One of the things that has been on my mind a lot, over the last years, has been what it would be like to believe the allegations that the Our Only President and his Party have been making. Or, in some way, what it would be like if it were My Party and a leader I trusted who were making such allegations, and who had themselves been accused of similar sorts of crimes.
I have talked about this before—it’s one of the few aspects of our political situation that I have written about over these last years. The allegation that high-ranking federal law-enforcement officials used the national security apparatus to attempt to sway the Presidential election and destroy the careers of the duly-elected President's associates. The allegation of millions of fraudulent votes in the 2016 election, which made it appear as though the President had lost the popular vote. The allegation of a rigged primary, in both 2016 and 2020. And now the allegation that the 2020 Presidential election was stolen; that there is obvious evidence of widespread fraud that the states and courts have refused to even look at; that even Republican state officials are refusing to enforce the law.
If a person were to believe all of that—and I have to emphasize that the alternative explanation is that their Party leaders are corrupt and lawless villains whose every word is a lie and who have again and again put the national interest, national security and the very future of the nation at risk for their own personal benefit—then such a person cannot also believe that they are living in a functional democracy. What does such a person have to lose by an autocratic takeover? How would a coup by those leaders who agree with me on policy preferences and priorities be worse than keeping the forms of democracy without the heart of it?
What if it were my Party?
Now, to be fair: there is no-one in my Party that I could not be persuaded is a corrupt and lawless villain whose every word is a lie. If Nancy Pelosi told me something preposterous and self-serving, I would be very willing to believe she is lying. Who would that not be true of? Joe Biden? Barack Obama? Bernie Sanders? If any one of them were accused of some sort of villainy, would it shake my worldview? Not really. I mean, I would be disappointed and angry, and I’d probably defensively demand some significant evidence, but then I’d probably shrug and move on. If a recording turned up of Joe Biden threatening some State official with jail time unless he threw the election, I’m pretty sure that would be plenty for me.
It might be different, though, if it were the whole Party leadership. I don’t know how I would respond if it was the whole national leadership had been corrupt and lawless for years. I like to think, of course, that I would be one of the people who believed the bulk of the evidence rather than continuing to follow, but presumably that’s what everybody thinks, and in the event, that’s not everybody. I can’t be easy to accept that the people you’ve been supporting are corrupt and lawless villains, and that you were duped.
So here’s where we are today. I don’t know how to convince half the country that they have been duped, not just by Trump but by the entire leadership of the Party that doesn’t actively reject their policy preferences. And if they don’t accept that the entire leadership of their Party is corrupt—if instead they believe that the entire mechanism of the electoral process in many states as well as much of the federal national security and law-enforcement bureaucracy are corrupt—then I don’t know why they would participate in the sham of self-government that is the other explanation for the last several years.
Tolerabimus quod tolerare debemus,