surely there cannot be too much love lost between a politician who flouts the Ten Commandments and the evangelical Christians who are among the most reliable Republican voters. That’s a shallow transactional relationship if there ever was one.

No, today’s Republican coalition seems at most a loveless marriage of convenience for which a loveless president is well suited. How long can this marriage last?

Who Put the Hate in Hate Crimes?

October 29, 2018

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Once again, the country is shocked and outraged by acts of mass violence. Cesar Sayoc allegedly sent pipe bombs to fourteen prominent Democrats. Robert Bowers allegedly killed eleven people at the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh. Both men were troubled loners holding extreme political views.

Once again, we will debate whether the responsibility for these actions lies with the individual perpetrators alone, or whether responsibility is more widely shared. If we do agree that it is shared, we may ask if both sides of the political divide are equally responsible for hatred and violence, or if Donald Trump and his supporters have played a special role in the decline of political civility.

Trump has referred to people like Sayoc and Bowers as “wackos” and “sick, demented people.” He is right to the extent that their actions are far from the general norm. We may reasonably ask what peculiar circumstances and life experiences helped create these mass murderers. Sayoc, for example, was abandoned by his father and apparently desperate for a strong authority figure, which probably contributed to his alleged attraction to Adolph Hitler. Such explanations are only starting points, however, since not every female-headed family produces a budding Nazi.

The sociological point I want to make is that deviations from the norm certainly matter, but the norms themselves matter too. When we normalize hatred by vilifying some out-group, we make it easier for violence-prone individuals to act on their impulses. We tell them who it’s okay to hate. Apparently, Cesar Sayoc had no strong political affiliation until Donald Trump came along. Then Trump became his authoritarian father-figure, and he let Trump define his enemies for him–Obama, the Clintons, immigrants, etc.

Robert Bower hates immigrants too, calling them “invaders that kill our people.” But he has been less supportive of Trump because he doesn’t think Trump goes far enough. Bower focuses his hatred especially on Jews, blaming “the filthy EVIL Jews” for bringing “the Filthy EVIL Muslims into the Country!!” One particular object of hostility that Trump, Sayoc and Bowers have in common is global investor and Democratic donor George Soros, who is Jewish. Right-wing conspiracy theorists have been accusing him for months of funding the Steele dossier and immigration caravans, and Trump has also accused him of financing opposition to Brent Kavanaugh’s Supreme Court nomination. When Trump attacked globalism the other day in the oval office, his young supporters started chanting “Soros! Soros! Soros!”

Trump himself does not have to be as extreme as Bower or Sayoc to give some comfort to their views. I trust that Trump does not approve of sending pipe bombs to Democrats or murdering Jews in synagogues. But he has vilified immigrants by exaggerating their association with violent crime, attacked the legitimacy of our first black president, and characterized the press and his critics as public enemies. The nationalism he has espoused is widely understood as white, Christian nationalism, since his support comes overwhelmingly from those groups. That helps normalize racial and religious intolerance. It feeds into a narrative of white, Christian victimization that discourages power-sharing and encourages domination.

The Republican Party was already well on its way to becoming the white, Christian party before Trump appeared on the scene. As the Democratic Party became more open to civil rights, religious neutrality, and gender equality, Republican politicians saw an opportunity to gain or hold power with subtle and not-so-subtle appeals to white supremacy, Christian supremacy, and male supremacy. They played on fears that many Americans have of living in a more pluralistic global community. Robert Bowers just takes those fears to an extreme when he says things like “Diversity means chasing down the last white person.” He didn’t develop his hostility to diversity in a political or cultural vacuum. Historically, no political party has had a monopoly on politically-motivated violence. In the 1960s, I saw violent acts by liberal protesters as well as violent attacks on peaceful demonstrators by defenders of the status quo. But currently, I see the greater threat of violence from the political right.

Are Sayoc and Bower gross violators of social norms? Of course they are. But the Party of Trump has also been changing the norms themselves, working harder to antagonize and divide while failing to respect and include. I cannot recall an administration or party as content to govern on behalf of an angry minority and as disinterested in building a larger consensus. Getting rid of any policy associated with Barack Obama has become more important than actually solving social problems. Keeping the base in a state of fear and loathing of anyone or anything new and different has become a way of generating support without actually doing much.

Anxieties about globalization are reasonable. Playing on those anxieties to set one group of Americans against another is not. Progressives can present a more constructive response to global diversity and competition than what the right has to offer. It must be one that challenges individuals to earn status through their accomplishments and social contributions, not demand it on the basis of race, religion or gender. It will also have to challenge social institutions to make the investments in people that help them become as accomplished and socially useful as they can be. I see no other way to build a community in which love trumps hate.

Midterm Elections Present Clear Choice

October 23, 2018

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Midterm elections are primarily about which political party will control the houses of Congress. This year’s elections are mainly a referendum on Republican control of the whole federal government, since Republicans have a majority in both houses of Congress and the Supreme Court, in addition to having won the presidency despite losing the popular vote.

Given the unpopularity of Congress (currently only 21% approval), as well as President Trump (the first modern president with approval consistently under 50%), one would think that the electorate would be ready for a change. Certainly most Democrats and Independents would like to see Democrats win at least one house of Congress to provide a check on a president they view as dangerously unfit for office. On the other hand, Republican enthusiasm for the Trump presidency remains high, and Republicans have a better record of turning out the vote in midterm elections.

Although the outcome is uncertain, the choice seems clearer than any that voters have had in my lifetime. It is a choice between one-party rule by what has become the party of Trump, or better representation for the majority of Americans and the aspirations they have for their government.

Here I will describe some of the differences between our two major parties in the age of Trump. I make no claim to be neutral, since I think that continued domination of government by our less popular party will take the country in the wrong direction.

Some party differences

Neither political party is uniform in its beliefs or policies, but political polarization has made each party more uniform and predictable. President Trump and Congressional Republicans are usually on the same page, despite the protestations of a few “flaky” Senators who make a show of bipartisanship before voting with Trump most of the time. Although Democrats disagree in some respects on what they would do if they could actually pass legislation, they are pretty united in their opposition to most Republican policies.

Democrats respect the scientific consensus on climate change and want to take measures to reduce carbon emissions. President Trump remains in denial about the science, and his EPA has been dismantling Obama’s Clean Energy Initiative, loosening regulations to allow more emissions. While Trump is preoccupied with protecting fossil-fuel industries, Democrats are more interested in creating jobs in the cleaner industries of the future. We already have far more jobs in solar energy than in coal.

Republicans want to grow the economy mainly from the top down, by cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy, while claiming that the benefits will be widely shared. Mostly they haven’t been, although unemployment has continued its long decline since the 2008 recession. Democrats want to grow the middle class through direct spending to create middle class jobs, raising the minimum wage, and making college more affordable.

Democrats support the Affordable Care Act, which made health insurance affordable for millions and would have done even more if red-state Republicans hadn’t blocked the expansion of Medicaid. Republicans failed by one vote to repeal the ACA, and they have vowed to try again if they retain control of Congress. They quickly moved to repeal it without developing the better alternative that Trump promised during his campaign.

After having failed to perform their constitutional duty to even consider many of President Obama’s mainstream judicial appointees, including the very moderate Merrick Garland for the Supreme Court, Republicans have rushed to approve extremely conservative justices who could push the judiciary far to the right for a generation. While hot-button issues like abortion and guns get most of the attention, the conservative majority has quietly been strengthening the rights of corporations and weakening the rights of workers, consumers and voters.

Democrats support comprehensive immigration reform that would balance the need for border security with the benefits of a path to citizenship for hard-working, law-abiding “dreamers” and humane treatment of refugees. While net immigration has actually been modest in the last decade, Trump’s fear-mongering has aroused nativist hostility to immigration in general, and his policy of punishing asylum seekers by taking away their children has become a national embarrassment.

Democrats are cautiously supportive of free trade, although they want trade agreements to include protections against unfair trade practices, low-wage sweatshops and environmental pollution. Trump’s more general hostility to foreign products threatens to hurt the global economy generally, with ill effects at home as well as abroad. Few economists think that his tariffs will produce much job growth in the United States. His withdrawal from the Trans-Pacific Partnership will probably just help China dominate the region.

Democrats respect our longstanding alliances with other democratic nations. President Trump admires dictators and oligarchs, and is willing to overlook their gross humanitarian violations as long as he sees the relationships as financially profitable.

As for our own democracy, it cannot function well without an informed electorate and leaders who accept the responsibility to tell them the truth. Donald Trump is the most relentless liar we have ever seen in the presidency, and far too many Republicans–along with their favorite TV network–repeat his falsehoods. They must, of course, also discredit any fact-checking by the mainstream media by calling honest reporters “enemies of the people.” Democratic politicians are not always paragons of truth either, but they have less reason to lie about what they are trying to do, since their policies are actually intended to help ordinary people. In just the past week, Trump has claimed that the Republicans are about to pass a middle-class tax cut, while the Democrats are planning to cut Medicare and veterans benefits. No one besides Trump seems to have heard of such initiatives, but only Democrats and reporters seem interested in fact-checking his statements.

What was once the party of Lincoln has now become the party that caters to white people. Now that the Republicans on the Supreme Court have weakened the Voting Rights Act, many red states have moved to enact voting restrictions that impact disproportionately on black voters, passing them off as responses to mostly fictional voter fraud. The Democratic Party is the party of diversity, the party that stands up for the rights of racial minorities, women, and the LGBTQ community. The last thing the country needs as we continue to make slow progress toward social justice is a president and party who seek white votes by playing on fears of white victimization, all the while accusing Democrats of playing “identity politics.” What is at stake here is national identity. Americans need to understand themselves as a pluralistic people leading the way in a pluralistic world, not a bastion of white male privilege hostile to women and people of color.

The Trump administration has also been the most scandal-plagued administration since Richard Nixon’s. While Watergate was a domestic scandal, in this case the allegations include cooperating with foreign powers to undermine our democratic process. Democrats support our intelligence community and investigatory agencies as they try to determine what actually happened, while Congressional Republicans have worked to impede and discredit the investigation. President Trump has filled his administration with people who have suspicious ties to foreign oligarchs, as well as with administrators who seem to care more about profiting from their positions than carrying out the responsibilities of the agencies they head. If anyone is really going to “drain the swamp,” it will have to be Democrats.

At some times in our history, the Republican Party has been a forward-looking, even reform-minded party, as it was under Abraham Lincoln and Teddy Roosevelt. Today’s spirit of reform is alive and well, but mainly in the Democratic Party. That’s where we find the greatest interest in campaign finance reform, criminal justice reform, immigration reform, government accountability, infrastructure improvements, equal opportunity, energy transformation, and human capital development for a twenty-first century economy. Democrats have a lot of work to do to translate their ideas into effective policies and mobilize popular support for them, but at least they are trying to rise to the challenges of the new age. Republicans have not only become a backward-looking party, but they are increasingly resorting to deception and political trickery to hold onto power. Trump may have shown that lying and fear-mongering can win elections, but he has also shown that it takes more than that to govern. Take away his tough, angry and deceptive rants, and there isn’t much there that the majority of Americans really want.

It’s time for Americans to become better informed citizens. Time to vote on the basis of facts, not fears!

How Democracies Die (part 3)

June 29, 2018

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In the last chapter of their book, Levitsky and Ziblatt discuss the prospects for sustaining democracy in the face of the threats from Donald Trump and other such demagogues. They think it can be done, but it will take a lot of work.

The global challenge

The impression one gets from recent news is that democracy is in retreat all over the world. The authors do not think that the evidence supports that pessimistic conclusion.

The number of democracies rose dramatically in the 1980s and 1990s, peaked around the year 2005, and has remained steady ever since. Backsliders make headlines and capture our attention, but for every Hungary, Turkey, and Venezuela there is a Colombia, Sri Lanka, or Tunisia—countries that have grown more democratic over the last decade.

The bad news is that the election of Donald Trump appears to be a setback for democracy not only in the United States but around the world. The Western powers under the leadership of the United States have played a role in encouraging democratic principles and institutions since World War II (although I would add that our pro-democracy principles have often been compromised by self-serving economic policies). Trump’s “America first” nationalism is weakening the Western alliance and strengthening the position of undemocratic countries like Russia and China. I find it especially ironic that Republicans who in the past demanded unwavering opposition to our Cold War adversaries now look the other way while Trump offends our democratic allies and cozies up to dictators.

The future at home

The authors describe three possible futures for the United States after the Trump phenomenon runs its course. The most optimistic is that our democratic norms and institutions quickly recover from whatever damage his presidency does to them. That might be realistic if Trump alone were the problem. But as the authors have discussed, the deeper problem is the polarization of our politics arising from deep disagreements over race and religion, compounded by an economic system that is leaving too many people behind.

That raises a second and more troubling possibility, that the Republican party, having become the party of Trump, maintains its power with a white nationalist appeal. That would entail running the country primarily for the benefit of a shrinking population of white Christians, and resorting to undemocratic means of suppressing the more diverse majority. “Such a nightmare scenario isn’t likely, but it also isn’t inconceivable.”

The most likely future is “one marked by polarization, more departures from unwritten political conventions, and increasing institutional warfare–in other words, democracy without solid guardrails.” The authors point to the state of North Carolina as the best example of “what politics without guardrails might look like.” For those who don’t live here, I’ll just say that Republican legislators gerrymandered the state so that they could win 10 of 13 Congressional seats with only 53% of the vote, passed voting laws that targeted black voters with “almost surgical precision” according to a federal court, and reduced the powers of the governor right after a democrat was elected to that position. The state is hardly a dictatorship yet, however, since Republican efforts at one-party domination have been vigorously resisted by the opposition party and the courts.

Reducing polarization

Political leaders will either have to learn to cooperate and compromise despite the polarization, which the authors think is doubtful, or they will have to move beyond the polarization. Although the authors call on both parties to reconsider what they stand for, they put the main responsibility for change on the Republican party, since they consider it “the main driver of the chasm between the parties.” They see more of the obstructionism, partisan hostility, and extremism on that side of the aisle.

For Republicans, they recommend changes in both organization and constituency. The leadership will have to regain some control, relying less heavily on outside donors and right-wing media. And the party must become more diverse:

Republicans must marginalize extremist elements; they must build a more diverse electoral constituency, such that the party no longer depends so heavily on its shrinking white Christian base; and they must find ways to win elections without appealing to white nationalism, or what Republican Arizona senator Jeff Flake calls the “sugar high of populism, nativism, and demagoguery.”

As for the Democrats, they should resist calls to focus on white working-class voters at the expense of their black and immigrant constituencies. But what they can do is address economic concerns that cut across race and religion. As I have argued before, they can emphasize universal benefits programs such as universal health insurance, basic income guarantee, job training, paid parental leave, subsidized child care and prekindergarten education.

Now I think I’ve been reading and writing enough for a while about the culture wars and the partisan divide. What I’m thinking about lately is the fiscal problem of how the country might pay for the more progressive public policies many Democrats advocate. Stay tuned.

How Democracies Die (part 2)

June 28, 2018

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Steven Levitsky and Daniel Ziblatt have described Donald Trump as a demagogue with authoritarian tendencies. He has not yet done serious damage to our democratic system, but the threat is definitely there.

That’s only part of their story, however. Democracy was already under stress well before Trump’s election. “Not only did Americans elect a demagogue in 2016, but we did so at a time when the norms that once protected our democracy were already coming unmoored.”

Democratic norms

It takes more than a well-designed constitution to sustain a viable democracy. After the decline of colonialism in Latin America, many of the newly independent states based their constitutions on ours, but that didn’t stop them from falling into civil war and dictatorship. “All successful democracies rely on informal rules that, though not found in the constitution or any laws, are widely known and respected.”

Two very general political norms are fundamental. “Mutual toleration” acknowledges the right of rival factions to compete for political power and achieve it, as long as they do so through constitutional means. “Institutional forbearance” is a commitment to abide by the democratic spirit of the laws, not just the letter of the laws. When those two norms break down, one or more parties may use the laws in ways that were never intended, to destroy their opposition instead of competing with them fairly.

Political polarization

What is most likely to weaken or destroy the norms is political polarization based on socioeconomic, racial or religious differences.

In the history of U.S. democracy, the most polarizing issue has been race, but racial polarization has not been a constant. Race has been most polarizing at times when one major party has taken up the cause of racial justice, as opposed to times when both parties have been tolerant of racial injustice.

In the nineteenth century, it was the Republican rejection of slavery that brought the issue to the forefront, “investing politics with what one historian has called a new ’emotional intensity.'” (I find the reference to emotionalism interesting, considering that in our current era of polarization, social scientists have been “discovering” that politics is more emotional than rational.) After the Civil War and Reconstruction, some political peace was restored, but at the expense of the rights of the newly freed slaves. In one of the greatest assaults on democracy in our history, southern whites got away with restoring white supremacy.

Between 1885 and 1908, all eleven post-Confederate states reformed their constitutions and electoral laws to disenfranchise African Americans. To comply with the letter of the law as stipulated in the Fifteenth Amendment, no mention of race could be made in efforts to restrict voting rights, so states introduced purportedly “neutral” poll taxes, property requirements, literacy tests, and complex written ballots….Black turnout in the South fell from 61 percent in 1880 to just 2 percent in 1912. The disenfranchisement of African Americans wiped out the Republican Party, locking in white supremacy and single-party rule for nearly a century.

By keeping race off the agenda at the national level, the two major parties were able to find more common ground. For most of the twentieth century, they were both “big tents” that included many of the same kinds of people. Married white Christians constituted a majority of both parties. The Democrats had the southern white conservatives, but the Republicans had midwestern and western white conservatives. The Democrats had working-class New Deal liberals, but the Republicans had educated middle-class liberals.

Democratic support for civil rights legislation in the 1960s did more than anything to re-polarize the parties, as people of color embraced the Democratic Party but southern whites abandoned it. Declining support for traditional religion among Democrats contributed as well. “The two parties are now divided over race and religion–two deeply polarizing issues that tend to generate greater intolerance and hostility than traditional policy issues such as taxes and government spending.”

As for being “big tents,” the parties have moved in opposite directions. The Democratic Party has become more diverse, being a party of white and black, native-born and immigrant, religious and secular, gay and straight. The Republican Party has become less diverse, the home of the embattled white Protestant minority, the people who used to run the country but have been losing power recently. Levitsky and Ziblatt believe that the Republican party has led the way in weakening democratic norms in order to maintain their social and cultural dominance. Ironically, it is now the Republican party that is noted for trying to lock in single-party rule by suppressing the black vote.

While the authors focus mostly on race and secondarily on religion in this story, gender is also important. The Democratic Party has also become the party of women’s rights, while the Republican Party has become the party of angry men. That also is a reversal, since it was northern Republicans who originally supported the Equal Rights Amendment.

Erosion of democratic norms

Even in the twentieth-century period of relative political cooperation, democratic norms were challenged or violated by some leaders. Franklin Roosevelt exercised unusual power during the crises of Depression and war, running for president four times (legal but unprecedented), issuing over 300 executive orders a year, and trying unsuccessfully to expand the Supreme Court so he could appoint more justices. In the 1950s, attacks on Democrats by militant anti-communists like Joe McCarthy helped Republicans win the presidency and control of Congress. One of those red-baiting anti-communists, Richard Nixon, went on to use the presidency to attack the people on his “enemies list” in illegal ways.

The authors see a more ominous “unraveling” of democratic norms beginning in the 1990s. Newt Gingrich set the tone as he rose to the position of Speaker of the House, presenting a hostile, hard-line, no-compromise front against the moderate Democrat Bill Clinton. One sign of deviation from traditional practice was a dramatic increase in the use of the Senate filibuster to block majority-supported legislation. Democrats also made heavy use of it during the George W. Bush administration, while Republicans stopped following the practice of “regular order,” which had given the opposition a chance to speak on legislation and propose amendments. During the Obama years, so many of the President’s appointments were filibustered that Senate Democrats changed the rules to disallow the filibuster for appointments other than to the Supreme Court.

Until relatively recently, Supreme Court appointments by the President have rarely been rejected by the Senate. When President Reagan appointed arch-conservative Antonin Scalia, Democrats could have blocked it with a filibuster but instead supported it unanimously. But when President Obama appointed the moderate and highly qualified Merrick Garland, Republicans took the unprecedented step of refusing to consider the nomination at all. Then they changed the rules after the 2016 election to keep the Democrats from filibustering President Trump’s appointment of Neil Gorsuch to the open seat, insuring that conservatives would keep their 5-4 majority.

So now we have a potential autocrat in the White House, leading a party of embattled conservatives desperate to maintain their hold on power. The “devil’s bargain” between this man and this party could be bad news for democracy.